Monday, May 25, 2015

If Bike Racks Could Talk...

Two examples of poorly placed bike racks. At left, the rack is around the corner from store's entrance along sidewalk. At right, the rack is positioned at one end of  strip mall, inconvenient for grocery store shopping.

Within our city I've encountered at least ten unique styles of bike racks. Some work better than others. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm thankful to be provided a rack, in whatever shape or form, at any business. In fact, 50% of stores are without any designated bicycle parking, and those that do, well, at least cycling is recognized, unfortunately as an afterthought. I was thinking about racks and placement and what works and what doesn't. Then I wondered, what if racks could talk? What story would they tell?

Perhaps it would go something like this:

Don't relegate me to the far corners of the lot like some afterthought to appease transportation cyclists. For heaven's sake don't place me beside the dumpster. You might discover banana peels hanging from the handle bars. Yeah we have a bike rack, but don't use me if you value your bicycle.
Put me in a highly visible spot, preferably in front of store windows.
The more foot traffic that passes by me the safer a cyclist feels leaving their bike locked and unattended. Shoppers will spend more time shopping instead of hurrying because they are worried about their bike's safety.

Leave lots of room around me.
More people are towing trailers behind their bike. And what about kids' safety? Parents need space for children waiting beside the rack. Shoppers also like ample room to organize purchases before packing up their bike.

Place me in an area free from wayward shopping carts.
My users like to avoid a bumper car experience. It does wonders for repeat business.

Bicycles signify the store is open for business.
What better advertising than me full of bikes? It announces to the public, "Open." much better than a sign on the door.

Bonus points if I'm under cover.
You'd be pleasantly surprised at the two wheel shoppers that will converge on your store, rain or shine.

Keep me painted.
A clean rack attracts users. Who wants to lock a shiny bike to a rusted, dilapidated bar? Might as well say, "I'm falling apart. Don't trust me."

All this is to say, no matter what style of  rack you place at your storefront, these simple rules will enhance and even attract bike commuters to your store. With the growing two wheeled transportation scene, why would you choose to avoid this growing market?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Burlington Streets Challenge - Learning to Observe

Burlington's central and South End portion. The North End is on the map's flip side.

The challenge has begun! Again, my mission is to ride every public road within Burlington's city limits in 2015. But first I had to define Burlington's border with South Burlington, a line that's always been fuzzy in my mind. I researched then marked my map in yellow border lines. To document the rides I've colored completed streets in red. After 3 rides, I've finished riding 20 streets.

Anniebikes rules:
  • List street names after riding entire length
  • It's okay to ride the sidewalk when a vehicle or construction blocks a road
  • Pay attention to trees, houses, signs, pets, people, etc. so a theme emerges, propelling me to snap photos
  • I have the authority to make up rules as I go, the idea being that it should remain a fun challenge

Spring decorations on Harrison Ave.

 A lovely tree on Harrison Ave.
At Burton Snowboards, I'd forgotten there was a ski lift traversing over the parking lot. The skate park behind the building was in use, if the noise was any indication! I love the birch trees.

One lane bridge in the South End, full of asphalt patches—a bumpy ride.

At first I didn't carry my map along with me. Unfortunately I made several diversions, unknowingly perusing some South Burlington neighborhoods, but as this is a voyage of discovery, it wasn't without it merits. I found the sweetest neighborhood along Lake Champlain - a microcosm all on it's own. There was a tiny communal park and each home had a garden, lakeside gazebo or overlook, many with chairs facing the lake—all pretty places for a cocktail at sunset.

As I headed home on a bike path—again in South Burlington—I decided to turn off onto a dirt path that I'd been curious about. Oh, the pleasures of exploration!

The single track trail circles an entire farm field. Along one edge there are interesting stone sculptures, with rusted farm implements sometimes interwoven (pulled from a nearby junk pile, common on farm steads).

This was my favorite view. I imagine it's a convention of trolls mingling, deciding where to move their gathering. I love the creature at the far left: white eyeballs atop its head.

See what a little wayward ramble gets you? Pretty cool huh?

I pushed my bike to the top of the hill.

At the summit is an interesting amalgam of stone and found implements fused into a monument, dedicated to peace in the world. The pendulum is constructed with barbed wire and stone. It was a perfect spot to watch the sky turning pink before heading home.

Completed Streets

  1. School Street
  2. Cedar Street
  3. Intervale Road
  4. Ward Street
  5. Kilarney Drive
  6. Mansfield Avenue
  7. Archibald Street
  8. Washington Street
  9. Lakeview Terrace
  10. Depot Street
  11. Poirier Place
  12. East Avenue
  13. Lakeside Avenue
  14. Conger Avenue
  15. Central Avenue
  16. Proctor Avenue
  17. Harrison Avenue
  18. Industrial Parkway
  19. Queen City Park Road
  20. Bilodeau Court

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Poor Bike Rack Design?

Had I not be in an automobile, stopped at a traffic light, I would have inspected the rack more closely. Clearly, there's signage and possibly instructions on those white squares at wheel height.
While on day trip to Montreal recently I spied this interesting bike rack. It is intriguing, to say the least, because for such a monstrous metal construction the rack only holds six bicycles. I wonder if there is some advantage I am unaware of because to use this contraption properly one must be able to lift their bicycle and finagle a U-lock in place at the same time—no easy feat!

I wonder if it is an experimental design. Or placed to raise awareness to unique rack design. Perhaps it's set there to start a conversation. Or was someone's thesis, surveying and video taping unsuspecting commuters scratching their heads, attempting to use the rack, all the while camera people are laughing behind the scenes. But one thing is for sure, it fails miserably as a rack for daily commuters using heavier bikes, especially bikes set up with front and rear racks, clearly evidenced by two of the four bikes in the photo.

I suspect I may be entirely missing the point of this rack—the more I observe its six-pointed stance, the arrow points remind me of something in nature or Calder-esque sculpture. Or maybe I'm reminded of Rivendell's fork blades advertised recently that indeed end in arrow-shaped axle clamps.

Montreal's public art appears all over the city—you just never know what you'll stumble across.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Riding the Trails at Sunny Hollow

Sunny Hollow Trails are only three miles from home. In recent years Fellowship of the Wheel, our local mountain bike club, has adopted and maintained this 5 mile network, once a haphazard system of walking trails on Colchester Park land, now adapted for bikes also. My husband and I walked most of the trails recently, realizing there are plenty of easy trails with enough intermediate level loops to satisfy everyone. In other words, perfect for a family ride.

On a "green" beginner trail.
I set out with our youngest son and his friend on a very hot day, however everyone was game and we brought plenty of water. It's been dry lately so trail conditions were just right. Insects have yet to emerge, another bonus.

My son and his friend rode over the 10' wide ramp. My son rode it a second time so I could snap a photo.
I was too chicken to even attempt it.
The boys led the entire way. "No offense," my son's friend said when I unintentionally started off first after a water break, "but you aren't riding a mountain bike."

I smiled. "Of course you can lead. But did you know that my bike was one of the first mountain bikes? From the 1980s. Before shocks were invented." My son confirmed this tidbit and we continued on.

Blue signs identify intermediate level trails.
The trails lack rocks and are often gently graded, even on switchbacks. There are many bridges for interesting riding with some roots to negotiate over or around. Sunny Hollow is a nice riding playground, good for about an hour's fun, and thus never crowded. We'll be back.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bike Parties - Inclusive or Uncomfortable?

Photo credit: 

I have a love hate relationship with bike party events. I hear about them in list serves, Facebook pages, etc. and promptly forget about when each event occurs until I stumble upon on a party in progress. Usually, it's when I'm riding around and encounter a mass of cyclists, ringing bells and yelling, approaching from a cross street. You can't miss their arm waving, funny hats, lack of helmets, rolling group 50-100 strong, taking the entire lane, pedaling through stop signs, traffic lights—otherwise known as a bike party.

And yet, people are riding bicycles en mass, attracting attention, enjoying fine weather, encouraging others to join their crowd. And, I must admit, there is something admirable about a group using two wheels to get to a destination after a tour around the city, and I am momentarily swept along with their enthusiasm, riding for a block or two if we're traveling in the same direction.

But, inevitably I break away from the group. I'm practically their grandma's age, uncomfortable with hooting and hollering, and frankly they end up at someone's home or apartment, drinking beer—the premise after all of bike party. Plus, riders break all the rules of the road—the very etiquette I've taught our children to abide by for safe cycling. More than anything, it's the unlawful bike conduct that grates on me.

Don't get me wrong. This age group tend toward radical antics anyway, staging sleep-ins on public property, holding protests, or more mild gatherings like car washes to support local charities. They have enthusiasm and gumption in spades. And the more I think about it, while I may not condone their cycling habits, at least young people are congregating, cycling to the beach, to friend's houses, to the store, and have left the car behind. Or, maybe youngsters can't afford a vehicle and have finally accepted the bicycle as viable transportation. Whatever the reason, perhaps bike party suits this age group just fine, and if they end up drunk, riding a bike home or walking because they are too inebriated to stay upright, well, isn't that safer than getting behind the wheel of an automobile?