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Truth in advertising: it has been too many years since I biked to work. In the ever ancient past, I lived within a few blocks and then a few miles of my job. Years on end, the majority of commutes were on two feet or two wheels. Not so close anymore, some bad roads, and other demands mean that commuting is a mix of public transit, carpooling, and that solo drive (total driving under 7000 miles/year ...). (Okay, bike doesn't get me to work even though it handles a decent share of that 'oops, no milk for cereal, bike to the store ...).  Thus, a bit cheeky of me to remind that 15 May is "Bike to Work Day" ... that May is Bike to Work Month.

"Get on your bike and try it a little ..."  

Now, for DC-area residents, if 15 May is "Bike to Work Day", 13 May is "Bike to Swiss Embassy Eve" as the Swiss Embassy is holding a Bike-to-Work forum & reception featuring some top-notch speakers from Switzerland and the United States.

It isn't just the Danes who are bike-friendly. The Swiss have made some real strides forward in fostering a more bike-friendly environment [pdf], including integrating bicycle infrastructure into other transport options. After building an underground, 1600 spot bike lot beneath the train station, Basel, Switzerland, has seen a 60 percent increase in biking to the train station. In Switzerland, about 9 percent of commuting is by bike compared to .4% in the United States. (The US has 88 percent of people commuting by car as compared to 58 percent in Switzerland.)  Biking is part of the national culture, now. Biking skills education for fourth and fifth graders is part of the compulsory educational program nationwide.  Zurich, for example, has a 319-mile network of bike paths scheduled for completion this year, trains immigrants about bikes, provides bikes for government employees for work use, and has begun Züri Rollt, a version of free bicycle availability for use within the city.

Bike-to-Work Day (even biking every day) isn't a Silver Bullet solution to the world's problems, but reality is that biking is the most efficient -- in terms of energy use -- transport option that we have.

Especially is with "Idaho Stop" laws ...

Swiss Embassy Bike-to-Work forum & reception.

Building a Bicycle-Friendly World

As a completely emission-free form of transportation, bicycling is one of the simplest ways to reduce our carbon footprint and make our communities more livable. Yet, to make bicycling feasible requires specific infrastructure, financing, and a commitment of political and public will. Please join Swiss and American experts from government and the private sector to discuss strategies for making our cities and nations more bicycle friendly.

Panel presentation will be followed by audience Q & A and discussion:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009,
4:30 p.m. (Doors Open/Bicycling Exhibit)
5:00- 6:30 p.m.(Expert Panel & Discussion)
Reception to follow at Ambassador’s residence


   * Elmar Ledergerber—Mayor of Zurich, Switzerland
     Consistently voted "Word’s Most Liveable City," Zurich has a proactive bicycle plan overseen by Ledergerber, its "Bicycling Mayor."
   * Tommy Wells—Councilmember, Washington, D.C.
     A long-time advocate of green transportation, Mr. Wells sits on D.C.’s committees on Public Works & Transportation and Government Operations & The Environment
   * Michelle Kranz—Manager, Media Relations, Switzerland Tourism
     Switzerland Tourism is a partner in Switzerland’s national network of bicycle trails, created by a unique public-private cooperation.
   * Thomas Gotshi, Ph.D.—Director of Research, Rails-To-Trails Conservancy
     Dr. Gotschi authored the report "Active Transportation for America," which quantifies the nationwide benefits from walking and bicycling.
   * Michael Jackson, (Moderator)—Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, Maryland Department of Transportation
   * Congressman Earl Blumenauer—(D, OR)
     Congressman Blumenauer was instrumental in forming the Congressional Task Force on Livable Communities and the bipartisan Bicycle Caucus.

Embassy of Switzerland
2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Now, there are some serious bike commuters among the DKos community ... advice, stories, etc welcome.

Originally posted to A Siegel on Mon May 04, 2009 at 08:17 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips / Mojo: 4 May 09 ... (34+ / 0-)

    Sigh ... won't have myself up for the 15 May bike-to-work day, but working to doing at least some of my commuting on two wheels by the fall.  


    •  ik fiets elk dag naar mijn werk! (6+ / 0-)

      hi adam . . . i bike every day to work (that's what the subj line says)

      I live in the Netherlands now and have a job and am getting, are you ready???? A COMPANY BIKE!!!

      it's about 2.5 miles each way so i'm guaranteed at least half hour exercise during the week. that's how i look at it anyway.

      traffic jams have no power over me. i don't need to leave the house with money for gas. i always know how long it will take me and basically, i'm free.

      good post, sir!

      "Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop" Gus McCrae

      by pfiore8 on Mon May 04, 2009 at 11:04:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have been biking to work for almost 20 years. (18+ / 0-)

    That's 26 miles a day. All seasons, rain, snow, sleet and sun.

    The trick is to wear the right clothes (stuff that evaporates sweat efficiently) and ride a comfortable bike. (Secret: You do not need those huge, fat tires.)It may take a while to acquire all the right gear, but once you do, the joy of riding daily is highly addictive.

    I rode more this winter than I ever have. Even on days below zero. And I craved it.

    Last year, I rode about 7,000 miles, total (commuting plus long weekend rides).

    This year, I hope to hit 8,000 miles.

    When does summer start?

    by Bob Johnson on Mon May 04, 2009 at 08:40:37 PM PDT

  •  I rode my bike to work today (8+ / 0-)

    Now, I'm no Bob Johnson, only tallying 10.4 miles a day, and I don't handle the rain or ice very well.  But I have to say, it makes me feel better when I can do it.  Too old?  Meh.  I'm 40, and I am just getting warmed up.  One of these days, I'm going to ride my bike from San Francisco to Boston.  Well, actually I'm thinking Route 20 from Newport, Oregon to Boston.

  •  Going carless had unexpected benefits for us (4+ / 0-)

    My family has been carless since December. My work commute is only a few miles, but I get more in biking to shops or just for leisure.

    Beyond the obvious carless benefits our reliance on walking, bike and bus for transport has made us more aware of what shopping choices are available, and we've discovered a few more great local independent stores as alternatives to the bigger chains we might have resorted to in the past.

  •  The rolling stop is how I er, roll (11+ / 0-)

    24/7, and I don't own a car. My last vehicles were, simultaneously, a Forester and a 3/4 ton V8 Dodge.  

    I'm in Portland and find this proposal real interesting, so I want to make a couple of comments.

    There is a politic to public behavior that extends to road etiquette that I'm sensitive to, and so I've picked up a couple of observations.

    Other bike riders who blow past me on a crowded path or road piss me off. They're mostly I'm-in-my-world wannabe jocks with fancy gear, or I'm-late-for-work guys- and it's always guys - who assume that they have no effect on pedestrians on the Hawthorne Bridge, for instance.

    But they do, and when they blow through intersections and weave through traffic oh so casually, even if motorists are not endangered, nervous systems react at a level that builds. Seeing a guy not braking at all at a stop sign bothers me and I know that it bothers others, including cops and righteous citizens who complain in letters to the editor.

    Portland is the most bike-friendly city I've ever lived in. If a law such as the one you propose is possible in an American city , it will happen in Portland, or Portland will lead in passing a state law.

    But I'm predicting that the aura of entitlement given off by bike riders is going end up biting us all. And I believe therefore that some incident or series of incidents is going to lead to a public discussion/educational moment over bike manners.

    The rolling stop idea is presented intelligently and effectively in that clip. I have my doubts that the public acceptance of it is going to be easy. There are lots of characters in the big city. Just the other day, a kid swerved in front of me in a fuck you manner.

    The bike is right now a class symbol. In the last city I lived, Hanoi, the bike is the lowest on the totem pole. In Portland, it's a symbol of elitism, of avant garde, and cutting edge. Older women in NE Portland actualy make riding difficult because they try so hard to be nice to me that they disrupt my usual street sense of rules. (But like I said, I lived in, survived Hanoi.)

    So I hope that we can codify common sense bike usage and come to community agreement that does not result in bad moments and hostile reactions.

    Roll on!

    "The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." George Washington

    by bob zimway on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:01:10 PM PDT

  •  I used to walk to work ... (8+ / 0-)

    ... then we moved and I got a new job and I biked.  Bob's got it right -- get the right equipment (it's out there, it doesn't have to cost a whole lot, pay attention to shoes and water, and yes, a good panier can set you back, I loved my Arkel Bug), and make it work.  The payoff in health for anyone older than 30 is immeasurable.

    I loved dropping into the park, where it was almost 15 degrees cooler, and then speeding on the flats along the river.

    O -- then I became a bird and a bicycle was a useful to me as gills on a tiger.

    If torture is OK in retrospect, it is OK in prospect as well. That is who we now are.

    by Yellow Canary on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:05:23 PM PDT

  •  I would bike to work but I live in Southern.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, miss SPED, indigoblueskies

    ...California and I believe that biking on public roads here is suicide.

    Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1929.

    by Bensdad on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:14:20 PM PDT

    •  or an invitation to homicide by road ragers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Bensdad, miss SPED

      Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

      by indigoblueskies on Mon May 04, 2009 at 10:19:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sigh .... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I used to live right on a major bike path (closer to apartment entrance than the parking lot).  Now, to get to work, I need to do about 4 miles (dependent on route) along some roads that are, to put it mildly, uneven in bicycle safety (during rush hour, darkness, bad weather) due to narrowness, sightlines, no shoulders (drainage ditches), cracks/potholes, etc ...  And, with few bikers along these routes in rush hour, people aren't looking / thinking about sharing road with two wheels. A little more than half the total route would be bike path -- other half potentially invitation to injury. (Thus, my better 95+% loves the idea of my bike commuting when furious with me, as long as I double life insurance before beginning to do it.)  I'm making a little (little) effort to scope out a safer route for that 'get to bike paths' as I work my way up to some bike commuting.

  •  I rode my bike to spinning class today. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, A Siegel

    Makes it an hour and 45 minute class instead of just an hour.  And you can't cheat on the resistance of a real bike.

    •  I spin at home in the winter (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel, Mother Shipper

      I can spin for two hours and not get the kind of workout I get on a one hour ride in the real world. I will not, however, ever be the kind of guy who can ride outdoors for an hour in single digit weather. I quick ride for a few miles to get the heart pumping maybe, but not anything long enough to get a serious workout in.

  •  I bike to work every day. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, johnnygunn, A Siegel, TFinSF

    Okay, so on occasion I will take the bus or walk. But 95% of the time I take my bike. Cars are expensive, and by not owning one I can actually put a decent amount of my paycheck into savings. Plus I help out Mother Earth, and it's great exercise, and it's quite enjoyable. It's a win-win-win-win situation.

    Just another skeptical atheist progressive vegetarian neo-hippie language geek.

    by AtomikNY on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:20:23 PM PDT

  •  I biked to Costco yesterday (5+ / 0-)

    13 miles roundtrip, on a bike trail that's almost literally door to door and mostly flat (which is really nice on the way back). The main problem is that I can only carry so much this way (no 80-packs of TP or big-screen TVs), and I sometimes buy a bit too much and have to get creative in how I stuff my large backpack.

    Also, I can't fill up with their cheap gas. :-)

    Ironically, I once worked at the University of Washington and while I only lived 4 miles away, there was no safe place to lock up or store my Ti road bike, so I had to take the bus, which cost $$$ and took twice as long. Go figure.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president!" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:24:24 PM PDT

  •  Hey, Monsieur Siegel - (5+ / 0-)

    I haven't used internal combustion transportation - either my own or the Buffalo, Wyoming subway system for two months - and rarely before that.  I bicycle in all seasons - and, yes, we had snow on May Day.

    We may disagree on nuclear power,
    but I put my muscle where my mouth is.
    I've got more than 100,000 miles on my Trek 8000.


    Urban design actually continues to grow more bike unfriendly.  The residential roads of gated communities are closed to cyclists.  Lollipop loop roads - so characteristic of non-gated residential communities, similarly force cyclists onto main arteries.  In places with bike trails, there are often critical gaps over waterways or railroad tracks making them fine for recreation, but of little use for commuting.

    The cheapest way to provide commuter bike routes is to link up cul de sacs or courts.  Certainly this should be required in all new construction.  To illustrate - imagine Oak Street which runs for 48 blocks through the middle of a city - except that it has a couple of 1-block gaps.  Since it is not a through street, it has little automotive traffic.  To link up those missing sections with bike paths - and, yes, using imminent domain to place a 4-foot path along a property line.  Would create a safe, major bike route at very little cost.

    Instead, many cities and counties build expensive bike paths along roadways that have horrendous traffic - paths that have stop signs every 100 yards and weave through busy parking lot entrances - and wonder why they have little use.  In fact, many cities and counties still have bicycling facilities as part of their parks and rec departments.


    Personally, I favor closing some expressways and making them bikeways/walkways/greenways.  You already have the median - which right now serves only as a trash collector.  You could have flowers, trees, community gardens.  The inner lanes would serve as the bike/hikeway - the right-hand lanes would be converted to light rail transit.  Then there would still be room for little coffee shops and kiosks, too.

    What has JohnnyGunn been smoking?

  •  I miss my bike (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, bsmechanic

    I used to bike commute every day (for years).

    It needs some work right now. Sigh.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

    by LaughingPlanet on Mon May 04, 2009 at 09:57:26 PM PDT

  •  Bike only (5+ / 0-)

    I have owned a car for 27 months of my 42 years. I have not only biked to work in all weather (including 117F, -18F, torrential rain, over 6" of fresh snow), I have also biked AS work, as a NYC bike messenger for over five years again in all weather. I have been one of the few employees to make it in to work in Minneapolis, Buffalo, NYC and Peterborough Ontario snow storms...

    Huge benefits have been having enough money to get by even while working very low wage jobs, staying fit and attractive (enough to marry a much younger woman while not having money or fame or power), and getting to see the world in a way I would miss in a car.

    Owned a car for nine months when I was 18 and thought I needed one to date women. Then for 18 months while I lived in Buffalo waiting for my immigration to come through, 180 miles away from my new Canadian wife. I am not a pro level cyclist so I could not pull off a 360 mile weekend round-trip to see my wife. Even when I had a delivery job using my car, I parked it at work and biked there from home.

    I have to strongly disagree with the comments about wide tires above. Depending on the road conditions and weather they can be mandatory. Deep loose snow, large potholes, routes with single-track...what slows an average ride down for no good reason is not wide tires, it is crappy suspension on inexpensive bikes that does nothing but add weight and something to break. If you are riding on streets, there is no need for suspension.

  •  Can't bike to work, unless I can figure a set-up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    involving 1) a bicycle-pulled covered trailer to carry paint, tools, and other stuff, and 2) a garage to store it.  I think it's feasible, especially on the near west/west side of Chicago.  Say what you will about King Daley, but the guy sure has made the city bicycle-friendlier.

    Thanks for this and all your diaries, Al Rodgers.  Not a story here, but a ditty that is a short video that I took during last July's Critical Mass.  Be forewarned that the sound is tinny and the banjo is twangy, so please adjust your volume to 1/2 that of normal (and literal) comfort level:

    On the television screen were ballerinas.

    by bsmechanic on Mon May 04, 2009 at 10:18:42 PM PDT

  •  can't bike to work -- I work at home (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, A Siegel

    Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays at 5 PM PDT

    by indigoblueskies on Mon May 04, 2009 at 10:20:44 PM PDT

  •  Bikes Aren't Really Transportation - (4+ / 0-)

    Here are some examples -

    The Bay Area -
    Caltrans has spent more than $1.3 billion on the new Benicia Martinez Bridge.  Bicycles are banned.  They eliminated the bus shuttle three years ago.  Caltrans promises that when they finish refurbishing the old bridge that it will have a bike lane.  Then again, California is broke.  When was the last time bikes were allowed but cars prohibited for four or five years?

    Maryland -
    The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one long traffic jam in the summer.  Bikes are prohibited on the four-mile crossing.  Until two years ago, Annapolis had a city bus that ran to the other side of the bridge, but that was axed.  Express MTA busses run from the Eastern Shore to DC and Baltimore via Annapolis, but they do not permit bikes.  There is a "shuttle" service.  It's $35 per person.  So two people in a car would pay a toll of $2.50 round-trip, while two people cycling would pay $140.  The Maryland DOT bike/ped coordinator offers no more than a sigh.  Massive civil disobedience is what is needed.

    Sarah Palin's Alaska -
    Even up north they do it.  The Anson Anderson Tunnel from Whittier to Portage used to be a railroad only tunnel.  When the ferry came in, cars were loaded onto rail flatcars - bikes into the baggage car.  No problem.  Now that the feds have spend millions to convert the tunnel to a combined rail/highway tunnel, bicycles and pedestrians are banned.  Since there is no longer a need for the rail connection, Alaska Railroad only offers limited service that doesn't link up with ferry schedules and costs cyclists six times what drivers pay.


    There are, of course, some success stories - but they have required superhuman efforts.  St. Louis' historic Eads Bridge is a spectacular way to cross the Mississippi since you ride on the open top deck with vistas of the Arch.  Cincinnati's Purple Bridge is another example.

    But as more an more highways are built and/or widened, they create Chinese walls cutting lines of travel for cyclists and pedestrians.  Too often, the only places to cross the highways are at exits clogged with malls and big-box stores.

    It's gonna take a radical rethinking, folks.

  •  Running stop signs - a good idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That is, if your goal is more maimed bicyclists.  It isn't the car behind you that's gonna take you out.  It's the one you rolled out in front of.  I can't count the number of stopsign running bicyclists I've had to dodge WHILE RIDING MY BIKE!!

    •  It's a bike-to-auto culture parallel (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, TexMex Junkie

      As in, there are always a certain percentage of assholes on the road, be they on two wheels or four (heh).  Blowing through intersections.  Blindly opening car doors into the path of an oncoming cyclist (been "doored" twice, once in a designated "bike lane").  Weaving through pedestrians.  Etcetera.

      On the television screen were ballerinas.

      by bsmechanic on Mon May 04, 2009 at 11:05:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fair weather cyclist here (4+ / 0-)

    I'm a puss, and I have a bus pass for when it rains.

    Otherwise I commute 14 or so miles round trip, a significant portion of the return is uphill.  If the exercise wasn't worth it enough I get a small monetary incentive every 30 trips and I beat the bus times by 15 minutes to an hour every time I ride.

  •  I would bike to work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, pHunbalanced, eeff

    but, since I am blind in one eye, have visual perceptual problems, and live in NYC, I'd likely get killed.

    Mass transit for me!

  •  Right now I'm biking to work once a week (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, pHunbalanced, TexMex Junkie

    and am trying to increase that. It's only 5 miles each way, but some parts of the route are a bit unsafe. I didn't know May was Bike to Work month. It's probably a good time to join the League of American Bicyclists. I've been meaning to for a while. I regularly bike to my local grocery, hardware, and pet stores. Oh and the gas station where I buy cigarettes. People find no end of amusement in the fact that I ride my bicycle to pick up smokes. LOL.

    Does this internet make me look fat?

    by pattyp on Tue May 05, 2009 at 05:24:03 AM PDT

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