Tag Archives: bike parking

The End of Smugness

Friends, I have a confession to make. For about 2 months, I had in my possession an automobile.

Here, let me return your jaw to you from it’s place on the floor.

I did not own this car, it was on loan to me from some friends who were traveling overseas. Spouse and I had a few car-intensive errands to run while we did some renovations to our house, so it seemed like a good idea to have the car around. Plus, our friends needed to park their car somewhere, and in Providence, you just can’t leave your car on the street overnight. In the two months we had it, we drove about 1,000 miles. There were home improvement errands, day trips, a trip to the beach, and one overnight trip to upstate New York that made up the plurality of the miles.

About a week before my friends were due to return and reclaim their car, I decided to make a stock-up run to Trader Joe’s – about 10 miles from home. Because I am a car-free smugmonger, I left the car in the driveway and took my bike. Some other friends had recently offered me the use of their bike trailer and I wanted an excuse to try it out. So I hooked up the trailer to my city bike and headed out.

Riding with the trailer was a little easier than I expected. At times, I felt like I was flying down the Washington Secondary Bike Path. I stopped for a while to help out somebody with a flat tire. He wasn’t quite sure how to use the patch kit, something I didn’t really know how to do until about 2 years ago, so I was happy to lend some assistance. Besides, is there anything that can make you feel more smug than being the Good Samaritan?

I left my SPD's at home and went for a retro-grouch look with the Keens. Also, I was a little afraid of losing control and needing to put my foot down in an emergency. This did not happen.

To get to the Target, I have to ride on a wide, fast suburban road for about a mile. It’s never fun, and I thought it would be worse when pulling the trailer. However, I didn’t realize that cars would give me more room and not hassle me when I’m pulling a trailer – probably because they think there’s a kid back there. When I pulled into the Target lot, I saw this:

A $20 bill stuck in a bush! What great luck! I figured it was a little Karmic reward for my Good Samaritanism (to mix religious metaphors). This resulted in a general feeling of increased smugness. Next, however…

The bike rack was blocked by a big construction fence! I was slightly angry, but I was riding on such a wave of smugness that I didn’t really mind so much.

I bought a basketball at the Target, thus using up my $20 bill.

Next stop was Target, which still lacks for a bike rack, as does the EMS next door which actually sells bikes. I felt smug as I locked up to whatever this thing is:


A little more navigation of the big 4-Lane road, and I was back on the bike path. I was definitely moving slower than when the trailer was empty, but it was still easy to pull. Around the Point Street bridge, I passed the stragglers of the Rhode Island 70.3 Triathlon. Evidently a portion of the running course went up Olney Street this year. That’s just mean.

After recovering at home for a bit, I decided to test out my basketball. I pumped it up a little, then took a few shots. The first was a brick, not surprisingly since I hadn’t taken a shot in at least a decade. Soon, however I was landing a few bank shots and even a swish or two. Unfortunately, my basketball net has seen better days. Being stuck outside for years, it’s shrunk at the bottom so the ball will not go through. So, every time I made a shot, I had to jump up and punch out the ball. After making a few close ones, I backed up for a 15 footer. I missed, and the ball headed towards my friends’ car. It bounced once on the pavement and then landed on the windshield – and cracked it.

That’s one way to get rid of a day’s worth of accumulated smugness!

Speaking of accumulated smugness, the dedicated reader(s) of this blog may have noticed that I have not included a check-in on the SmugCalc in a while. This was a spreadsheet I started at the one-year anniversary of being car-free. I used this spreadsheet to track all of the miles I traveled using various forms of transportation (except for planes, that’s where I cheated). I was able to keep going with it for months, even tracking my miles after I broke my collarbone and could not ride my bike for a while (I was racking up transit smugness points instead). Finally, however, it just got boring tracking the miles on the bus. But now I’m back. Starting today, the SmugCalc is in full force. It’s not quite my Carfreeniversary, but August 1 makes for a nice round starting date. I’m at 5.5 SmugMiles so far.

And also speaking of accumulated smugness, the ladies at Let’s Go Ride A Bike are holding their 2nd annual LGRAB Summer Games. I have to do 4 of the following 10 items and blog about them:

  • on vacation? rent a bike and go for a ride!
  • write a letter advocating for bicycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike rack, etc) to your alderman/council representative, mayor, or a local business.
  • take a picture of something along your commute that says “summer” to you, and explain why
  • commute to work by bike or bike/transit if you don’t already
  • perform a maintenance task on your bike
  • explore a greenway or bike path in your city that you haven’t previously visited
  • test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride (road bike, mountain bike, etc.)
  • read a book about cycling
  • ride your bike somewhere new in your city
  • go on a group ride

These things have to be done between July 21 and August 8. I’m late to the game, but there’s still time for me to slay it! * So even though this post may be titled “The End of Smugness”, this is really just a renewal of smugness.

* by “slay it” I mean complete 4 tasks, blog about them, then get entered in a random drawing to win some prizes.

Barely Locked: Handlebar Style

As a public service to my readers, I’ve created a special series of blog posts  called: Barely Locked, documenting the poorly locked bikes of the world. And just like when I encounter the gentleman’s magazine from which I draw inspiration for the name of this series, I am both excited and repulsed when I see a potential Barely Locked subject. In the end, I just kind of feel sorry for the bike and its rider.

I found today’s subject on my way home from work the other day and it presents a new type of barely locked bike. The types I’ve cataloged previously include:

1. The bike locked to an open ended pole:

Let's call this type "The Pole Dancer"

2. The bike locked to an object that could be easily cut with steak knife or simply untied:

Let's call this "Barely Locked & Feeling Knotty"

3. And of course, locking the wheel to the frame and leaving the bike out in the open.

Some call this "Freelocking," but I prefer "When I think of you, I lock myself"

Today’s subject went for a completely different style:

I’m so flummoxed by this casual locking method that I can’t think of a cutesy pun related to dirty pictures in order to describe it. I mean, it’s like the lock was just casually thrown over the handlebars while the guy was riding around and then he “locked” it to the sign post without removing it from the handlebars. I actually looked around to see if this was part of a bicycle-theft sting operation or something.

The bumper sticker on the sign is a nice touch since this locking method is about as effective as the Nader/LaDuke 2000 Presidential Campaign. Then again, maybe that isn’t such a good analogy.

BTW: I’m happy to see that another bike blogger (this one in Hawaii) also likes to take pictures of poorly locked bikes. Instead of dirty puns, he just calls them FAILS.

Once again, behold the power of my blog

Dear reader(s). I must apologize for the lack of posts in recent weeks. I have been busy with boring things like… work (the blogging bucks have yet to roll in and I am forced to keep my job as an orchard keeper while I wait for a publisher to discover me and offer me a book deal). But the demands of orchard keeping, though they be severe, are not the true reason for my lack of posts. The true reason: I have been on strike.

Although I have been inundated by requests for new material, I have been withholding my much-desired blog posts. I’ve been on strike not in solidarity with Wisconsin public employees, nor in sympathy to the Greeks who will no longer be able to retire at 35. No, my strike has been a result of a more grave injustice. Yes, I was striking in protest of the severe lack of bike parking at my local coffee shop, as detailed in my previous post.

While there are many coffee shops that lack bike parking (not to mention gigantic discount department stores that actually sell bikes), I was particularly perturbed by the fact that this shop passive-aggressively chastised those cyclists who chose to lock their bikes to a nearby tree while the shop failed to provide a suitable alternative. Like any good passive-aggressive chastisement, this took the form of a sign:

Somehow, my readership must have taken it upon themselves to find out the name of this coffee shop and petition the owners for a redress of this grievance. That, or the owners finally got around to installing some bike racks. Spouse surprised me with the good news by emailing me the following picture while I was out tending the trees today:

Two brand-new “hitching-post” style bike racks! Now that the shop has seen the light, I am happy to reveal their identity. So, thank you, Edge Cafe in Wayland Square, Providence Rhode Island for installing these bike racks. I hope that they bring many cycling customers to your doors. And hopefully, that combination of words will show up in your google news alerts and bring you to my blog. If so, let’s talk sponsorship, I’m getting a little tired of tending the trees all day.

Now that there are some real places to lock one’s bike, I am in full support of the anti-tree parking sign. As previously mentioned, I love passive-aggressive chastisement almost as much as I love The Edge Cafe’s delicious breakfast wraps!

(Did I mention I’d like to talk sponsorship?)

Passive Agressive Signs: Locking to Trees

I was about to duck in to a local coffee shop when I saw this sign on the front door:

I agree, it’s a bad idea to lock your bike to a young tree. You can scrape the bark, break a branch, or a thief can come along and break the tree and take your bike. However, there aren’t any bike racks at this coffee shop. In fact, there aren’t any bike racks in the general vicinity. The shop is in a small shopping district known as Wayland Square. It’s full of small, independent shops and restaurants (and one Starbucks). There’s also plenty of on-street car parking and a couple of off-street lots. In fact, this coffee shop will help you pay for parking your car in one of the lots:

I’ve taken a car to this square a few times (from back when I owned a car, or when I’ve been driven by friends). Whatever car I was in, we always managed to find an on-street space within 2 blocks of our destination. When I bike to this square, I usually make do with locking my bike to a parking sign.

Not the ideal solution, but it gets the job done. By the way, this picture is from over a year ago when I last complained about the lack of bike parking in Wayland Square. I’d like to see this situation improved, but I’m not sure how to go about doing it. I didn’t like the lack of bike parking at the Farmers’ Market, and now Recycle-A-Bike has a program that has helped to alleviate that (thanks to dedicated volunteers like Kim & Mary!) I don’t think that the bike parking demand in Wayland Square is high enough to justify bike valet. I emailed one of the restaurants last year and he basically said “our landlord doesn’t want to do it.” I emailed the landlord and got no response. A couple of days ago, I emailed the coffee shop in question and I have yet to receive a response. I also posted on their facebook wall about the issue – no response their either (granted, their last facebook activity was about a month ago…) I’d prefer to use a positive approach rather than approach the businesses with a gripe – and my email certainly had a positive tone to it. And yet… no response. So, has anyone else had any luck getting businesses to install bike parking?

UPDATE: The Cafe in question now has bike parking, within 3 weeks of my public shaming! Coincidence? You be the judge.

A special new feature for Car-Free in PVD

Wow, who knew that a post about sharrows would be so popular?

Although sharrows are great, if there’s one thing this blog is famous for, it’s pictures of bike parking. I know it’s why so many of you read this blog again and again. You just can’t seem to get enough tales of bad bike parking and pictures of same. Of course, sometimes, cyclists do it to themselves by making some bad parking choices. Example A:

This bike was parked like this for at least 24 hours which means that the owner was either lucky, or the bike thieves in Providence have very good taste, because I recently saw it parked not far from the previous spot, but this time, the owner locked to a post that actually had something at the top of it.

I’ve seen so many poorly locked bikes lately, I think these examples need a special recurring feature on my blog. And thus I present to you:

Barely Locked

Hopefully that will bring a few more hits via the search engines!

The white comfort-cruiser was spared from theft, but I wonder about this bike I documented a few months ago:

The bike was no longer there the next time I rode by, but I noticed that the knot had not been removed, so I can only assume that the bike is safe.

Before I spend too much time criticizing others, I should confess that I too, have fallen to the temptations of barely locking my bike – mostly by accident. There were several times when I lived in Alberta where I would come out of my office to find my bike with just the frame locked to the wheel, comfortably leaning against the bike rack. We call this a “threading” problem. That is, the lock was threaded through my bike, but not the bike rack. Now that I have Pinhead locking skewers, I haven’t made this mistake because I only need to thread the lock through my bike and the rack. However, after an injury-induced 10-week cycling hiatus, I’ve had more than a few suspicions that I failed to properly lock my bike. This usually happens at work, about an hour after I arrive, I start thinking that I may have inadvertently left my bike unlocked. I’ll casually make my way to the lobby and take a peek, pretending that I’m just checking on the weather. No mis-threading yet!

Some people don’t seem too concerned about mis-threading because they don’t even lock their bike to an object, they just lock the wheel to the frame and lean it against a wall. Presumably, they only do this “for just a sec.”

Sometimes they do this with rather expensive, custom-made cyclocross racing bikes. This is known as “free-locking” as in “there may be a lock attached to my bike, but it is free for the taking!” This seems to be popular amongst bike messengers (yes, there are a few in Providence), and since so many of them do it, people seem to respect the free-locked bikes around town.

Remember, when locking your bike to a post, be sure that there is something on the top of the post that will prevent thieves from simply lifting your bike off of the post. Nearby, I saw a bike locked to a post with a “Reserved Parking” sign. It was good that they were locked to a post with something on the top of it, but bad that the post was stuck in the dirt. Nearby, I saw a similar sign post laying on the ground. My guess is that someone pulled it out in order to take a bike locked to it (or to park in a reserved spot with impunity).

That’s all I have for BARELY LOCKED right now. But I’m sure that there will be many opportunities for this feature in the near future. Look for it in truck stop news stands everywhere.

I can’t close a post featuring so much bike parking without complaining about the lack of bike parking at major chain stores, right?

What kind of store sells this many bikes….

…. has this many handicap parking spaces….

…. and offers no bike parking for customers or employees?

Bike Month – Baby Steps

May is officially Bike Month and as a hardcore bicycle commuter, it is my duty to curmudgeonly and smugly declare: “For me, every month is bike month!” As a self-aware bike blogger it is also my duty say “Bike Month is not meant for me, it’s meant for those who could be goaded into biking more!” And thus I shall try to goad you, with a personal tale.

It’s easy for me to say that I’m a hardcore bicycle commuter now. Sure, I’ve been out of commission for the last 6 weeks, but before that, there were only 8 days this winter that I did not ride my bike due to bad weather. Actually, it was more due to street conditions, but those were the result of weather, so let’s just call it weather. Rain doesn’t bother me, snow doesn’t bother me, and because I’ve lived in Edmonton Alberta, I laugh in the face of the coldest temperatures that Rhode Island can throw at me. Sure, my coworkers are impressed when I roll into work wearing snow pants, lobster gloves, a balaclava and a face mask, but I wasn’t always this hardcore.

When I lived in Springfield, MO [shudder] I drove to work, even though it was less than a mile away. When I lived in Boston, sometimes I drove, sometimes I took transit and sometime I biked. Basically, I rode my bike only in good weather. If there was a chance of rain or if the temperature was below 40 degrees, I took my car or the T. When I moved to Edmonton, I became a full-time bike commuter. I wasn’t making much money at the time and when I learned that parking my car at work for the day would eat up more than an hour’s wages, I figured it didn’t make much sense to drive.

My transition from full-time automobile commuter to full-time bike commuter took about 7 years. I dimly remember someone mentioning “a bike to work day” at some point during my Boston years, but I’m not sure it made much of a difference in my biking habits. I didn’t jump straight from my car to my bike. It took a while for me to get used to the idea, so I should expect it to take a while for everyone else. And that’s what Bike Month is about. I recommend giving it a try – one day this week, maybe two days the next week. Maybe stay at two days for a while. Think of how much a tank of gas costs and then think of what you could do with that money. You don’t have to jump in with both feet, selling your car and buying hundreds of dollars in gear. Almost any bike will do for a short ride. Sometimes I think that we spend too much energy trying to get people to bike to work. Instead of biking to work, think of what destinations are less than 2 miles away: the grocery store, pharmacy, liquor store, coffee shop? Put on your backpack and pedal your way down there to pick up a few things. Get yourself an extra muffin as a treat. Besides, it’s been a long, cruel winter….

But now it’s May! There are flowers!

And many more bikes locked up at neighborhood bike racks:

This rack is usually completely empty. It's nice to see it full of bikes.

And many, many more bikes on the street. It’s always nice to see them rolling past me as I wait for the bus. It’s not always so nice to see someone inexplicably riding on the wrong side of a narrow two-way street (Benefit in this case). The young salmon was going about 7 MPH on the left-hand side of the road. I almost took a picture, but I was afraid I would catch her getting hit. Instead I saw several cars get very close to her before the drivers realized that there was a bike on the wrong side of the road. No one honked, strangely enough.

Enough of my crabbiness! More good news!

Three people who visited my office building today came by bike:

One of the visitors (the bike in the middle) arrived on a Circle-A (a local Providence frame builder). Just like all Circle-A’s it had a sweet custom paint job. I was perplexed by the less attractive  rack on the back. I’d think if you are buying a custom frame you could splurge a little bit on the rack. On the near side we have an early 90’s Bianchi (I’m guessing at the age), and on the far side, a Cannondale Hybrid of unknown vintage – I’m guessing it’s fairly new since it’s not plastered with “made in the USA” decals like mine is. As always, our friend the old Pennyfarthing, guards them all.

For me, my collarbone continues to mend, but I’m still a few weeks away from getting back on the bike. I visited the doctor for a follow-up visit which yielded this new X-ray:

They tell me that it’s substantially different from this one:

Evidently, there’s some new bone stitching together the break, but I always have a big bump there. Plus the lightening bolts of pain are gone.

6 weeks down 2 to go!

On The Street with CarFreePVD

Sometimes I wish I was Bill Cunningham, flitting about the streets of New York snapping pictures of the fashionably dressed with my SLR. Instead, I’m a schlub in a sling, riding the bus through Providence, furtively taking pictures with my iPhone camera. (My 2-year-old iPhone camera. Can you imagine?) And instead of taking pictures of the fashionable, I take pictures of cars and bikes in various stages of parking. Exciting, no? It can be exciting if I pretend that I’m a National Geographic photographer, attempting to capture rare animals in their natural environments:

Shhhh. Be very quiet, we’re approaching a Surly Big Dummy rarely seen in the wild – gently nuzzling a no parking sign. It has locked eyes with a Prius and seems to be in some sort of staring contest in order to determine who is more smug.

Riding the bus can lead to an action shot…

… like with this picture of a Honda Fit parked on the sidewalk across the street from the west entrance to the East Side tunnel (taken from the window of a RIPTA bus). Other pictures are less action-packed:

I’m not sure why the BRU Crew was parked here, but I won’t complain too much because it’s more of a walkway adjacent to a parking lot than an actual sidewalk… not as bad as say… parking on the sidewalk in the middle of a downtown square every day.

I’ve seen this bike several times parked in the student ghetto section of College Hill.

I tried shots from several angles, but I was unable to capture the extreme ungainliness of this bike. It’s just oddly proportioned and those BMX-style handlebars aren’t helping.

Hidden bike parking at Brown. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to park a bike here. Looks like plenty of coverage for someone who wants to steal something (not that bike thieves require much coverage).

Not spotted on the street, but discovered on craigslist, this Track-tacular Orange Masi:

orange fixed – track frame
asking $600 – has new campagnolo bottom bracket – and campagnolo crankset
rims and pedals are not included

Looks like you’ll have to provide your own Aerospoke if you want the same look. It’s probably best that the rims aren’t included since this guy evidently doesn’t know how to close a QR skewer:

Sometimes, my camera is not enough and I have to rely on my network of sources.  Andrew of Troy Bike Rescue spotted this on the streets of Troy, NY.

It seems like the new LOOK pedal system is starting to trickle down to the BMX market.