Monday, October 16, 2017

Cyclists over 60. Fastest growth of any Demographic

By Mark Cramer, retiree, cycling advocate, regular contributor to Freewheeling France 

22 percent of the net growth in U.S. bike trips from 1995-2009 is by people ages 60-79. Their biking quadrupled in those 14 years, the fastest growth of any demographic.

During the past 17 years I’ve been cycling on a regular basis. As I’ve aged (I’m 72 now), I have observed an increasing population of senior cyclers around me, especially in France, my home base.

Recently in Paris I presented a slide show on Cycling in Bolivia. The canyon city of La Paz, Bolivia, where I live for six weeks each year, is 12,000 feet above sea level, has no bike lanes and if you find a rare flat street, it’s never going where you need it to. Given the challenge of cycling in an area with sometimes many thousand foot variations in altitude, I expected a younger crowd to attend the presentation. Instead, the audience was comprised mainly of seniors. Mingling with them I learned that their retirements are enriched with adventurous bike trips around the world.

Derren Patterson works in Bolivia with Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, famous for its bike tours over “the world’s most dangerous road”. He tells us: “we have observed a gradual increase in senior customers in recent years. Just a few weeks ago, two men in their 70s did various mountain trails with us.”

In my frequent interactions with senior cyclers I have noticed an increasing interest in a certain category of travel called “micro-adventures”. They will not cycle for a year from Alaska to Ushuaia, but they love trying something they’ve never done before, breaking routines and thus playing tricks with psychological time in order to expand their lives.

At talks I’ve given to cycling tourists in the Loire Valley, through International Bicycle Tours (IBT), I found the audiences comprised mainly of boomers, with one woman over 80! IBT’s Jules Miller explains that their “clients have consistently been about the same age, which is between 55-75. In the past couple of years, we have started 70 Plusser tours, aimed at participants age 70 and up, focusing on shorter daily biking. Instead of 25-35 miles a day, they do about 15-20 miles daily,” blending the cycling with river barge segments or cultural visits.

Dozens of tour companies like the above-mentioned offer fully-supported bicycle adventures with the sturdiest and most comfortable high-end bikes. Backpacks or panniers are not necessary since the customers’ belongings are carried in a pick-up truck.

If supported bike tours are “the new golf”, as numerous business publications have suggested, what about the increasing number of 60-plussers doing unsupported bicycle tourism? Could independent road cycling for seniors become the new cruise industry, with bike-friendly “ports” along the way?

I have accompanied seniors on unsupported touring, where we carry our own clothing and accessories (and medications!). We make our own maps as we go along, comparing our “found” routes with those of National Geography Institute contour maps or Google bicycle routes.

But when the sun sets after a long ride, we prefer a good restaurant and we’re not embarrassed to stay in a comfortable hotel or bed-and-breakfast instead of camping out. Stopping for activities along the way is not a problem for us since we view the bicycle as both an activity in itself and a means of vacation transportation. We do not have to wait until the next port to partake of local attractions.

I do not pretend to speak for a whole demographic, but I can say that several of my riding companions share a dream. We would like to see a road cycling infrastructure of rest-and-service stops, including restaurants, hotels and bike repair stations.

With the weight of our first-aid kits and the extra levels of packed clothing (we’re more sensitive to weather changes), we would prefer to carry the lightest possible bike locks, even with a lower grade of security, once assured of finding hotels, restaurants and attractions with protected parking.

According to bicycle sales rep, Keith Stark, from Western Canada: “Our dealer base has seen a significant spike in sales from business men and women who have made the transition from golf to biking” (Quote from, Jayson MacLean, “Golf is Dead. Cycling Killed It”, Cantech Letter, May 2017). Stark specializes in high-end bikes.

As one who has come out from a meeting in a wealthy Paris suburb only to find a sawed off bike lock (professional job) and empty space where my quality bicycle had been parked, I will be ready to purchase another high-end bike when I know I will find road and parking services for cyclists, just as automobile tourists have such services available.

The bicycle industry is in a position to be our advocate and to influence both public and private sectors to provide amenities for the growing demographic. Parts of France already have such cycling amenities, and they can be a model for things to come.

In a subsequent article I will present a new idea for long-term bicycle advocacy that will stimulate cycling in all age groups, but especially 60-plussers. The more bicycle tourists, the more security we will feel on the road.

Monday, September 18, 2017

What Happened to High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

By Andrea Donsky

What happens when you have a product that gets a lot of bad press, and is associated with significant health issues? You change its name so people are “fooled” into thinking the old product is gone. That is what happened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

It should be avoided at all costs because it can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and heart disease. In fact, a recent report from an international team of experts noted that “fructose-containing added sugars, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, have been experimentally, epidemiologically, and clinically shown to be involved in the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes.” So what I’m about to tell you makes HFCS a bit scarier.

The Food and Drug Administration is allowing food makers to change the name of HFCS to something that sounds safe: “natural sweetener.” So now when you read a food label and no longer see "high-fructose corn syrup" listed in the ingredients, you might think you’re home free...but keep reading...because you're now likely to see the words “natural sweetener” instead. That’s the NEW name for HFCS, which contains about 42 to 55 percent fructose and 58 to 45 percent glucose.

Read about 6 surprising places you’ll find high fructose corn syrup
You also may see the word “fructose” on the label. This is the term now being used to describe a product that was known previously as HFCS-90 (90% fructose). Since fructose is found naturally in fresh fruits, use of this term makes the food item sound much healthier, which it is not! The fructose in fruits is accompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber, and enzymes; the fructose that’s added to processed foods (that is really HFCS) is not.

So if you see a product with the words “fructose” or “natural sweetener” on the ingredient panel, it could be high-fructose corn syrup in disguise. If you find this in your favourite products, you have a few choices: you can contact the food manufacturer and ask whether high-fructose corn syrup is still being used in their product, you can buy products only from makers you trust are not using high-fructose corn syrup in disguise, or you can choose to not buy the product at all (personally, I'd opt for the third choice).

Now here is the Label Loophole: Since HFCS underwent a legal name change, food producers can legitimately say a product with HFCS-90, for example, is “high-fructose corn syrup-free.”

To add more drama to the situation, you also should be aware that HFCS may appear in foods under other names as well, including crystalline fructose, fruit fructose, glucose/fructose (syrup), glucose syrup, maize syrup, and tapioca syrup.

How high-fructose corn syrup affects health

High-fructose corn syrup has been associated with a number of significant health risks. Mark Hyman, MD, explains that when we consume fructose, it travels directly to the liver and sets off the production of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are involved in liver damage and the development of fatty liver. The glucose is absorbed rapidly and leads to significant spikes in insulin. The body’s responses to both fructose and glucose are associated with metabolic issues that result in weight gain, diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, and more.

Read about if high fructose corn syrup is connected to autism?
Hyman also notes that free fructose from HFCS has an impact on the body that can result in a compromised intestinal membrane, sometimes known as a leaky gut. This situation can result in an immune response and chronic inflammation, which are also associated with the health problems listed above.

High-fructose corn syrup also may contain toxic substances, such as mercury. These factors may be the result of the use of chlor-alkali products during the manufacturing process.

Foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup are typically processed, of low quality and nutritional value, and full of empty calories. Eliminating such foods from your diet and turning to whole, natural foods instead can provide a nutritional boost and improve overall health.


Dmitry B. High fructose corn syrup has been quietly, deceitfully renamed. News Punch 2017 May 22
Goodrich A. Food companies hiding harmful high fructose corn syrup under new name. Natural News 2016 Dec 12.
Hyman M MD. 5 reasons high fructose corn syrup will kill you.
Johnson RJ et al. Perspective: a historical and scientific perspective of sugar and its relation with obesity and diabetes. Advances in Nutrition 2017 May 15; 8(3): 412-22

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Austin is Pioneering a Mobility Revolution

Every city has this issue, but Austin’s is certainly among the top among surveys that measure congestion and related issues. They’re among the worst. Not only do they have a problem; they knew their problem was growing faster than they could keep up with.

With an estimated 450,000 people using city roads daily, transit is an enormous challenge. Austin officials, understandably, have been working on solutions. 

Things started coming together when Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colo.-based think tank on energy and transportation, began looking for a place to put its vision for transformational mobility change into practice. After a search that began in 2014 with 1,000 potential cities, RMI choose Austin as its proving ground.

RMI’s legion of out-of-the-box thinkers are at the helm of a mobility revolution in a city where individual vehicles have ruled the road. By shifting from transportation based on fossil-fueled personal vehicles to a system with options — shared, electrified and autonomous — the aim is for Austin to be a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions city by 2050 as it gets a handle on traffic congestion. 

To read the full story and to follow their progress. Click HERE.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

No Fuel or Recharging Stations. Completely Solar Powered

The cross-country road trip is as American as apple pie. Which is why it’s so ironic that the latest motorhome innovation comes from overseas in Germany, where a new, electric motorhome has been unveiled by RV company Dethleffs. This motorhome is built for the open road, with a sleek design and head-to-toe solar panels so you never have to worry about finding the next charging station.

That's right: The open road is officially calling.

Where we’re going, we don’t need charging stations.

The transportation industry is being flipped on its head by taking two of the most basic essentials—the driving experience and fuel—out of the equation entirely.

Self-driving vehicles and rechargeable technology is changing the landscape of driving. That market has been expanding beyond everyday vehicles with advances in things like electric-powered semi trucks. And we’ve seen the rise (and possible peak) of the tiny home market, where solar panels and other green technology is often utilized.

But motorhomes have been largely left out of this discussion. That’s for understandable reasons. A vehicle synonymous with the wide-open road (and, inherently at odds with the idea of frequent EV charging stations) has no obvious place in the electric market. Until now.

This is not just any electric vehicle.

Keeping a motorhome and all its components powered up requires an extensive amount of energy. To meet that requirement, Dethleffs has covered virtually every inch of the e.home with solar panels, similar to the European school with solar panels slathered on all its exterior walls. The RV is built on the company’s Iveco Daily Electric chassis with a 107-horsepower electric motor. The motorhome would have a range just shy of 100 miles if it wasn’t covered in solar panels, but it is. Those babies can make up to 3,000 watts of electricity for its 228-Ah battery. In other words, you’re all good to just keep on going.

The e.home is covered in solar panels and stars.

The e.home utilizes Victron Energy products for the solar kit, including solar charge controllers, an inverter/charger for AC electricity and to charge the lithium batteries, ancillaries, and a DC-DC converter to supply charge stations for phones, laptops and the like.

The motorhome also features a sleek and modern design; circular wireless charging station; infrared heating panels on interior floors, furniture and walls; windows with darkening film between the panes; and a heating system that captures outside air on days warmer then 79 degrees, then sends it into the main cabin when the evening’s cooler air sets in.

Oh yeah—and a starlight projection system over the alcove bed.

“Dethleffs know this means a lot more than just putting bodywork on an electrically driven chassis,” Dethleffs Managing Director, Alexander Leopold, said in a Victron Energy release. “By implementing a fully electric powertrain there are many challenges and equally opportunities for the entire vehicle. One significant opportunity is to do without any additional type of energy sources for the vehicle. This means that a motorhome with electric drive will also supply all the onboard services with electricity for the living area instead of gas, for example – and that is why solar power production becomes very important.”

No word yet on pre-orders or estimated cost, but this is absolutely an exciting step in the right direction.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Why You Should Live in a Van

 . . . . live in a what?I know that sounds little tongue in cheekish, but most people live their lives in the same place their entire life -- same town, same neighborhood, same house. Once in while they take the typical "2 week" vacation, but hurry back to tell their friends what a great time had they had -- at DisneyLand and to mow the grass. They never really break away, or do anything completely off the chart.

This lifestyle is obviously not for everybody. And some have already quit reading. But many are breaking away from their so-called "normal" life, downsizing and finding out what it's really like to be free. And it's not just young people with a trust fund waiting, but older, retired people who aren't ready to be wired up for oxygen. But why a Van? READ >>

Some people spend 14 years of their lives like this. Some life.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Obesity Will Soon be the Principle Cause of Cancer

Recent studies continue to shed light on how everyday cycling is not only good for our cardiovascular health but also a way to save billions in health care costs. While everyday cycling is starting to be recognized as a low-impact form of exercise there remains resistance to accepting riding a bike as a form of preventive health care across North America.

Clearly, biking is advantageous for one’s physical health. It’s widely known that cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that’s good for the cardiovascular system, a way to control weight gain, and benefits our immune system. In addition, daily bicycling can have positive effects on our mental well-being.

In June 2013, the American Medical Association voted in favor of recognizing obesity as a disease; the Food and Drug Administration already does. This newly-labeled disease is predicted to affect more than 44 percent of all Americans by 2030 if no action is taken. Canada is not exempt from this health crisis: in 2010, Statistics Canada found that an average of 34 percent of individuals aged 60 to 69 were obese.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the positive impact of making cities more bike-friendly: “integrating health-enhancing choices into transportation policy has the potential to save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing and preventing motor-vehicle-related injury and deaths, improving environmental health, while stimulating economic development, and ensuring access for all people.” 

The CDC also recognized that a lack of efficient transportation alternatives to driving and a fear of biking in heavy traffic only encouraged people to continue to drive all or most of the time.

In light of these findings, there remains resistance, mostly political, in accepting the benefits of daily bicycling as preventive health care. The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act has set aside money for improving bicycling conditions through the Prevention and Public Health Fund. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, none of the 85 cities in the US that are actively installing better bicycle infrastructure (including protected bike lanes, trails, and bike share systems) have accessed these funds. Connecting bicycling to preventive health care in the US has yet to gain public acceptance and would draw resistance to these projects.

The silver lining is: there is growing acceptance of the Complete Streets movement. Complete Streets – or roadways that enable safe transportation for all road users – provide opportunities for increased, safe physical activity. Also, it’s been found that these streets are the most effective solution for encouraging daily physical activity. With 488 Complete Streets policies adopted in the US, the connection between health care and active transportation is gaining ground.

Providing bike riders with a safe and convenient way to commute every day should be seen as a form of preventive health care. With a safe network of bike routes, more North Americans can be encouraged to take to their bikes instead of their cars, which could very likely result in billions of health care dollars saved.


A study led by Dr. Thomas Götschi of the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Zurich examined the costs and benefits of bicycling in Portland, OR. Götschi’s findings are startling: “By 2040, investments [in everyday bicycling in the USA] in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million (…) and savings in value of statistical lives of $7 to $12 billion.” Götschi’s study is the first cost-benefit analysis of investments in bicycling.

A study conducted by Jonathan Patz and Maggie Grabow of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in Environmental Health Perspectives looked to quantify the benefits of reduced car usage in 11 metropolitan areas in the upper Midwestern United States. The study found that replacing short car trips with biking could net health benefits of $4.94 billion per year in the study area. Mortality could also decline by roughly 1,000 per year due to increased fitness levels and improved air quality.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Coffee Leads to Longer Life

That shot of expresso you have every morning? It might just be making you live longer and reducing your risk of getting cancer, diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

According to the research as reported in Science Daily:

“Drinking coffee was associated with lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. People who consumed a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee.”

And, it did not seem to matter whether you drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee which suggests that the effect is not related to caffeine. Even better news… when you drink 2-3 cups a day, the association becomes stronger– an 18 precent reduced chance of death as opposed to 12 percent.

Researchers do not know what it is in coffee that creates this association to a long life, however, according to Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC:

“Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play an important role in cancer prevention.”

This association even cuts across ethnic boundaries. There’s a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney disease for African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites. With these four major ethnic groups showing a similar response, it suggests that coffee is good for you whether you are white, African-American, Latino or Asian.

If you are already a coffee drinker, this new research will probably confirm what you already believed, that coffee is good for you! If you are not a coffee drinker, you might consider becoming one!

For further information about coffee see, Coffee Leads to Longer Life, by Dr. Mercola

Thursday, July 20, 2017

World's Plastic Waste Could Bury Manhattan 2 Miles Deep

WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances .

"At the current rate, we are really heading toward a plastic planet," said study lead author Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It is something we need to pay attention to."

The plastics boom started after World War II, and now plastics are everywhere. They are used in packaging like plastic bottles and consumer goods like cellphones and refrigerators. They are in pipes and other construction material. They are in cars and clothing, usually as polyester.

Study co-author Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia said the world first needs to know how much plastic waste there is worldwide before it can tackle the problem.
Continue reading the main story

They calculated that of the 9.1 billion tons made, nearly 7 billion tons are no longer used. Only 9 percent got recycled and another 12 percent was incinerated, leaving 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste on land and in water.

Using the plastics industry own data, Geyer, Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law found that the amount of plastics made and thrown out is accelerating. In 2015, the world created 448 million tons of plastic — more than twice as much as made in 1998.

China makes the most plastic, followed by Europe and North America.

"The growth is astonishing and it doesn't look like it's slowing down soon," Geyer said.

About 35 percent of the plastic made is for packaging, like water bottles. Geyer said his figures are higher than other calculations because he includes plastics material woven into fibers like polyester clothing, including microfiber material.

An official of a U.S. trade group said the plastics industry recognizes the problem and is working to increase recycling and reduce waste.

"Plastics are used because they are efficient, they are cost effective and they do their jobs," said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council , an industry association that represents manufacturers. "And if we didn't have them, the impact on the environment would be worse."

Using alternatives to plastics for packaging and consumer goods such as glass, paper or aluminum requires more energy, Russell said.

The world still makes more concrete and steel than plastic, but the big difference is that they stay longer in buildings and cars and degrade better than plastic, Geyer said. Except for what is burned, "all the plastics that we made since 1950 are still with us," he said.

"The fact that it becomes waste so quickly and that it's persistent is why it's piling up in the environment," said Chelsea Rochman, a professor of ecology at the University of Toronto. She wasn't part of the study but like other outside experts praised it for thoroughness and accuracy.

"At some point we will run out of room to put it," she said in an email. "Some may argue we already have and now it's found in every nook and cranny of our oceans."

Plastic waste in water has been shown to harm more than 600 species of marine life, said Nancy Wallace, marine debris program director for the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Whales, sea turtles, dolphins, fish and sea birds are hurt or killed, she said.

"It's a huge amount of material that we're not doing anything about," Wallace said. "We're finding plastics everywhere."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grid Batteries Are Poised to Become Cheaper Than Natural-Gas Plants in Minnesota

A 60-acre solar farm in Camp Ripley, a National Guard base in Minnesota.
by Michael Reilly July 12, 2017
When it comes to renewable energy, Minnesota isn’t typically a headline-grabber: in 2016 it got about 18 percent of its energy from wind, good enough to rank in the top 10 states. But it’s just 28th in terms of installed solar capacity, and its relatively small size means projects within its borders rarely garner the attention that giants like California and Texas routinely get.

A new report on the future of energy in the state should turn some heads (PDF). According to the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, starting in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, the overall cost of building grid-scale storage there will be less than that of building natural-gas plants to meet future energy demand.

Minnesota currently gets about 21 percent of its energy from renewables. That’s not bad, but current plans also call for bringing an additional 1,800 megawatts of gas-fired “peaker” plants online by 2028 to meet growing demand. As the moniker suggests, these plants are meant to spin up quickly to meet daily peaks in energy demand—something renewables tend to be bad at because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.

Storing energy from renewables could solve that problem, but it’s traditionally been thought of as too expensive compared with other forms of energy.

The new report suggests otherwise. According to the analysis, bringing lithium-ion batteries online for grid storage would be a good way to stockpile energy for when it’s needed, and it would prove less costly than building and operating new natural-gas plants.

The finding comes at an interesting time. For one thing, the price of lithium-ion batteries continues to plummet, something that certainly has the auto industry’s attention. And grid-scale batteries, while still relatively rare, are popping up more and more these days. The Minnesota report, then, suggests that such projects may become increasingly common—and could be a powerful way to lower emissions without sending our power bills skyrocketing in the process.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From the Insanity File

A double-decker I-15 could be in Salt Lake City's commuting future

Cities have become nearly unliveable. Correction: are unliveable. If you live in, or near one, traffic is the monster you have to white-knuckle through on a daily basis. The typical American family has more vehicles than licensed drivers and in our "drive everywhere culture" it's getting worse every year. 

Salt Lake City, UT is a great example. It's one of the fastest growing cities in the country and it's having a hard time keeping up with the rapid growth. However, building more infrastructure to accommodate vehicles is pure lunacy. Not too mention the unbelievable cost. But that's what they are considering for the I-15 interstate through Salt Lake City. And the plan they are considering is to double-deck the highway.

The political masses very rarely, if ever, entertain the thought of alternative forms of transportation. I mean REAL SERIOUS forms of alternative transportation. Like bicycling. But, they, along with every other level of government gets their marching orders from the fossil fuel industry, and because they do, it will be a long time before common sense and logic unseats the greed mentality.

We have become the new third world country model. Many progressive countries like Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy are way ahead of us in terms of innovation and embracing clean energy sources and alternative transportation concepts. Some have already divested from fossil fuel and others have set deadlines in the not too distant future. But not in this country. Our leadership has no interest in moving forward to a clean economy, at least until the last barrel of oil is sucked up, burned and put in the atmosphere -- where it belongs!

OK, No Whining Without Solutions

Very few of us would consider giving up our car and replacing it with the lowly bicycle as our primary source of transportation. But think about this. Take the proposal of double-decking I-15. The cost would be prohibitive, and by the time it was completed it would be antiquated, and the population may be doubled again by the time it opened and discussions to add a third and fourth deck would be headline news -- again.

Here's my idea (and it's not really a new one)
Instead of building a double-deck highway for cars why not build it for bicycles? A state-of-the-art, elevated bicycle freeway. It would follow the same traffic patterns, same off-ramps as cars and at a fraction of the cost. Cyclists would be above and away from traffic. 

If you think this is idea is ridiculous, it was actually proposed in Los Angeles (the car insanity capital of the world) in 1899. An elevated dedicated wooden bike path from Los Angeles to Pasadena. It's an interesting read. An 1899 Plan to Build a Bike Highway in Los Angeles (And Why it Failed).  

Cycle superhighway

I mentioned how other "progressive" cities around the world are advancing in the 21st century and dealing with traffic. London is currently poised to spend £900 million ($1.4 billion) on one of Europe's most ambitious bicycle path infrastructure projects. Called the East-West Cycle Superhighway, the separated bicycle path would connect Acton in West London with Barking in the east -- a journey of more than 18 miles.

"Bikes already make up 24 per cent of all rush-hour traffic in central London - hundreds of thousands of trips every day that would otherwise be made by car or public transport," said London mayor Boris Johnson.
"Because this isn't just about cyclists. Getting more people on to their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves."
Incentives to Use the Highway
This would be the obvious question when considering such a project. "Would they use it?" There are plenty of built in incentives, such as health, pollution, parking, stress, grid lock etc. But would that be enough? 

We offer tax breaks to big corporations to help their bottom line, why not offer tax breaks for real people to defer using their car and riding their bike to work, school, errands and recreation? Or merchants offering discounts when arriving by bike, health insurance companies could offer discounts for commuting cyclists. 

The biking industry could also get involved by manufacturing bikes with weather components, such as hoods, umbrellas, windshields, battery powered heaters etc. 

Some of these ideas and products already exist, and with just a little imagination and ingenuity a complete weather proof, commuter bike could easily be manufactured, or better yet tinkered with in your garage. 

A closing Note: The reason the wooden bike highway failed in Los Angeles? You guessed it -- the internal combustion engine was introduced and fossil fuel was cheap. And if the fossil fuel industry has it's way a double-decker highway on I-15 is in your future -- at your expense, for their benefit.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Smog Sucking Bikes

Add caption
 Walking around in foul, soupy smog is bad enough; biking through it at a modest clip can feel like hooking your lungs up to a Ford F-150’s tail pipe. But in the future, cycling in heavy air pollution could be less damaging, if a two-wheeled intervention from Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde pans out.

This week Roosegaarde’s Rotterdam-based studio revealed its “smog-free bicycle” concept. The idea is to mobilize fleets of high-tech cycles (perhaps via Chinese bike-share programs like Mobike) to cleanse the nasty miasmas that enrobe the nation’s vast urban centers. 

In theory, these bikes would include a device, likely mounted on the handlebars, that can pull in ambient air and run it through positive-ionization filters to remove particulate matter. The result — a clean, healthy breeze blowing into cyclists’ faces. If such a program was adopted on a huge scale, the bike-mounted smog scrubbers might even have a marginal impact on improving a city’s overall air quality. READ MORE >>

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Growing Importance of Bicycle Infrastructure


Why more cities need to embrace bike lanes, bike parking and other bicycle infrastructure in their urban cores.

The Value of Bicycle Lanes and Thoroughfares

ere is a growing connection in the relationship between amenity- or service-oriented businesses and the proximity to bicycle thoroughfares. These kinds of businesses would include restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, boutiques, and the like. Michael Andersen, who writes for BikePortland and People for Bikes, has written numerous articles that detail this trend. “Bikes, it turns out, seem to be a perfect way to get people to the few retail categories that are thriving in the age of mail-order everything: bars, restaurants and personal services. And in Portland, where an early investment in basic bikeways has made bikes a popular way to run errands, retailers are responding by snapping up storefronts with good bike exposure.”

Locally, an example of these changes taking place is North Williams Avenue (and North Vancouver Avenue) which carries thousands of bicyclists towards and away from Portland’s downtown. Over the past few years many of the businesses that have cropped up strategically cater to these pedal-powered consumers ranging from the Hopworks BikeBar, coffee shops (Ristretto Roasters), eateries, yoga studios, United Bicycle Institute, Portland Design Works (which makes accessories for bikes), and more. In one building alone there are three businesses owned and operated by women who cycle, a bike shop catering to women cyclists and their interests (fashion and otherwise ... which just moved up to Alberta Street), a bicycle frame builder, and a bicycle wheel builder. All of this bicycle traffic has influenced businesses here significantly.

What is revealed is that bicycle traffic equates revenue for places like coffee shops, boutiques, pubs, and other specialty shops. “It’s not just that a potential customer on a bike is just as valuable as the same potential customer in a car. It’s that good bike access is disproportionately good for the core customers of bars and restaurants.” The thriving service sector benefits greatly from bicycles. Cycle tracks, bike lanes, and buffered protected bike lanes are good for business. A recent article highlights the benefits of protected bike lanes:

• Protected bike lanes increase retail visibility and volume. It turns out that when people use bikes for errands, they’re the perfect kind of retail customer: the kind that comes back again and again. They spend as much per month as people who arrive in cars, require far less parking while they shop and are easier to lure off the street for an impulse visit.

• Protected bike lanes make workers healthier and more productive. From Philadelphia to Chicago to Portland, the story is the same: people go out of their way to use protected bike lanes. By drawing clear, safe barriers between auto and bike traffic, protected bike lanes get more people in the saddle “burning calories, clearing the mental cobwebs, and strengthening hearts, hips and lungs.”

• Protected bike lanes make real estate more desirable. By calming traffic and creating an alternative to auto travel lanes, protected bike lanes help build the sort of neighborhoods that everyone enjoys walking around in. By extending the geographic range of non-car travel, bike lanes help urban neighborhoods develop without waiting years for new transit service to show up.

• Protected bike lanes help companies score talented workers. Workers of all ages, but especially young ones, increasingly prefer downtown jobs and nearby homes, the sort of lifestyles that make city life feel like city life. Because protected bike lanes make biking more comfortable and popular, they help companies locate downtown without breaking the bank on auto parking space, and allow workers to reach their desk the way they increasingly prefer: under their own power.

The Impacts of Bike Parking for Local Businesses

Not only do bike lanes add benefit to local businesses, but so do bike corrals. What is a bike corral? “On-street Bicycle Parking Corrals make efficient use of the parking strip for bicycle parking in areas with high demand. Corrals typically have 6 to 12 bicycle racks in a row and can park 10 to 20 bicycles.” This uses space otherwise occupied by one to two cars. Bikeways are great ways to get people to businesses or at least pass them by, but having ample bike parking can be the difference between cyclists stopping or continuing on. Here are a couple of reminders from the article “3 Reasons Portland Retailers Have Embraced Bike Parking:”

• Bike corrals make businesses more visible to everyone.
• Bike corrals improve the pedestrian environment.
• Bike corrals increase parking capacity.
While certainly important, that is not the only consideration when installing bike parking in front of businesses. “But as more Americans use bikes for their daily errands, more retailers are thinking twice about their assumptions and realizing that once biking becomes easy and comfortable, busy neighborhoods are actually the perfect places to swap out auto parking.” There is a wait-list in Portland for businesses applying to have car parking removed in favor of installing bicycle parking in the form of bike corrals. Clearly, local businesses see the importance of bike parking over car parking, and they are willing to give up precious auto parking out front to cater to the needs and demands of bicycling consumers.
Alison Lee in her Master’s thesis What is the Economic Contribution of Cyclists Compared to Car Drivers in Inner Suburban Melbourne’s Shopping Strips? noted that businesses have a higher return on investment when they forgo car parking for bike parking. In an analysis of the economic return on a parking spot in front of a business, Lee noted that in the end bicycling customers collectively will spend more than motorists in the same time period. A 140-square-foot parking space can hold either one car ($27 per hour parked, according to shopper behavior), or up to six bikes ($16.20 each per hour parked). It comes out to 19 cents per square foot: retail revenue per hour of occupied on-street auto parking, or 69 cents per square foot: retail revenue per hour of occupied bike parking.  “So it’s not just out of the kindness of their hearts,” Andersen writes, “that retailers in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland and Chicago are happily swapping on-street auto parking spaces for bike parking corrals, sometimes in the face of steep bureaucratic obstacles. For them, efficiently functioning neighborhoods are a matter of survival.”
On-street bike parking (bike corrals) does more than provide a space to park bicycles. It also helps bolster a vibrant sidewalk scene that is good for pedestrians. “Bars and restaurants have capitalized on this new infrastructure, which provides a buffer from moving traffic, by adding outdoor seating for sidewalk cafes. Because demand is so high, the city must place future corrals strategically and may institute a fee for installation.”  All of this supports the same outcome of boosting localism which entails spending locally and supporting neighborhood businesses. Particularly for small businesses, gaining a better understanding of consumer choices and spending is essential not only for their survivability but success.
Consumer Choices and Spending of Bicyclists

A perceived detriment of doing such things as removing auto parking in favor of bike corrals would be the fear of losing a valuable customer base, especially those who drive autos who could conceivably buy more due to their larger carrying capacity. This is a legitimate concern for businesses considering the possibility of foregoing a car parking spot in front of their business. However, recent research reveals the differences in spending between customers who arrive at businesses via bicycle, auto, or on foot (to build on what we just explored).

• When trip frequency is accounted for, the average monthly expenditures by customer modes of travel reveal that bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians are competitive consumers and, for all businesses except supermarkets, spend more on average than those who drive.

• The built environment matters: We support previous literature and find that residential and employment density, the proximity to rail transit, and the amount of automobile and bicycle parking are all important in explaining the use of non-automobile modes. In particular, provision of bike parking and bike corrals are significant predictors of bike mode share at the establishment level.

Writing for The Atlantic Cities in her article, “Cyclists and Pedestrians Can End Up Spending More Each Month Than Drivers,” Emily Badger notes, “bikers actually out-consumed drivers over the course of a month. True, they often spent less per visit. But cyclists and pedestrians, in particular, made more frequent trips (by their own estimation) to these restaurants, bars and convenience stores, and those receipts added up.” What this preliminary research reveals about consumer choices and spending by bicyclists and their economic impacts is that as a grouping they spend just as much as auto-users. One of the key points of difference is that shoppers traveling via bicycles are apt to stop more frequently.

What this highlights is that not only are bicyclists just as robust in their shopping as those who arrive in autos, but the fact bicyclists stop more frequently reveals one of the biggest incentives for businesses to offer on-street bike corrals: It is good for business. But what about the employees themselves? How do bike lanes and bike parking impact them?

The Influence of Bicycle Infrastructure in Recruiting Talent

The article “Good Bike Access Helps Score Greater Workers, Portland Firms Say” shows that bicycle access was influential in site selection for businesses relocating to parts of the city that have an ample bicycle infrastructure (bikeways and bike parking).

In 2010, Jay Haladay, owner and CEO of Portland-based construction software firm Coaxis, invested $17 million to redevelop a central-city warehouse so his company could move from the side of a suburban highway to a location on central Portland’s riverside bike loop. “This is all part of an effort to differentiate ourselves as an employer of choice,” Haladay said. “You can't just throw benefits at people. You can’t just have pizza at lunch.” Bicycle access, Haladay said, lets a Portland employer play to its location’s strengths. In this labor market, he’s concluded, “any company that doesn't include it in its fabric of company culture is making a mistake.”

That is not the only consideration on the part of businesses relocating to districts and neighborhoods that are bike amenity-rich. Portland employers have indicated that bicycle commuting tends to boost productivity. But they’ve also found that locating in a bikeable part of the city is a great tool for workers. “But more than anything, most agreed, the benefit of a bike-friendly worksite is simply that these days, valuable workers seem to prefer it.” It is an urban amenity that appeals to a growing number of workers.


Bicycles are beginning to reshape the landscape of American cities. Bicycling as a mode of transportation brings with it a certain amount of economic benefits ranging from the influence bike lanes have on adjacent businesses, the value of real estate, the recruitment of talent, and easier access for customers who ride bikes. The economic benefits of bike lanes, bike parking, and other bicycle facilities and infrastructure is positive for businesses who are trying to woo not only customers but top-notch employees as well.

Reprinted with permission from The Bohemian Guide to Urban Cycling, by Sean Benesh, and published by Urban Loft Publishers, 2014.