Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘mike mcginn’

Will the Copenhagen Wheel Cure Cancer?

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on December 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Several people have breathlessly alerted me to the big announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the MIT “Copenhagen Wheel” — a rear wheel with hub-enclosed technology that not only boosts a cyclist with a “burst of power” on demand but contains a number of “smart bike” features, including anti-theft “braking” and email notification.

OK, I love all this. But really.

First off, in evaluating any Woo Woo Tech Whiz product, I like to see numbers. In the reports I’ve seen so far, there aren’t any. Battery type. Wattage output. Drive-system specifications. Weight. Volume. Does the hub have internal shifting? Judging from the photo, it’s either that or a singlespeed with a fairly challenging gear ratio. No wonder it needs a battery boost.

Battery technology is improving all the time, so maybe this thing can put out enough power to be meaningful. And the brake-regeneration system works, as the Prius I drive attests to. But you don’t brake bikes the way you brake cars; bikes slow down pretty well on their own on most surfaces. Cars have to be braked far more, with considerably more force.

Further, the press release mentions only “steep inclines” for acceleration boosting. Seattle and San Francisco, to cite a couple of bike friendly cities, don’t have inclines, they have hills. Inclines are something almost anyone serious about cycling can handle without a battery boost. Hills are where you really need an electric backburner.

But auxiliary power is just one facet of the Copenhagen wheel. It’s supposed to be chock full of “cheap electronics” that notify you of friends nearby, how much pollution is in the air, terrain challenges ahead, distance to and from, and other cool stuff. It supposedly will interface with your iPhone as the client, all well and good. The iPhone can do much of this already, but the notion of real-time communication with your bike invites all kinds of fantasizing.

The one that stopped me, though, was the theft-deterrence feature. Apparently the bike will automatically go into brake mode when stolen and automatically send the owner an email that his or her bike has been purloined. Under the “worst-case scenario,” the press release states, “the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike.”

No, under the worst case scenario, the thief tosses your bike in a truck, slaps a lead case over the hub (or simply jams the signal) and drives off to a lab where the electronics are reconfigured to impede any detection of or communication with the bike.

The Copenhagen Wheel is asking a lot in terms of consumer faith, and my skepticism derives from two real-world reality checks. First, this is still a project in development (is there even a prototype?), which means it needs continued funding. And the best way to get funding is to hype something over the ever-gullible mainstream press and eWorld.

Secondly, recall the last time we were promised a huge breakthrough in personal transportation technology. A two-wheeled invention that would prove bigger than the personal computer, and more important than the Internet. That’s right, the Segway.

Yeah, like that worked…

Copenhagen wheel, meet Seattle's mayorStill, I know a guy who’d be the perfect ambassador for the Copenhagen wheel. It’s Seattle’s new mayor, Mike McGinn. He already rides an electric bike and knows a lot more about its ins and outs than a mere blogger like me. Plus he’s committed to continuing to ride as mayor.

MIT, here’s your guinea pig.

The Copenhagen Wheel unveiled

Can Elected Bike Riders Impel Change We Can Believe In?

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on November 11, 2009 at 1:55 am

With the election of Mike McGinn as mayor of Seattle and re-election of Council president Richard Conlin, it now looks as though the two most powerful office-holders in the city are, of all things, bike commuters. The third most powerful, newly elected County Executive Dow Constantine, is a bike lover, as is another newcomer, Council member Mike O’Brien, Together they comprise a two-wheeled coalition atop local government unlike any other municipality of Seattle’s size and prominence.

Will it make a difference? And if so, how much?

Conlin’s 12-year tenure, crossover popularity and political capital gained from a resounding victory in last Tuesday’s election have led some to designate him Seattle’s “interim” mayor while McGinn learns the ropes. There may be some truth in the appellation, but we think McGinn’s dedication to civic causes over the years gives him considerable momentum going into the job. And as anyone who has worked with Mike knows, he typically has a pretty good idea going in what he wants to do on any given issue.

We think McGinn’s infamous “flip-flop”— more like a soft-pedal (given his avocation) — actually won the election for him. It didn’t lose him any votes; what were tunnel haters going to do, vote for build-baby-build Mallahan? Instead it won crucial votes from the rule-book set, traditionalist Seattleites who needed a sign from McGinn that he could put aside personal conviction when due process dictated a different track. That said, we still hope Mike finds a way out of the geologic insanity and bottomless money pit of the Deep Bore.

If the tunnel does proceed, cyclists hopefully will benefit from increased surface options in the city. But the big imprint that cycling leadership can leave on the city will involve long-sought integration of bikes into Seattle’s traffic grid and transportation infrastructure. With downtown bike counts continuing to escalate exponentially — the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan calls for tripling the amount of bicycling in Seattle by 2017 — such integration is not only prudent but necessary.

Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club and the City will spend much of 2010 developing a 5-year update of the Master Plan. It will be fascinating to watch a transportation blueprint put together with cyclists as equal participants rather than afterthoughts. What might cyclists hope for in a McGinn administration?

Our wish list includes:

Completing Ballard’s “missing link” on the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is under litigation, but there are pressures and bargainings that a McGinn administration can bring to bear to “ameliorate” the process. Let’s git ‘er done guys.

More bike lanes. A recent study showed that bike lanes are safer for cyclists than is competing with cars on streets and highways, and with pedestrians, dogs and strollers on bike paths (although bike-only paths are safer). Yet the city has in crucial corridors moved away from lanes in favor of “sharrows,” or on-pavement arrows indicating that vehicles need to “share” the pavement with bikes.

Sharrows hold some symbolic persuasion. But we feel they’re more a sop than solution. The painted arrows soon wear off. “Shared” lanes invite “dooring” from parked cars. And we all know when push comes to shove who gets shoved out of the right-of-way.

True bike lanes on North 45th Street and on Stone Way should be a high priority. And while you’re at it, on Broadway, Queen Anne Avenue, Rainier and Columbia Way. I’m missing some, I know. North 80th or 85th (McGinn lives up there!). And more. (Check out Page yll of the Master Plan for a graphic of what the ideal bike grid should look like.)

North-south bike corridors are in pretty good shape; east-west needs to be beefed up. Cyclists shouldn’t have to fear for their lives just getting between the city’s main districts. It will mean pinching already heavy car flow on major arterials, but that’s an inconvenient truth of reducing car dependence.

More bike racks. It sounds screwy, but Seattle is running out of places to lock up bikes, particularly downtown. Especially at festivals, conferences and conventions, or grocery and department stores — anywhere large numbers of people converge — not only are existing racks woefully inadequate, even light pole availability becomes scarce. New construction still fails to take increased cycling traffic into account, an example being Trader Joe’s in Ballard. As we’ve noted on several occasions as well, bike racks should not be put in the nether regions of underground or covered parking garages, where theft is easier and the “door-to-door” time advantage and convenience of riding a bike is lost.

Better law enforcement. Cascade will resume its valiant efforts to pass legislation at the state level to improve traffic justice for riders and walkers. Although the state Supreme Court ruled that state law overrides local jurisdictions, police can still give out tickets and otherwise make their presence known when drivers endanger cyclists. There needs to be heightened awareness that cyclists truly do belong on city corridors and do not relinquish the legal system’s protections for street users simply because they are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Setting an example. McGinn drew attention during the campaign for commenting how he would change the go-everywhere-by-car policy of gas-guzzling Mayor Greg Nickels. Now’s his chance to show exactly how, and to provide a model for dignitaries everywhere about what it means to reduce four-wheel transport to two.

Bicycle advocacy in city government. We’re no fan of bureaucratic featherbedding, but cyclists have been under-represented in City Hall for so long (even though Nickels improved somewhat) that enhancing their presence at the planning table with a few good administrators would be well worth the salary allocations. Any McGinn/Constantine vision of transportation in Puget Sound that moves commuters out of cars needs to contain huge incentives to go by bike. Mass transit especially should give discounts or other benefits to velo travelers. We need fertile thinking to enter the post-carbon society, and there are a lot of creative bike minds in Seattle that can be tapped by City Hall.

At Cascade, advocacy director David Hiller says the club is looking forward to blue-skying about the future, and to being a driver (so to speak) of policy rather than a check-box constituency to be informed after decisions have been made. Cascade’s tireless efforts to broaden its own identity as well as McGinn’s appeal throughout Seattle, especially among Asian and minority communities, were undoubtedly the difference in the narrow election. The payoff will come with a local political clout rivaled only by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition among urban cycling organizations.

“We’re dreaming the big dreams, all of us, right now,” Hiller said.

Riding to Win

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on November 4, 2009 at 8:10 am

They snickered when Mike McGinn started off his campaign by showing up at cycling events with “MIKE BIKES” stickers. How quaint. He’s going after the funny-hats-and-clicky-shoes vote.

It was a startlingly unconventional way to build a base, campaigning in a bike helmet and blazer. But McGinn knew something that cyclists have long suspected: We’re a strong and growing political constituency, just waiting to be galvanized by a candidate who rides.

Cyclists are the statistical equivalency of the old newspaper circulation figure. Back in the day, publishers were fond of noting (especially to advertisers) how the print run was a misleading number. What was more important was that every paper that got printed was read by at least one or two other people besides the purchaser.

Cyclists are smart. They’re committed. They pay attention. They talk and IM and Twitter (and blog!). They cross over into numerous disciplines: Technology, education, graphic design, social work, non-profit organizing, entrepreneurialism and yes, even politics.

They vote. And for every vote they cast, you can count on two or three or more people they’ve influenced voting the same.

We disagree about a lot of things, because we’re fiercely independent. We have to be. You don’t risk your life competing with two-ton behemoths of glass and steel on a daily basis without having a certain self-confidence and belief in knowing what you’re doing.

But when we find out someone else is a cyclist, their stock goes way up. We have an instant bond. We are brothers and sisters in the daily combat of urban traffic. We know there’s a high chance our values will align, if not mirror, our compatriot’s.

We are the classic “cultural creative,” the description sociologist Paul Ray devised for over a quarter of the population. People who represent a commitment to sustainability, environment, health and justice. Cultural creatives also are highly individualistic: They think of themselves as a marginal minority, not a social subset. But taken together, they represent a powerful constituency.

Get them to vote together, and you have a solid numerical bloc from which to build a coalition. Mike McGinn may not yet win the mayor’s race, but he came so far so fast, from such a remote outpost of conventional political thinking, that like Barack Obama he’s shown a whole new path to campaign success.

McGinn was not the only “cycling candidate” in this election who did well. Richard Conlin, the City Council member who commutes to City Hall, and Mike O’Brien and Dow Constantine, both with strong ties to the cycling community, won decisive victories. None made two wheels quite as much of their profile as McGinn, but they are strongly in the camp of improving transportation networks with cycling in mind. And all won rousing endorsements from Seattle’s powerful Cascade Bicycle Club, whose 11,000-plus members make it the nation’s largest local cycling group and whose advocacy work is leading-edge for any membership organization.

Together, especially with McGinn at the helm, they constitute one of the nation’s leading elected cycling blocs. They promise not only to enhance Seattle’s already recognized cycling reputation (aided by Nickels), but to put Seattle at the center of cycling progress and innovation along the lines of Davis CA, Portland OR, Boulder CO and Vancouver BC.

When Cascade held its nose and endorsed Nickels in the primary, and I went off on my blog, McGinn told me he wasn’t worried. “We’re the only candidate in this space,” he said. As alacritous as it seemed at the time, he was right: For all the good work Mayor Greg Nickels did for cycling, he wasn’t one of us. Cyclists and their circle wouldn’t vote for Nickels and McGinn knew it.

We got the word out on our email lists and the blogosphere and Twitterdom. Everyone who asked me who to vote for mayor got a Full Monty of why Mike was right (and Mallahan was lame). I’ve not always agreed with McGinn and have even had run-ins with him in the past. But I know at core he stands, er, rides, in the same space I do and has the same goals.

McGinn may not win. But we think he will. The political polling system, and the vast network of bloviating analysts and pundits who somehow think they have credibility because their name gets displayed under them when they yap, have yet to figure out how to calculate the Obama Effect. They don’t know how to measure tweets. They can’t count under-40 voters on their cell phones (who don’t have land lines). They still think Downtown Business dictates elections.

When a race is close in the polls, the cultural creative has a huge advantage. His constituency is entirely unmeasured.

Funny hats and noisy shoes. McGinn was onto something.

Vote for … a cyclist?

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on October 27, 2009 at 1:27 am

Should a cyclist vote for a political candidate simply because he or she is a fellow cyclist?

Obviously the answer is no. Otherwise we would have voted for George Bush, an avid and by most accounts fairly adept mountain biker. The problem was, as much as he loved to ride, Bush did virtually nothing to promote, promulgate or even support cycling while he was in office. In some cases he was outright anti-mountain biking, as when he tried to railroad through drilling rights in Moab’s majestic outlands.

It’s been one of fate’s cruelest twists that all our adult life we wished for a mountain biking president, and when we finally got one, it was George W. Bush.

That said, in the case of Seattle mayoral candidate Mike McGinn, we think cyclists voting for a cyclist makes eminently good sense. McGinn is not only a committed rider, he’s a cyclist with a track record of civic commitment, an progressive with an acute understanding of how cities work, and a leader with a vision for a better Seattle.

The case for McGinn is even easier given the utter fecklessness of his rival, Joe Mallahan. Mallahan has not only shown no interest in Seattle governance previous to this race, he has a voting record spotty as an August windshield. We’d rather vote for the nearest sock puppet than Mallahan. Come to think of it, there isn’t much difference between the two.

Kind of lost in the election shuffle this year, because he’s pretty popular and has only token opposition, is bike commuter and incumbent city council member Richard Conlin. I’ve been at civic events where Richard shows up on his bike, wearing biking togs, and delivers his speech/performs his duties as though he were in pinstripes and tie. I like that about him, because it helps to normalize the image of a cyclist as an executive and dignitary. In other words, a helmet and shorts can be just as much of a statement as blazer and slacks.

Although not the cycling fiends that McGinn and Conlin are, Mike O’Brien for Seattle city council and Dow Constantine for King County executive also have proven supportive of bike causes. Like McGinn, they’re endorsed by Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club.

We’re excited to have cycling proponents like these running for office in Seattle/King County. The prospect of having elected leaders who not only understand and appreciate bikes but will go out of their way to further cycling causes is a luxury we’ve never had in Seattle, nor in few U.S. communities anywhere outside of Davis CA and Portland OR. If these guys get elected, get ready to rock ‘n roll … especially roll!

SeattleLikesBikes likes McGinn. Unlikes Mallahan.

Jeff Reifman rips Mallahan a new one (also see Jeff’s amazing report on Microsoft’s $1 billion Washington State tax dodge).

Mayor McGinn wouldn’t ride like Nickels drives

In Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on September 22, 2009 at 4:43 am

The Stranger: Analyzing how “Bikin’ Mike” McGinn, the mayoral candidate who actually commutes downtown by bike each day, might cope with a traditional mayoral schedule.

Interesting take, but in using existing mayor Greg Nickels’ car-biased schedule as a model, the article assumes McGinn would adopt a similar approach to his official calendar. Anyone who rides a bike for work knows and understands that cycling demands an entirely different mindset to daily travel. Not necessarily a more limited or truncated schedule, just a more efficient one.

A lot of the PR-type, ceremonial appearances Nickels makes are on his schedule simply because car transport allows them to be. Do you have to be in Georgetown and the University District over the noon hour? McGinn would choose one or the other, or neither, based on how necessary they really were. When it comes to the daily planner, the prospect of turning pedals to get places tends to focus the mind. Awards dinners? Going-away parties? Transportation seminars? Some would make the cut, others wouldn’t.

And the city would be better off for it. A mayor who acted more than he gabbed, who spent time on the job solving problems rather than running around trying to be liked, and who showed up at events based on an honest and efficient (and cheap!) transportation decision matrix, would mean a lot more to the city than a glad-hander who showed up just for show, mouthed a few platitudes and seldom delivered the goods.

Finally, what’s the big deal about 25 miles on a bike in a day? For experienced cyclists, that’s a piece o’ cake . . .

Could Seattle get a mayor who actually rides?

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on August 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm

It could happen, if we elect Mike McGinn. As noted here earlier, McGinn is a dedicated cyclist who understands bike issues and culture. For much of the campaign he’s been considered a long shot, but a new KING TV poll puts him third, with 15 percent of voters and growing. More than ever, Mike needs cyclists’ help to put him into the November general election.

Over at SeattleLikesBikes, Michael Snyder has posted a nice synopsis on what we can do to help McGinn build on his final surge. Here’s the pitch — please give it some thought and do what you can!

To our Fellow Bikers,

We have a historic election in front of us. Right now we decide how we want this year’s Mayors race to look. Mike McGinn is a bike advocate, a biker commuter himself, and has successfully fought for bikers.

This primary election is important. Getting Mike through to the general election means we will have a bike advocate fighting for us, fighting for safe streets, and for better transit options.

We’re asking you to dig deep and please donate to the McGinn for Mayor campaign.

How important it is biking in this city to you?

1. Is it worth a bike repair kit?- Donate $10

2. Is it worth new commuter slicks?- Donate $50

3. Is it worth a really nice new helmet? – Donate $100

Together, we can change this city and make Seattle the best place to bike in America.

Behind Cascade Bicycle Club’s snub of Bikin’ Mike

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling, Obama Bikes on August 6, 2009 at 1:24 am

Mike McGinn, the bicycling candidate for mayor of Seattle, must wonder what you have to do to get a bike club’s endorsement. McGinn rides his bike everywhere, including commuting daily downtown from his Greenwood home, he shows up at bike rallies like Bike to Work Day with his “Mike Bikes” stickers, he is squarely in the camp of alternative transportation choices. Face it, the man “gets” cycling.

But here’s the Cascade Bicycle Club, representing more than 11,000 members as the largest local cycling club in the nation, endorsing widely degraded incumbent Greg Nickels for re-election. Not even a dual endorsement, just “Vote Nickels.” In a hard-fought eight-way primary where every vote counts, Cascade’s snub has to hurt.

For the record, Cascade’s David Hiller, our favorite bike advocate in the known universe, says the club acknowledges McGinn’s contributions and “we wish Mike well”:

“While I am personal friends with McGinn and have no doubts about his commitment to bicycling, our adopted policy is to support friendly incumbents first.  For what it’s worth, this approach to endorsements is shared by many organizations.”

It’s also worth noting that Nickels, for all his many faults (“As mayor I’ve made my share of mistakes,” says his TV ad), has been a friend to cycling. Hiller cites a litany of progress in Nickels’ eight looonnnggg years of office:

“It is also hardly disputable that Mayor Nickels has done more for bicycling that any mayor before him. If the mayor had not supported our changes to Bridging the Gap, including the Complete Streets ordinance and more funding for bicycling and walking, if he had not funded the Master Plan, if he had not come to the table on the Fremont Bridge reconstruction, if he had not reconsidered the configuration of Stone Way N., if he had not intervened to keep the Burke-Gilman Trail open past Suzie Burke’s property in Fremont – any of a number of decision points could have led us down a different path for this endorsement.  However, in the end the mayor did the right thing on all counts and it would be unfair to walk away someone who has demonstrated a commitment to bicycling – or at least a willingness to listen and learn.”

For his part, McGinn is taking the brush-off in stride. He has stood side-by-side with Cascade on major campaigns such as the “No on Roads & Transit” a couple of years ago (which resulted in a true transit initiative, as McGinn prophesied), the Complete Streets movement and the Stone Way flap. (Re the last, despite Hiller’s nod to the mayor, remember: We never got the full bike lanes we were promised.)

And McGinn remains the sole mayoral candidate to oppose the horrific underground tunnel, which he rightly notes will drain valuable transportation dollars from cycling projects as well as funnel traffic into direct conflict on popular bike routes like Westlake, Dexter, Leary Way and Fremont Avenue. Nickels of course is a huge tunnel advocate.

Finally, McGinn actually rides a bike. Nickels admits he does not. Asked if he’s tempted to challenge Hizzoner to a two-wheel race, McGinn laughed. “I’m not a fast rider,” he said. “But I think I could take him.”

As for Cascade, “they made a political calculation,” McGinn said, noting the signal the club’s endorsement sends to “other incumbents to do the right thing, and they’ll be rewarded.”

BikeIntelligencer found one informal glimmer of redemption for McGinn. Polling several Cascade members and veteran riders privately revealed strong personal support for Bikin’ Mike. The club’s official endorsement may carry less sway for cycling cognoscenti than for the Voters Pamphlet types.

Cyclists, in other words, know who’s got their back.

At BikeIntelligencer, we admit to being taken aback by Cascade’s stand. We wish it could have been a dual endorsement. We also think a boost to McGinn in the primary, setting up a possible head-to-head with Nickels in the general election, would have been a cyclist’s dream of two strong cycling supporters to choose from.

That said, we recognize the political balancing act a major player like Cascade has to conduct come election time. And we think the community at large understands it as well.

Cascade’s endorsements

Publicola explores McGinn’s conservative appeal. Note the comments queue. Publicola also endorses McGinn.

So does The Stranger.

Takeaways on Bike to Work Day 2009

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on May 19, 2009 at 10:31 pm

First, the weather. One of the soggiest Mays on record — the first half of the month’s rainfall had already doubled an entire May’s average — took a brief respite from the wet stuff for nearly wire-to-wire sunshine. A bit of fog early gave way by 9 a.m. and the rest was gravy.

But sunshine alone cannot guarantee a record turnout, and the numbers at street level felt light as I rode through downtown. Two Cascade Bicycle Club stations confirmed lower counts by 8 a.m. than last year’s record totals, and the kickoff rally in front of City Hall was down drastically — only about 50, compared to 250 last year.

Which was a shame, because emcee David Hiller, Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy director, kept a great program on message and, more astoundingly, on time. Mayor Greg Nickels, not a cyclist himself although he admitted his waistline could use a few pedal revolutions, inadvertently came up with a pretty good meme for the day: “In Seattle, we walk the talk,” he said, “or maybe that should be, bike the talk.” Subsequent speakers picked up on the phrase, modifying it to the more syntactic “Ride the talk,” and a motto was born.

There are good signs. From 5,000 participants in 2000’s Bike to Work Day to 23,000 in 2008. Twenty percent annual growth in bike commuting. Some 56 miles of bike lanes and sharrows added in the past 2 years. Two of three missing links in the Burke-Gilman Trail completed, with the third one on the way.

“When people see bikes on the street they think differently about how our streets and the transportation system work,” Nickels noted.

Added City Council President Richard Conlin, the only official to speak actually wearing cycling gear (he had arrived by bike): In Seattle, “We’re thinking about bicycling as a means of transportation. This is how we get from place to place.”

The rally was pretty much all back-patting, but it should be noted that Cascade assigned the city a grade of “B” in its report card. (One point I thought got missed in reporting on Cascade’s grade: It was based on an intensive survey of Seattle cyclists. This wasn’t the club doing the grading, it was you and me. It was not a politically spun white paper, in other words, but a factual democratic assessment of the city’s bicycling progress.) As long as I’ve been cycling in Seattle (55 years), I think a “B” is pretty much spot on. I find Seattle a better place to ride than most places its size, even San Francisco, and the city is trending in the right direction. Portland, Vancouver, B.C. and a host of smaller cities outpace Seattle, but we’re getting better all the time. The effect of population scale on cycling is obvious.

There was plenty of newspaper and TV coverage of Bike to Work Day, including 3 stories in The Seattle Times, whose cycling awareness may have gotten a lift from the timely retirement that very day of editorial page editor Jim Vesely, a bike skeptic to put it politely.

Still, I was a bit bothered by the lower numbers. With such incredible weather predicted for days, why the drop-off?

After the rally ended promptly at 8:30 a.m., I rode up and down 4th and 2nd Avenues, which have bike lanes (or as we the more cynically inclined like to call them, “double-parking lanes”). They could use a little sprucing up, hint hint, and I still don’t care for their being on the wrong side of the street (left of drivers rather than right, where most drivers look for and expect bikes to be). For all its perils and potholes, I love riding in downtown! It’s an exciting place and you feed off the energy of the crowds. Perhaps in my next life I can be a bike messenger, if such a trade still exists (the digital revolution having imperiled this line of work along with everything else analog). Best of all you can “pass gas” at will — cars backed up for blocks, poor sods, waiting to make a turn or find a parking place.

Finally I headed back home (I don’t actually have an office to go to, so I was kind of cheating) to Green Lake via Dexter Ave. N., where clumps of cyclists were pointed in the opposite direction. One noteworthy gesture: A Metro bus driver kindly waited for a group of cyclists to clear before turning into a bus stop southbound on Dexter. Very nice…

Conference bike: Strength in numbers

Conference bike: Strength in numbers

At 4 p.m. I headed over for Ballard and the end-of-the-day street party/festival in front of the old firehouse. The place was jammed! Kidical Mass was there (tykes on bikes), the “Conference Bike” was there, booths gave out free taillights and Clif bars and Cascade water bottles. Lots of familiar faces, including mayoral candidate Mike McGinn, whom I often run into on Phinney Ave. N. riding home. McGinn cleverly stocks stickum “Mike Bikes” patches for your jacket or bike. Talk about riding the walk! When I mentioned he should ask for equal time given the mayor’s self-advertisement that a.m., he shrugged. “I’m the only candidate in this space,” he noted.

I stopped in at one of Cascade’s booths and asked if they had preliminary numbers. Around 19k, they said, confirming my suspicions: Down 4,000 from 2008. Two things immediately struck me: First, there have to be a lot fewer jobs to bike to these days, especially downtown. Banks and other service industries with headquarters downtown have really taken it on the chin. In its official press release, Cascade echoed similar thoughts.

But it also occurred to me that cheaper gas prices have contributed. I checked receipts from last April against last month: $4.19 a gallon then, $2.29 a gallon now. Tell you what, though. With all the talk about stabilization and recovery, gas prices are already starting to climb. For the past several years, they’ve struck worst during the heart of vacation time, when Americans hit the road and are least able to modify their gas intake. It looks like we’ll see a repeat of the pattern this summer, although word on the street is that a lot of folks are cutting back or cutting out the road trips, not because of the price of gas but because they’ve got no jobs.

My overall takeaway from Bike to Work Day is this: Bicycling to work is becoming ingrained in our culture. The numbers are not big, but they’re growing faster than anything else. Cycling is being treated as an equal form of transportation with the added benefits of health, saving money and convenience of parking. Bike to Work no longer needs a day of its own, although it’s fun to have one in any case!

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