Drive My Bike

Wow… Bicycles Outsold Cars For 1st Quarter of 2009!
May 28, 2009, 11:02 pm
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More people bought bicycles than cars? Yes they did.


According to The Huffington Post, in the first quarter of 2009, bicycle sales in the US were higher than automobile sales. There were 2.6 million bicycle purchases made, compared to less than 2.5 million automobile purchases.

One thing I found interesting in this article was that both industries suffered a decrease in sales compared to the same time last year. Bicycle sales are down more than 30%, but auto sales are down more than 35%.

Interesting statistics. The times… are they a changin’?

Another Poll: Do You Use A Bicycle Mirror?

One of the first accessories I bought when I started bike commuting was a mirror, and I immediately became dependent on it…


When I bought my first bike, a simple Schwinn Midtown comfort bike from Costco, it was not setup for commuting, and I went to a local bike shop for some advice. One of the first things he recommended was a Blackburn Handlebar Mirror. I bought it, and within a couple of rides I was immediately used to it being there. If you drive a car, and regularly check your side mirrors, then using a handlebar mounted bike mirror is very natural.

When I finished rebuilding my latest bike, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a mirror. The Trek came with end bars on the handlebars, and metal plugs on the ends of the handlebar tubes, so it would take some work to install the same Blackburn mirror I have on my Midtown. I was at the store looking at options, and I decided to try an inexpensive helmet mounted mirror. Installation was a snap, as it just fastens to your helmet with some double stick tape. I had heard that helmet mirrors are nice because you can get a wide field of view by turning your head to aim the mirror at what you need to see, so I was anxious to try this new mirror out. My first ride with the helmet mirror was on my Midtown, and I really had to fight the urge to just look at the handlebar mirror. It was kind of tricky to get the helmet mirror adjusted and aimed right, and it felt really strange to look up and to the left to see what was behind me. I’m happy to say that as I’ve ridden the Trek more I have gotten used to the helmet mirror, and it works reasonably well. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite at this point, because the experience with the two kinds of mirrors is very different, and I think they both have their positives and negatives.

So, that brings me to another opportunity to ask you what your preferences are when it comes to bicycle mirrors. As before, I’d love your comments as well as your votes.

Thanks for your feedback!

A Bike Transit Center With Showers, Parking, Repairs, Food

Our local mass transit agency, the Utah Transit Authority, made a bold proposal last night in favor of Bicycle Commuters. They held an open house to get public opinion about building a “Bike Transit Center” with indoor parking and all kinds of amenities for use by bike commuters.


According to their website:

A bicycle transit center is more than a few bike racks. It’s a resource that reinvents the park-and-ride lot for bicycle transportation. Bicycle transit centers could feature secure indoor bike parking, bicycle repairs, bike rentals, showers, a shop for bike accessories and refreshments, and cycling information including maps, classes, registration and more. A bicycle transit center has the ability to add more cyclists to streets and to transit like no other public amenity can.

The UTA recently opened a light rail system here called FrontRunner, and they have had so many bike commuters riding light rail that they have had to remove some seats to make room for the bicycles. Ever since gas prices have gone up there has been a large increase in those commuting by bike in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. According to a local newspaper:

The number of Utahns who use their bikes as commuting vehicles has increased. "Gas prices probably have something to do with it, but there has been a skyrocketing number of bicyclists out there," said Carrie Bohnsack-Ware, UTA spokeswoman.

"At one point, somebody in the office counted 23 bikes in one door of FrontRunner," Bohnsack-Ware said. "They were piling them on. And you know it’s not fair to riders without bicycles because they are having a hard time getting on and off. But then, we don’t want to say ‘no bicycles."’

UTA will study surveys it distributed Tuesday to determine how many people ride and what inconveniences block bicycling.

The bike transit center is "really preliminary," Bohnsack-Ware said. "There’s no money. We have no money yet to do anything."

The local Fox News affiliate did a story with some video here.

I’m encouraged that our local agencies are taking Bike Commuting so seriously. There are obviously some people there who have a vision for what kind of difference bicycles could make for public transportation. Unfortunately it looks like the budgeting and proposed timeline mean we won’t be seeing this facility anytime soon.

Local College Promotes Bike Commuting With Free Bike Rentals

I just found out that Westminster College, a local college here in Salt Lake City, offers students and faculty free bike rentals. How cool is that?


From their website:

Westminster Wheels is designed to provide alternative transportation and encourage Westminster students, faculty and staff to bike to their destinations on and around campus. Members of the Westminster community can check out a bicycle, helmet, light and lock from the campus concierge desk at no cost.  The potential uses for this program are as diverse as the Westminster student body.  People can bike to the grocery store, post office, the coffee shop or the bakery….

Last year, a group of students noticed the increased number of cars on campus, lack of carpooling, parking lot congestion, and winter smog. These students wanted to improve the city’s air quality, minimize campus traffic and maximize campus efficiency, so they designed a free bike program, modeled on similar campus and community programs around the country.

I think it is great to see organizations like this encouraging Bicycle Commuting, and then going the extra mile by helping people get past barriers that would keep them from getting started. If more programs like this were available it could change the face of transportation in this country.

Make Your Bike Commuting 800% Faster!

Sam Whittingham recently set a new world speed record for a bicycle at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, with a speed of 82.3 miles per hour!. If you haven’t seen this video, it is only 8 seconds long, so take 8 seconds and watch as Sam goes by doing 82mph on the custom built Varna Diablo III bicycle!

Wow, that is fast! You can read more about this record setting project on

So, I was thinking that if I could do that I could cut my commute time from 18 minutes down to less than 4 minutes. Shazam!

But I see a few problems with that:

  • I didn’t see a rack anywhere on that bike, so I’m not sure where I would put my panniers
  • It would be a bit difficult to obey posted speed limits, and would probably lead to some speeding tickets.
  • It would be hard not to fall over while stopping for red lights, and motorists would probably be so offended at my passing them that none of them would be willing to help right me.
  • Where do you park a bike like that? How do you lock it up?

Bummer, because it sure would be fun!

Thanks to my friend Matthias for sharing this story with me.

When Good Cars Go Bad (Another Reason For Bike Commuting)
September 18, 2008, 2:50 pm
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Today I was making my lunch and I heard a strange noise outside. It wasn’t a noise that I recognized… in fact it was one of those noises where you don’t know what it is but it makes you think that something isn’t quite right. So, I looked in front of my house and this is what I saw…

Car In Fence

It seems that my neighbor had forgotten to set the parking brake on her car, so when she went inside the car decided to take matters into its own hands, and with the help of gravity, it rolled across the street, jumped the curb, and stopped at my fence!

Well, vinyl fencing is flexible, and as you can see in the picture, it was flexing. At the end of it all no harm was done, and we had a good laugh out of it.

Now… if she did her commuting by bike, instead of by car… none of this would have ever happened. Yet another reason that bike commuting makes the world a better, safer place.

Have a good day, and watch out for those evil cars! 🙂

Top 10 Reasons to Be A Bike Commuter
September 11, 2008, 7:52 am
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  1. You feel pretty green, and green is good.
  2. Passing cars that are stuck in rush hour traffic is awesome.
  3. It’s fun watching the people around you come up with excuses why they can’t bike commute.
  4. Getting back at all of those people that said you were crazy when you told them you were going to start riding your bike to work.
  5. Riding around on a bike makes you remember how fun it was when you did that as a kid, only now you look a lot cooler.
  6. Seeing the look of amazement on the grocery store clerk’s face when you ask her to put your groceries in your panniers, and she says "You rode your bike here?"
  7. Realizing that you can ride a lot farther than you think you can.
  8. Spandex is optional.
  9. Doing something fun and getting exercise at the same time – "Accidental Fitness".
  10. Getting to your destination with less stress than you started with.

I’ve had this list brewing for a while. It’s not perfect, but I finally tweaked it enough that I figured I’d go ahead and post it.

What do you think? What would you put on your top 10 list of reasons for bike commuting?

Learn To Bicycle Safely!
August 27, 2008, 1:46 pm
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I just found the best site I’ve ever seen about bicycling safely in city traffic. This site does a great job of explaining the most common risks, as well as giving several strategies to avoid them. The diagrams and explanations are clear and easy to understand. Stop by and take a look at because it just could save your life.

Really… do it… I was able to read most everything in about 10 minutes… and that 10 minutes could mean the difference between life and death on your next ride.

Thanks to the Crazy Commuting Cyclist for his post about bicycle safety.

3 Challenges With 100% Bike Commuting
August 2, 2008, 10:49 am
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I’ve been reading lots of bicycling blogs lately. Yeah, pretty much every bicycling blog I can find… probably too much. I’ve been inspired as I read about people that have managed to live their lives 100% by bicycle. Some of them don’t even own cars anymore. The thought of no car payment, no car insurance, and no worry about gas prices is certainly a compelling idea. Right now I don’t think it’s realistic for me to not own a car, but I have been trying to move as close to 100% bike commuting as I can. In the last month I have come up against three challenges, so I thought I’d mention them here to see what ideas readers have.j0402711

1) Last Minute Trips (with close deadlines)

Several times last month I had to make short to medium length trips that would be great for a bike ride, but they came up at the last minute and I had to be there as soon as possible. I was going to be late, or almost late, if I drove my car, so I would have been quite a bit later had I ridden my bike. The problem is not just that the actual ride takes longer, but that it takes a bit longer for me to get ready to ride than to just grab my car keys and hit the road. One morning last week I was planning to work from home, but when I sat down at my laptop I realized that my DSL was down and I had no Internet access, which is essential for work. I needed to be online within 45 minutes for a team meeting. I knew I could drive to the office in 15 minutes, or I could try to hurry and get ready and ride my bike to the office.  I decided to ride my bike, and it all worked out ok, so I was glad I made that choice. I left almost an hour later than I normally do, and the heat of the day was already present, so I was quite a bit soggier than normal when I got to the office, which leads into…

2) Showing Up Hot & Sweaty at Social Engagements

Like most people who ride their bikes to work, I have a strategy to deal with my sweaty, stinky self once I get to the office. My commute is just over 5 miles, and takes a little under 20 minutes. If I leave early enough the air is still cool from the morning, and the temperature is reasonably pleasant, so I don’t perspire that badly. When I get to the office I usually take about 15-20 minutes to cool down, during which time I’ll get my work area setup, check my email, catch up with my co-workers, etc. Once I’ve cooled down then I will towel off with a moist towel, spray on some good smelling stuff, change my shirt, and deal with my “helmet hair”. No big deal.

But… what about riding to other social engagements? Last month I decided to get more serious about bike commuting, so twice I rode my bike to have dinner with a friend. The first place we went was just fast food, so I didn’t feel too bad showing up red faced and drenched in perspiration. The second place we met was a decent restaurant. It was in the early evening, and the ride was HOT (upper 90s) so I was thoroughly drenched when I got there. I was about 5 minutes early, and felt a bit self conscious as I walked in the door all hot and sweaty with my helmet, gloves, water bottle, and panniers. (I had to stop at the store on the way home, so I brought along my Novara grocery panniers, but brought them inside with me so they wouldn’t get stolen). I told the host that I was waiting for a friend, and he had a puzzled look on his face as he asked if I wanted to be seated right away. I told him that I’d just wait a few minutes, and I sat down in the waiting area, trying to cool down.  Once my friend arrived and we were seated I went to the restroom and splashed some water on my face and tried to towel off with paper towels as best i could. It worked out fine, and I don’t think I offended any of the other guests, but it was a bit awkward.

Another incident happened just last week when I got a late night phone call to go visit a friend who was in the hospital. The hospital is very close by, but that is not the kind of social call where I wanted to have to worry about my bike, my gear, and my sweaty self, so I drove my car.

3) Hauling Big Stuff Around

I play guitar in a band at my church, and we practice one night a week. I just go straight to practice after work, so on that day I am hauling my music stuff around with me. It can be anything from a backpack of music and an acoustic guitar, to several guitars and a bag of electronic equipment. Needless to say, it is not the kind of thing that is easily carried on a bicycle. Notice I use the words “easily carried”. I have seen some amazing pictures of the way some bicyclists use an XtraCycle or a trailer to haul things around. Someday that might be an option for me, but for now I don’t own that kind of hauling equipment, so I’m limited to what I can fit on my back and in my panniers. I have tried to be creative, and just leave my music stuff at church. That almost works, but it means I can’t practice at home, which isn’t an option. I have had my wife drop off my music stuff at the church if she is out running errands in the neighborhood, and that works out very well, but she can’t do that every week. So, for now, this is probably my biggest challenge to always riding my bike for my daily commutes. I am riding my bike for most things, but getting to 100% is still something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

One of the things I have admired about passionate bike commuters is the creativity they have shown to solve these kinds of challenges. Where there is a bike commuting will there certainly seems to be a bike commuting way.  So what about you? Do you have any creative solutions for me? Do you have any challenges that you would add to my list?

A New Measurement: BPM = "Bicyclists Per Mile”

Wow… it was almost crowded on my ride in to work this morning! I saw eleven other bicyclists on the road, over the five miles that I ride from home to work. I have never really kept track of how many I see, but I’m sure that is a new record!Measurement

I have been bike commuting for almost two months now, and I’m sure the number of bicyclists on my route has at least doubled, if not tripled.  I remember the first couple of days it seemed like I was lucky if I saw two or three other cyclists on the road.

All this got me thinking that it might be fun to actually start tracking that number to see if I can put some data behind the trend. So… I propose a new unit of measurement: BPM or “Bicyclists Per Mile”. Coming up with that figure is relatively simple… Count the bicyclists you see on your commute, add one for yourself, then divide that total by the number of miles in your commute.

So for today I would have 11 + 1 = 12, 12 divided by 5 = 2.4 Bicyclists Per Mile (BPM)

So, I would ask all of you who read this blog to start tracking BPM when you ride. I’m going to do this, and see how things change over the next few weeks.  Is this scientific?… Are you kidding? We’re having fun here, remember?

Now go figure out the BPM for your next ride! 🙂