Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘seattle mayor’

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

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 . . .