30 September 2008

I am not a vehicle - rant

bicycle car share the road sign vehicle
Last night, as I tried to make an unprotected left turn against 3 lanes of cars I thought to myself "This just proves that I am not a vehicle". I have neither the power nor the safety features to compete on a level with the cars.

This morning that was brought home again to me, in a scary way.

I live on a one-way 1.5 lane urban street (enough room to double-park, but not really two lanes). My husband and I rode to the red light and stopped, as is the law. There was a car behind us who wanted to make a right on red. Being reasonable people we moved to the left, me more than he, and the car turned right.

The light then changed. I proceeded into the intersection, crossing it somewhat diagonally to make my way over to the right-hand side of the street. While I was in the intersection a BMW SUV going about 45 miles per hour swerves and honks and nearly clips me. She was insistent on her "right" to go about 2X the speed limit down this tiny one-way residential street. Thank God I wasn't turning left, I would be dead.

Naturally we caught her at the first red light. I was able to see into the car and saw she was looking over her new parking ticket. I imagine that played into her algorithm of aggression towards me.

I told her "You need to chill out". She told me to get out of the road. I started to get really angry at this point and told her it was the law that I ride in the road. She said I had to be at the side of the road. In retrospect I could have tried to explain what had happened with the other car, but really - is there anything I can do in the road that merits that kind of aggression? She just kept repeating that she had a car and all I have is a bike. This is the exact same statement another man used for acting in the same way towards my husband a while ago.

With people like that in cars I know we will never be equals. There is evasive action I must take as a cyclist in order to stay safe.

Later this morning I was stopped at a red light. There were at least 10 cars stopped with me. I looked ahead and there was a Construction Zone sign taking up the bike lane. I knew that I would have to move left into the car's lane in order to get past it. I looked both ways and ran the red light, getting beyond the sign and back in the bike lane before the cars caught up, making the whole thing less confusing and thus safer for everyone. This is a violation of the "Same Road, Same Rights, Same Rules" idea, but for the better.

There were some cops directing traffic outside my office this morning. I was shaken up enough to stop and run all these experiences past them.
  1. With respect to running the red light (I confessed!!!) they said that what I did this morning was reasonable and courteous, despite the tickets given in Cambridge to cyclists running reds.
  2. In the situation with the lady in the SUV, they said that I should just get the plate number. I can submit it to the RMV and get a hearing. They will listen to both of us and possibly take disciplinary action. I asked if it would help create a history of aggressive behavior, should she do worse next time and he said it would. I think it is worth getting the license plate next time, just in case.
I am now 100% in favor of "slow, then go"-style Idaho bike laws. While the concept of courtesy is more difficult to legislate and enforce, I know that I am not a vehicle.

29 September 2008

Lipstick Red Raleigh - now named "Lola"

red raleigh sports 3 speed
This bike was parked outside my coffee shop this morning and I thought it was too darling for words. I think the red ones must be rare, I haven't seen too many of them. This one was in perfect condition.

26 September 2008

Rainy Day Portrait

bicycle rain brooks plastic bag
It is raining today, and I didn't see a single fellow cyclist on my way into work. I'll try again on my lunch break. In the meantime, here's my bike in his raincoat.

25 September 2008

Blur, even at low speeds

3-speed blurry bicyclist
I took many photos of her, all turned out blurry.
Time for a new camera, the blog is suffering as mine keeps failing at key moments.

24 September 2008


abandoned bike
A sure sign of cooler weather: the cute bike which was beloved in the summer is about to be impounded by the police as abandoned property. Too sad.

UPDATE: Sent in by an alert reader, the DPW has confirmed that impounded bikes are not wasted in Boston:
Bikes that are held for 30 days or more are then picked up by a bike company called Bikes not Bombs, and bikes that are found to be in very poor condition go to the metal dump yard.

23 September 2008

Girls and bicycles

I've been traveling, but I thought you might like this image of some girls who spent the whole afternoon riding around the downtown of a small town in New Hampshire. Sounds like a good day to me - girlfriends and bicycles? Sign me up!

22 September 2008

Helmet hair? Add a hat

If you can't carry it any other way, just wear it with your helmet. Easy on, easy off...

helmet and hat bike bicycle

19 September 2008

Bicycle Stylist?

Our local Craigslist has an ad up for a "Bike Stylist". It reads

Bike Stylist - Do You Love Your Bike?

Want your bike to look like a hardcore dream-ride? Want to breathe new life and functionality into an old bike? I will help!

You deserve the style and performance of a well spec'd bike. Like a good interior designer changes mere living space into showplaces, let me turn your bicycle into usable sculpture you'll be proud riding.

I have worked at a bike shop and am abreast on all the latest parts that will make your ride more comfortable, capable, and stylish. All budgets will be worked with. You will be happy and your bike will be too.

I can definitely see a market for this service - it really helps to have a friend who knows handlebar diameters, and issues with French bikes, all the 26" tire sizes, etc. It can be hard to know even what is possible for one's bike. If you don't have that friend, hire one!

Don't forget you can scroll through the ideas collected here tagged DIY and customization for ideas and inspiration. There's plenty more out there and I hope to encounter it. If you have a very customized bike and want to share photos, won't you email me?

The bicycle you love is the bicycle you will ride, and that's worth a lot.

18 September 2008

My new old road bike

lugged steel Raleigh International bike bicycle touring bike like a Rivendell
Tiago, I know you've been waiting anxiously, so for you and everyone: here is my new, old, elegant bicycle for sport. It's the copper bike on top, a Raleigh Interational. This is the bike I will ride from country inn to country inn on vacation with my husband, who rides the red Pinarello. This is the bike I will ride when going several towns over. This is the elegant sporty club(wo)man bicycle which will be perfect for me after our Randonneur-type conversion and slight modernization.

vintage classic lugged steel with chrome Raleigh International touring geometry

This new bike was handmade in Carlton, England in August of 1974. It is Reynolds 531 throughout with chromed Nervex lugs, chrome stays, chromed fork. Full vintage Campagnolo (except brakes, which I intend to modernize anyway). The frame has a geometry somewhere between sport and touring, and is part of the inspiration for modern bikes like those sold by Rivendell but this one is recycled, with vintage flair, and some modernization challenges/opportunities. I can't ever do things the easy way anyhow.

I will hold on to my French road bicycle (a Courtois) because of the memories and because it is the bike that got me into cycling. It wouldn't fetch enough to be worth selling if I wanted to, which I don't. I'm a little sad that it won't be in full rotation anymore, but we knew when we bought it quickly in Paris that it was too small, but we had places to go and see and wanted to get on the road. I'm not getting any shorter for a long time yet (I hope!) so the new bike will be much easier on my back and knees. Plus it's pretty enough to hang on our living room wall as functional art.

On the fashion side, I tend to wear aquas, blues, and greens, and I thought the copper bike would complement my wardrobe nicely. I'm such a girl.

17 September 2008

This just in: Bikes are in fashion

bicycle chic bike fashion America
There's been so much written about bikes being fashionable this summer that even I'm getting blasé. Yet here I go again, you see here the 5th Avenue window of Bergdorf in Manhattan last weekend...

bicycle chic bike fashion America

PS - the JMW Turner exhibition was wonderful (and overwhelming!).

Gentleman Cyclist In Training

father son cyclists commuting school work
I see his dad all over town, always on his black modern-day Dutch bike. He wears a black leather jacket and straps a black leather briefcase to his rack. He just got the front rack a couple weeks ago. I imagine he's in a creative but lucrative field, something like advertising or architecture perhaps. I'm completely making that up, it's just one of the stories I weave about people I see.

His little duckling was having the best day ever as he followed Dad on the sidewalks of Boston and they commuted to school and work.

14 September 2008

Chic Fenders

old bike with custom fenders
If I had dark fenders I wanted to make more visible I would steal this bike's white patch - I think the teardrop shape is very elegant, particularly with the red reflector like a jewel.

painted bicycle fender

13 September 2008

Renaissance Bicycles

Gmail was kind enough to read the mail in which I discussed my plans to retrofit a vintage frame with modern componentry and provided me with a link to Renaissance Bicycles, which does exactly that.

I'll unveil my project later, but if anyone else is looking for a bicycle, or just some inspiration, this might help.

12 September 2008

Cycling in the City

The Boston Center for Adult Education is offering two city cycling class sessions.

Cycling in the City gives cyclists the confidence needed to ride safely and legally in the city and in traffic. This course covers bicycle and gear safety checks, fixing a flat, and helmet adjustments.

Recommended for cyclists new to commuting, students unfamiliar with city riding, or anyone interested in taking in the world one pedal rotation at a time.

If a class is not for you, there's always instruction available online from Mass Bike. For a large enough group they will send a Mass Bike representative out to provide a class much like the one offered by the BCAE.

It's back to school, so ride safely!

11 September 2008

Good luck and flowers

How fun is this cruiser?

I'd seen flower decoration before, but taking it down the top tube is novel to me. I'd NEVER seen the use of a good-luck tassel before. It's perhaps a riff on the handlebar streamers, I like it.

She was out cruising with her friends to a café. They had beautiful bikes, but none had the personality of this one. Isn't it fun?

My thoughts on the state of Lycra

It sounds like other people are seeing a shift towards chic cycling, which I'm guessing is probably due to new cyclists rather than lycras abandoning their gear. I'd imagine that X% of lycra on the road is due to necessity (distance cycled), and Y% of slouchy dressers would probably not put in the effort to dress chic OFF a bicycle anyway, so excluding those two groups we see our chic cyclists! They're certainly out there.

We can never really know the 'state of lycra perceptions' because the person we're most interested in is not riding a bike yet, of distaste for the perceived uniform.

In happy news, my friend at my favorite upscale bike shop told me yesterday that business there is up 45% over last year. I thought that was good news for everyone, but he said he's exhausted. Not so exhausted he couldn't help me tighten my headset and make other minor adjustments to my frame, gratis. Thanks B! It's good to make friends with your local bike shop and always buy something, even if it's just a tube, when you go in. It pays for itself!

10 September 2008

North American Poll: Is Lycra still dominant?

I'm told by my friends in Europe that Americans still think that one must wear lycra to ride a bike, even in the city for short jaunts. I feel like this perception has changed, but perhaps the act of observing in keeping this blog has changed the observer (me).

It seems to me that all the articles about bicycle commuters that have gone along with all the articles about fuel prices have changed the way Americans see their noble and lowly bicycles. Among my colleagues there are two American men and one Dutch woman who commute in lycra, the rest of us commute in our work clothes. This change in cycling perception has happened in my family, what about yours? Your colleagues?

Fellow North Americans, what is the state of our cycling union? Are people aware of their cycling options? I'm terribly curious as to what you think!

09 September 2008

American Cyclist

lady three speed bike urban cycling
Despite reports to the contrary, Americans are out riding their bikes on bike lanes. Sure, there could be more cyclists, and more bike lanes, but I'm not one to harp on the negative. I like to focus on the good in life. Hurray for getting out on bikes!

Guest Photos: Colorado SuperMum

mother twins bike bicycle trailer
How does she do it?

Looking great with kids in tow, N bikes for transportation and for recreation. Yesterday they biked to get ice-cream, followed by a stop at a park where this photo was taken.

But beyond that they actually took their kids (and pictured bike) on a two week trip through the Colorado mountains, which included a trip over Trail Ridge Road. Amazing.

I'm sure she looked chic throughout the whole family adventure. My hat's off to you N!

For more inspiration on their adventures, please visit her blog.

08 September 2008

A flower for you

pinwheel flower fixed gear bike modifications
Aww, it's monday morning and I know I've been swamped with work and life. I'm not ready to be back at work AGAIN.

For anyone who needs it on this monday morning, here's a "flower" I saw in Cambridge - it's a pinwheel attached to a fixed gear. Must be fun to ride behind this person!

03 September 2008

More Bikes in Media

Gossip girl bike
Seems TV shows and clothes catalogs have decided that a bicycle is essential to be hip. Note that they're all wearing "normal" clothes, no lycra here.

Bicycle clothes catalog

This is a summer-long trend, we saw bikes in June, and back in May. I haven't attempted to catalog all that I've seen (there's a bike used in a beer ad on the MassPike) but let's just say there are a lot of bikes in the mainstream media, and only a few of them are lycra-clad sports cyclists. Even "leisurewear" is shown with lace.

02 September 2008

Back to Work

This gentleman was sedately pedaling along this morning, holding his briefcase. He wasn't going much faster than if he'd been walking, but I bet he'd walk slowly too. He was probably reliving these glorious summer days we've been enjoying.

01 September 2008

Happy Labor Day!

scrubs bike Boston
To all those who work today - Thank You.