Category Archives: Bicycling

Art Imitating Life…Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#484)

On the bike….photos of bikes carrying things on bikes being carried to an art gallery by one of the bikes in the photos carrying and being carried by bikes.

If you are in the Buffalo area and are at all interested, I’ll have a few photos from the Things That Can be Carried on a Bike series in the below show.

Main (St)udios Buffalo
515 Main Street

Opening Friday May 17th, 2013, 12-2PM & 7-9PM
Runs through May 30th, 2013

The show benefits Go Bike Buffalo.

Urban Simplicity.

Thoughts on Vehicles and Personal Transport

Any conveyance in or by which people or objects are transported, especially one fitted with wheels.
It’s interesting, I think, how some people are just baffled. Okay, I’m often baffled on many things myself, but what I’m talking about is that people are stunned–sometimes rendered speechless momentarily–when I tell them that I voluntarily choose not to own a car. Some (many) are convinced that it is impossible to get by without a car…this is the car-centric society in which we live. Here are two brief examples of conversations I had today; the first one was with a co-worker.
She: So Joe, are you going to get another vehicle?
Me: I already own multiple vehicles.
She: You know what I mean.
Me: Yes I do, but I’m serious…and actually I hope to never own a car again.
Moment of speechlessness, then a quick succession of questions.
She: But how will you get to your sister’s houses (who all live in the suburbs), to the airport or train station when you travel, to the grocery store in the winter.
Me: Buffalo Car Share to my sisters; taxi, bus, or another ride to the airport or train station; and bus or bike in the winter; but mostly bike and walk to everything else.
Our conversation ended soon thereafter, but here’s another example; this took place as I was coming out of the health club and unlocking my bike. There were two guys sitting in chairs nearby.
He: Hey buddy, what type of bike is that…it’s pretty interesting looking?
Me: Thanks, it’s a Torker Cargo-T but based on the Batavus Delivery Bike
He: What’s with the large racks?
Me: It’s for carrying stuff; this and another bike, which is larger and can carry even more stuff, have enabled me to go car-free.
He: You mean you don’t own a car, you do everything by bike?
Me: For the most part, yes.
He: Wow, that’s awesome. I’d love to do that.
Me: (thinking this to myself but not saying it aloud…You can if you really want to, then) Thanks, have a nice evening.
And as I pedaled home it was drizzling a little. It has hardly rained at all this summer so it felt good. Really good. Normally I try to avoid the rain, but I didn’t tonight. At one point I was stopped at a traffic light and just stood there straddling my bike in the light drizzle, being conscious of how it felt as it landed on my face and bare arms. I realize that going car-free is not for everyone (and may not even be permanent for me…we’ll see how I fair a WNY Winter), and I’m certainly not trying to cram a car-free lifestyle down anyone’s throat…I only talk about it if people ask me (except on this blog, where you can close the page or un-follow if it bothers you). Anyhow, as I pedaled home and felt the light rain on my body I felt like an active part of my surroundings, not a passive one. At that very moment it felt good to be on a bike coasting slowly in the light drizzle. I am grateful for many things in my life, and at that very moment this was one of them.

Food for Thought (a pro-bike post)

I found these images at various locations with a simple Google search. As many of you know I’ve been car-lite for years and am recently car-free. It’s interesting that I’ve been without a car for nearly two months and I barely notice it (this winter will be the true test). And I realize that if you are reading this blog I am likely “preaching to the choir,” but I found these images interesting and thought I’d share. Peace.

Urban Simplicity.

New York State Paid Me to Remove My Truck from the Road

Yup, it’s true. Many of you know that I recently sold my truck, and after being car-lite for many years I am finally car-free (I did recently join Buffalo Car Share but haven’t used it yet…haven’t used a car in more than a month actually). Anyhow, as if the savings from the true cost of car ownership weren’t enough, New York State sent me a refund check for un-registering my truck. A few weeks ago when I turned in my plates the nice woman at the counter told me I would likely receive a check in the mail because I had almost a year left on my vehicle’s registration. Honestly, when she told me this I just sort of shrugged it off…yea, right, like the state is going to give me money back for this, I thought to myself. Well, I stand corrected. The proof is above. And it’s interesting that in the past month or so that I have not had my truck I haven’t really missed it (obviously it’s much easier this time of year while the weather is nice). And while I enjoy the benefits of physical exercise and the peace of mind riding a bike or walking, a side benefit is that it’s a lot easier on my wallet…and that makes me happy.

Urban Simplicity.

The Perpetual Motion of Life, a Favorite Gandhi quote, and a Who Song

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
–Mahatma Gandhi 

I’ve mentioned a few times on the origins of this blog, but in the event I’ve yet to bore you with it I’ll state it again because sometimes I veer off course. A little over four years ago I started this blog as a sort of public diary on my efforts to simplify my life (read the first post here). And while I’ve always been an avid cyclist one of the ways in which I planned to simplify was to bike even more (and drive less). I have, I believe, been successful. One of the original names of this blog, in fact, was going to be, My Two Mile Island, and that I would ride a bike within a two mile radius of my house instead of driving, no matter the weather. This has bee mostly successful also. I mention this because I’ve been reflecting lately–on this blog, but mostly my life–and some of the twists and turns it has taken. And I mention all this because I’ve been thinking of my motives for going car-lite and now car-free (yes…ta da…I finally did it…sold the truck yesterday). And sometimes I really question myself…am I a bit nuts (well, yes, but I mean really). Here I am 50-years-old with creaky knees and a sometimes aching back–and I can afford a car–but I choose to voluntarily give up car ownership. Why, I wonder, am I doing this…I mean really…why? So I mentally listed some of the reasons, and here they are in no particular order.
Going “green,” or doing it for the environment. I list this first because this is what most people think when I tell them I am car-lite or car-free (“oh, that’s so great…your going green, I wish I could do that”)….but, believe-it-or-not, it is actually low on my personal list of reasons. Yes, of course I want to do good things for the planet (I really do believe we are destroying it, not just with cars but in so many ways), but that’s not the only reason I choose not to own a car…it’s not even the main reason. Like any good American the main reasons that I choose to be car-free are for selfish reasons. Money is a big one. I am tired of the insurance payments, high gas prices, and never-ending upkeep and repairs of a car. Health is also a reason–but not the main reason–I like the fact that I burn calories and not gas when I walk or bike. But here is the real and main reason–the top of the list–on why I choose to go car-free. Drum roll please….because I like to walk and ride bikes more than I like driving a car. It makes me feel free.
For much of my adult life I’ve felt this way. When I was a teenager living in the suburbs I would sometimes leave my car parked in the driveway to save money and hitchhike the 5 miles to work (money for beer and marijuana was way more important at the time). This of course was when hitchhiking was viewed as semi-safe and people would actually pull over to give a stranger a ride. I remember how free I felt walking down the road with my thumb out thinking I was some sort of character out of a Jack Kerouac novel. 
And when I became a bit older and moved back to the city I again was car-free. For the first 5 or 6 years my future (now ex) wife and I were together we we car free. I would bike, take a bus, or walk to work. Walking was, and sometimes still is, my favorite form of personal transport. Sometimes when I walk and am in deep thought I’ll arrive at my destination and not remember much of the walk…sort of like I meditated my way there.
Will I stay car-free permanently? I don’t know. I hope so, but I can’t be sure. We had a really mild winter this past year, but I have to admit it is a lot easier dealing with the extreme winters on foot when you’re in your twenties rather than your fifties. But still I plan on giving it a try.
The top of the two photos is an image of a bumper sticker I put on my truck a couple years ago. It is actually what caught my eye as the truck pulled away; the last thing I saw of the truck. Interesting, I think. A sort of mock evolution…an ape to a bicyclist. But I really think it’s a good metaphor for life in general (mine and yours)…life is in constant motion and evolution. I am certainly not the same person I was 5 or 10 years ago, or even just a couple years ago. It would be impossible; I’m in a different stage of life than I was a decade ago. Things change and so do we. 
So for now I plan on giving this a try, who knows what the future holds. And this is what I was thinking about as I was riding to work this morning with the cool but damp spring air on my face and in my ever-thinning hair. I felt free, and a song by a similar title–one of my favorite Who songs–kept ringing in my ears, especially the opening line….“I’m free, and freedom tastes of reality.”

Tall Bike

I rode past this tall bike today and did a u-turn to come back and take it’s picture…that is one tall bike. I’ve profiled a tall bike builder previously on this blog, but haven’t seen many of them around lately. As I was taking the bike’s picture a young woman rode up. I commented on how tall the bike was, she smiled and rolled her eyes slightly and said that it was her boyfriend’s bike, that he didn’t build this one but he does build them. She told me his name but it escapes me at present. But it is a pretty interesting bike and I thought I’d share it…it sure is tall.

Urban Simplicity.

Bicycle Ambulance

By now you, the reader or visitor to this blog, know that I am a proponent of bicycles as a utility machine, not just a weekend toy but a serious piece of equipment that can carry you and all your stuff where it needs to go. I believe that bikes are utilitarian, and in the past have posted not just them carrying your everyday stuff, but also about fire fighters, soldiers, mail carriers, police, all sorts of delivery vehicles, and even a pedal-powered camper (caravan to my EU friends). Well this may be the most important…the bicycle as an ambulance. The above photo is from WWI and looks to be two tandems carrying a gurney in the middle. The below three are more modern. Just below is a London ambulance bike, which enables care-givers to get to those in need in traffic-clogged areas. And the two below are images from Africa, using a trailer as a human powered ambulance.
A few years ago I was on holiday in NYC and was walking through Times Square at night. Traffic was at gridlock and there was an ambulance in the middle of it with its sirens blaring and lights swirling. Drivers seemed to be doing their best at letting it through but there was nowhere for them to pull over. I can remember peering, from the sidewalk (pavements), into the ambulance and seeing a lot of movement…all I could do was say a silent prayer for the people inside, for both the patient and the workers.
I’m an optimist (finally) but also a realist. If I were in a life threatening situation and a traditional ambulance could reach me would I choose a bicycle version instead…of course not. But if a team of health care workers could pull me ten blocks to a hospital by bicycle instead of being stuck in traffic, or a person on a bike could bring me the proper medical care…hell yes, I’d welcome a bike. The bike ambulances in Africa (bottom two photos) really seem the most practical. If I had to make a choice between being carried or struggling to walk to a clinic or ambulance in a rural setting I would without doubt choose a bike trailer. And the most moving part (moving as in emotional, not motion), I think, is the thought of the bicyclist pulling a person on one of those bike ambulances…talk about precious cargo.
To read more about the London Bicycle Ambulances, click here.
To read more about the African Bicycle Ambulances, click here or here.

The Man Who Lived on His Bike

This short film (3 minutes) is excellent. I loved it. Whether you ride a bike or not it will undoubtedly make you smile…and  the music is good, too. Here’s a description from the author:

I love being on a bike. It helps me feel free. I get it from my dad.

After 382 days spent riding through the streets of Montreal, being sometimes quite cold, sometimes quite hot – and sometimes quite scared, I dedicate this movie to you, Yves Blanchet 🙂

Urban Simplicity.

Buffalo Soldiers

Well first off, the title of this post has nothing to do with soldiers in the city where I was born and live, Buffalo, NY.  It’s referring to the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry Regiment, also known as Buffalo Soldiers, which was at the time a racially segregated regiment.

I’ve posted the above picture before and enjoy it so much that I use it as the background image on my computer at work (click it for a larger view). Sometimes while I’m eating lunch I sit and look at it, and that’s just what I was doing today (I love how proud they look). It’s an image captured in 1896 by Frank Jay Haynes in Yellowstone Park. That summer they rode those heavy bikes nearly 2000 miles/3218 kilometers, while carrying all their gear and wearing heavy wool clothing…impressive by any means. And I can’t imagine the hardships they likely endured…not just physical but also emotional and racial (this was 1896 after all). I was thinking this as I looked at the photo today, and found it so inspiring (and also remembered that it is Black History Month) so I thought I’d re-post the photo with a couple additional photos and a few new words.

Here’s some stats (borrowed from The Historical Museum of Fort Missoula.

Duration of trip: June 14 – July 24, 1897, 41 days.
Distance traveled: 1900.2 miles in 34 days of actual travel. An average of 55.9 miles per day and 6.3 miles per hour.
Delays: the command was delayed a total of seven days for the following reasons:
13 hours repairing bicycles
4 7/60 hours fixing tires
117 hours for lunch
71 1/3 hours for other causes.
The heaviest soldier, stripped, weighed 177 pounds; and the lightest 125 ½ pounds; the average weight being 148 ½ pounds.
The oldest man was 39 years old, the youngest 24 years; the average age was 27.

What I find fascinating about these guys–besides their heavy clothing and gear–is that the bikes themselves were likely heavy and they were fixed gear. And most incredible, I think, is that the roads were not paved.

The last time I posted the top picture, a follower of this blog, alerted me to a book he had written about these soldiers titled, Rescue at Pine Ridge. To read more about their fascinating history click here or here.

Lastly, I leave you with the song bearing the same name as these soldiers, by Bob Marley.

Urban Simplicity.

And Now For Something Really Interesting…

I have long been interested in the history of the bicycle. I’ve also been to California numerous times, though never to Los Angeles. And quite frankly, I would never think of bicycle history and Los Angeles in the same thought. More likely, and this is stereotyping (please, Los Angelers, don’t send me hate mail), I think of cars and wide highways. But 100 years ago this wasn’t the case…they were on the cutting edge. You can imagine my surprise and intrigue when I came upon an article about the California Cycleway. Built in 1900 and dismantled about 10 years later, it’s original intention was to link Pasadena with L.A….via an elevated bike path. To read more about it on Wikipedia, click here. For a well-written story about it–with more photos, I recommend this site. Am I the only cyclist who thinks that path looks like a ton of fun?

Urban Simplicity.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#390)

$132.72 in groceries, sundries, and dog food (and four slices of pizza), in a cardboard box and soda crate from  three separate stores.  

Urban Simplicity.

Things That Can Be Carried on a Bike (#379)

$152.34 of groceries and sundries in three plastic crates from four different stores.

Click here if you’d like to see a few other things that can be carried on a bike.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I Saw over my Handlebars

These are just more examples of what a great opportunity a person has on a bicycle to witness and become an active participant their surroundings; these are a few images from tonight or the last couple of days that I took while on my bike. They are–to me–a form of contemplative photography. Click either for a larger view; for a few additional photos, click here, here, or here.

A Few Things I Saw over my Handlebars

These are just more examples of what a great opportunity a person has on a bicycle to witness and become an active participant their surroundings; these are a few images from tonight or the last couple of days that I took while on my bike. They are–to me–a form of contemplative photography. Click either for a larger view; for a few additional photos, click here, here, or here.

Too Close For Comfort

I came across the above photo at the Facebook page of Car-Free America. It is–as it’s description says–the Oriten, a ten-seat bike made by the Orient Bicycle company. I had never heard of such a thing, but after Googling it I was surprised to see that it was quite popular around the time it was manufactured (1896); there were even races designed specifically for bikes with ten seats. When I look at the photo(s) a few things come to mind. One is I’m wondering if there was any frame flex with ten grown men sitting on it. Another is, I wonder how fast they could go with ten men pedaling (and that’s a lot of responsibility for the guy steering). And lastly, and this is just a personal one I suppose (but aren’t all opinions)…it just looks a little…well…a bit too close for comfort being sandwiched in there like that. At any rate, it would likely be a fun night out with the guys…having a few pints and not worrying about who’s driving home (I also wonder if you could ride it with just two or three guys…the thing must have weighed a ton). Anyhow, here’s a few more photos I came across.