The Valley’s Bikeability?

Interview from KAET’s Arizona Horizon on bicycling in the Valley. Biking is only as good as if it can get you where you want to go safely!

Quick hit for the morning: The Bicycle Cellar alerted me to this interview and video piece from KAET’s Arizona Horizon that talks about bicycling in the Valley. Biking is only as good as if it can get you where you want to go safely.

iOS 6 and transit maps?

…in which we wonder about Apple’s new mapping application.

On Monday, Apple is set to release the sixth major version of iOS, its mobile operating software. Normally, however, changes are a good thing and each new version of iOS has been better than the last.

One of the big stories that’s flying around in this weekend before iOS 6 is formally announced is that Apple is dropping from Google Maps in favor of using its own mapping solution. Apple and Google have been trading punches lately and Apple has purchased several mapping companies. Of course, these are all rumors and we won’t know for sure until Monday morning. But if the rumors are true, then I’m sure that Apple will call their new mapping application “amazing,” “revolutionary,” “magical,” and other synonyms.

But, will it really be that?

I’m sure that it will be aesthetically pleasing. And that the graphics will be great. But one of the best features of Google Maps — and the big reason why I use it — is that Google Maps offers transit directions. You see, I don’t have a car. The option for me to get reliable directions to get from Point A to Point B via transit, as in the screen capture on the right, is absolutely mission-critical.

The other problem, at least for Phoenix, is that Valley Metro is very protective of their transit schedules. It took several years after Google Transit’s launch before one could plan transit trips here in Phoenix. If there is a transit feature in Apple’s new maps, what data will be there? I highly doubt that Phoenix’s will be there at launch.

Thankfully, we can still access Google Maps via the browser. But a native app was so much better. Ah, there’s something to be said about restricting an ecosystem.

Urban Fail: Bicycle Cellar at the Security Building isn’t happening

Another sad day for downtown Phoenix: The much-anticipated project to place a second store of The Bicycle Cellar here isn’t happening.

photo credit: ASU

The Phoenix New Times’ Jackalope Ranch blog reports this evening that Maricopa County has decided to stop plans for The Bicycle Cellar, a bicycle commuter support station and retail space, from going in the County-owned Security Building at 234 N Central Ave in downtown Phoenix.

Plans to place a Bicycle Cellar bike station in the long vacant ground floor of the historic Security Building now appear to be all but dead despite gaining initial approval from the Maricopa County Facilities Resource Panel back in January.

“Unfortunately, the Bike Cellar project has in fact been cancelled,” said Jonce Walker, Maricopa County Sustainability Manager and shepherd of the project for the county.

The project was not included in the 2012-13 fiscal year tentative budget, which was approved by the county Board of Supervisors on May 21. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted on June 18.

This is a tremendous loss for the emergent bicycle culture that’s developed in central Phoenix over the past years. Scores of organizations — from downtown businesses to surrounding neighborhoods — supported this project. It’s a shame that it won’t be happening and that the lobby of the historic 1928 Security Building will remain vacant.

What’s also a shame is that the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, Phoenix’s preeminent space for urban leaders and thinkers, is going away as well. Too bad that there’s no creativity.

Another sad day for downtown Phoenix. When will we have some good news for a change?

METRO light rail bicycle survey

METRO light rail wants your input on bicycle accessibility and integration on its trains and stations. Take this two-minute survey.

Increasing bike integration with the METRO light rail system will serve to expand the catchment areas in the first and last miles of travel. This will help to accommodate the growing demand of bicyclists and pedestrians, and will effectively grow METRO into a more complete and accessible system.

METRO light rail is looking for your feedback. If your commute involves biking and riding METRO light rail, please take this quick two-minute survey.

Click this link or the picture to get started.

Systems and Sustainable Transportation

…in which I look at transportation as a system — not as bits and pieces — and ask others to join me.

Something’s been on my mind lately. (Well, when isn’t that the case?)

A lot of people have mentioned the rise of the so-called “bicycle culture” here in Phoenix.  I’m not sure what that means, though: what is bicycle culture?  If it’s not a hipster movement, the bicycle culture advocates for bicycle transportation as the mode of transportation in urban environments.

Don’t get me wrong: I love bicycling—even in the desert.  I have a bicycle that I use to get around central Phoenix that I’ve christened as Kierkegaard, after the Danish existentialist philosopher.  The picture here is of my bicycle at one of the light rail stations here in town.  It is my equivalent of a car since I don’t have a car.  I agree that there needs to be better bicycle infrastructure in this city and around the world.

Actually, I should come out here and share this with the world: I don’t have a driver’s license.  In fact, I’ve never had one.  I am sure that I’m going to have to get one at some point; for now, it’s a point of personal pride that I’ve gotten this far without needing one.

As I see it, bicycling is part of a greater system: sustainable transportation.  I think that this is where the bicycle culture people are missing a key piece to their advocacy.  The other two components of that sustainable transportation system are public transportation and walking.  It’s not about promoting one modality over the other or saying that one is superior to the other.  It’s about recognizing that sustainable transportation is a system and that all modalities are connected to each other.

I have taken Kierkegaard (the bicycle) on the trains here many times when my final destination is just outside of the reach of my pedaling power.  Bike to train to bike to destination: it’s about the journey and the destination.

We’ll go farther together than separately.

Bicycle Tech: iPhones and Bicycling?

…in which I add a smartphone component to bicycles and bicycling.

As a technology fan, I like following along with all the cool ways in which technology is embedded in various things. At the risk of sounding somewhat hypocritical, I’m a fan of the “connected cars” movement. I think that there needs to be some sort of safety feature that disables user intervention with that tech when the car is in motion. But I generally like how cars are becoming more aware of their surroundings.

I don’t have a car. I have a bicycle. Before I got my bicycle, I researched some software for bicycling and found that the iPhone’s marketing slogan is true here: there’s an app for that. I bought an iPhone mount for my bike and downloaded a couple cycle computer apps: Cyclemeter ($4.99) and BikeBrain (free download, $1.99 in-app upgrade).

Screen capture of the Cyclemeter appThe advantage that an iPhone cycle computer has over a traditional hard-wired cycle computer is that the iPhone can do more things than just figure out how fast you’re going and where you are in space. It’s your bicycle’s built-in stereo system: the speaker is pretty loud and rather impressive. Need to figure out the best route? Use Google Maps to give you some bicycle directions. The list goes on and on. (I haven’t tested telephone calls while moving yet. I have a feeling that might not work. Something I refuse to test: texting.)

There’s one major caveat to the iPhone as a cycle computer: It uses GPS to calculate everything and there is a definite delay of about three seconds in the system. (That might not seem like much but 3 seconds traveling at 13 mph is about 60 feet in distance.) When you start your trip, you have to wait for the iPhone to receive GPS signals–and when it does, you’ll get some initially erroneous readings as the iPhone places where you are in space.

Caveats aside, it’s still a good thing to have. I’m still testing out both apps. Cyclemeter is a very robust app that has a myriad of features beyond the basic functions of a cycle computer. Cyclemeter has a text-to-speech engine that will speak to you at pre-defined intervals of a distance or time. A very cool feature is that it will read you your Facebook notifications as they come in or Twitter replies and DMs. A lot of Cyclemeter’s features are for recreational or competitive cycling; for instance, one can define routes and have competitions against one’s self or against others. In fact, the screen captures I have in this post are from Cyclemeter.

BikeBrain is a much simpler app. It’s a free download; however, if you want a couple more features, you can purchase an in-app upgrade. It doesn’t speak to you nor does it read you your Facebook notifications. What it has that Cyclemeter doesn’t have is a map. The compass is a bit directionally challenged but that might just be my iPhone or my part of the world. A very neat feature of BikeBrain is that it’s a feel-good app: It will tell you how much CO2 you haven’t emitted by riding a bicycle instead of driving a car. On my trips today to and from the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, a distance just under four miles, I saved about 2 lbs in CO2 emissions by riding a bicycle instead of driving a car. (Go me!)

Map view of Cyclemeter, showing accuracy of GPS trackingBoth apps, because they are essentially GPS apps, will track your location and plot where you are and where you’ve been on a map. I think that Cyclemeter’s map is a bit more accurate. On a trip up and down 3rd Ave in midtown Phoenix, Cyclemeter mapped which side of the street I was on pretty accurately. There’s a tradeoff: to do that, Cyclemeter has to poll GPS signals rather frequently and that goes through your iPhone’s battery very quickly. BikeBrain’s map isn’t as detailed as Cyclemeter’s but I think that it’s because it doesn’t poll GPS position as frequently.

As I learn more about both apps, I’ll share them here. What apps are you using to make your urban cycling experience more enjoyable? Or are you a purist and just enjoying all the scenery as it goes by, laughing because you’re in the environment instead of being in a metal box?

Keep Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding in Federal Transportation!

…in which I express concern over HR 7, the latest Federal transportation bill that would gut sustainable transportation funding.

[source: League of American Bicyclists] We need you to help us maintain pressure on Congress for a smart, modern transportation bill. Both chambers of Congress are moving towards floor debates on their versions of the bill, so we are again asking you to take action.The current Senate transportation bill (MAP-21) weakens walking and biking programs. To improve the bill, we’re asking senators to vote for a bipartisan amendment to guarantee local governments a voice in transportation decisions and allow them to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that keep people safe.

In the House, we are asking representatives to oppose the House transportation bill. Despite the fact that walking and bicycling infrastructure is a low-cost investment that creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, the House bill eliminates dedicated funding for walking and biking altogether.

Senate: Support the bipartisan Cardin-Cochran amendment
As written, the Senate’s transportation bill removes dedicated funding for walking and biking and allows state DOTs to opt-out of safe street programs. The Cardin-Cochran amendment ensures local governments can fund walking and biking infrastructure.

Tell your senators:
  • Local governments deserve a voice in transportation. The Cardin-Cochran amendment ensures that cities and counties have a voice in making transportation decisions for safer streets in their communities.
  • Safety matters. Bicycle and pedestrian deaths make up 14% of all traffic fatalities, but only 1.5% of federal funds go      towards making walking and biking safer. These programs provide funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that make streets safe for all users.
  • Active transportation is a wise investment. Walking and biking infrastructure is low-cost, creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, and is critical to economic development for main street America.
House:  Say “NO” to H.R. 7
On the other side of Congress, the House is about to consider a transportation bill that reverses 20 years of progress in making streets safer for people. Despite the fact that walking and biking make up 12% of trips but receive only 1.5% of federal funding, the House bill eliminates dedicated funding for walking and biking. It’s time to defeat this bill.
Tell your representative:
  • HR 7 takes us back to the 1950s. HR 7 takes us back to a 1950s system by eliminating dedicated funding for biking and walking AND kicking   transit out of the highway trust fund. We need a transportation bill to meet 2012 needs, not 1950 needs.
  • HR 7 doesn’t invest wisely. Federal transportation laws should invest our finite resources in cost-effective, efficient infrastructure solutions that create jobs and keep the economy moving. The House bill eliminates walking and biking, despite the fact that walking and bicycling infrastructure is low-cost and creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway funding.
  • HR 7 makes streets more dangerous for kids. By repealing the successful and effective Safe Routes to School program, the House bill makes the streets more dangerous for kids on their walks and bike rides to school.
Congress needs to know that that finding effective, efficient transportation solutions to keep people safe on the streets should be a national priority. Please contact your representative and senators today.

My new bicycle!

…in which I share the good news: I have a new bicycle!

I decided to get a bicycle! It’s a 1980’s Kabuki bicycle made by the same people that make Bridgestone tires. The crew at The Bicycle Cellar in downtown Tempe meticulously refurbished this cycle with new cables, new brakes, new accessories, and an extended seatpost and handlebars. It’s an absolute thrill to ride!

Over the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, part of this blog will be dedicated to my adventure with cycling in downtown Phoenix. I’ll write down my hints that I’ve learned as a new cyclist, share advice I’ve learned from others, review some interesting technology, rant about the Phoenix metropolitan area’s bicycle infrastructure, and share some miscellaneous ephemera.

With that, I invite you to join me on this ride. Getting to our destination doesn’t have to be solely about arriving. It’s about the journey. Put the helmet on, pack up, and let’s get moving!