Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bicycle Rights Mini Rant

Earlier today (late this afternoon), I was passed within kicking-door-distance by a police car! This has ruffled my feathers a bit because there was no one next to him in the other lane. If we are going to get anywhere with "bicycle rights," we gotta get the enforcement patrol and peace keepers to be better informed (and then act on it!).

Too cool off from this rant, I wanted to share this spoof on "bicycle rights."

It's funny and humbling. It reminded me that even though cyclists do have a right to the road, we need to be cautious in our approach to advocating. Yea, there's a time to rant and rave, (and laugh at ourselves!) but the message may be better received if its kind and constant.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bike Shops are like Car Dealerships?

Well...not really. Well...but kinda. Let me explain.

Bike shops tend to carry one brand of bike stuff (bicycles, parts, accessories, helmets, clothing). Kind of like car dealerships sell one manufacturer's line of products. A Chevy dealer won't carry Toyotas. A BMW dealer won't carry Fords.Why am I blogging about this? I had to cross 3 counties in one day twice in the last month to get the bike stuff I needed, and I learned two lessons from this experience. (And if I can save other folks from these kinds of headaches, I figure, why not?) 

1)  Make sure you realize that the bike and bike accessories you buy may dictate what shops you'll need to shop at in the future. This may not be a problem if you live in an urban area with several bike shops, but if you order a special kind of bike, just consider the resources that will be available to you to service your bike. If you order a bike for Christmas online from Trek for Susie, but the nearest Trek dealer is an hour away, you may want to think about it. This won't be a problem for general maintenance, but if replacement parts are needed, it may be an inconvenience. 

2)  Specialized and Trek stood behind their products. I needed a tire upgrade a few months back, so I bought a tire from the closest bike shop - the now-defunct Clemson Cyclery. The tire wore out faster than expected, so I wanted to see if I could get a replacement. I had to drive up to Carolina Triathlon because they were the closest Specialized dealer. But, they replaced the tire without a problem (or charge for a new one!), so I was pretty happy. I also had a bike tire pump that stopped working, but it was from Bontrager. The closet dealer was The Great Escape in Anderson (maybe I could have gone to the one in Greenville?...hindsight is 20-20!), so I "trek"ked over there. But, they also replaced the bike tire pump no questions and free of charge.

I was really impressed by each of the bike shops and the willingness of Specialized and Trek to stand behind their product. It's great to know that as a bike consumer, both companies and bike shops were willing to help out which got me back on my bike quickly. The staff at both of these places were great, too.

That's a big thumb's up for these national bike manufacturing companies and the local places that serve the bikers of the Upstate. It's a good thing when the machines we use to ride around on are supported by companies that stand behind their product. It's a rare thing these days, but I guess that just another reason to ride your bike.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bikes + Beach

Tybee Island Pavilion
 When we ventured south to Savannah a few months ago, we made our way to the coast. It was beautiful – sunny skies, rolling waves and pedestrian friendly. Every time we were out there – day or evening – there were a good number of bicyclists and bike-related amenities that I saw. 

Way to go Tybee Island!
The City was awarded a Bicycle Friendly Community award in 2011. The designation recognizes a city's (business or university) demonstrated commitment and investment in bicycle facilities, policies and programs. I saw many different people on bikes, and many of them were calmly riding on beach cruiser-style bicycles. There was a bike rental company on the main drag that offered a variety of bicycles. Some restaurants offered specials to those who came to by bike. (Parking was a big issue while we were there. I imagine this kind of special entices some folks to leave their car where it’s park at the hotel or condo, and use a bike instead.) There is even an Old Rail Trail nearby that folks can ride.

Ambiguous bike/parking lane
The beach-bum bicyclists I saw were riding in what was very ambiguously marked parking lane or bike lane. I never could tell. There weren’t any bike lane signs or pavement markings along or within the white strips. I also wasn’t sure if parking was allowed along these stretches because I didn’t see any signs. Either way, everyone seemed to get along in the road or on the sidewalk. (I think the more laid-back lifestyle had something to do with it.) Bike racks were also highly visible and ample. No one was shy about the beach bike culture on Tybee Island.

Beach bum bicyclists
My guess is this is an emerging lifestyle in beach communities. Hilton Head, SC is known as being a bicycle-friendly community. Young and old bike around the island. There’s growing interest in Charleston, and I bet other southern coastal communities are seeing a growing interest in biking. It helps with tourism and it’s great for locals. There’s also less car parking to worry about, and the speed of traffic slows down, as compared to cars. If you make it down to Savannah, head out to Tybee, and if you’re there long enough, consider renting a bike and head out to the beach!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Swamp Rabbit Trail

Any family, racer, hipster, urban planner, landscape architect, business or parks and recreation major should take a spin on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. After living in the Upstate for a few years, I finally had my turn on the regionally-famous trail, and it was everything everyone said it is.

Hitting the trail at noon on a 78 degree Saturday, the trail was full, but not crowded. There were rides of every type - serious, first-timers, family-riders, fat-tire cruisers. The trail starts in Traveler's Rest, but there are many different locations to park a car or hop on the path. (Bathrooms are also plentiful.) Riding from TR to Greenville, the path goes for long stretches without crossing any roads - a racer's dream! Closer to and within the Greenville, there are more places where auto and bike traffic have to look out for one another. Yet having the SRT in the City allows people to visit parks, shops, cafes and other businesses by bike. A boon to the local economy! Who doesn't like to get rewarded with an ice cream or cold beer after a long bike ride?

Students from area university and colleges - Furman, Clemson, Bob Jones and any of the community or technical colleges - should visit the trail at least once while they are in school. The trail is a living classroom to learn about urban design, the entrepreneurial spirit, recreational infrastructure, history, ecology, civil engineering and real estate. The trail connects people and places, creates new opportunities, allows us to view pieces of the past and contributes to the identity of the Upstate. Oh, and then there's the whole having fun riding a bike thing, too. If you don't have a bike to ride the trail, there are even places that rent bikes.

The SRT is one of the many trails across the country. There's even a plan (a dream) that a network of trails will connect places across the country. One day, you may be able to ride from LA to NYC or Portland to the Florida Keys all by way of a bike trail.

Bringing it back locally to the Upstate, get out on a not-too-hot day in the coming months, and go for a spin on the over 17+ mile trail.