Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lane Change: Radical Shift

...Because I just can't stop tinkering. Shifted gears rather dramatically and moving the site to Tumblr. It may mean more posts, more concentrated posts, or it could land me in a cyber-ditch. But I couldn't resist. So find this blog moving over to:


Once we are through election week, I PROMISE I will get to so many of the stories I've been packing away. Or I will end up as a feature on a new segment on Hoarders: The Cyber Version.

Don't be a stranger.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Police Still Searching for Suspect in Capital Crescent Trail Assault

Montgomery County Police released this sketch of a man they believe is the suspect in a sexual assault on the Capital Crescent Trail. They also note  this:

"Additionally, a white male riding a bicycle was observed in the area at the time of the assault and may have information that can assist investigators. The bicycle is similar to the one pictured below."

Note that they don't say the white male spotted on the bike is the suspect. Important distinction. 

Here's the police illustration of the type of bike the male rider was spotted using.

Finally, here are numbers to call if you believe you have any information for police:

Detectives are asking anyone who believes they know the suspect in the composite sketch or is familiar with the bicycle or the bicycle rider to contact the Montgomery County Police non-emergency line at (301) 279-8000. For those callers wishing to remain anonymous please contact Crime Solvers of MontgomeryCounty toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or 240-773-TIPS (8477).  Anonymous tips can also be provided by typing “MCPD” plus the tip on a cell phone or PDA and texting it to 274637 (CRIMES). Crime Solvers ofMontgomery County is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information provided anonymously to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of the individual(s) responsible.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Steals the Bike(lime)Light

Ok, so this weekend, I attended the FABB Bike Summit at George Mason University and met a number of people doing all kinds of things to make biking better in our region--not just in Fairfax. I have sooo much material..and then Sandy hit. She'll have me (figuratively speaking) under water for a while, but as soon as I can, I will get you the FABB stories along with the effort to make Pennsylvania Avenue safer for everyone: cyclists, pedestrians and yes, drivers!

But for now, bear with me as I test the waterproof properties of my outerwear and report from the rainsoaked roadways at WTOP.

And tell me how you all are doing out there: are you hunkering down at home? Do you have to get in to work? Dealing with the Capital Bikeshare closings? Do tell. And really, stay safe. I've covered a lot of storms and messy weather stories over the years---this one is really dangerous.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Remember the time...?

...when I told you the story of the train delay that caused me to be an hour late to the airport, and how the staff at the gate scolded me for "choosing to take such a late train"?

Well, that's the short version. And--spoiler alert--the Brompton (I really am going to have to give this little gem a name) made it home safe and sound--and so did I. More on this later.
That's my baby, the second from the foreground, headed down the conveyor belt towards home. See how it's actually smaller than some of the other cases on the conveyor belt? Just sayin'. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can Your Rail Station Do This?

Hey Kids, Get off Those Bikes Part II:

What makes a transit system work? How can some cities and countries appear to keep everyone moving--no matter how many wheels they roll on? Watch the ballet of movement illustrated here in Leuven/Louvain Belgium.

On a Roll: From Station to Station By bike from Kate Ryan Reports on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hey You Kids! Get Off Those Bikes!

No riding those bikes in the tunnel under the station here in Leuven. The transit cops will get you. 

Friday in the university town of Leuven means a packed train station. Instead of staying on campus or in town, students high-tail it home for free meals, cash infusions and no-cost laundry facilities provided by Mom and Dad. 

It's tempting to zoom down the spacious ramp into the station on your bike, but just a bit insane with the crowds here. I don't know what the fine/penalties are for failing to get off your bike, but steep enough it seemed to get most people off and walking their bikes into the train station.

Leuven is also known for...beer. You know Stella-Artois I bet, but there are some others here that should be investigated. WTOP's Beer of the Week host Brennan Haselton would be disappointed in me: I did not get to these tours. Too many to choose from, too little time. 

I'll get you out of this tunnel and up to the suface in my next report. Now it's back to Ghent (here it's Gent) for more time on the bike.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lane Change for Maryland

Get a look at what The Washcycle has spotlighted: Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration has launched a public education campaign aimed at motorists. Note the tone here: it's not telling cyclists to be more careful, it's directing drivers to adhere to the (relatively new) law.

What's also interesting is the inclusion of something that cyclists know very well, but that drivers may not think about: the need on the part of a cyclist to quickly shift position to avoid a pothole, raised pavement, or buckling in the roadway. Here's the You Tube link to the PSA.

As I cycle in DC, I often think about how drivers may not realize it, but cyclists are your allies in many ways. Drivers and cyclists both want smoother, safer, better road surfaces. Just a thought.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hitting the Streets in Antwerp: Part II

Ok, remember how I said biking in Brussels was not nearly as tough as I'd heard? True.

So I get to Antwerp, where the very kind woman at the tourist office said I might find the streets less-than-bike-friendly until I got to the areas that are car-free. Once up from the parking garage at the Antwerp train station, (Antwerpen Centraal) I found marked bike lanes. Sure, they drop off at points (just like in DC, just like in Brussels) but they were easy enough to find and where they exist, they are clearly marked. So far, so good.

If you saw the previous post, you'll see I pulled out the iPod Touch to catch the flow of bike and pedestrian traffic along the way to the Grote Markt and the bike path along the Schelde. So far, so good.
"Real" Belgian weather. My friends here joke I've seen the fake stuff, since it's been mostly sunny in previous visits.

Then it's time to put away the camera, and cross the roadway to get to a lovely ride along the Schelde. The rain is easing up, and I am really looking forward to a nice, long ride. I start to ride through an intersection (it's busy, afternoon rush hour is well underway) and I feel a slight tug on the rear wheel. I'm not on a cobblestone surface, but I've hit a bump in the road where the paving stones that serve as the white center line have popped up a bit. I feel the bike list to the left, push hard to see if I can pull out of it and--it's no good. That rear tire simply slides out from under me and down I go. Hard.

 Belgian roadways: hard. Belgian cobbles: also really hard. I fell on the roadway. Ego bruised along with body parts.

I've alarmed one driver who rushes from his car to assist me and ask me repeatedly if I'm OK. I didn't pop up immediately, so it probably looked worse than it was. But I can feel that through my coat and my jeans, I've got road rash and impending technicolor bruising blooming on the left elbow and knee. I assure him I'm fine and thank him for being so kind. I'm mostly embarrassed as I limp across the intersection.

I get over to the curb and take a moment: my knee is really sore, and I've got that just-been-slammed- onto-a-hard-surface-reverberation going through my body. I know I'm going to be sore and stiff, but dammit, I'm here in Antwerp with a chance to ride a lovely route, so I get on the bike and ride it off. I probably look like your grandma as I ride along--stiff-legged and imagining the gore I'll find when I get home and peel the clothing back, but soon I'm just enjoying the ride.
 Along the Schelde, Antwerp.

I was wearing what's been billed as a helmet alternative, something called the "Ribcap". It's a German-made hat with protective material sewn in, and has a merino wool cover. Is it as protective as a helmet? No. Ribcap's own website makes this clear.  But it does purport to prevent injury, and you might put that in the "something is better than nothing" file.

But in this fall, it seemed helmet-vs-no helmet was not an issue. I couldn't help checking my cap for signs that my head hat hit the deck when I fell, but I have no indication that happened. (I figured dirt on the cap would show up, or a big wet spot, since it was raining.) I can tell you I took it in the knee and the elbow, and the left side of my body, but it seems the head wasn't involved.

I'm not saying a helmet isn't a darn good idea. But I've often thought about my own bike spills in my childhood: I recall bruising and scrapes and that awful jarred feeling, but never head contact with the ground. I'm one of nine kids, and thinking back to our collective childhoods, don't recall any head injuries from biking. (One brother had a spectacular spill from a skateboard while shooting down a relatively steep hill near our home. Another chipped a tooth after riding his bike down a neighbor's steps on a dare.)

Again, this is not saying that helmets are not necessary or at the very least a good idea. I routinely wear mine at home. I've covered my fair share of tragic incidents and have seen the results of serious and often fatal, collisions. But those who say helmets are not necessary like to point out in car-bike collisions, the helmet really isn't effective; that it's made for a fall (probably like the spill I took) and not the impact from a vehicle. I suspect the laws of physics are on their side. Still, most everyone I know, including police officers who have to deal with the aftermath of crashes, has at least one story of a life being saved or serious injury averted because the cyclist was wearing a helmet.

I also think about how the Brompton, with it's smaller wheel, does handle differently. Their website even mentions the extra care needed in the rain and on irregular surfaces.  Cyclist Stephane LeBeau, who I met here in Gent, talked to me about how a smaller wheel has less surface contact with the road than a full-size bike--he was curious about the Brompton's ride as well.  I'm not a risk-taker by nature, so don't push beyond my own abilities or the limitations of any bike, and I tend to pay attention to little glitches when riding and I'd noted how the Brompton isn't like my full sized bikes. Still, I had my little fall.

So what's the takeaway?  I'll let you decide. But one fall won't keep me off the bike, just as a fender bender--even one that leaves you injured--wouldn't necessarily keep you off the roads.

Hitting the Streets in Antwerp: Literally

I admit it; the first time I visited Antwerp I was not so impressed. I've no idea why, but it left me a bit cold. I think it was the main streets out of Antwerp Central station: lined with chain shops with buildings that reminded me of some of the suburban NY downtown shopping centers I used to frequent as a high school kid--blocky and chilly.

But Antwerp is Belgium's fashion capital,  it has a vibrant art scene and there is a Manhattan-like feel to the place. Get outside of those blocky shopping strips, and you find the good stuff. And Antwerp's main train station, Antwerp Centraal, is a gorgeous spot on its own.

On arrival to the station, you see this:

The interior of the station retains its grandeur:

But in recent years, they've made it more multi-modal friendly and added coffee bars and shops. One thing that struck me: a Starbucks. With all the good coffee found here in Belgium (Mokabon in Gent is my particular favorite) I was surprised by this. But one girl in a local Antwerp coffee shop told me she liked their coffee and that they had the best muffins. Go figure.

But the real standout in the station for cycling visitors: the immense parking facilities. There are elevators to bring you down to the bike parking area. I asked one fellow Brompton user for a little guidance to the bike parking/rental area. We both hopped on the escalator. Here, you'll come to a hallway that features a little artwork.

Then it's down the corridor towards the garage. To the left, you see two women heading upstairs to the street level.

You'd think hauling a full-sized bike up the stairs would be a huge pain, but check out the design feature included in this access to the street:

That small groove makes a big difference. Bike users don't have to clog escalators and elevators to get up to the street. So they didn't have to build a special access just for bikes. They just had to tweak the design for a staircase used by most everyone.

The garage is sprawling. Security guards and cameras keep an eye on your bikes:

And instead of packing you in to impossibly tight spaces, each bike slot allows (in theory) plenty of space for your bike, without the need for untangling a mess of handlebars. I say in theory because when I came back for my bike, I found I had to finesse it out of its spot thanks to someone who just jammed theirs into the slot next to mine. Our handlebars had established a level of intimacy that meant I had to tear them apart, poor things. My bike told their bike: "It's not me, it's you. You're too clingy. I have to go." I think the other bike took it ok.

One thing I liked about the garage was how well-lit it was. And when I spent what must have looked like an inordinate amount of time getting my bike locked up, a security guard checked on my progress. I've noticed this before. At Gent Dampoort, when I was snapping photos of the bikes, a security guard came out to ask me what I was up to. I was happy to see that anyone who seemed to need help or looked suspicious, would not be ignored.

So now it was my turn to hit the street, which I did, literally, but more about that later.

I had checked in with the tourism office, and they suggested the most bike-friendly routes. At first, I was told the immediate route to the Grand Place, the Groote Markt, was not so bike-friendly. I actually found it very bike-friendly, but it just shows you how relative that can be.

Wending my way towards a bike path that is just off the Grote Markt and puts you along the Schelde, I shot some footage of one of the streets that is closed off to auto traffic.

Antwerp on Two Wheels from Kate Ryan Reports on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sometimes, It's Personal...

Seeing this bike made me want to exclaim, "Dear God! Tell me, who did this to you!" and give it a hug.
And it got worse:
I mean really, who does this to a bike? How angry do you have to be?

Still, I thought maybe it's a little bit nuts to have the thought "Awww, poor bike", as you walk by an inanimate object.

Turns out I may not be so crazy after all. While securing my beloved Brompton outside a cafe this week, two women walked right up to me to advise me to lock it very carefully, even pointing out what they thought might be the best place to lock it. Turns out one of them had her bike stolen just weeks before. She talked about how mad it made her. I commiserated, having had one stolen and another vandalized. We agreed, when someone steals your bike: it's personal.

Then I had breakfast this morning with a couple from Montreal, and the man told the story of going by a bike that had been left on its side, and how he could not keep himself from going to set it right. Turns out, he works for Opus, a relatively new bicycle manufacturing company. Check out their line. It also turns out, he's a pretty big deal. Go back to that Opus page, scroll down and meet Stephane LeBeau, repeat World Master Track Champion. And super nice guy.

Once again, I stumble into interesting people who have a shared interest who just happen to be really cool people. Bikes and biking: sometimes it really is personal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brussels (Sprouts) Bike Lanes

Brussels is the worst--when it comes to traffic congestion. That's not my opinion, that's the ranking from Tom Tom, the GPS manufacturer. The last time Tom Tom checked,  in June of 2011, Brussels topped the list of European cities with the worst traffic congestion. Though there are indications that's changing.
You might guess all that traffic congestion would translate into nightmare conditions for cyclists. You'd be right--and wrong. Listen to what Chloe Mispelon and Julian Ferguson, members of the communcations staff at the European Cyclists' Federation had to tell me when I visited their office in Brussels.
Listen to Julian's amusement when I start by telling him after my biking trip to his office, riding in Brussels wasn't so bad. I was surprised by the bike lanes stretching up from Brussels Gare Centraal, but as Julian explained, they are, as in many American cities, a patchwork affair. Chloe and Julian explain how the gridlock can--oddly--benefit a cyclist.
Julian is right: you'll spot great cycling infrastructure like this, (note the red path and bike light ahead) then blocks later, you're back on to the street where you might or might not find sharrow markings, or you're forced onto unmarked cobblestones (cobblestones lose all their charm on a bike like the Brompton). You could also be herded into construction zones where you'll have to hop off your bike and walk it through narrow chutes as pedestrians struggle to avoid getting hung up on your handlebars.

Still, it's a big difference from the Brussels I remember on my first trip here in 2006--one that makes cycling in an unfamiliar city much less daunting. And yes, that is a giant golden mussel that appears to be perched on my handlebar. This is Brussels, after all.

Row! Row! Row!

Biking back from a nature reserve (Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen) along the Coupure just outside Ghent. Can you see the megaphone on the man's back? He's  coaching a women's crew team. You'll see them in the final frames here.
Done on a Bike from Kate Ryan Reports on Vimeo.
Taken with my iPod Touch. I'm not sure, but was he telling the women to work harder?
Sounded that way to me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bikes and boats and beaches...

This Marconi-centric journalist is still just flirting with the video skills, so bear with me as I practice, but here's a little something from today on the many places you may find a bike in Europe. In Belgium and the Netherlands, they're parked all over in giant clusters, and on the many boats that line the canals.

Here in France, in the area known as Pas-de-Calais, if you're headed to the beach, why not bike it? As a matter of fact, if you want a workout, ride along the beach. But mind the tides: time it right by heading out on a weekday in October, and you have a huge expanse of hard-packed sand pretty much to yourself. Get it wrong, and you'll be riding waves on your bike. And depending on how buoyant  you and your bike are, it will either be exhilarating, or a water rescue in the making.

Note in the video the riders are wearing helmets. Not a common sight in the smaller cities here in France/Belgium/Netherlands, but increasingly so in Paris and Brussels where congestion that rivals DC's fuels short tempers and bad behavior. On everyone's part.

In rural areas like this one, you'll find sport-cyclists using helmets. The logic being they'll hit high speeds, crashes (between cyclists who often ride in club packs) are possible and the riding takes place on narrow roads without shoulders and plenty of blind curves. But for utilitarian riding, you still see most folks going without the headgear. 

I note this because I spotted Gypsybug's column "You Wear a Helmet, Don't You?" and I understand her frustration. That question is kind of like when your Mom/roommate/boyfriend/husband/partner might have asked you:  "You're wearing that to go out?" A guaranteed conflict-starter. And the helmet question does seem to feed the notion that the cyclist who opts not to ride with a helmet has a death wish or thinks they are somehow invulnerable. 

As a reporter speaking from my own experience here, I'll give you my take on the inclusion of the helmet-or-no-helmet detail. A crash--any crash--happens. The questions start rolling: Was there alcohol/speed involved? What were the weather conditions? Was the driver/victim wearing a seat belt? Was the child in car seat? Was that car seat properly strapped in?

We, like the listener/reader are looking for the cause. It's human nature. "How awful, but I wear my seatbelt, so that probably won't happen to me..." I suspect that just as there is lots of head-shaking when it's found someone wasn't wearing a seatbelt, the same thing happens when we hear of crashes involving cyclists. We---and I don't just mean journalists here, I mean we as in people in general-- ask about that helmet. We like to think as long as we have one on, we'll be ok.

But here's the thing, and it's something that Gypsybug hit on (no pun intended) in her post. While we've all heard the stories about the father of nine who averted disaster when his helmet bore the brunt of his crash (I made that up, but you get the idea) some of us have wondered: are the fatal/critical injuries always head injuries for cyclists? A helmet won't prevent a ruptured spleen courtesy of a dooring, but you'll hear those "Tsk, tsks" when someone is injured that way. "See? He should have been wearing a helmet!"

It's fodder for another study and analysis. Put it on my to-do list. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Caution: Working Dog at Play

Meg, the Wonder Dog.

Actually, she's an English flyball champion. I met Meg, and her very nice owners on the beach not far from Calais in France. She didn't stop to talk. Like most Border Collies, she had one thing on her mind. Working. Which for Border Collies, is the same as playing. Except for they are deadly serious about both.

The Brompton Has Landed

Ok, so after all the obsessing and agonizing over how/whether to bring the Brompton along for the ride during the trip to Belgium, I did it.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you how I wore them out with the should-I-or-shouldn't-I-bring-the-bike question. Hamlet had less trouble making his much more permanent decision than I did. Many thanks to all of you who put up with that.

Tipping the scales:
Because I knew I'd blog about it, I decided, yes, go ahead and do it. If disaster struck and the poor little Brompton met a horrible fate by being stolen/damaged/just generally messed up, at least I'd have a great story to tell and some useful info to pass along.

Hard case vs soft case vs no case at all.
Erik at Bicycle Space has travelled far and wide with his Brompton. He kindly shared his experience with me.

Erik's naked take: Once with a B-bag, once naked. And by naked, I mean the bike was naked except for some straps to hold it in place. He was asked what it was, and described it as a personal mobility device. End of story. No challenges, no quizzing. No damage outside of some scratched paint, but hey, you can get that when you park/lock it.

Soft case:
Alex Baca has shared her experience on an epic journey to Eastern Europe in which she racked up some serious mileage and found the B-bag to be just the thing. Thanks, Alex.

Hard case:
I found at least two people who had happily travelled with the hard case made by B&W, which is not a Brompton product. Here's a video demo of the case, a nice look at how the thing looks/feels. I opted out of this due not to the expense (ouch) but due to the bulk of it. I knew I'd be traveling by rail and renting a car once here, and felt that the bulk of that case was just too much bother.
For the best account of how things went for one hard-case user: check out Lovely Bicycle's blogpost here. And just check out her blog. Lots of helpful info.

Ah, the elusive B-Pod. It was going to be Brompton's answer to the needs of its fans. A protective shell that was as portable as the bike itself. But it was not to be. There were/are varying accounts of how long it had been in design phase, and how it was put on hold. Brompton at first reported that there was a problem with supply/manufacture. Then I heard that sometime in 2012, Brompton would resume production. But it was not to be. I sent an email to the company, asking about it, and got a prompt, but disappointing response. Bottom line: Brompton is out of the luggage business, at least for now. They don't outright recommend the B&W hard case, but that's only because they say, they haven't tested it themselves.

Final Decision:
After all the pricing, measuring, consulting blogs and airlines' luggage restrictions, I chose the B-bag. I did have some reservations: it has two wheels, not four. That in my experience, makes it a bit tippy. and you have to turn it in the right direction to benefit from those two wheels. No spinning or backing. And while it's not heavy on its own, it seemed to create a bulky, heavy package when the bike was stowed inside. Still, it seemed the best option outside of a Dutch-made rig that I considered. (More on that later.)

Here's what I'm carrying. Taken near the baggage carousel in Brussels.
My experience:
Right down to the morning of my departure, I was still waffling. It would be sooo nice to travel light, with just two bags, a small roller and my carry-on. (I have recurring fantasies that some day, I'll be so organized, I'll need just a clutch as my purse, and my go-kit at work--the one with mics, cords, laptop, phone charger, various connectors, will be reduced to a slim, stylish briefcase. Ah, to dream...)
So one part of me thought, forget this madness. Just rent a bike when you get there. But the other part of me thought I'd be kicking myself for not getting the chance to test all that I'd learned.

Jamie, my colleague and my go-to person for watching my home and my cat when I travel, watched with some amusement as I continued to debate until seconds before hopping into the taxi to the airport. Even as I hauled the bike in the bag down the steps of my building, I was thinking "I sure hope I know what I'm doing."

Checking in:
I didn't check in via email, but waited until I got to the airport. I headed to the check-in counter, and was waiting for the challenge. I'd heard and read so many stories about how it all went badly for some travelers: getting dinged with fees for a full-sized bike, getting dinged for oversized luggage, etc. So I braced myself. I would be polite, but firm.

Immediately, I thought there could be a problem. There was a young couple in front of me, giving the check-in clerk a tough time over their very, very big bag. And by very big bag, I mean a bag that looked to contain a body. Maybe two.  ("Hello, FBI? I think I found Jimmy Hoffa. He's not alone.") It stood about 4 feet tall when plopped on the scale, and I have no idea how much it weighed. Certainly more than 50 pounds.

The young man was polite, but insistent that he should not be charged for more than one bag. The clerk struggled to explain he was not being charged for an extra bag, but for a bag that was over the 50 pound limit. Both sides were polite, but firm. Finally, something was worked out, and the young couple got ready to board. So I stepped up, aaand--a new clerk walked up. Uh-oh.

She looked like a supervisor, directing other people to the counter, handling questions on the fly. Had she been sent over because I looked like trouble? Did my bike bag look so suspicious? Nope, it was just break time. So I put the bag on the scale, and then instead of putting the bag on the conveyer belt behind her, she directed me to an area where the TSA was checking in the bags. No questions, no raised eyebrows, no challenges. The bag does fall within luggage restrictions and certainly weighed well under the 50 pound limit. I'd put it at around 35 pounds with my lock an some added items.  So no questions.

Yet she sent me to the TSA area. Did my bag really did look suspicious after all? I figured I'd been singled out as a problem. I figured wrong. Every single bag was sent to this area. When I got past the large partitions used to cordon off the area, I could see what looked like acres of luggage. And I figured that my poor little Brompton would be squished to death, but it was too late now. I'd have to see if my cardboard-reinforced Brompton bag would protect my ride.

At the airport in Brussels, I was fortunate enough to see that my bag was among the first to pop out of the chute and onto the conveyer belt. And voila! No damage. At least none that was obvious. I'm not even sure they opened the bag.

Ok, so now I had to go from the airport to the train, which at the Brussels airport is two levels down from arrivals. Normally it's a question of taking an escalator down, but as tired as I was, and having to handle my roller and the bike bag, I thought I'd take the elevator. No problem. They've got a number of large elevators for those with oversized luggage.

But once I bought my rail ticket to get me from Brussels to Brugge, where I'd be picking up a car, I had to get down one more level to the trains. In the six years since I started making annual trips to Belgium (it's an addiction) I've noted how they've updated air and rail stations with more escalators. Escalators I must add, that never seem to be out of order. I had about 4 minutes to get to the platform when I spotted another elevator to platform level. Perfect!

Next challenge: Train from the airport to Brussels-Midi Station
I'd have to transfer at Brussels-Midi/Brussels-Zuid to get the local train to Brugge. I'd arrived at the airport at around 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. By the time I got to the transfer point, it could be well inside of rush hour. But I lucked out, the stations were busy, but not jammed.

Next challenge: Brussels-Midi Station to Brugge
I had to figure out what platform for the train from Brussels-Midi to Brugge. I looked for, but didn't find an escalator here. I could have been wrong, but I just didn't find it.That meant going downstairs, into the station, heading to an area where the departures were marked and then having to haul the bike upstairs to another platform. As I began the descent I was beginning to think bringing the bike might be  a really stupid idea. There weren't too many steps, two flights of between 15-20, but it was awkward. I had a carry-on that clips onto the Brompton, the roller with my clothing, and my Brompton in the B-bag. I had to take a few steps at at time before re-organizing. One man very kindly raced back up the steps after hauling his own luggage down and gave me a hand. He was American. I note this because I've seen over and over again how, when someone here struggles with bags, it's generally the American in the crowd who offers a hand. I'll let you all draw your own conclusions.

I find my connection to Brugge. I look for the platform and find I've got an up escalator. Because I'm headed up, it's easy to tip the Brompton bag slightly (it's got two wheels, not four, a design flaw I hope they'll address someday)  and hop on. Thanks to the rear wheels on the bottom of that bag, I can glide off at the top of the escalator.

The platform for the Brugge train begins to fill. It's Belgium's most popular tourist destination, made even more popular by the movie "In Bruges".  Soon it's crammed to the gills with kids on field trips, adult tour groups (they have matching jackets--there are dozens of them) and regular commuters. The tourists outnumber the commuters by far.

The train rolls into the station, and I luck out..the door to this car opens right in front of me. I hop in quickly and find that the seats nearest the interior door are vacant and the train is not crowded.

In Bruges:
Once in Brugge, I find that the station, updated in recent years, has plenty of working escalators and even elevators. Now I have about 3 hours before the rental car has to be picked up. I did that on purpose since I wanted to spend a little time in one of my favorite places anywhere.

I decide to take advantage of the station's lockers (4 euros for the biggest one), and take my Brompton out for a ride. It's a sunny day. In Belgium, when the sun shines, you get out and enjoy it. Plus, this is my first chance to take my time and examine the bike to see how it fared on the flight.

I unzip the bag and take out the cardboard inserts I'd crafted. (The b-bag  has a thin steel plate on the bottom--but is soft-sided and offers little serious protection when tossed into a plane's luggage compartment or when sliding down a chute to a baggage carousel.) Both cardboard inserts have areas where the cardboard had been punched through--areas of the bike that stick out just a bit--at the pedal points for example. While packing for the trip, I thought it was kind of goofy to have to reinforce a bag designed to protect the bike, but now I'm glad I bothered to add them.
Now, it was off to play in sunny Brugge. From the first, I am thrilled that I brought the bike along. Belgium has great bike infrastructure and as I ride I notice a bunch of folding bikes---many of them other brands: Bike Friday, Tern, etc. At one point, I pass a father with a toddler who's on a "starter bike" the little push-bikes without pedals used to prep children for the transition to a the real thing. (You don't see trikes here for children. You do see them for adults. I'll have to ask in a bike shop about that. ) The dad, a Brit, spots the Brompton and says to his child "Look, a lady on a little bike!" I'm pretty sure that kid is gonna be bugging Dad for a Brompton before too long.

I decide I need coffee and a little food. I have to say here that the airplane meal of chicken was the single most awful thing put in a foil packet--ever.  I truly have not a clue what it was supposed to be, but there was rice, a few veggies suffering from freezer burn and the rapid microwaving that followed, and a disgusting concoction of something with a barely identifiable meat-like substance in a toxic sauce. I'm not a picky eater, really I'm not, and I know airlines aren't in the restaurant business but man, that was criminal.

On a side street, I find a cute little shop where I get a tomato/mozzarella sandwich. Two girls behind the counter blink for a second when I trail the folded bike in rather than lock it outside, but I tend not to lock a Brompton when I don't have to. I think it's too appealing to thieves.

Out for another ride before picking up the car.  I note how in areas where you ride with traffic, (as opposed to having a fietspad--bike path) you ride as traffic. That doesn't mean that cars don't come closer than you'd like--they sometimes do. But they do it at a rate of speed that likely won't kill you. And you just don't hear cars honk at cyclists. That would constitute harassment and I suppose, bring a fine.

Call Me Miss Multi-Modal:
In 24 hours, I flew, walked, cycled and drove. Well, the pilot did the flying, but you get the idea.
In all my travels to Belgium, I've never used a car. In most cities, they are--as in the U.S. --more trouble than they're worth. The streets here are quite narrow, grid patterns are not common, parking is a hassle and an expense, gas is pricey and I just hate the inconvenience of wondering: what do I do with the car once I get to my destination? But this time, I'd be traveling to an area not served by rail and the hotel has parking so I figured, eat the cost and rent a car.

In Belgium, as in the U.S., you drive on the right side of the road. Drivers here are heavily fined for traffic violations, so that tends to cut down on a lot of bad behavior, but I will say, when aggressive drivers want to push you on the highway, they really press their luck. Any speeder's a danger when they're coming up on you at god-knows-how-many-miles an hour, but here, it seems they hurtle at you in a way that suggests they have no brakes and there is no way either of you will survive. Twice I had drivers accelerate so hard, and come so close, that I think I could have given you the serial numbers on the bulbs in their headlights.

I took advantage of adding a GPS as part of the rental (I don't own a GPS since I don't own a car) and found it incredibly helpful. Since I hadn't driven here before--road signs, road markings differ--I figured the last thing I needed to do was take my eyes off the road to consult maps. If you're at all anxious about driving in a new place, it's one less thing to sweat.

Bottom Line:
So far, so good. I'm glad I brought the bike.

And now, since I've been blogging, it's time to get out and explore.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Need for Speed Followed by Tweed

This fall is jam-packed with bike-centric events.

On Saturday, Dandies and Quaintrelles --who encourage us all to find "Redemption through style"--will lead the D&Q River Ride,  then follow it up with the most fun you can have in a parking garage, the Diamond Derby. 

The Derby features a variety of events on the Crystal City course: a kids' race, open course with obstacles and tasks to be completed, and events that focus on speed for the sprinters among you. And for those who want to concentrate on spectating there will be food and a fashion show.

The River Ride and Derby should not be confused with the Tweed Ride, which will take place November 4th. As always, participants are encouraged to get creative and find that balance between casual style and effortless elegance.  And participants are also reminded to do the cycling community--and their mothers--proud by a) following the rules of the road and b) demonstrating their unfailing politeness.

This was among the signs held by ride marshals at last year's event. Motorists seemed to get a kick out of them. 

But wait, that's not all:

Friday night, you can get all kinds of crafty and come up with a costume for your bike for Saturday's Bike Parade, organized by DC's Bicycle Space bike shop. And then Saturday, meet at Yards Park for the 1pm event.

Sunday, you can gear up for Baltimore's Tour de Port--a ride that takes you through Charm City's neighborhoods on courses that range from 12 to 65 miles in length. 

Ok, shifting gears here:

Anyone ever have this happen? 

You head out to meet your friends and colleagues at restaurant and find--uh-oh--you left your bike lock at home? Or did you find there simply wasn''t a good place to lock your bike close to your destination? I've done both.

Last night, it was the latter: a lovely K Street restaurant had valet parking, but out on the street? There just didn't seem a good spot close to the restaurant to park my beloved Brompton. So what to do? I figured I'd see what would happen if I folded it up nicely into its tidy Brompton-y bundle and asked the woman at the front if I could check it.

I fully expected to get some raised eyebrows and braced for a "I'm afraid we can't do that." Instead I found it was no problem.  Without a moment's hesitation Britta, the woman at the hostess station took my bike with a big smile and stowed it graciously. She even marveled at how it folded up.

I'm curious--what kind of reception are you folding bike owners getting at reception desks around town when checking a fold up bike?


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sidewalk Social Scientists

Got thoughts on rules on riding on the sidewalk? Concerns about bike parking? Bike lanes? Of course you do!

What do you do with those thoughts and concerns?
Check out the DC Bicycle Advisory Council's blog for where to take them.
Hint: meeting Thursday night.

Got thoughts on flying with a Brompton?
(Pedal harder not the answer I'm looking for.)

I've scoured the internet and see all kinds of responses to this admittedly very, very first-world problem. The staff at Bicycle Space has patiently listened as I go on and on about what I should do as I get ready to take a trip with or without my beloved Brompton.  The shop's Erik Kugler shared his experience with me. He says take it naked--it worked for him. The bike, people, the bike was naked.

Seriously, I've been obsessing over how to fly/whether to fly with the Brompton, etc. So if anyone's had experience, I'd love to hear more. And no matter what I decide, I'll let  you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

DC State Fair 2012

I missed the DC State Fair's Home-Made Bike Accessory Contest, but I did get there in time to watch some of the judging in the cupcake competition, talk to the winner of the best home-made honey (dark category) and just meet and greet some of my neighbors here in DC.

As someone who's still very much on the sharp edge of the learning curve when it comes to video, here's a little bit of what I saw. And heard.

DC State Fair 2012 from Kate Ryan Reports on Vimeo.

And here are some stills from that video. With a bit of background.

Hope you like them.

The official logo of the DC State Fair 2012.

Is it me, or is this guy giving us a little bit of an eye-roll? Still, he was very sweet to the kids. He seemed to like their attention. The dogs that people brought to the fair? Not so much.

Dancing feet. 
This stilt walker took time to engage everyone who walked by. And made plenty of parents happy when she told kids "How did I get this tall? I ate alllll my broccoli." 

I loved how this little boy seemed beside himself with excitement, yet wasn't letting go of his mom's leg--juust in case.

This Marine sweetly asked the little girl if she liked being up on top of the Humvee. She nodded. After a while he asked, "Would you like to get down now?" She simply shook her head. She looked totally comfortable up there. Future Commander-in-Chief?

Face-painting, shopping, food-sampling, balloon souvenirs. It was the end of a fun, full day. I just thought they were such a cute, happy family.

...and here's our bikey reference (aside from the contest I missed). Yvonne Vanderhoof was walking her pretty burgundy bike along, and looked the picture of stylish and casual. We chatted a bit. Her son goes to a school where they encourage the kids to ride their bikes to and from school. Future bike commuters of America.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Uphill Climb...With Sheep*

Like a border collie who can't help dashing after every sheep he sees to collect it into the bunch, I've now stopped, turned and found that I have more (sound, photos, material) than I know what to do with. Sticking with the sheepdog simile for a moment, I've now got a big old pile of wool that I've got to sit down and spin into blog entries. Or a nice, warm scarf.

Once I've sifted through it all, I'll take you to penny farthing races in Belgium, a chat with a charming Brit with a fabulous sense of style whose knowledge of vintage bikes and cycling history could fill a wing at the Smithsonian and some encounters (friendly) with cyclists on the street right here at home.

For now, I'll take the easy way out for now, tossing out just a few pics from my recent morning rides.

Wednesday morning

Thursday morning

*No sheep were harmed in the making of this blog.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Electric!

Spotted it parked in NW DC, just below Friendship Heights. Haven't seen many of these e-Joe pedal-assist bikes in DC, interested to see what the ride is like and whether these will take off.

I've test-ridden a Kalkhoff, and liked it--for the day when I'm finding I just can't climb hills anymore. (the thought of which always makes me think of the Todd Snider Train Song lyric "got these thoughts in my own head/the right to run until I gotta walk, 'til I gotta crawl").

Cute little bike, huh? If it's yours, tell me what you think of it.

And I can't help it.
When I think of an e-bike, this song runs through my head.  It's Electric!
For those who can't stand the song, sorry, because it's going to be in your head all day. For those who have fond memories of house parties, weddings, or Douglas Wilder's 1990 Inaguration as Virginia's Governor, you're welcome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

E-Conversation with ECF's Julian Ferguson

So by now you know that there's something going on up in Vancouver and that involves lots and lots of bikey types.

The European Cyclist's Federation's Julian Ferguson was kind enough to take some time and answer some email questions I sent him. Below is the Q and A.

Q: The ECF took a bit of flak for the choice of Vancouver (mandatory helmet laws--not just for kids) and the connection to Lazer helmets (sponsorship). Can I ask you to restate the ECF policy on helmets and respond to the criticism that ECF somehow 'sold out' by connecting with Lazer at the conference?

A: Indeed, a few blogs have criticized the ECF over the sponsors of the conference. in actual fact, ECF doesn't have a say in the matter: that's entirely up to the organisers. (In the past, the event has even been sponsored by car companies.) There's no contractual restraints on who can and cannot sponsor a bicycle conference. Considering that the city currently has in place a mandatory helmet law, it's hardly surprising that helmets are offered to participants.
(Note: participants are by no means obliged to take a conference helmet. It's not mandatory, and taking a helmet is up to the individual.) Velo-City conference is indeed all about discussion and debate, so all parties are welcome to express their views. We've spoken to the Canadian media on several occasions about our opinion on helmets. (See for example this article: http://www.vancouversun.com/Vancouver+bike+sharing+program+take+helmet+laws/6821868/story.html . Our views are pretty clear on helmets: It's a matter of individual choice. (see ECF page: http://www.ecf.com/road-safety/helmets-and-reflective-vests/  )

Q: IS the helmet/no-helmet discussion a hot topic? Do you worry it distracts from many of the other discussions there? 

A: Helmets certainly are a hot topic at the moment. While the ECF IS firmly against mandatory helmet laws, there's no doubt that only a few inches of foam can create such a divisive and polarized emotive debate. While we believe that compulsory helmet laws are bad, it's important that bicycle advocates and politicians don't get distracted by the bigger picture, and make sure that they focus on equally important issues such as better infrastructure. Take intersections for example. In New York for example more than 80 % of all bicycle accidents occur at intersections. Start a debate on safer intersections and you're going to save many lives.

Q: What topic is generating the most buzz as you move into Tuesday?

A: Aside from the whole helmet debate, there's quite a bit of interest in Friday's talk about children. Already had a chat to a few academics about how to get more kids cycling. It's quite scary how in the English speaking world, children simply aren't cycling, or even exercising as much as they used to. While the Dutch see nearly half of all kids cycling, Canadians see only 2% and the United States only see %1 cycling.

There's also a few interesting presentations about cycling in extreme weather conditions. Take for example a presentation from Arizona about cycling in hot weather. There's an equally interesting buzz about bike sharing.

Q: Any clue as to how many attendees and how many countries represented? Any word on how many attendees travelled with their own bikes? 

A: Not sure how many registered participants as of yet but I've been told that there's over 40 nationalities attending. As for bringing their own bikes, our half of our staff brought their own bikes. For the rest of us, well, the conference is providing bixi bikes for everyone.

Q: Just how much lycra per capita  is on display? No, but seriously, the stereotype is that where one or more cyclists gather, lycra will be worn. Does the conference reinforce or shatter that stereotype? 

A: So far, haven't seen too much lycra. I've seen lots of suits and ties. For many people at the conference, cycling is all about transport, so you can really wear whatever you want. But cyclists are like any bunch of people: diverse. They come in all shapes and sizes, so there's no doubt we'll have upright duchies, fixie riders, and lycra-clad warriors. That's the joy of Velo-City. You can find just about any kind of cyclist possible.

Thanks for your time, Julian! You can follow Julian on his brand-spanking new Twitter account, @Julian_Ferguson .

Velo Vancouver...

Trying to keep tabs on the Velo-City 2012 conference in Vancouver. As with so many of these things, it's crammed with agenda items, plenary sessions, and information. Here's what's on tap for Tuesday.

I'm checking in with organizers and the European Cyclist's Federation's Julian Ferguson, who's got his hands full and just joined the Twitterverse. Welcome him, and come back to visit when I get you some fresh content.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Velo-City 2012

...that's the title of this week's gathering of bike-types from all over the world. The meeting place is Vancouver, Canada. The topics covered include everything from bike-sharing to trail-sharing and more.

Interesting note: Vancouver has a mandatory all-ages helmet law. The European Cyclists' Federation takes this hybrid approach to the issue. Take a look and see what you think. I'll be checking in with ECF as the conference gets underway.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

...aaaand we're back!

Got knocked sideways and off track thanks to an illness that had me seeing more doctors more often in the space of three weeks than I've seen in a lifetime. I'll spare you the details, but if I can sound like your mom for a minute: eat your veggies, get lots of sleep, and when your doctor says "You've got to get in here today." Do it. Had to spend a little time curled up, not unlike a certain adorable bike I own, but better now.

So, to make up for lost ground, I'm going to enlist the help of the crack team of local bloggers I follow who've been logging miles on the road and tapping away at the keyboards while I took my meds, drank plenty of fluids, took my meds, and waited for time, nature, and said meds to kick the evil spirits to the curb.

Kicking things off: the WashCycle with boatloads of information, including this very intriguing proposition from Beater Bikes a firm that literally asks you to go ahead, treat their bikes like, well, like beaters. I'm seriously tempted, but really--I've got a folder, a hybrid, a Dutch marvel and a much-neglected road bike in the stable, so I'm not gonna cave in to temptation. But if I were a broke undergrad, or  considering the current economic conditions, a broke post-grad student looking for work and wheels? I'd apply now.

For an always interesting take on biking in DC you can always count on Tales from the Sharrows. 
The bonus here, a portrait of a DDOT official as you've never seen him before.

For a great look at how biking doesn't have to end in childhood/high school/college, a lovely look back by @gypsybug in Chasing Mailboxes.

For a look at how anticipation can have a great payoff (new bike!) check out Suburban Cycling and wish her many happy miles.

And taking a look farther afield, I've just added a blog that has one of my favorite titles ever: I Do Not Despair is the European Cyclists' Federation's Kevin Mayne, whose blog has a feature I am so totally ripping off, er I mean emulating, Music to Ride Bikes By. Of course, in the interest of safety, I'm sure that means listening to the music in your head...or as some clever DC folks do, having an external speaker, like the fine folks at DC's Bicycle Space do (check out the Monkey Wagon at the start of the video here). Still, it's a great feature, and I love having music roll in my head, on and off the bike. So Kevin, forgive me, but I'm building in a regular as-yet-to-be-named segment (with a tip of the casquette of course!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Woman Dies After Cyclist Strikes Her on Four Mile Run

This news from the Arlington Now website:

And here's the Arlington County report:

This is a very disturbing bit of news. It's still under investigation. Given more traffic is out on the trails in the summer season and the growing popularity of cycling, it seems a very good time to ask that we all review how we operate on the roads and trails out there. And I'll refer back to some earlier posts on safety.

(Note: the posts below refer to the Cap Crescent Trail, but trail use rules and regulations are similar. The CCT has a speed limit for bikes--Four Mile Run does not.)



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Heads Up: More on the Great Cranial Debate

To hard-top or not to hard-top, that is the question. Whether 'tis wiser to strap on a helmet before taking to the road--or not.

Sick to death of the helmet debate?


As someone who is not crazy about wearing a helmet, but does when on my own bikes here at home, I think this is worth a read: organizers of cycling outings in Scotland change their policy on helmets.

I'm fascinated by this in part because the stats on both sides can show such wildly different pictures. (I know, I know,  stats can be manipulated, and you're right but...)

I  also get anecdotal evidence on both sides (the kid whose head was lodged in a windshield, but simply unlatched the chin strap of his helmet and walked away, the rider who sustained additional neck injuries because of the visor of the helmet, etc.) So, I remain interested in the topic.

Where do you stand/sit on the topic? Are you an "Always", "Never" or "When it seems smart" helmet user?

 Oh, and just because, VeloCityCat, otherwise known as Meisje, is telling me it's time to get off the chair and head out the door...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

ICYMI: WTOP's Coverage of the Case of Natasha Pettigrew's Death


That was the verdict of a jury in the case of Christine Littleford, the woman who prosecutors said was behind the wheel of the SUV that killed 30 year old Natasha Pettigrew, the Green Party candidate for Congress in Maryland in 2010.

Pettigrew was out riding on Rt 202 in Prince George's County in September of 2010 when she was hit by the driver of the SUV who continued to drive for 4 miles with Pettigrew's bike still lodged beneath the car.

Natasha's mother, Kennis Henry, had been determined to see the case through from the very first investigation of the crash to the jury's eventual verdict. Henry joined other families whose loved ones had been killed by drivers on Maryland roadways to change Maryland's vehicular manslaughter laws--laws one legislator called so lax as to be "cosmically absurd".

Littleford will be sentenced in August of this year.

She's Back in the Saddle...and Happy!

I'm in what is pretty close to Bike Nirvana: Gent, Belgium, where cycling for transport is normal and where you can feel pretty confident that autos will give you the right of way. It's not perfect, you see public education campaigns in Belgium that urge cooperation among cars, cyclists and pedestrians, so it's clear there are issues here. And I've had some cars give me the shudders as they pass too closely or speed right up to an intersection before giving you the right of way. But that's more the exception than the rule.
So I was catching up on Twitter and emails when I spotted this from @TheAdvoc8te who tells of getting reacquainted with biking after years off. Hats off to her for doing something that was intimidating, but giving it a go anyway. It's natural to avoid things that intimidate us, or that flat-out scare us so I really respect folks who fight the fear, swallow hard and take the plunge anyway.

But I am also thrilled to share the road with someone who's getting the sense of freedom and confidence that cycling can offer. While traveling here in Belgium I got an email from a co-worker: after looking long and hard for just the right bike, she finally found the one she wanted and her note was bursting with excitement. She had just been out for a long ride and wrote "I can't get enough!"

Nothing like moving under your own steam to make you feel strong and confident. And nothing like blowing off some steam on a bike ride: either before or after a long day of work. It could be the air, the endorphins or the sheer joy of motion that leaves me smiling during and after a ride--in any weather.

So, happy to see you on the road @TheAdvoc8te, and I'll look for you out there. You'll know me by my goofy grin and the thumbs up I give you.

..and now, off for a bike ride of my own on my last full day here in Gent.  

Most unusual bike parking strategy so far. Gent, Belgium.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling Safety at Home

Concerned about safety and enforcement of cycling regulations in DC? Then WABA wants you to know about this DC Council Committee hearing. The hearing date is 5/30/12 but you've got to register by close of business 5/25/12 if you want to offer testimony. Check the link for information.

Belgian Bike in Ieper: Powered by Poppies

There is much more to Ieper (you may have seen it in your high school history books as Ypres) than the legacy of the devastation of WWI, but this is a slice of history you really need to explore when you visit this wonderful Flanders city.

The museum dedicated to the impact of the First World War will be closed until June 2012, but here is a link that helps you understand the history and symbolism of the poppy in the history of Flanders.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brussels sprouts...

...all kinds of creativity. Here's one fine example: the Zinneke Parade. I did a report for WTOP, and here's a bit more in audio-postcard format.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Halfway through April and this is what it feels like--a Whirlwind. There is so much bike-centric activity, it's hard to keep up. 

Here's just a little of what you can look forward to thanks to the hard-working bike advocates and community-minded folks in the region: bike rodeos, a jazz-themed bike benefit, Bike DC, Bike to Work Day, and warm weather to enjoy it all. (Ok, the warm weather was going to happen on its own, but hey, it's nice, right?) 

Coming up fast, Monday, April 16 is one of my favorites-- a bike rodeo for kids at Vienna Elementary School. I love this because it's a great chance to let kids work on their bike-handling skills. And it's a chance for us grown-ups to reflect upon how we teach kids the rules of the road. Hint: as a former teacher, I will tell you it's what we do and not what we say that makes the indelible impression. And this event includes a little bike wrangling. If you have a gently used child's bike you can bring it along to donate to an organization that delivers bikes to communities in Africa.

More kid stuff here. Actually, an event for everyone brought to you by the folks at Kidical Mass. Megan Odett's teamed up with DDOT and Safe Routes To Schools  and WABA and they've got a lot of great ideas to get families moving. This is perfect for the parent who wants to encourage the kids to get out and play (on their bikes!) network the neighborhood (on bikes!) and have fun while doing it safely. It's FREE and allows you to get all kinds of great advice on everything from the mechanics of riding to rules of the road. 

Bruce Wright of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling or FABB has a raft of events listed on his site, a great local resource. 

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a jam-packed schedule for May, including a touch of vintage-chic at the May 11th Bikefest fundraiser

I however will be missing many of the Merry Month of May events, but don't cry for me. I'll tell you all about what I'll be doing in due time and I promise to find ways to share it with you. 

Outside to play now. On the bike. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Women Who Bike And the Women Who Influence Them

There's a lot being done to get more women on bikes. Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has been hard at work on the issue and the League of American Bicyclists featured a forum on women and biking. And let's not forget the home-grown movement kick-started by Veronica Davis, Black Women Bike DC.

The first, most important woman in my life-the one I am named after-would sometimes bike with us as kids. I remember we had a great paved path that was used by everyone--dog walkers, folks just out for a stroll, and kids like me zipping over to a friend's house, to the beach, or to the library.

We lost my mom yesterday, early Easter Sunday morning. As I went through some old photos, I found these. My mom side by side with her older sister. Check out her starter bike. And then take a look at the close up and that--I see it as determination--as she focuses on her older sister's bike.

And though this blog is about bicycles, I have to confess: as a child, more than a bike, I wanted a pony. I was one of those little girls who doodled ponies and horses endlessly, read every book I could that was vaguely horse-related, and when I got my first bike, pretended my bike was in fact a horse. I even posted when coasting, as though at a trot on a horse. I was hopeless. And perhaps this is why: I love this photo of my mom more than any other.
Kay O'Boyle Ryan 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sad Bike

When I see a bike that's been stripped, and then I see that 'abandonded bicycle' notice that Ddot slaps on, I have to wonder: what happened?

I guess the scenario is fairly obvious: thieves strike, owner comes back to see that thieves struck and figures "to heck with it" and leaves bike to the elements (along with a not inexpensive U-lock).

But, when did the thieves strike? How obvious would it look to someone passing by that this isn't the owner at work? When asked, does the thief claim, as the Grinch told Cindy-Lou-Who-who-was-only-just-two, that the bike just doesn't work right and they're taking the parts back to Santa's bicycle workshop for repair? Could the whole mess have been avoided by a second lock securing the rear wheel to the frame? And do bikes get lonely when left like that? (I still get choked up whenever I think of the Velveteen Rabbit, or the Island of Misfit Toys)

Just wondering...

What She Said...

Here's the story from WTOP on what women have to say about why they use a bike--or don't-- at the National Bike Summit .

I arrived just as the forum was breaking up this week. You'll hear from 3 presenters and two women I caught up with on the streets of DC as they commuted from work and ran errands in their neighborhoods.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bikes and baby wipes and your commute to work...

What in the world do bikes and baby wipes have to do with commuting in the Washington, DC region? Plenty, if you follow the arguments of urban planners and cycling advocates who say women are important to making biking a bigger part of our transportation infrastructure.

Here's the formula: more bikes = fewer cars jockeying for your space on the road (and that coveted parking space). But, advocates say, until more people see biking as viable, we're all doomed to gridlock. So, how to get more people biking? Convince them it's not just economical and fun, but safe. How do you that? Show them how many women are out there, pedaling to work, social events, even parent-teacher meetings.

Think of women as the reverse of the canaries in the coal mine. Historically, canaries were used as sentinels in coal mines: sensitive to toxic gases, they were indicators of danger in the mines. But in cycling, the presence of women biking on the road is seen as an indicator of just how safe it is.

Sound nutty? Not according to the crowds who attended the National Bike Summit here in Washington, DC. Studies often cite the gender split when it comes to traveling on two wheels: more men (in and out of lycra) are hitting the road on bikes in the U.S.  But there is a growing movement to get the ladies out there.
Olga Lopez, DC resident and bike commuter with her Jamis Explorer (Photo by Kate Ryan)

Take a listen to WTOP today (Saturday) where you'll hear from some of the women who presented at the bike summit, and you'll hear from some women who hop on a bike every day to get around.
Lisa Vandehaar on her Specialized. She commutes to DC from Alexandria. Listen to her tell you about her "Miracle Mile". She'll explain.

Oh, and about the baby wipes?

You'll hear that connection in the audio portion of the story, which I'll post here later. For now, check it out as it airs real-time on WTOP,  103.5 FM, your-traffic (and yes cyclists, that includes you) and-weather-together station.

Special thanks to all the women who let me snag them as they went about their business by bike and to those at the National Bike Summit who made time for me during their very full days at the summit.