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News and commentary from the world of biking and walking.

A photo of a sandwich, a mug of coffee, a bicycle helmet, and a GoPro camera on a counter.

My 2022 Coffeeneuring Challenge results

The 2022 Coffeeneuring Challenge has come to an end, and here are my results. This is my second time documenting my rides by video.

If you’re new to Coffeeneuring, you can read about it here on its official website.

Last year, I used the Coffeeneuring Challenge as an opportunity to video-document some typical bike rides in my community. You can see a summary of that year’s effort here. For this round, I picked up the GoPro again but took a slightly different approach. Instead of hosting on YouTube, I used TikTok (and mirrored the videos on Instagram).

I don’t have any strong preference to any platform, but so far TikTok has been the best at connecting my videos with like-minded bicycle riders. I had to get used to trimming the footage down into bite-size lengths, but that also seemed like a good exercise for distilling their most valuable parts. In the end, I believe these are much better than my videos from last year.

These are the details for each ride. I drank coffee in all of them.
Ride #DateTotal milageLocationVideo
1October 83.9 milesMidtown CoffeeWatch on TikTok
2October 96 milesIron Bank CoffeeWatch on TikTok
3October 196.4 milesStarbucksWatch on TikTok
4October 226.3 milesFountain City CoffeeWatch on TikTok
5November 13 milesParker's PantryWatch on TikTok
6November 63.9 milesBurger KingWatch on TikTok
7November 123 milesLakebottom ParkWatch on TikTok

I tried to include a diverse group of locations and routes. This mostly consisted of hip, photogenic cafés, but also some decidedly un-cool chains like Burger King. Biking and hot beverages don’t exist in a bubble, after all. We should be able to bike anywhere in our communities.

You can see more about each individual ride in their respective videos (if you don’t mind dealing with TikTok’s interface). My objective was to convey what it’s like to ride to each of these places. Hopefully, people who don’t ride much outside of bike paths can see these trips as new possibilities.

As always, it was a pleasure to see other bicyclists share their Coffeeneuring trips on social media. One of the best parts of this challenge is the (virtual) camaraderie as we all get out and celebrate our rides.

A special thanks is owed to the Coffeeneuring organizers. And I look forward to next year!



World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2022

November 20 is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. This is a global event to remember the people killed or injured in traffic, to pay tribute to emergency responders, and to advocate for ending traffic violence.

Find out more on the official website.

People are holding World Day of Remembrance events around the United States and worldwide. Their site has a list of events here. Even if you aren’t able to participate in one, then this is also an opportunity to simply help spread the word, for example, on social media (hashtag #WDoR2022).

Traffic violence was once a much more controversial topic here in the US. We even used build monuments to collectively commemorate its victims. But, in recent decades, political and corporate interests have been largely successful at normalizing it. With traffic deaths getting worse year after year, we need every opportunity we can get to reverse this trend.

This blog has often written about the victims of road traffic violence. You can read a few of my articles from the past year:

On this year’s World Day of Remembrance, we can hope that we will move closer to ending traffic violence worldwide.


Is Daylight Saving Time good for bicycling?

We in the U.S. turned our clocks back this week, ending Daylight Saving Time until next year. DST gets a lot of flak from the public. It confuses us for two days every year, and pseudoscientific myths surround it. For better or worse, making DST permanent has become politically popular now. But that may not be a bad thing, at least not for biking and walking.

Popular Mechanics published this article last spring, “Daylight Saving Time Is Actually a Good Thing,” which challenges the notion that DST’s benefits are only imaginary. Its thesis boils down to this: more of us go outside in the evening than in the morning, so giving us more daylight during that time helps us stay happy and safe. The list of activities that decrease during DST months includes: crime, traffic crashes, and watching TV. On the other hand, the outdoor industry benefits from it.

The article cites scientific studies to back-up this claim, but I think the basic idea seems obvious. We all go outside more when it’s light and less when it’s dark. Daylight makes us safer, both in the outdoors and in car traffic. Without daylight, we just say inside and watch TV.

I’ve met numerous bicycle riders who avoid biking at night, and we all know how unsafe it can feel walking outside in the dark. If we had the power to give these people more sunlight, then why shouldn’t we do that?

We all don’t like changing our clocks twice a year, but if Daylight Saving Time was permanent, then that wouldn’t be a problem anymore. That is what the Sunshine Protection Act proposes. The act is currently stalled in congress, but several states are now pushing to do the same thing themselves.

So, does DST help biking and walking? I don’t have any hard evidence, but only because I’m not aware of anyone who tried to measure it yet. However, that hypothesis is consistent with the similar studies I’ve seen. With the possibility of permanent DST on our horizon, I believe that we would be remiss to not test this theory.


Children’s “bike bus” is a success, cheered on by residents

It’s not really a bus, more like a caravan, but children in Portland are parading their way to school on bicycles thanks to a PE teacher’s program.

The Washington Post has the full story here.

The bike bus has become the students’ favorite way to get to school. The community likes it because it reduces congestion and pollution caused by buses and cars — while also promoting physical activity and fostering community.

“When we do bike bus, people come out of their homes and watch us. It’s kind of like a parade,” Downard said. “It’s palpable, the excitement in the neighborhood and community, and how much joy everyone gets just by seeing kids going to school and being happy and exercising.”

The idea began as a “walking bus” (walking to school, what an idea!) before it morphed into its current bicycle form. But in both versions, its success was partially due to how much the local community supported it.

Sam Balto, the bike bus’ creator, has written a short guide here on how you can start a bike bus of your own.

It’s hard to not feel hopeful when seeing this happen. We definitely need more heartwarming success stories like it.


A simple, low-cost plan for building your own bicycle trailer

For all you DIY aficionados, the Low-Tech Lab website has a new guide for building a bike trailer with hand tools and up-cycled materials. There’s no welding required!

Read the full guide here: “Simple wooden bike trolley - hand tools only - back wheel attachment.”

I haven’t had a chance to build it myself, but the instructions look easy, and it includes plenty of diagrams and photos. The author also indicates that they will update this guide as they continue to improve the trailer they made.


Photo of a roadside memorial.
A roadside memorial in Levittown, New York. Photo credit: Paultristis on Wikipedia.

The “most dangerous road for cyclists in America” gets profiled in Bicycling Magazine

Bicycling Magazine published a brutal report about what it describes as the most dangerous road for bicycles in America, Hempstead Turnpike. It illustrates so much of what’s wrong with our transportation system.

You can read the article here: “The Making of a Monster” by Dan Schwartz.

The whole story is powerful, and a summary could not do it justice. It focuses on the death of Andrew, a thirteen-year-old child who was struck by a car while biking, but it uses that as an anchor to discuss our epidemic of traffic deaths. These are disturbingly common across the country to the point where they’ve become numb statistics.

One detail that stuck out to me was how Andrew’s grieving family tried to sue the state for their son’s death, but they only have a case if they can prove that the road has a design flaw. Unfortunately for them, it seems to follow engineering standards exactly.

Their story exposes just how deeply institutionalized our deadly car culture has become. Death after death is spun as the victim’s fault, and responsible parties are shielded by a bureaucracy that doesn’t consider regular fatalities to be a “flaw.” The article also points out that the year of Andrew’s death was a year of all-time-high car sales, hardly a coincidence. These tragedies should be horrifying, but instead we treat them as the cost of doing business with the car industry. At best, they’re just another statistic.


California enacts the Freedom to Walk Act

The state of California has enacted their Freedom to Walk Act. This is the latest in our national trend to legalize walking by removing dated “jaywalking” laws.

America Walks has a summary:

As silly as that sounds, jaywalking laws were created by the auto industry in the 1930s as vehicle ownership started to increase. The goal was to keep people off the streets and make room for vehicles as they started to become a normalized way of transportation.

This act will do the following:

  • Decriminalize safe, commonsense street crossing, when traffic permits, whether or not a pedestrian is within a marked/unmarked crosswalk.
  • Remove a pretext for over-policing that has disproportionately hurt Black and Latinx Californians.
  • Recognize the rights of pedestrians to fair and equitable use of our public roadways.
  • End a traffic enforcement practice that places an undue financial burden on low-income residents through fines, fees, and penalties without increasing safety.

This is a reminder that, until about 90 years ago, walking in the street was a completely normal and legal behavior. Even if car-dominated streets seem natural to someone born today, that status-quo mainly exists by government fiat. We are now seeing more and more communities working to change that.


Boston Globe: “I finally biked to work. Was it worth it?”

Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung has an article about her first time bike commuting. She writes, “the experience was mentally exhausting, at once harrowing and cathartic.”

You can read the entire article here.

This story illustrates the major barriers that still exist for bike-curious people. A ride for a beginner can feel stressful and dangerous. Some of us are dedicated enough to put up with that, but we can’t expect everyone to.

Leung concludes by saying she’s not sure if she’ll bike to work again, but she still “couldn’t stop thinking about how I could bike more and drive less in other parts of my life.”

She cites statistics that show she is not alone. There are many people like her that want to bike more, but they aren’t willing to overcome the barriers.

As we make mobility options more equitable in our communities, we see more people choosing the ones they really want, not just the ones they’re forced to use.


Coffeeneuring Challange banner image.
Image credit: Chasing Mailboxes.

Coffeeneuring Challenge returns in 2022 for its twelfth year

Fall is here, which means Coffeeneuring weather. Coffeeneuring is the annual challenge where we ride our bikes and drink hot, autumnal beverages. Although we call it a challenge, this is a laid-back event that anyone who rides a bike can join.

The full rules are posted on the Chasing Mailboxes website, but here’s the short version:

  • between October 7 through November 20, 2022,
  • ride your bike to 7 different places,
  • at least 2 miles round trip each time,
  • drink 7 cups of coffee (or another fall-type beverage), and
  • document your coffeeneuring (either photos, Strava tracks, journal entries, control card, etc.).

The official website’s rules also describe how to submit your rides and get a finishing prize at the end of the challenge, so you will definitely want to check that out.

Readers of this blog may remember that I video-journaled last year’s challenge. I might do that again this time, but the nice thing about Coffeeneuring is that you can always do it in your own style. You can ride almost anywhere you want and document it however you want. It’s all about just riding your bike, enjoying hot drinks, and having fun.


A photo of a group of fancy women riding bicycles.
Photo credit: Fancy Women Bike Ride.

Over 200 cities participated in the 2022 Fancy Women Bike Ride

The Fancy Women Bike Ride is an international event where women dress up in fancy clothes and ride bicycles as a group. The event celebrates World Car Free Day and aims to push cities to create welcoming spaces for women to cycle. This year, on September 18, over 200 cities around the world hosted it.

You can learn more about the program on their official website. Here’s an excerpt from their manifesto:

Every year on World Car Free Day, women will be on the streets with their bikes to show that everyone can ride a bike, and it is even possible to cycle with a fancy dress. Woman’s visibility in urban spaces is key to claim the right to the city. Cycling is a particularly powerful way for women to become visible in the society and a complete new way to interact with the city. Fancy Women Bike Ride is an event for women, organized by women to remember the liberating joy of cycling and to inspire more women to use bicycle in the cities.

The event began in 2013 in Izmir, Turkey, and now it’s grown into an international movement. Several cities in the United States participated this year, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and Tampa in the Southeast.

All of the local events are organized by volunteers. If you wish your town could participate, their official website has contact information to help you get it started. They’re also active on various social media platforms.

Next year’s Fancy Women Bike Ride will be held on September 17, 2023.


The first data on U.S. pandemic-era bike commuting is here

The League of American Bicyclists has new reports based on federal data for how Americans are commuting without cars, available on data.bikeleague.org.

You can read their announcement about the new data here.

These listed reports are especially notable:

The data portrays a mixed bag of news. The pandemic disrupted our status-quo of how people commuted to work. More specifically, many people stopped commuting entirely. With that context, it may not be surprising to see that biking and walking commutes also dropped. Almost everywhere in the nation has fewer people biking and walking to work compared to two years ago.

What the data does not capture is that many areas have experienced a “bike boom” during the pandemic, attributed to reduced car traffic and people’s need to get outdoors. We can see that the boom has not spread to commute patterns, at least not that are reported. The announcement notes that this data only represents about 10% of all biking and walking trips.

However you read into these reports, it seems clear that we’re not yet at a tipping-point where most people are ready to start biking and walking instead of car-commuting. We still have a lot of progress to make.


The 2022 Climate Bill subsidizes cars at the expense of biking and walking

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, AKA the Climate Bill, is moving forward. However, its latest iteration has dropped a lot of the provisions for biking and walking and instead focuses on electric cars.

The Washington Post has the details: Bikes get slighted in compromise climate deal.

Dropped from the deal is a tax credit worth up to $900 to help cyclists purchase electric bikes. Also gone is a pretax benefit for commuters to help cover the cost of biking to work.

[…]

“It is difficult to understate the lobbying power that car companies have,” Zipper said. “We make jokes about Big Bike, but the reality is that it is a minuscule lobbying force supporting bicycles compared to what’s behind automobiles.”

There is scant little for walking either, although America Walks isn’t entirely pessimistic:

There is a bright spot in the transportation legislation: the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants. This program dedicates $3.4 billion to infrastructure projects that better connect communities.

Getting fewer people driving, and more people biking and walking, should be a top priority for anyone serious about climate. Even if we switched every single car in the US to electric, it would only be a band-aid solution. The damage that cars do goes beyond their emissions numbers.

So even with a silver lining, the bill is a disappointment for bicycle advocates. This should not be surprising, though. Federal bills are historically awful at advancing biking and walking in our communities. I’m reminded of this interview with Strong Towns’ Charles Marohn about why he doesn’t see climate discussions as productive:

Look, the most dedicated-to-[addressing]-climate-change president that has ever been has just done a gas tax holiday. We’re not at some tipping point where people are serious about it.

People ask me: What’s the number one strategy we can do at the local level to build a strong town? I’m like, one, go out and plant trees. Street trees are the lowest-cost, highest-returning investment that can be made.

Two, get people walking and biking. Build a culture of biking and a culture of walking. Three, fill your parking lots with stuff. Get rid of parking lots and fill them with things.

Now, you tell me, if your strategy is to get the right people elected, they need to have the guts to pass the right package, to do the right stuff, so that we get some action on climate change… Or, we can make a bottom-up choice to emphasize communities that plant trees, get people walking, and get rid of parking–which one is going to be further along the race a decade from now?

I don’t even think it’s close.

As time goes on, it’s harder for me to disagree with his conclusion. Federal bills are not working, and are clearly not going to work in our foreseeable future. For most of us, it’s a waste of energy to even worry about them. But building a culture of biking and walking in our own communities, the bottom-up approach, can always be effective. Better yet, it’s something we can each go out and work on right now.