Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call for Bike Art

The Rock Paper Scissors collective is looking for "human-powered machines, bicycle-based inventions, and interactive kinetic sculpture" for an exhibition they're having in May called, "Beyond Bicycles." The deadline for submissions in March 15. Send entries to Download flyers and tell all your peeps about it here.

Last Weekend & Technical Difficulties

For once, things were jumpin' in this sleepy town and I was in the midst of some of the action.

This parade went right by the house. It was for the Miss
Black Bartow County pageant.

They had a high stepping band come
all the way from Atlanta.

As most black bands (high school and college)
practice high stepping, there's a lot of
dance choreography involved and they're
pretty much the only bands that do it.
I guess that's why these kids had such a long bus trip;
I don't believe there's any predominantly black school nearby.

This bike club participated in the parade.

They didn't do any tricks.

These kids followed the parade on their bikes.
They didn't do any tricks either.

The next day Praline and I rode over to the grounds for the 7th Annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium at the museum around the corner. Honestly, I could care less about cowboys--I was there to see the Indians!

The weather was nice for both days of medicine shows and dancing, but I didn't get to see any of it because I was helping my mom move. Ugh! that didn't leave me a lot of time to sit and blog about the weekend either, but when did get the free time, I found that my Internet connection was down. Double ugh!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The South Will Ride Again?

via The Bike Blog Book

Why are all the cities with high ridership up North? Just about all of these cities are plagued by overcast skies, profuse rain, frigid temperatures, and even snow (gasp and clutch the pearls) in the winter. I read in a pop psychology book about the "Yankee self"--a less self-involved frame of mind that's more focused on things greater than itself--but I just shrugged it off as the author's bias. Are we Southerners more decadent than our Northern neighbors? After all, we did give the world Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Little Debbie's. On the other hand, we're probably the largest consumers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Little Debbie's so we should be among the early adopters of utility cycling in North America. On a positive note, we have more than bearable conditions for riding in Fall and Winter--ample sunshine and milder temperatures. Another plus, we like to be flamboyant (we coined the term, "bling," and we're overly fond of gold teeth). At this stage in its development, cycling in North America will probably get you as much attention as a monster truck or a mullet, but these monstrosities outnumber bicycles at the local strip mall by huge numbers.*

We also have gastronomic incentives. Many of our traditional foods are perfectly respectable, they just get a bad rap because everybody's wide butt is taken as evidence to the contrary. We know that most of us don't have deeper fryers in our homes and that a cast iron skillet and a modest amount of oil suffices for fried catfish, fried chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, etc. Moreover, we're not frying everything all the time. With the proper amount of exercise (even if that includes riding to your local seafood or chicken shack once in a while), you can regain a healthy figure and tell all those nay-saying nutritionists to kiss your grits.

Additionally, we are widely reputed to be polite. Unlike other American motorists, Southerners tend to act like they have some home-training behind the wheel. I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard a car horn in Atlanta (where you'd expect a lot of exasperation). Oftentimes, the car horn is used for the staccato "toot toot" of recognition and greeting drivers give people on the street. I've already touched on my concern that many Southerners will interpret hand signals as a friendly wave. Hopefully, cyclists will benefit from these good manners on the streets--they may not get a wave or a toot, but perhaps they won't get the finger.

* I can make such a joke because I'm part of the family, so to speak. Do not attempt if you're not from the South. You may irritate natives or, worse, get them heated. This may result in the offender being blessed out. (This will sound nothing like anything you have ever heard from a member of the clergy).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trying To Love Autumn

This is the most autumnal tree in the neighborhood; all
the others appeared to be caught unawares by the change of seasons.

I decided to stop mourning my missing Indian Summer and appreciate the Autumn that's here (it does help that it was over 70º today). There are several things I really like about season if I think about it:

  • Apple cider starts flowing.

  • So does the hot cocoa.

  • I love flannel pajamas, particularly with pockets and ridiculous patterns.

  • I love plaid--and Fall is the official season of all things plaid.

  • I love velour and velvet.

  • It's especially nice to cozy up with a warm cuppa as opposed to the sweet tea I've been surviving on all summer.

  • Walking and cycling involve almost no sweating (but removing a layer can help with the perspiration problem).

Is there anything else you can think of that's nice about the fall? I can't say that I get very excited about changing leaf-colors--I guess I grew up around too many evergreens.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Cycle Chic Photo Contest

The Alliance for Biking and Walking is having a photo contest. You can enter a total of twenty photos for one or all seven of the categories. The grand prize is a 10-day all-expense paid bike tour of Tuscany and a $1,000 grant for an Alliance organization of your choice! The second place winner will receive a Breezer Uptown 8 and a goodie bag which, of course, is a messenger bag filled with cool stuff. The third place winner recerives a Dahon Mu P24 folding bike. "There are also first, second, and third place prizes in each of seven categories: Biking, Walking, Biking and Walking, Complete Streets, Advocates in Action, Youth, Inspirational." I love the fact that one of the criteria for photos is that they "represent[s] the everyday [their emphasis] cyclist or walker."

According to the rules, you don't have to reside in North America to enter the contest, but your photos must portray people, places, and things located in North America. Also, they might make some "limitations" to your prize if you're an overseas winner; I suppose that allows them to award you something less difficult or expensive to ship.

You don't have to join anything or pay any fees to enter and the last day for submissions is November 31, 2009. If you enter please let me know so I can cheer for you and if you win please send along a triumphant looking shot of yourself with your prize.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Martha Does Bicycles

Thanks to Tea for Joy for the heads up on this darling couple's wedding. A little bicycle chicness finds itself on the Martha Stewart Weddings website. No detail was overlooked in this butterfly garden themed wedding--I like how the bride adorned her wedding-white Muji bike with the pretty Carrie basket and a "Just Married" flag.

Considering how this bike features an embarrassment of riches-- front and rear lights and built-in wheel lock just to name a few-- with the friendlier conversion rate of 2008 and a bargain basement price to begin with, I can see why the couple had these bikes shipped from Japan. (I know, I know. It's not very sustainable, but at about $225, it sure is economical. ) I'm sure the couple will pedal enough miles together to offset the CO2 emissions involved in shipping.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Helmet Laws and Helmet Use: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other


I enjoyed this satirical essay I found via Phoenix Cycle Chic the other day. (Go ahead and read it. I'll wait).

The comments section really got me thinking about the hubbub around helmets and the timing turned out to be impeccable because Miss Sarah also wrote about it today. Those who find helmets superfluous pointed out that helmets may lead to a perception by the public that cycling is dangerous and some presented statistics that said that helmets didn't offer significant decreases in injury in crashes above 12 mph or with cars. Who said that we're going anywhere near that fast?! My top speed is 9 mph and that's on my naked, old 10-speed, Mr. Lavender.

And who said anything about cars? Cyclists don't get into that many accidents with cars. As hard as it it to find information on cycling injuries (as opposed to fatalities), I found data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that says 2% of all the people injured in traffic accidents were cyclists (cyclists also comprised 2% of traffic fatalities). Of course, this data only reflects reported incidents. I'm sure there are just as many stumbles and spills and abraded hands and knees caused by oblivious motorists who leave their pissed-off cyclist victims in the dust. Still, these cyclists live to ride again (especially if he/she is wearing a helmet). What's more, additional NHTSA data shows that 84% of nonoccupant traffic fatalities involved pedestrians while cyclists' numbers approached 14%. The long and short of it is: you should be most worried about getting in an accident with a car when you're in a car. Amongst the car-free, cyclists fare the best by far. I think these anti-helmet folks are the ones with the perception that cycling is more dangerous than it is in actuality. I also think that the data they're working with may measure incidents that occur predominantly amongst "sports and leisure" cyclists. "Utilitarian transport" cyclists who wear helmets may very well be guarding against the unseen pothole or the road that's full of debris or slick with reemerged motor oil during a hard rain. Simple precautions simply addressed with helmet use.

Now that we've dispensed with the morbid preoccupation of car-on-bike traffic accidents , there's the matter of mandatory helmet laws to attend to. I'm concerned about anything that discourages people from cycling. Apparently, Australia provides us with a case study revealing the negative effect of mandatory helmet laws on cyclist numbers/growth. Let's let learn from this. American politicians would probably just use mandatory helmet legislation to obscure all that they fail to do in furthering cycling and pedestrian infrastructure anyway. However, helmet use saves your brain and cyclists who choose to wear helmets don't scare off the ones who don't (as long as they're not alarmists like some of the anti-helmet folks). Mandatory seat belt laws, front and side airbags, rear view cameras, and "lane assist" systems that prevent you from drifting out of your lane or riding too closely to the car in front of you haven't sent motorists screaming and running for the hills. Perhaps helmets don't represent danger to would-be cyclists, but rather the ugly, oddly-configured helmets widely available in chain stores and bike shops represent the costume of lycra-clad, hydration pack-bearing, endurance athletes and they just don't want any part of it. Who knows and who cares? As long as there are bikes and asphalt for all of us, we can all find our way on the road--lycra or no lycra, helmet or no helmet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How To Get More Skirts On More Bicycle Seats

Of course, I can't speak for all women, but since the subject is being bandied about the bicycling blogosphere, I figured I'd add my feminine two cents. Women probably have a good idea of the type of bike that would lend itself to commuting and they more than likely realize that they don't need special clothes to ride in since a lot of the bikes they're seeing are in clothing stores (or the store's website or catalog). So now that it's simple enough for a girl to find a bike, what else does she need to hit the streets?
  • Information. Knowledge is power. Classes will help with confidence when one is timid about mixing it up with cars on the streets. Bike maps enable a woman to avoid particularly snarled streets when she's carrying precious cargo, like the kiddies, or when she wants a less hectic commute. Who doesn't want that? I cite G-maps Pedometer as a "chic enabler," but this article cites three articles with a lot more information on bike mapping and links. You can also think locally and try your neighborhood civic association's website. The East Atlanta Community Association is a good example--they give bike routes in text form to popular Atlanta destinations from EAV.

  • Infrastructure. I'd like to see a lot more political will behind cycle commuting before even touching the what-should-be-built-where question. Heck, I'd just like to know that the money is there.

  • Super cheap car insurance. I mean the kind that garners a girl big savings for driving no more than a certain amount of miles. Driving a car less often should lead to the cost effective trifecta of less wear/maintenance/repair, lower fuel costs, and lower insurance costs. A few American companies offer this type of pay-as-you-drive insurance.

  • Accessories. Women need to know that there are myriad ways to transport goods by bike that don't require them to schlep anything on their backs or shoulders making them arrive sore or funky at their destination. They also need to know about all the different cargo bikes, seats, and trailers that enable one to transport kids by bike safely.

  • Facilities. Staying fresh shouldn't be a problem when one has the proper basket, panniers, trailer, etc. to transport items or little people while riding slowly. However, some of us do live in some pretty warm and sultry climates so there are certainly a lot of women who deserve the extra security of having a place to clean up at work. At the very least, gyms across the country should be offering their facilities to cyclists at special rates, like this. It's just good business.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

True Transport

In car commercials, drivers are often slick dudes or chicks dressed to kill in fancy cars tearing up an empty road that we can tell from the aerial view snakes through a gorgeous, green countryside. Usually the voice of a British person tells us how great the car is with sexy car engine noises coming to a crescendo at his or her pauses. Alternatively, "fun" and "affordable" cars are sold through ads were a young, hip person drives a car full of friends to an exciting night spot in a big, bustling city bumping the hottest tunes along the way. Of course, if people rode around in cars full of friends maybe there would be some emptyish roads outside of the least densely populated parts of this nation and we wouldn't be consuming gas so ravenously or putting alarming amounts of CO2 in the air. These commercials are pure fantasy, but I don't think they're fantasies about transportation as much as they're about transport--strong or intensely pleasurable emotion synonymous with ecstasy. The commercials are selling the idea that one kind of car will make you sexy and "posh" (hence the British narrator). Another kind of car is the key to fun. Why aren't bikes sold that way? There is probably a large segment of the population ready to dial into bikes for transport.

I think these lines from Helen Lee's fashion blog reveal a lot.
"Personally, I think Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meister) has adorable taste, so when she was riding about the Hamptons in the first few episodes of Gossip Girl this season, I wanted a retro style bike too. Even though I had not ridden a bike in at least 10 years."
This may not be just about a television show (because I fail to see how a few episodes of a vapid "teen" drama could sell anything to an adult so well); this could be about the writer's fantasy of being fashionable, airbrushed-to-perfection, and privileged. Such a fantasy isn't uniquely hers. I've often leafed through the pages of the newest Anthropologie catalog and thought, "My gawd, I want to live in this world!" This soft-focus world of pitch-perfect retro style and beautiful locales has included European utility bikes for years. The first bike I ever saw in the catalog evoked the fantasy satirized here--it had a huge basket on the front along with all the proper accoutrement and even a double kickstand. I believe it was called "The Market Bicycle." Now they sell this Italian beauty and even though a gal isn't riding through Tuscany she can still shop at her local farmer's market and find the ingredients for a great meal. Unlike car commercials, I think fantastic bike commercials would sell a fantasy that women could achieve to some degree (men too). One makes her own leisure time riding a bike to work or on errands in whatever clothes she likes--no need to wait for a vacation or a huge decrease in traffic. And when cycling, one can actually enjoy the gorgeous green countryside and the company of one's friends unlike a person driving a car. Don't let the British narrator tell you any different.
© courtnee cycles chic
Maira Gall