Archive for the 'Bicycles' Category

Velib-style Program Far Off in Seoul

SEOUL — A RACK FULL OF IDENTICAL silver bicycles caused me turn my head and pause a moment as I made hurried strides away from my office. With baskets hanging from the handlebars, they looked  utilitarian but not sturdy; the bikes’ clunky design gave off a shine of cheapness. Their frames were adorned with lettering praising the supposedly clean air of Seoul’s Jongno District, and they were locked with identical locks. Briefly considering  their proximity to the district office, I was led to an exciting conclusion — these must be public bikes!

Unfortunately, it was the wrong conclusion. I stopped by the Jongno office on Tuesday to ask about registration but ended up speaking with a man who told me the bikes were for use only by civil servants (who likely weren’t using them due to a cold snap). He lamented that a program styled after Paris’ Velib was a long way off in Seoul. While the government recently announced plans to expand the capital’s shoddy network of bike lanes (which are often used by pedestrians, roller-bladers and flippant men and women on scooters), getting together the funding to create such a program would be difficult, he said.

In sharp contrast, the provincial city of Changwon in Korea’s far south set up a thoroughly advanced bike-sharing program last year. Citizens can check out bicycles digitally, lock up at dozens of stations around town and feel safe knowing that any medical bills resulting from accidents will be at least partially covered by the municipal government. All of the bikes are also equipped with navigation systems that sit between the handlebars.

It’s great that small towns are cutting new pathways towards sustainability, but shouldn’t Seoul be leading the way? A big part of the problem is a jumbled mess of roads and merciless traffic, admitted the Jongno employee. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon met with the head of National Geographic Channel Asia to sign an MoU on combating climate change earlier this week. But whether Oh will make any groundbreaking changes to foster a bike-friendly culture in the city remains to be seen. Certainly getting public workers to see the streets from the saddle is a step in the right direction.

Farewell to a Two-Wheeled Companion

MY PLANNED MOVE ACROSS THE OCEAN has necessitated that I pare down my worldly possessions — including one of my bicycles. It makes sense that it should be the oldest one, so Junebug (above) is now up for sale. A beautiful 1980s vintage Bianchi Special, this bike has seen me through three Wisconsin winters, including the snowiest in Madison history. It seems like only yesterday that going to work meant pedaling through a foot of fresh powder; now I look out my open window to greenery and orange spring sunlight.

On another note: TDT has some new equipment. The recent purchase of a Nikon D40 (which was used to take the above photo) means you’ll be seeing a lot more original pictures on the site. As always, reader feedback is more than welcome.

A Red Light, a Bicycle, a Coffin

UNFORTUNATELY, THE STORY IS nothing new — a cyclist jumps a red light, and it ends up being the last thing they ever do. But the death of 29 year-old Matthew Manger-Lynch in Chicago this past Sunday hit close to home for me. He died while competing in the third stage of the Tour da Chicago, an annual “alleycat” street race, in which friends of mine have participated in years past. Manger-Lynch, who was married and had plans to open a French-style charcuterie, was leading a pack of about 40 racers when he crossed Irving Park Road against the light. He was struck by an SUV and pronounced dead soon afterward.

Being a law-abiding cyclist in the city is dangerous as it is. You might get pinched by someone who didn’t check their mirrors, you might get slammed by some asshole with uncontrollable road rage, or you might take a header through a window if someone unwittingly flings open a door streetside. I won’t pretend I’ve waited for every light, and I’ve done an alleycat or two myself, but events like these serve as a painful reminder that every time we bend the rules we take our lives into our own hands. This isn’t a story about SUVs vs. bicycles, this is a story about a careless moment and its consequences.

My sincere condolences to the Manger-Lynch family. Be safe out there.

Read more in The Chicago Tribune.

Photo: untitled, by brownphoto. chicago.

Beijing Cuts Bike Theft

RIDING AROUND THE STREETS of Beijing on a rented bicycle is one of my happiest memories. Beyond the charm of the hutong alleyways and the stunning array of sights, I loved the simple ease of coming and going: no helmets, no special gear and no heavy lock to carry around – just a mechanism to keep the back wheel from turning so my ride would still be there when I came out from the teashop.

According to the Guardian, China has made cycling an even more carefree experience by halving nationwide incidents of bike theft:

The country, home to a world record 460 million bicycles, has also cracked thousands of bike theft gangs, police officials told a news conference Web cast at

“We strongly smashed illegal bicycle theft activities and constrained the growth of new cases,” said Ma Weiya, vice-director of the police social security management department. (…)

The government has introduced a system of identification numbers and buyers must register their bikes using their real names as part of efforts to curb widespread theft.

Even as China’s auto industry booms with the availability of low-cost models, this crackdown comes as part of a larger effort to get China’s urban-dwellers back on bikes for the sake of air quality.
Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that many hotels offer bicycle rentals; after further information gathering it appears the service may not be so widespread. However, Beijing Bicycle Rental Services has rental stations available all over the city – near hotels, subway stations, and business parks (CCTV, TravelMole).

Photo: Beijing Bicycles, by Keith Marshall.

‘Where Bikes and Cars Collide’

TWO HORRIFIC AND FATAL collisions between large trucks and cyclists in Portland last month have put safety and awareness at the fore of many Oregonians’ minds, and prompted The Oregonian to create a useful interactive map of where crashes have taken place in the city between 2003 and 2006.

While Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country (and seeing the city by bike is definitely the best way to go), it pays to be aware of your surroundings – there are angry and inattentive people everywhere. I spent nearly a week in there on my bicycle, thankfully without incident, but certainly with a few inappropriate horn-honks.

If you’re traveling by bicycle, especially in an unfamiliar city, it helps to pick up a cycling map to find separate bike trails and low-traffic routes. Here’s where you can buy the one I used in Portland.

Safe travels.

Cycling Across America

photo by screanzatopo

Doing a trans-continental bike tour has always been something that sounded awesome to me. The feeling of freedom and self-reliance one has while gliding above two wheels is intoxicating, and the sense of accomplishment one must feel at the end of such an epic journey is unimaginable.

But it wasn’t until I met four people, a group of friends from San Francisco who are cycling across the northern tier of the US and recently rolled through Madison, that doing a tour became a lifetime goal for me. After spending an evening talking with these guys, I wrote an article about their endeavor for The Capital Times – here’s an excerpt:

They have traveled over 2,000 miles. They have climbed the monstrous hills of the Cascade mountain range, been caught in a torrential storm that nearly blew their tents away, broken down along an empty stretch in Montana, survived for days on tuna fish sandwiches and spent sleepless nights amid clouds of mosquitoes.

But a 20-year-old who grew up near Madison in Deerfield and three friends he met in San Francisco say the biggest challenge of bicycling on their own across the northern tier of the United States has been dealing with their own emotions. [Read Full]

What I think is absolutely beautiful here is that these people are investing themselves in the journey for its own sake, for the sake of travel and self-exploration. While doing rides for charity is certainly as valuable, embarking on a voyage with the goal of simply going allows the unexpected to unfold in a much deeper way.

It’s inspiring to see people around the world doing similarly amazing stuff on bicycles. Vagablogging wrote about Dominic Gill a while back, a guy who’s riding a tandem from Alaska to Argentina with a vacant seat for anyone to hop on board and help pedal, and also about a group of friends who cycled the Silk road.

The friends from San Francisco got most of their route information from Adventure Cycling, a company that’s been promoting bike culture since 1973. I would definitely recommend checking out their online route maps, and to start dreaming up your own adventure – I know I am.

Why We Ride

People have different reasons for riding a bicycle: practicality, exercise, necessity, passion… For me, the feeling of being the engine is what draws me to riding. As someone who is driven by travel, the ability to transport myself and to glide freely over the streets – uninhibited by traffic or concerns over oil – makes me feel both liberated and connected. I can go as far as I’m able to pedal, but my experience is ultimately shaped by the elements around me – the weather, the road, the people, the city.

I came across “Why I Ride NYC” yesterday via Fixed Gear Gallery. If you’re in Manhattan, definitely make sure to check out some of the exhibitions around the city from this bicycle-focused art show. Otherwise, I recommend perusing through the online catalogue, which has some great essays and photos. A summary of the exhibition from FGG:

“Why I Ride” is an independently organized multi-venue exhibition showcasing New York artists working in photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture or installation, who are inspired by the freedom and mobility that the bicycle makes possible in a congested metropolis. These artists view interactions with neighbors and strangers “both friendly and otherwise” as preferable to the isolation that grows out of our sprawling, auto-dependent environment.

Enjoy the ride – happy travels by bicycle!

Art taken from

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