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...