Author Archives: jm

Ron Werner

Ron Werner is a photographer who captured day-to-day common activities in New York, specifically in City Island. His family arrived to the USA by running away the nazis from his mother Austria. He opened a gallery called Focal Point Gallery to show his works at the beginning and finally he opened it to other artists, not only from the photo field but also from other artistic areas. Focal Point Gallery has evolved from an extremely large space, in which he also lived there, to a smaller one with impressive windows throughout which he used his camera in an efficiently way. Among all his photos, people with bikes emerge as icons. He affirms that he takes photos of bikers because it gives back memories when he was a boy and enjoyed pedaling.

Dom Whiting

The Covid pandemic made us modify our habits in many ways. Those people with a job in direct contact with other people suffered a stop or it was re-double as in the case of doctors and nurses. Dom Whiting belonged to the first group. He had worked as DJ in an event company and was open-minded enough to take advantage of the situation.

He modified his bicycle to include a mixing desk and a microphone on its handlebar, and carried on with outdoor music sessions in order for people to spend a good time dancing while pedaling. This active user of social nets has played in Dublin, Brussels or Barcelona to name a few. His parties include colored smoke bombs and confetti. To complement it, loudspeakers are attached to some other bicycles so that you can hear the music no matter where you are located in the pack. But the process of establishing a performance starts before since he first visits the city, them choose the route and finally pedal on it twice before the final event.

His passion for bikes started when going to school as it was the usual way of transport and he had continued using it to go to work from time to time.

Can e-bikes help in the fight against climate change?

E-bikes are criticized by traditional bickers as somewhat in between a car and a the common bicycle. It is clear that they do not pollute as much as a car, but neither do they use they only the energy of your legs. Rather, they need electricity for a propel functioning and all depends on the pool of energy the electricity comes from. For example, if you live in a country where all the energy is produced by renewable energy, that is OK, but if your country generates 20% of it from green sources and 80% from pollutant origins, then the e-bikes are not so environmentally friendly as one can thought. Still, it is better than a pollutant car, and environmental activism should be done to contribute to the change of the energy sources in the last country.

Some figures I have found on the carbon footprint related to e-bikes are the following:

– 75% is generated in the production process

– 15% goes to the batteries charging

– 10% compromises logistics, packaging and the recycling of the e-bike at the end of its life

– The carbon footprint of an e-bike is around 14 CO2 grams/km. Compare it with 150 CO2 grams/km of a car or the 60-80 CO2 grams/km of the public transport

Moreover, an e-bike consumes about 7 Wh. If a 500 Wh battery is incorporated to the same bike, it can travel more than 80 km. For a comparison purpose, this energy cost is similar to a microwave working for 30 minutes, a computer for 2 hours or a refrigerator for 60 minutes.

Besides, the cargo e-bike allows transporting impressive loads from common shopping to a piano. Indeed, more a more parcel deliveries are using them in what is called the last mile delivery which is usually done inside cities and villages.

Fietsenstalling Stationsplein

Utrecht, The Netherlands, is the home of the biggest subterranean bike parking in the world. This infrastructure is called Fietsenstalling Stationsplein and up to 12,500 bicycles can be parked here. It shows three levels, access ramps and direct connection to the Utrech train station. This 7,100 squared meters building costed 50 million Euros and received the Concrete Award and one the Architizer A+ Award in 2018.

Before building the Fietwenstalling Stationsplein, the former Centraal train station was an old, gray square next to Hoog Catharijne (a shopping center) and a big exhibition center as a legacy of the widely used urban style in Europe in the XX century. Fortunately, this urban style is being substituted. No only did the square name changed from Stationstraat to Stationsallee, but also it became in a spacious, ventilated new place for people with gardens and a fountain.

The Fietsenstalling Stationsplein counts with three levels, a workshop and round-the-clock vigilance. Moreover, it 1,000 public bikes are placed there so that if a visitor arrives in Utrecht by train, he or she can use one of such bicycles and move cheaply without polluting the city. Indeed, every level is dedicated to specific uses. Thus, public bikes are separated if you are a subscriber, long distance or sporadic user. The parking can be toured without stopping your bicycle thanks to ramps and screens at the end of every row in order for bikers to see if that row has empty parking spaces. A large canopy and openings in the exterior walls allow the parking to receive a lot of natural light.

This is a perfect example of bike+train intermodal mobility which is really inclusive since different actors from local authorities and pedestrians to transport company workers and, of course, riders were consulted in the process of designing the Fietsenstalling Stationplein.

Traveling with your bike and…

Intermodality is a concept in which a combination of two or more ways of transport are used to go from point A to B. When one of the ways of transport is a bicycle it is important to be aware of how the other way of transport works, specific legislation and so on.

Today, I offer some information if you want to use your bike and:

– Plane: All the plane companies allow you to bring your bike, but it greatly depends on the internal policy regarding aspects like size, packaging or cost. Some companies define bicycles as “special” luggage, whereas others refer it as “sports equipment”. Anyway, read the plane company internal policy. One point to take into account is that your bike will travel in the hold and you need to dismantle it and use flanges to form a unique object. Then, put it inside a cardboard or plastic box. When you arrive to your destination, your bike will not appear on general conveyor belts, rather you will find it on separate ones. As it comes to ebikes, batteries above 100 Wh are considered dangerous goods, so you should send them separately or hire an ebike at your destination.

– Train: Hopefully in your country the situation is different than in Spain. Here, groups of cyclists complaint about all the difficulties they have when combining bike plus train not only at stations, but also when it comes to train carriages. In AVE, Alvia, Intercity Euromed and Avant trains, bikes must be inside a bag or box which the sum of height, width and fund should be 180 cm or less to be considered hand luggage. Otherwise, it is regarded as special luggage and has not overpass 120x90x40 cm. The AVLO trains follow the 180 cm rule, while the Ouigo trains allow your bicycle if it weights less than 30 kg and the object is as much as 120x90x40 cm. The biker pays extra money for the bike in both cases.

– Bus: There are a myriad of bus companies in Spain and some allow you to bring your bike by free whereas others demand you to pay up to 15€. In all cases the bicycle is packed with maximum measure being 120x90x40 cm.

Juan Dual

Juan Dual is the kind of person who stops at nothing to enjoy life. He lost his stomach, colon, rectum and gall bladder due to a genetic disease which made him more prone to suffer from cancer. Whereas some people can become depressed under so devastating health changes, he took advantage of biking and humor to overcome problems. Indeed, he has a tattoo in his right forearm with the following message: Do not give much thought to things, rather do them.

After successfully being physically cured, he needed to cure his head. Everybody goes through tough issues and sometimes we forget the most important: We only have one life and must enjoy it. A simple and powerful idea. His bicycle helped him to avoid pessimism. The most difficult moment was when he started pedaling after all the surgery. Relatives and friends told him not to do sport sometimes because of fear or ignorance, or simply because love, but he disregarded them. Today he reckons that did the right thing and has rode mainly on Latin American countries and Spain.

As it comes to great trips, he follows the three days rule. He gives away everything he has not used in the first three days of route as a way to avoid overweight. Moreover, he recommends consulting everything about your desired great trip before starting it and do not be afraid asking locals for information.

Bikebus

It is said that bikebuses started in Brussels, Belgium, in 1998. But what is a bikebus? It is a secure and organized way to go to school by bicycle. It travels the neighborhood and makes stops in previously determined spots in order to allow bikers to sum to the bikebus, similarly as buses do. At the start there are only a few bikers, but the more pedaling and stops, the more riders. Thus, a pack of cyclists arrives at school. Participants share experiences, learn existence, increase their social skills and improve road safety knowledge while pedaling. Additionally, they start the day with extra energy. As it comes to the city, it is more quiet, secure and clean. Regarding children, a bikebus contributes to make independent, healthy and caring adults.

In Spain, bikebuses started more than a decade ago, but the boom was in Vic in 2020 when the teacher and mother Helena Villardel plus the associations Canvis en Cadena and Osona amb Bici agreed to create one. It was replicated in Barcelona almost instantly where they recorded a 11 seconds video and uploaded to Twitter. It was shared around the world and soon TV channels showed it. As a result, eleven bikebuses ran on Barcelona with more than 700 people every Friday in 2022.

Today, you can find bikebuses in Vienna, London, Melbourne, Washington, San Francisco, Mexico, Vancouver, Brooklyn, Bombay, Portland, Glasgow, Philadelphia, Santiago de Chile and Galway to name a few. To create a bikebus is needed to have five or six families who support a new one, determine the route and start pedaling. At the beginning, it will be a small bikebus, but the more children see it, the bigger bikebus. Parents will join it when their children want it. This is very important if the route crosses avenues and your city is dominated by cars. Adults block perpendicular streets as in the Critical Mass and police may help to do this task.

As Francesco Tonucci wrote in his book The city of children: If there are children playing in streets, it means the city is healthy. If not, it is ill”

Importance of lights

Bicycle lights are essential components when riding at night and under low-visibility conditions. They are compulsory in most cities. It sounds logical, but there are still bikers who do not use them nowadays. This is an unnecessary endangered situation in order to avoid crashes not only with cars, but also with pedestrians, pets and street furniture.

Some people say that there are two types of lights: To see, and others to see you. The first kind usually produces low light and other actors in street detects you when you are close. Moreover, it is difficult to identify bumps on the street. On the other hand, the second type of lights is able to illuminate the street and people spot you sometimes from distances above one hundred meters.

Public institutions carry on specific campaigns to promote the use of lights when riding a bike from time to time. Surprisingly, you can find street dispensers in which you can buy bicycle lights in Amsterdam. In another Netherlander city, the Hague, a parade with illuminated bikes is organized every year. Since you can imagine, it is a party at the beginning of November. Take into account that the dusk is at about 4 pm there. The organizers of De Haagse Fietslichtjesparade proposed it say hello to Winter and gathered 150 bikers from 4 to 88 years. The ride takes place on rich and poor neighborhoods and includes a special stop in order to drink hot chocolate to fight against cold.

Preparing a great trip

When one decides to start a great bike trip, it is always a good idea to think in advanced about what objects to take. Here you have a proposed list:

  • A bicycle: Obviously a bike is needed, but consider incorporate a rear rack and a front rack to carry all the necessary. Do not discard additional racks. As it comes to the bicycle frame, it is a good idea to choose a steel bicycle frame.
  • Mobile phone: Even if one of the targets of practicing cycle tourism, a mobile phone is helpful in a critical situation. Turn it off in order to save battery and focus on your path.
  • Cash: It is possible that you can not find cash machines or use cards in your great trip. Having cash at hand, without having too much, can open some doors.
  • Water: Hydration is basic when pedaling long distances. Approximately determine your daily stages to calculate whether or not you will be able to replenish your bicycle jerrycans.
  • Gloves: They protect from cold and humidity. Even good gloves can protect you from a fall.
  • Rain jacket: Select the lightweight one which do not take up too much space so as to avoid downpours.
  • Saddlebags: If you are thinking in a great trip, it is recommended to carry a triple saddlebag on the back carrier: one on each side and the third on the back carrier. Additionally, some rider use a smaller, double saddlebag on the front carrier.
  • Helmet: It uses to be compulsory outside cities. Select a helmet with good ventilation and better if it incorporates lights.
  • Powerbank: If you carry gadgets, you need a powerbank. Remember charging it when you have the possibility.
  • Lights: Front and rear lights are compulsory in most traffic regulations. If they are charged through USB, you can use the powerbank.
  • GPS (if your mobile phone does not include it): To check what is your next path. Or you can also bring paper maps.
  • Sleeping bag: There are several types of sleeping bags in the market and choose the most appropriate one depending on the climate and temperatures of the planned dates.
  • Multitool: A multitool can save your day when you have a mechanical problem in your bike. A multitool with a chain cutter is always a good idea.
  • Tire levers: When you are riding and suffer from a wheel puncture, tire levers help you to strip the inner tube of the wheel. It is better carry plastic tire levers rather than metallic ones since you will save weight.
  • Patches: Essential objects to solve a wheel puncture.
  • Two new inner tubes: This way you solving a puncture will take you less time. Moreover, if you change your inner tubes because of punctures, do not forget to solve the problems.
  • Rainproof trousers: Pedaling when raining is an experience, but too much rain can cause you problems. With rainproof trousers you can avoid them. Another option is to look for a cover place and wait until rain stops.
  • Glasses: Even if you do not use it normally, pedaling with glasses is a good idea to protect your eyes from sun and avoid mosquitoes entering your eyes.
  • Bike pump: A small one. When you solve punctures or put a new inner tube, you need to blow up it with a bike pump.
  • A basic first-aid kit: Bandage, hydrogen peroxide, plaster, gauze and anti-inflammatories.
  • Underwear: Three as much. You can wash them when you stop.

And remember, the most weight in your saddle bags, the most effort you make in your great trip.

How not to make a bike line

One of the strategies to improve the use of bicycles is to build bike infrastructures like buildings, bike lines, bike parks and so on. Bike lines should flow on roads and avoid sidewalks. It is better to put barriers between bike lines and car lines like bollards, bushes or cement or plastic objects. In some cases, only paint is used giving pictures such as the bellow photograph as a result. Interestingly as you can see, the bike line goes opposite way the car line which is also a one-way bike road. As a result, bicycles can ride the two sides. The problem that I see is that allowing cars to park so close to the bike line could provoke a clash between a distracted car driver and a biker (take into account that this picture was taken in Spain in which left-hand driving is official). Moreover, I feel there is little room in the street and some bad car drivers, like the one of the red car, take advantage of it by invading the car line. It would be better to transform the left parallel parking into a segregated bike line. This way the potential crashes would not take place.