Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cargo bike FEVER

I will admit it: I am obsessed with the idea of having a cargo bike. My wife will attest, I won't shut up about it. This new addiction is the result of two things:

1) I have realized how easy the Collegiate is to ride for errands because of its laid back nature and rockin' Wald front basket, and I want to expand on that idea.

2) We're having a kid and I really, really don't want to buy another car. Being a 1-car household has worked great for the last 2-3 years and I'm not anxious to change that.

#2 is the real reason. I doubt I could convince the wife that a cargo bike is necessary if we weren't expecting. But she is coming on board as she isn't excited about having another car either, which is pretty awesome in my opinion.

Since it's really the kid driving this new purchase, I've been considering the following kid-hauling options:

  1. Burley (or Burley like) trailer. (Yes I know this isn't a cargo bike)
  2. Longbike.
  3. Madsen
  4. Bakfiets or bakfiets-like.
#1 is a decent option and pretty common in the US for kid-hauling. Of course, most folks in the US ride their bikes for recreation and less for transportation, and I think a trailer makes sense here. Want to go crank out a few miles on the local MUP? Trailer makes sense. The trailer is "I want to go for a ride and I need to take the kid along." However, by its nature the trailer doesn't allow parents to interact with their kids at all during the ride, and let's face it, it can't be much fun for the kid.

#2 would be a great option for preschool age or older kids. I don't love rear-rack seats for very small kids. The kids-behind positioning also isn't super conducive to chatting with your kiddo while you're on the bike. I can see us going the Big Dummy route when kids get a bit older and are more comfortable on the snap deck. It's faster and lighter than a bakfiets and still great for hauling stuff. With a small kid, I'm just not in love with this idea.

#3. Madens are a huge step in the right direction for me. Super practical, kid-friendly, and very cost effective, easily half the cost of a bakfiets. They don't quite have the quality of components that you would traditionally find of a bakfiets, including an internal hub. I think an internal hub is a big deal for a loaded cargo bike, as getting moving from a stop should be made as easy as possible. I can easily see myself chatting with a kiddo and not shifting down before a stop, only to realize I am over-geared to get moving again. I also think the weight distribution might be a bit higher in a Madsen than a traditional bakfiets which isn't preferable.

#4 Bakfiets. The more I think about it, the more sense this makes. Want to have the kids in front of you so you can talk to them? Check. Want it to be fun for the kid, they can see where they are going and everything around them? Check. Quality, durable components? Check. Good for cargo or kids (or both, depending on the model)? Check.

One of the things I really like about the Madsen/Bakfiets concept is that it will draw attention, especially here in the 'burbs. While folks who know me might acknowledge that I am not the most social creature, unusual bikes have a traffic-calming effect that we can all appreciate. I can handle getting lots of questions from passers-by about the bike for the benefit of them slowing down. Having an adorable little girl in the bike will probably help too.

More on this topic to come!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Local involvement part 2

I mentioned earlier that I have been wanting to get more involved in some bike advocacy at a local level. I was poking around on the City of Centennial's website, specifically regarding current street projects.

There were funds allocated in the 2010 city budget for 16 miles of new bike lanes in the city, which of course I loved to see. There was an e-mail listed for a city engineer to contact with questions regarding the project, so I thought I'd see what the current status was.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a helpful and friendly e-mail back from Britton, one of the city's senior traffic engineers. He let me know that the city is finalizing the plans in the next week or two and expects to begin work before the end of the year.

He shared the following list with me, in case anyone who reads this blog actually lives in Centennial:

1) E. Easter Ave. - S. Holly St to S University Blvd

2) Washington St - Clarkson St to Easter Ave

3) E Easter Pl - E Easter Ave to S University Blvd

4) E Easter Ave - S University Blvd to S Broadway

5) S Homestead Pkwy - E Arapahoe Rd to E Dry Creek Rd

6) S Clarkson St - E Orchard Rd to Arapahoe Rd

7) E Mineral Ave - S Clarkson St to S High St

8) S High St - E Mineral Ave south to Park

9) E Otero Cir - west of S Race St to S Steele St

10) E Berry Dr - Timberline Elementary to S Picadilly St

11) S Picadilly St - E Berry Dr to E Smoky Hill Rd

12) E Fair Ave - S Liverpool St west to the Centennial boundary

13) E Caley Ave - S Potomac St to S Kenton St

14) S Kenton St - E Caley Ave to E Peakview Ave

15) E Peakview Ave - S Kenton St to S Havana St

16) S Jordan Rd - E Arapahoe Rd to E Caley Ave

17) S Syracuse Wy - E Caley Ave south to Greenwood Village

18) S Spruce St - E Arapahoe Rd to E Costilla Blvd

19) E Costilla Blvd - S Spruce St to E Costilla Ave

20) E Costilla Ave - E Costilla Blvd to S Homestead Pkwy

Centennial is an odd-shaped city and basically has a west half and an east half. I was pleased to see that a lot of these projects are within a few miles of our house!

I talked with Britton about bike lanes vs. sharrows and he agreed that sharrows are more appropriate on narrow streets where bike lanes would put cyclists in the 'door zone.' He was excited about the project and said that he is hopeful it will be part of the city's budget each year! At $75,000 for 16 miles of bike lanes, that's the cheapest infrastructure we can find, I am sure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Local involvement

I've never been too much involved with bike advocacy, other than riding a lot and telling people that I know that it's pretty awesome. But lately I've been thinking that I ought to get involved locally.

For life in the 'burbs, we have a pretty sweet deal. The South Suburban trail network is a good one, especially for recreational purposes. And it's not a terrible one for transportation. We live about in the heart of it too, and can head several directions to catch a trail. The local governments are making an effort to create trail connectors for gaps in the existing network, which is a nice step.

We live in the city of Centennial, a relatively new city (about 10 years old) about 10 miles dead south of downtown Denver. Centennial is working on a new Transportation Master Plan, which is a great opportunity for a pro-bike guy like me to have a say. They've done a few different things to seek public input, including a slick map-based comment system.

The comment system has been very insightful to review. My non-professional review of the current comments reflects the following:

1) Speeds are too high. This is a frequent comment in residential areas and even some major arterials. I didn't see any comments to the contrary. So, people want to relax and have a safe place for their kids to walk home from school.

2) 'X' is a good place for improve bike or ped infrastructure. This might be the most frequent comment I saw. People who ride every day know where there are weak spots.

3) Lots of comments about improving bus and light rail access, including striped bike lanes to/from the major light rail station in Centennial (Arapahoe station).

On October 20th the city is hosting an open house to discuss the TMP in our city. It just so happens to be at a library that I go by every day on my way home (if I take surface streets and not the trail). I plan on stopping by to offer my thoughts on 'Which improvements are needed' and 'Which improvements are the highest priorities,' as requested by the city's website here. Let's see if we can be forward looking enough to give something more than re-paving a priority.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1974 Schwinn Collegiate

So you might recall that a while ago I inherited my late grandfather's Schwinn Collegiate. It spent the winter in my basement with a package of steel wool and some degreaser and a whole lot of elbow grease. Replaced cables and housing, tires and brake pads. I rebuilt the front hub after it was seizing up on me.

I also thought she desperately needed a classic front basket. I went with a Wald 135, which is just about the size of a paper grocery bag.
So here she is reborn and rebuilt:

The best thing about the Collegiate is how much it gets used. I think this is basically for 2 reasons.

1) Super fun upright riding position. I've always been (and probably always will be) some sort of roadie/tourer/etc. But there is something that just makes you smile about the laid back positioning of a cruiser-like bike. You can't roll down the driveway on this bike and not smile. I dare you.

2) Basket. You think it's dorky, huh? Well, it's kinda awesome. It always has its lock in it, and I don't have to go looking for a messenger bag, lock, etc. Need to run to the store before dinner? Just jump on the Collegiate and get the pasta sauce! Books to take back to the library? No problem! Gotta run to the ATM? Liquor store? Haircut? The cruiser just makes it so easy.

The chainguard is nice too. Just a simple little thing. But it's nice. The best bikes are the ones you ride. That is why the Collegiate is such a great bike. It gets ridden.

Practically 2010 year in review

So, not a lot of updating recently. Like, in a while. Turns out, once you've been commuting by bike for a few years, it becomes pretty routine.

That said, 2010 has been a solid year for bikes and me. No serious hiccups at all. The Surly has been great for me all year. About a month ago she got a full overhaul, cables, housing, brake pads, etc, etc.

The only upgrade she got this year was I finally switched out the stock Conti 700x38 tires for some Schwalbe Marathons in 32. I had been thinking for a while that the 38s were too wide for the riding I was doing, so I'm happy with something a bit faster. So far so good. Reflective sidewalls are a nice upgrade too.

Fall is fast approaching and it was 40 degrees when I left the house this morning. Had to dig out the knee warmers and wool jersey, but it was a really nice ride.

I'm going to try to update more frequently. Going to try.