Category Archives: Bicycling Movements

Mountain roads and sacred places

“A good scientist doesn’t have to be separate from the world to make sense of it.”  –Eva Saulitis, Every Reason to Stay in The Sun Magazine, January 2017

While cycling in Japan I discovered some amazing places, like the one pictured above.  I was on a super narrow road, a path really, and the light shining through the bamboo forest canopy and pooling on the ground startled me.  When I’m out cycling my work interests in geography, culture and sustainable transportation flow together with my sense of curiosity and wonder.

Sakai City Japan, the suburb of Osaka where Mai’s parents live, is the home of Shimano, a leader in cycling manufacturing.  Shimano adapted technologies from gun manufacturing in the 1800’s and applied them to cycling parts construction to meet demand for cycling.  Shimano has a bicycle museum in Sakai City.  I’ll have to visit!  This time around I was happy making my own firsthand experiences cycling in Sakai City and the adjacent mountains.  The museum looks very interesting, as they tie together the evolution of technology with the ongoing development of cycling culture.  Cycling is an epic story, a way to relax in nature, build community, be joyful and work towards big picture goals such as global sustainability.  The museum website is here.

Cycling works as a positive force promoting a sustainable, connected, healthy way of being.  When I met other cyclists on the road in Japan there were head bows, encouraging words, and looks of understanding, unspoken communication of shared joy.  The bicycle builds natural and inclusive culture amazingly well if people are open to it.  Cycling creates communion.

Japan’s beauty is awesome.  On this road pictured below climbing up into the Kongo Range, a creek and waterfalls were flowing beside the road.  The landscape’s sweet music.  It reminded me of the sound of meltwater running off the San Juan Mountains I hear in the Ironhorse in Durango, Colorado, which is upcoming this May.  Cycling keeps me motivated and looking ahead to the next sequence of discoveries and shared experiences.  What a joy.  Thank you!

Why Cycle? Because it works!

Cycling in Japan is more about getting the groceries than getting fit.  –Byron Kidd, tokyobybike.com

Anytime we travel or do something out of the ordinary, it gives us a special perspective on our daily lives.  That was certainly the case when I traveled to Japan.  A few things dawned on me that are working in Japan to create a robust walking and cycling culture.  It’s not perfect, but I learned a lot there.  Here are ten reasons why walking and cycling are thriving in Japan.

1. Everyone walks and cycles.  It is a daily necessity, and expected.  It’s the way people go shopping, and to work and school.  It’s the way people access open space, get fresh air, exercise, and spend time outside together.  Walking and cycling are routine, everyday habits.  Errands and exercise flow together.

Seniors ride their bikes to Thai Chi practice in the park

2. Automobile drivers are disciplined, careful and attentive.  Drivers expect to see people on streets and crossing at intersections, and are prepared to yield to slower traffic ahead and when turning.   Drivers reliably use blinkers to communicate intentions.  Driver education and training is extensive and the responsibility of driving is taken seriously and respected.

3. Communities are planned as villages, and are oriented around train stations.  Businesses cluster around the train station, creating a village center.  People live within a short walk or bike from the village center and walking and cycling are the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way of getting to where you want to go, and the best way to access shopping and services.

4. Japan’s train system is awesome.  You really don’t need a car because it makes more sense to take the train.  Trains are accurate, frequent, fast, smooth and safe.  Quality transit makes good community planning a lot easier, and is a building block for healthy, efficient and sustainable transportation.  You have freedom to read, relax, talk or meditate on the train.

5.  Japan has the lowest car usage rate of any of the G8 countries.  This means roads are smaller.  Smaller roads necessitate lower speeds.  Lower speeds for cars means calmer streets for walking, cycling.  Reduced speed differentials increases safety and comfort.  Smaller roads are easier to cross, cycle on, and navigate, and do business along, and it feels like healthier human habitat.

6. Compact, dense development makes destinations closer.  Japan is more careful about space efficiency because space is precious.  With denser building, more destinations are within easy reach by walking and cycling.  Compact, dense development makes walking and cycling very useful, as well as super interesting.  Cars are designed to be space efficient, as well, and the nimbleness of walking and cycling is prized.

7. Japan has a great cycling culture naturally.  From school children to elderly, business people to homemakers, everybody cycles.  It’s just normal.  People cycle in their day clothes, and functional athletic gear, too.  Whatever is fitting.  Towns and businesses serve cyclists by making parking convenient and easy because it makes rational sense and people use bikes for everything.

8.  People walk everywhere, and people are used to sharing space.  Cycling benefits from a strong walking culture.  It means drivers are accustomed to the presence of people on the streets, are on the lookout, and patient to share.  Walking is the foundation of the transportation system in Japan, and it anchors the streets in a culture of sharing.  People have priority.

9. Safety and security is high.  Bicycles are usually parked with a simple lock immobilizing the rear tire.  Streets are family space, and feel inhabited.  Public spaces are clean, organized, cared for and well-tended.  The architecture, design and the way things fit together is beautiful.  There is a strong sense of social responsibility, order, respect and dignity in Japan.  It feels neat and safe.

10.  Walking and cycling is easy, convenient, and effective.  The Japanese take advantage of the most basic forms of transportation by using them as organizing principles and practical tools for daily living, including making people healthier, happier and connected to the community where they live.

The Spirit of the Bicycle

Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Bicycles remind me of the Canadian rock band Rush.  They’ve never had the marketing machine elevating them to pop star status, but their audience grows over the years through consistent competency, practicality, artistry, value and pure fun.  They simply perform well.

west-looking

And so it is with the bicycle.  I was talking with a bike shop manager during a ride.  His ideal customer is someone just getting started and wanting an entry level bicycle, $400 or so.  They ride it until it wears out.  Through their experience, they have a clearer idea for the next one.  I told him that was my story.  I started riding almost 20 years ago on a Specialized Rockhopper.  It cost about $400.  Now, 20+ bikes later, I’m on a Specialized Tarmac.  Technology is wonderful, but the most important thing is your bike fits you, and is mechanically sound.  How much money you spend is irrelevant.  The ride characteristics come from you, the rider, from your heart and soul.  A good bike lets you do what you want to do.  It is intuitive, honest, trustful.  You are the instrument making the sound.  You make the bicycle go where you want to be.

wilderness-edge

The places we can go are fabulous!  When I was driving 18-wheeler across America for a living, I saw a lot of country.  But I missed most of what was out there.  The bicycle allows you to immerse yourself and get a 360 degree experience of the landscape surrounding you.   Cycling experiences make our senses and minds more impressionable.  It keeps us fresh, youthful.  If I would have had a bicycle with me on my 18-wheeler rig to ride during layovers, loading times, and rest days, I could still be truckin’.  We live in the best of both worlds.  We have macro-transportation capabilities to span the globe, and can find intimacy and serene pleasure too if we take the time to be quiet, humble, and explore under our own useful and fitting powers.  Keeping a balance is key.  We have to choose wisely, and accommodate ourselves to the world.

fr-445-specialized-action

The bicycle allows us to build an understanding of the world minus the scaffolding.  The structure of the cycling experience is almost unmediated.  What a brilliant, fun technology.  The bicycle is sustainable transportation.  It is practical and worthwhile.  My how we need it!

champions

tall-view

If you want to be a champion to future generations and create important changes now, be a champion of the humble bicycle.  Let people make music with the bicycle.  Embrace this technology and abide by it.   Unlike the rock band Rush, bicycles do not grow old.   We are on the precipice of big change in the world.  Bicycles help us move our story in the right direction and produce more positive outcomes, win-wins.  Bicycles build optimism, health, and–

  • get us out of our bubble
  • activate our inherent mobility powers
  • shift our perceptions so we tune in
  • stimulate creative thinking
  • help us meet new people, feel connected to our communities, and be a part of the world
  • assist us in creating change
  • deliver benefits in health and wellness, sustainability, and creative development

Bicycles put humans in a positive light.  Days are gifts as we pedal forward.  The bicycle abides.

at-the-dunes

resources:
Check out Specialized for bicycles.  The spirit of the bicycle is you!

A Complete Ride

We’ve all heard how sports such as cycling can be more mental than physically challenging.  Virginia Commonwealth University embraced the UCI Road World Championships in 2015 in Richmond, VA with a cross-disciplinary campus-wide effort to engage faculty and students in experiential learning.  Their work became “part of the university’s intellectual and cultural heritage”.  Studying cycling helps you realize it transcends any fixed categories such as transportation, identity, or even sport.  It is an integral part of the fabric of our lives.

VCU English Professor Gardner Campbell explained:  “The project was not just the experience of a sporting event. It represented something more, having to do with the possibilities of human accomplishment and the commitment it takes to get to your goals. Our students saw around them, as they were pushing themselves in the context of their own intensive courses, world-class athletes who were committing their hearts and minds and bodies to excellence.”

vcu-bike-book

The Great VCU Bike Race Book project gave students an opportunity to learn by doing and a chance to become “authors,” producing content curated into a virtual “book.” –photo from the article linked below

Read the full article here:  How a Bike Race Led to Experiential, Personalized Learning ,or,

https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/11/16/how-a-bike-race-led-to-experiential-personalized-learning.aspx

This video of the final 5 kilometers of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, VA shows an exhausted peloton.  The echo chamber of fans lining the cobbled streets, cheering in global tongues.  The winding course highlights city features, the 50 mile pedestrian trail to Williamsburg, Libby Hill, Governor Street, world culture shining in America, and Sagan’s all around cycling skills.  He only had a couple bike length’s lead over the last cobbled climb, but opened the gap zipping through the twisty turns, and extended it further with unrelenting commitment across the flats.  And the way his competitors great him after the race!

An incredible ride by Sagan, steadfastness, control and skill in the midst of seeming chaos.  The discipline of saving energy, then unleashing his heart’s desires at just the right moment.  Cycling is a global sport and a spiritual journey.  Sagan used the microphone after the race to call attention to the plight of refugees, and articulate a vision for shared prosperity for all humanity.  He won the road world championships again in 2016 to continue his reign.  We keep learning!

Virginia Commonwealth University is our Bike Org of the Month for November, 2016.

Detail on the course in Richmond here:  https://www.usacycling.org/richmond-2015-unveils-courses-for-2015-uci-road-world-championships.htm
A previous blog post on Sagan’s Richmond victory:  Achieve World Peace Through Bicycling

The Many Faces of Cycling, Most Beautiful Ones

I came home from a Saturday morning ride with friends, ate lunch, started reading and came across this.  An article called Pimp My Bike: Detroit’s Custom Cycles in Pictures in The Guardian.  Here are a few pictures from the article.  Photos are credited to Nick Van Mead, from the article.

slow-roll-detroit

long-chain

beautiful

Ashia, waving in the photo above, is quoted in the article saying she feels safer with groups, “It’s positive — and God Knows in Detroit, we need positive things like this.”

This blog is usually original posts, but obviously the Slow Roll movement in Detroit merits our attention.  They are innovating and reaching out to expand the conversation about our public roads, our cities and neighborhoods, economic renewal, social wellness, all propelled by bicycling.  This movement is bigger than any one group, in fact, it’s a global movement.

“It makes the city far more human…they have conversations, make eye contact…the people are friendlier” than they were before all these rides started, says Todd Scott of the Detroit Greenways Coalition (quoted from the article).  And my goodness, don’t we all need friends.

Resources/Credits–
Go read the article on The Guardian, it conveys the beautiful essence–  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2016/nov/02/pimp-my-bike-detroit-custom-cycles-slow-ride-in-pictures
Photo Credits to Nick Van Mead
I’ve blogged about Slow Roll before.  Let’s be cities of friendly bicyclists.
Check out my post Green Infused Classic Cars for another innovator, a very famous one.
And more landmark journalism by Nick Van Mead and The Guardian–
America’s Road Trip: Will the US Ever Kick the Car Habit

Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

mais-scene

What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

Mt. Evans Hill Climb

crescent

path

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb in Colorado.  You gain 6,630 vertical feet in 28 miles, starting at 7,500′ and finishing at 14,130′.  It’s the highest paved road in the northern hemisphere.  Half of the ride occurs above treeline.

Echo range

Mt. Evans solo

Mt. Evans mealtime

It’s you being challenged by the mountain.  Cycling Evans gives you an amazing sense of your surroundings.  There were nearly 1000 participants this year.  Over 400 racers, and almost 500 Gran Fondo riders, who are not officially racing, but are still taking on the challenge.  I think for everyone it is a kind of competition within yourself.  Can you make it to the top.   We all share the experience of suffering over the same course on one glorious mountain.

Bristlecones

tapestry of tundra

It’s incredible what you see up there.  Surprising how life springs forward under trying circumstances.  The ancient bristecone pines are some of the oldest beings on earth.  It seems paradoxical under such dramatic conditions those trees endure for so long.  But they do.  Getting up there by bike and sharing the experience on the mountain is a cool accomplishment.

tundra

Marmot home

Mt. Evans Sundance Images 2016

Credit for the last photo (all others mine):  http://www.sundanceimages.com/
Visit the event site at bicyclerace.com
Thank you Team Evergreen for putting this event on!