Bike-sharing fiascoes

This post come courtesy of Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Huddersfield.  This article is an extension to a previous bike sharing article he wrote last year. A lot has changed since then! Thanks for giving permission to share this article Alexandros!


Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Bike-sharing fiascoes

Bike-sharing schemes are a fast-growing transport trend, with almost 1,500 operating around the world today. To governments, they’re a novel tool to help ease the burden on public transport systems and reduce congestion in cities. To people, they’re an affordable and green way to get from A to B, without having to actually buy a bike.

Inspired by the principles of the “sharing economy”, bike-sharing schemes aim to make efficient use of resources by providing affordable, short-term access to bikes on an “as-needed” basis.

These schemes have been one of the most distinctive and user-friendly means of inspiring people to change their mode of travel, largely because they blend the sustainability of cycling with the speed and convenience of public transport.

But as striking photographs from China reveal, these bold principles don’t always play out in practice. To prevent thousands of bikes literally piling up in need of repair or retirement, cities and bike-sharing businesses need to swerve around a few obvious potholes.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

An uphill effort

Certain features can make cities hostile places for bike-sharing schemes; for example, overcomplicated planning procedures, strict cycling laws (such as compulsory helmet use) and political friction over giving up parking spaces to bike docks.

Inadequate infrastructure – such as limited bike lanes and unprotected cycle paths – together with traffic safety concerns, bad weather and hilly streets can also put off would-be cyclists. And if schemes suffer from poor promotion or sluggish expansion, the bikes can languish for lack of use.

Traditional bike-sharing schemes enable users to rent and return bikes at special hire stations, but they don’t provide a door-to-door service. So, for them to work, convenience is crucial. Schemes such as Seattle’s Pronto paid the price for having sparse and poorly placed docking stations, ceasing operations in 2017.

Over the last two years, Chinese bike-sharing start-ups such as Mobike and Ofo – funded by internet giants Alibaba and Tencent – have rushed to address this problem, by providing stationless smart bikes, which users can lock and unlock using a mobile app.

With lightning speed, hundreds of door-to-door bike-sharing schemes have spread across China, throughout other Asian countries and finally into Europe – the homeland of conventional public bicycle programmes. This new model has in theory the capacity to transform the world of cycle hire, just as Uber and Lyft have done for cabs.

Fatally flawed?

But amid the rush to embrace this new technology, there have already been a fair few fiascoes. China’s third-biggest bike-sharing company, Bluegogo, has run into financial trouble, despite having 20m users and £226m in deposits at its zenith. With so much competition in the market, there are too many bikes available at very low prices, with insufficient demand from consumers.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Of course, some of these mistakes are easily avoidable. Wukong Bicycle, a minor Chinese start-up which placed 1,200 bikes in the notoriously hilly Chinese city of Chongqing, went out of business after only six months in operation, with 90% of its bikes presumed missing or stolen. They made the fatal error of not installing GPS devices in their fleet.

Beijing-based bike-sharing firm 3Vbike also went bankrupt in June 2017, after losing more than 1,000 of its bikes in just four months. The scheme relied on location data from WeChat, rather than building its own app, making its tracking functions ineffective. Worse still, the owner had to purchase the bikes himself, for lack of other investors.

Manchester’s Mobike scheme – the first of its kind in the UK – is still going strong, despite facing teething issues during its first three months. Bikes were vandalised, dumped in canals and bins and stolen outright, leading the company’s spokesperson to suggest that the system has been “misundertood”. Bikes have since been taken in for repair, and will be redistributedacross a smaller area in the city centre. The oBike scheme in Australian cities faced similar problems.

Bike sharing fiascos - Bicycles Create Change.com

Survival guide

So, even with the right technology, dockless schemes are prone to misuse. If this new model of bike-sharing scheme is going to survive, operators will need to take note of these pitfalls, and adapt to the specific needs of their cities. Here are a few measures which can help to ensure the success of a bike-sharing scheme:

  • Stationless bikes might work where traditional bike-sharing schemes have failed, provided there is enough demand for these services. But free-floating bikes must have GPS systems attached – not doing so is a recipe for failure.
  • Fair fares, flexible membership options and ease of access all help to make schemes more user-friendly. And each scheme should have its own purpose-built app – no substitute is good enough.
  • Protection mechanisms and penalties for vandalism and theft should be in place from day one, to help minimise misuse. Market and education campaigns can be used to promote bike-sharing culture, and encourage people to take a positive attitude towards these bikes.
  • Too much competition within a city is a problem – an oversaturated bike-sharing market can be a fatal trap, especially for smaller schemes. Once they’ve assessed the market, operators need to make a city-specific plan for methodical and incremental growth. Rushing things through will lead to disaster.
  • City authorities should enthusiastically support bike-sharing and invest in cycling infrastructure to help schemes succeed; having a champion for the scheme, such as London’s former mayor Boris Johnson, guarantees long-term viability.
  • Very aggressive expansion can doom even the strongest dockless bike-sharing initiatives. Bike-sharing might not be an extremely profitable investment, so it’s important to manage investors’ expectations.

Bike-sharing is still, in many ways, a revelation and a positive addition for many cities which are battling the ill effects of car use. But at the same time it should be realised that not every city is destined to become a paradise for cyclists.


This is most recent article on bike sharing. He has written two previous articles for The Conversation about the (then) burgeoning global bike sharing expansion phenomena (Feb 2016) as well as how cars are killing us and what we can do to wean ourselves off them (from Sept 215). This article and all  images was originally published earlier this week on The Conversation website and then on subsequently on SBS

PhD in Transport Opportunity

Here’s an opportunity for a bike-rider who wants a research challenge.

Earlier this week I met with Assoc. Prof. Matt Bourke after he contacted me to discuss a few projects he is working on and exchange some ideas.  Matt is the Principal Research Fellow for the Cities Research Institute (CRI – Griffith Uni).  I was delighted to find out he is a bike rider and to see cycling

I am always happy to met a fellow bike rider making positive change. It was great to see cycling paraphernalia dotted around his office. We need more prominent two-wheeling academics!

Matt and I have a number of research and interest overlap in non-motorised travel, physical activity and health and urban travel. However, my interests are squarely on bicycles, community engagement and contested spaces, whereas he is more transport planning, policy, design and implementation.

Which meant there was lots to talk about!

One interesting thing we discussed is that Matt is currently looking for a candidate to undertake a PhD in transport and equity with his team.

Anyone up for the challenge?

PhD in Transport Opportunity - Bicycles Create Change.com
Source: Griffith News Website

What is the focus area of this PhD?

The CRI forecasts requiring double the amount of post-graduate degree candidates within its first six months – this is part of that expansion.

Currently, CRI  is focused on investigating ‘place based social policy in Australian cities’ and has over  100 students working on:

  • Urban planning and water: Towards a new institutional paradigm
  • Environmental management tools
  • Working with marginalised groups via cultural development practices
  • Improving state governance of Australian urban regions

What exactly is this PhD in Transport Opportunity?

Here are the details for SEEK. To apply and get the links click here.

PhD in Transport Opportunity - Bicycles Create Change.com

PhD in Transport Opportunity - Bicycles Create Change.com

PhD in Transport Opportunity - Bicycles Create Change.com

Why is this PhD role so special?

This role also is very prestigious within the transport sector as it is working with CRI and Griffith University, which are highly regarded as:

  • Griffith University is in the top 100 in the world for Transportation Science & Technology in the latest Shanghai Rankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2017.
  • The Griffith Transport Research (GTR) team was awarded the Griffith Sciences ‘Excellence in a research team’ award for 2015.
  • GTR has at least ten PhD scholars working in transport research at any one time across the group.
  • The GRT has won six prestigious Australian Research Council grants since 2009, and they have collaborations with leading international researchers from Europe, North America and increasingly in Asia.
  • GTR work with and cross various disciplines including travel behaviour, transport & land use, transport economics, transport engineering, transport planning, transport law, logistics, and transport & environment.
  • Their work covers all modes including walking, cycling, public transport, ferries, roads, freight, shipping and aviation.
  • The new CRI is designed to become the pre-eminent Australian centre for trans-disciplinary research on the integration of infrastructure, place-making and community and economic development in cities.
  • This role is based at Griffith Uni’s Brisbane campus at Nathan in the Sir Samuel Griffith Building, which is an innovative flagship research building and is an award -winning 6-star sustainable building produces zero emissions.

 

I would love to see more bike riders taking an active role in research, planning and policy – and this is one great way to do it. A PhD is a serious undertaking, but for those who are up for the challenge, the results would be not only personal gains but would have significant positive and enduring impacts for the future of city development and for all community members. What a brilliant way to progress the cycling and active transportation agenda!

If interested, contact:

Assoc. Prof Burke
Skype or WeChat (with the username/ID ‘drmattburke’)
Phone: +61 7 3735 7106
Email: m.burke@griffith.edu.au

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

This guest post is by Dr Mike Lloyd, a NZ academic who contacted me after I featured his article on the recent MTB bike rage incident that was caught on video and went viral. This post remains the one of the most popular BCC posts. His follow-up article examined ‘the spatial, temporal and interactional order of a rare case of cycle rage’ and looked at the same incident from a videography analysis to uncover the details of a MTB track run ‘gone wrong’. Both are well worth the read! It an absolute pleasure to present Mike’s first guest post – we hope to be hearing more from him – Enjoy! NG.


The Road Ahead: Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

(A summary of research by Dr Mike Lloyd, Max Baddeley, and Dr Ben Snyder, School of Social & Cultural Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; the full paper is currently under submission with an academic journal)

‘Sharrows’ first appeared in California in the early 2000s and have now been officially mandated for use on roads in many countries including Australia and New Zealand.   Our research looked at new cycling infrastructure in Wellington, New Zealand, specifically a 450 metre stretch of road where the designers stopped Copenhagen-style cycle lanes and reverted to more standard road space marked with sharrows (short for shared lane arrow).  Here is what a sharrow looks like in this space.

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure
The sharrow is the white cycle with double arrow sign painted in the middle of the red area (indicating a 30kph zone).  For the SUV driver, in this context the sign can mean, ‘be alert for cyclists ahead, and share the road if you come across them’.  This is consistent with aspects of sharrow use in Australia where they are referred to as a ‘Bicycle Awareness Zone’.  This also conforms to the New Zealand ‘best practice’ guidelines which say the sharrow ‘helps reinforce that the carriageway is a valid place for cyclists to travel (reinforcing to other road users to act accordingly’).  The interesting question is ‘where exactly should the cyclist ride?’  Looking at the bottom panel, we can see that there seems to be some guidance in this regard: the widening green bars seem to direct the cyclist to move into the middle of the road, exactly where the sharrows signs are positioned.

A quick googling of ‘sharrow’ would confirm this, as phrases like occupy- claim- or take-the lane will crop up.  However, this is not a hard-and-fast guideline for how a sharrowed area should be ridden.  Traffic experts emphasise that the sharrow is there to help the cyclist occupy the traffic lane when it is safe and appropriate to do so.  So, key questions are: ‘when’ should a cyclist claim the lane, and in doing so ‘where’ exactly should they position themselves in the lane?  Further, any cyclist will also know that it is not only the road ahead they need to be concerned with, but the road behind.  If a cyclist occupes the lane with cars behind, how will those drivers react?  A first way into this issue is to look at the process of attempting to claim the lane in the transition from the Copenhagen-style cycle lanes to the sharrow area.  This is where the widening green bars come into play, but as we see they are no guarantee of success:

 

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

Panels 1 to 3 show a cyclist attempting to claim the lane, but in response the driver of the white car speeds up not allowing the cyclist ahead.  In contrast, panels 4 to 6 show success: as the cyclist moves out the driver of the green car backs off, allowing the cyclist to ride ahead claiming the lane.

We do not have a breakdown of the ratio of success to failure in claiming the lane as this was not our goal, however, it is worth noting that our research involved one of the researchers riding to claim the lane; in reality, it is rare to see other cyclists doing so.  Mostly, cyclists revert to a default line to the left of centre.  This is a pity, because as we rode we discovered that sharrows can work to make cycling safer in traffic spaces where cycle lanes are not present.   Here the effect of raised pedestrian crossings and four speed bumps within the sharrow area was signficant. The entrance of both ends of the sharrow area features raised pedestrian crossings, and whereas a cyclist can ride over these with little decrease in pace, vehicles slow to a greater degree, thus giving the cyclist a chance to maintain a lead ahead of vehicles.  When the vehicles get over the raised crossing and increase their speed, catching up with a cyclist, the speed bumps repeatedly give the cyclist a ‘breathing space’.  Of course, this all depends on the speed being travelled: this ‘breathing space’ effect works for a car obeying the 30 kph limit, but not for one travelling significantly over this speed.  Needless to say, not everyone obeys speed limits.

Also, once claiming the lane, there can be a reduction in the temptation to ‘filter’. When there are parked cars to the left, but the central line of traffic is slow or stopped, it is very common for cyclists to ‘filter’ between the cars –  a dangerous area to be cycling in.  Our cyclist’s impression was that once riding to ‘claim the lane’, when the traffic slows, filtering to the left is not so ‘automatic’, rather the cyclist may just slow their pace to match the vehicles ahead, thus reducing the risk of riding in the dangerous space between cars.

This good news has to be tempered though by one of the main findings of the research.  This has to do with how difficult it is to predict in the design of cycling infrastructure how drivers and cyclists will actually interact on the built road.  Small details can be remarkably important, yet hard to plan for.  We were able to realise this because of our dual camera research method, that is, our cyclist had a GoPro camera pointing forward on his bike handlebars, and a rearwards facing camera mounted on his helmet.  The folllowing three visuals capture a near-dooring incident.

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

In panel 1 the cyclist is riding past three parked cars and a motorbike, and just as he is adjacent to the motorbike, the door on the silver car starts to open.  The video record does not allow us to be definitive, nevertheless, in our view two things can be noted.  First, the opening of the door is a continuous movement (see panels 3 and 4), and second, from a careful scrutiny of panel 4, the car driver is looking forward, not behind or to the right where the cyclist is approaching.  It does not seem either that the driver is looking into a rear-view mirror to check for any vehicle or cyclist behind, nevertheless, we certainly accept that this could be the case.

Interestingly, the inability to be definitive on this point is not of crucial importance, because the more pressing question to ask is, why was the cyclist not aware of the door opening?  This is sensible to ask because, as shown in panel 3 of figure 6, it has opened sufficiently enough for it be visible.  Experienced cyclists develop a strong sense of where they are cycling in relation to parked cars and the potential at any moment for a door to be opened on them, meaning that even a door opening to 10 centimetres is probably detectable. But there is no evidence that the cyclist sees the door opening, as he certainly does not change his line in response to the opening, even though by the time he is directly adjacent to the door it may well have opened even further than seen in panel 4.

In an ‘aha’ moment the answer was provided by consulting the rearwards-facing video record, filmed simultaneously.

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

In panel 1, the cyclist has entered the sharrow area, claiming the lane with the consequence that the silver MPV behind him slows.  Just after panel 1, the vehicle comes closer but then backs off, continuing to follow at a reasonable distance (panel 2).  Just before panel 1, the cyclist has looked behind and seen the silver MPV, so he is aware of its presence while he rides centrally ahead of it.  Panel 3 provides the answer to the question of why the cyclist was unaware of the car door opening.    At precisely the moment when the car door begins and proceeds to open, the cyclist is looking behind (hence, the tilted screenshot) to see where the silver MPV is in relation to him.  This fully explains the ignorance of the door opening, but, as captured in panels 4 and 5, we now have a much more extensive idea of what happened.  We see that the door was fully opened with the driver emerging onto the road, and we also see how dangerous this situation was.  As indicated by the yellow arrow, the cyclist’s line was directly in the path of the fully opened door.  It was probably only by a matter of micro-seconds that he escaped being doored.

There is more that can be learned from this data, for another pressing question needs answering: if the cyclist was claiming the lane in the sharrow area, why, at this particular point, is he riding a line within the dooring zone?

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

The answer is available in the subtle change of line prior to the place where the near-dooring occurred.  In panel 1, the cyclist approaches the raised pedestrian crossing riding in the centre of the road, and in panel 2 is seen riding straight over the sharrow sign.  Panels 3 and 4 show though, that just before he gets to the speed bump, there is a subtle alteration in line, taking him leftwards and closer to the line of parked cars. This alteration in line is first due to riding around a manhole cover in the road, which takes the line towards a second cover in the road (at the head of the top arrow), which is also ridden by moving to the left.  These slight alterations in line are continued by riding to the left of the speed bump, the line then maintained towards the circled area ahead (panel 5) where the near-dooring occurs. The cyclist is clearly picking the line of ‘least resistance’ in relationship to the bumpiness of the road, which results in moving him further and further to the left, away from the sharrow line and into the dooring zone.

The subtlety of such alterations in line would be difficult for road designers to predict.  Moreover, other things can happen in the same space that lead the cyclist to a different line.

Research on the ‘sharrow’ in cycling infrastructure

This second door opening occurs well before the cylist, but is also at a time when the cyclist is riding to the right of the sharrow line, so that he is well clear of the opened door.  This is because the transition from the raised pedestrian crossing to this location has no material objects that encourage alteration in line.   In panel 2 we again see the alteration in line around the cover, but this time when the cyclist gets to the speed bump (panel 3), he rides through the middle.  The reason for this is visible in panel 4: he looks ahead and sees a parked bus taking up significant space in the road, so he anticipates the need to go wider and adjusts his line out more centrally in the road, coincidentally taking him well away from the dooring zone.

So, the exact lines ridden are clearly not solely determined by the material features of the road, rather there is a complex entanglement of the social and material in any particular riding through the sharrow area.  There are patterns in how a sharrow area is ridden, but at the same time these are not sufficient to predict the course of any moment’s riding through this new cycling infrastructure.  The particular line taken in any particular moment is part of a ‘wild phenomena’. To decide on the degree of success of any new cycling infrastructure requires close attention to the detail of how cyclists and drivers actually interact. Thankfully, the availability of cheap and easy-to-use action cameras makes data-gathering relatively simple, leaving the researcher with the difficult task of unpacking the fine detail.  It is an important task that may lead to improved cycling infrastructure design.

Riding some of Melbourne’s Best Bike Trails

For the last four days, I’ve been riding a bike around Melbourne.

Each day I’ve started out early and taken a different direction to scout out some of the iconic and most beloved bike routes in and around Melbourne. It was not only a great way to get around town but I also wanted to see some of the changes that had been discussed at the

Each day I’ve started out early and taken a different direction to scout out some of the iconic and most beloved bike routes in and around Melbourne. It was not only a great way to get around town but I also wanted to see some of the changes that had been discussed at the Bike Futures Conference last Friday – and relive some of the old glory days spent whizzing around town.

If you are keen for some similar riding – here’s a full list of Melbourne city and regional bike trail systems or conversely, use some of these helpful Map My Route resources and plans to get from A to B or go for an explore like I did.

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Yarra Trail
The first day’s ride took me along the banks of the Yarra on a beautiful sunny early morning. I used the Captial City, Main Yarra Trail and Kew Boulevard trails. I headed out to Kew one way and did a big loop to head back into town over the other side. It started out quiet, but as I headed back into town, it got very busy with commuters from the Easters suburbs riding in. Some of the pathways still need some work, some areas have stairs, but overall the shadiness of the trees and the sheer delight of riding alongside the area river was a really glorious thing to do in the morning. It was great to see all the rowers, joggers, mums-and-bubs groups and all manner of people out and about on the Yarra Trail. It was a stunning day and the city looked beautiful (below). What a great way to spend a day on two wheels.

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Maribyrnong
On my second day’s ride, I headed out West – from Melbourne city along South Wharf to Footscray. I’ve done this ride inbound ride once before, but I wasn’t 100% sure of where to turn off to get to the heart of the city. But this time – it was much easier going from the city and heading out west. It is super direct, quick and easy. I took advantage of the peak hour bicycle commuters riding out from the city, and just follow their tails. It ended up being about 20-25 minutes from Flinders Street station safely all the way into Footscray on wide fast and smooth paths. It was also very well signed and used. When I got to Footscray, I ended up jumping on the trails going along the Maribyrnong River Trail (below) heading towards Victoria Uni and Flemington Racecourse. I passed under and over many bridges, past the Buddhist temple and rode out as far as I dared. Then I had a coffee and rode back to Footscray. From Footscray, I followed the trail out towards Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail to see where the entry and exit points were along the way as the main track led under the Westgate Bridge. From there it is easy to do a full loop of Williamstown for a solid return trip– what a beautiful ride.

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Darebin
On my third next day, I went out to explore the Darebin bike trails. I started by joining the commuters from Footscray (where I was staying the night before) into the city. From the City to Brunswick Street for a coffee and then I headed out St Georges Road bike path out to Reservoir. It was interesting to see some of the infrastructure changes and remodelling that had been undertaken to the path in the centre of St George’s bikeway. I was impressed with the signage and how easy it was to get around on this bike path.  I spent the afternoon exploring various Merri Creek trails. I rode out to Reservoir and ended up at Broadway at the Olympic Park Village and the outdoor velodrome there (below).  I got chatting to a few cyclists who were passing and thoroughly enjoyed my ride on the beautiful warm sunny day. After that, I spent the afternoon exploring various Merri Creek trails exploring where they entered and exited and marvelling at the extensive network out this way.

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Hampton & Beach Road
My fourth day saw me doing a long, but very satisfying bike ride from Reservoir to Hampton. This time I went from Reservoir (where I stay the night before) back into the city via St George’s bike path, then out St Kilda Road to Albert Park – making sure to take in a ride along with the FI Grand Prix track (I had to do it again after last week, I just couldn’t help myself. Woohoo!). When I got to St Kilda, I scouted out the ‘inland’ route up Inkerman Road to Hotham Road and then scooted across to Hampton. This route was great to get a feeling of what it’s like to ride on the road and to see the difference in bike infrastructure in certain areas and roads. When in Hampton, I visited some old mates Rumbo and Damo at Hampton Cycles and it was good to have a catch-up and a gasbag. For the way home, I headed out on the Bay Trail. For this ride, you can either take Beach Road or ride the parallel Boulevard bike trail from Hampton all the way back into the city. Either way, it is a stunning ride! I took a few photos on the way and enjoyed checking out the Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes, Elwood and St Kilda beach.

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Cruising around Melbourne.

Over the course of these four days, I’ve pretty much been in all the main four directions of the compass on my bike. I got a real taste for the different city council approaches to biking and how accessible and convenient biking now is in Melbourne. It was both exhilarating and very enjoyable exploring new parts of, and revisiting my favourite haunt and coffee shops in and around town. Where ever possible, I chatted with fellow bike commuters and asked them about their biking experiences.

It felt great to be back on a bike.

It was also great to be out and riding longer distances and exploring the trails – getting sweaty, seeing the sights and having the whole day to really explore and fully enjoy every moment.

It was a real pleasure having five days completely off to go riding on such beautiful Melbourne summer days – I highly recommend it!

Not sure what trail to try?

 Try Bike Paths.com maps of Melbourne trails – or check this article out for a list of a few of Melbourne’s most scenic bike rides – many of I tried in the last couple of days. I hope have as much fun as I did riding these trails!

Riding some of Melbourne's Best Bike Trails

Signs in Rotorua NZ

For my last post to wrap up my mountain biking trip to Rotorua NZ, here is a selection of the signs I’ve seen this trip.  These signs added extra humour, interest or general ‘bikiness’ to this last trip which I really appreciated – pretty much every one of them made me smile.

 

 In order of sighting – here are the signs that made me smile this trip

  1. At Auckland airport I saw this sign high up on a cafe wall – not only was it quintessentially NZ with the the rugby reference, but I also spotted the artist’s signature (bottom left) which was a bicycle, so I knew we were off to a good start and welcomed and understood by our NZ cousins.

Signs in Rotorua

 

2. On the transit bus from Auckland to Rotorua I saw this on the back of a grey nomad’s van.

Signs in Rotorua, NZ
Source: Dawanda

 

3. I appreciated this sign as I had not seen it before and I thought it was good way of explaining how traffic (and other road users like road riders) need to converge.

Signs in Rotorua

 

4. We got into Rotorua and built the bikes for a quick ride in Whakarewarewa Forest. The systems of trails there are so well signed – with all the details you need to know…AND all one way  – bliss!!

Signs in Rotorua

 

5. I love this sign at the end of Split Enz trail as you come off the logged mountain side and back into the forest – GOLD!

Signs in Rotorua

 

6. After a great days riding, I’d take Eagle vs Shark as my last trail off the mountain and fly down the road for a feed and a beer at the bottom. Then heading back into town on Sala St there was this sign, which I thought was a great safety reminder to look for cyclists.

Signs in Rotorua

 

7. One afternoon we cruised into town to visit the bike shops. In the Specialized store there was this display promoting their ‘CycleZone women’s riding month Women on Wheels Photo Competition’.

Signs in Rotorua

 

8. The we popped into Bike Culture and I saw this hanging on the wall – stoked to see it was the same artist as the first sign from the airport! And another a very pertinent reminder to keep supporting local bike shops as well!

Signs in Rotorua

 

9. I’ve always said that Rotorua is all over the ‘support MTB as a positive tourist development initiative’ and is a great example for other cities (take notes Brisbane!). Not only is cycling actively supported by local council, small business, infrastructure and the like, but as this empty shopfront at a major intersection in town shows, even vacant windows are used to endorse biking (a little hard to see in these pictures, but you get the idea).

This vacant shop window has been utilised to display massive pictures of local mountain bike trails. Best of all the rider in the picture is female (right) and there are details promoting the Rotorua Bike Festival (left). How easy and effective is it to encourage bike tourism?! Nice one Rotorua!

Signs in Rotorua

 

10. Although I didn’t focus on it, I did appreciate that at the bottom of the sings for the advanced trails, there was a smaller separate sign that has ‘In an emergency’ details.

These signs were particularly effective (can’t see it fully in this photo) as they very simply gave the emergency number to call (great for overseas visitors – just in case). But also gave the ‘address’ which is the location where the sign is in the forest, so that the ambulance knows exactly where you are.

Again, just another simple, but effective way to make the area so much more easier to use and less stressful. Brilliant!

Signs in Rotorua

 

11. The bathroom of the mountain bike cafe Zippy has this sign over the communal basin to encourage people to wash their hands – It reads ‘I got worms!! I’ll tell you how I go them, I didn’t wash my hands and how they are in my bottom!” Hilarious!

Signs in Rotorua

 

12.  On leaving Rotorua to come home, we passed many HOBBITON tourist attractions – so I just couldn’t resist including this one!

Signs in Rotorua

Xiaosa – the intrepid Chinese dog

Although this story is a blast from the past, it is still such a great story – hence it’s addition here.

There are some rare events were adventurers and dogs can travel, race and tour together, but not enough. There are a few, rare remarkable stories of stray dogs joining teams of travellers, like Arthur who joined Swedish Team Peak Performace Adventure Race Team in Equador and the story below fits into this category.

As a bike enthusiast and trail dog owner, I am a big fan of riding with dogs and have often lamented that there is such a restriction about dogs on trails. I have long argued for a mixed species MTB event that is made up of a rider, bike and dog as a team for MTB festivals (mixed species teams – and then as the attendance grows, move into new divisions such as same sex and/or mixed gender species events … to cater for the understandable and obvious growth in popularity of such events!).  Anyhow, until such events eventuate become mainstream, international newsworthy stories such as this gem are certainly welcomed for its positivity and feel-good vibes promoting the unique bond between dogs and their riders.

 

The Xiaosa Story

This is a story of a stray dog that joined a band of cyclists on their epic 20 day, 1,833km graduation ride across China from Sichuan province to Tibet. There are many links to this story as it was quite a hit, but many of the English-speaking print media just gave perfunctory details, whereas this news report went the extra mile to present some interesting facts and a few extra pictures – it is well worth the read.  Having lived and travelled through China for a couple of years, I also find this story particularly heart-warming as I very challenged during my Chinese travels about the way I saw most dogs treated – so this story is doubly positive for me – an encouraging cycling trip and an affirming dog story.

 

The cycling trip across China

The cycling trip was arranged as a graduation get together. Very early on, the group had stopped for lunch, and one of the cyclists took pity on first seeing the poor wretch, lying forlornly, tired and hungry-looking in the street, so he fed her. From that moment on, the dog joined the group, running alongside them and ending up as the team mascot due to her feisty nature.

The little pup, named Xiaosa or ‘Little Sa’ made a big impression keeping up with the 60 km per day, over 12 mountain ranges, (some of which were over 14,000 m high) and outlasted some the cyclists (who opted for buses) to complete the rest of the trip. She also protected the cycling group from being attacked by other dogs, as well as keep up the group for the entire trip – no mean feat off the couch and on such little legs.

One of the cyclists started a blog about her exploits, which attracted over 40,000 people and comments, including other cyclists who had travelled the region who said they had also seen Xiaosa on their travels as well. The pup turned into a national celebrity. It was also great to hear that Xiaosa has since been adopted by one of the cyclists.

Either way, it is a  great story about cycling trips and the friends you make along the way.

The best English speaking video I’ve found so far about this story is from the BBC, but the below video is a British version from youtube so it embeds into the blog easier – but it is interesting to see the change in facts from Chinese news report to British.

To see just how popular Xiaosa and ‘her’ bicycle trip became, Google her name and see the extensive list of news stories and posts about her. It is interesting to see how the story changed depending on what source you get it from – in some reports Xiaosa is male, in others the cycling trip was a bike race with 300 competitors and so on. I am certainly not the definitive source of accurate facts for this story, I am merely synthesising the most common reported facts here.

Source: ibtimes.com
Source: ibtimes.com

Markus Stitz -Singlespeed around the world

First full single speed around the world.

In the last couple of days, a German long-distance cyclist, completed a full circumnavigation of the world. This makes Markus Stitz,  the first to (unofficially) single speed around the world! He averaged 96.5kms per day, to complete the 33796 kms journey in 12 months. Many riders undertake cycling trips of varying durations, levels of difficulty, riskiness and fitness, but in the bike touring fraternity it is not often that all this is done with one gear. Although Markus has had a number of cycling adventures before, it was this unassisted, enduring trip across the globe that has recently gained attention.

Markus Stitz -Singlespeed around the world

Markus Stitz -Singlespeed around the world
Source: Road CC

More detail about his actual trip and experiences can be found elsewhere in cyberspace. His exploits have been making headlines lately especially considering that the local UK media were quite taken with his adventuring and have been active in following his final closing kilometres given his trip terminates in Scotland. Having lived in Scotland for 2.5 years myself, it makes me incredibly nostalgic to think of travelling through the landscape contemplating life, the universe and everything.

There is so much about Markus’ story that I find appealing; taking a year off to cycle through and across the world, doing it unassisted and completely under his own steam, finishing his 33796 km trip in Scotland, reading about some of the amazing experiences he has had and seeing some of the stunning photos he took along the way. It is a reminder that bicycles are a vehicle for freedom, and often the only limiting factor to that freedom is our inability to recognise and embrace it wholeheartedly.

Being an avid singlespeeder myself, I find the idea of riding one anywhere and everywhere is tantalising, and I certainly understand the attraction. However, practically it is something that I was interested to see how it worked on a daily basis. That is why I appreciated Markus keeping a blog (as best he could) during his time on the road. I like the fact also that he explained the most inspiring aspects, but equally the more challenging and difficult times as well. Not only does it have a slew of juicy travel tit-bits detailing the locations he visited and recollections of interactions with locals and the like, but interspersed throughout are some technical difficulties (so few) – he did the full 33,796 kms trip with ‘just one broken spoke and no punctures since Singapore’.

He has a Youtube Channel with some videos you can check out here.

Click here to see more of Markus’s blog.

Markus Stitz Instagram: @reizkultur

 

What do you take on a trip like this?

markus stitz

Source: Markus Stitz

One thing I was very interested to see from his blog were details of everything he took on his trip. With his gear and bike (which he speaks more of here) weighing in at about 32kg, here’s Markus’ list of what he took on his journey:

Bike:

Surly Ogre with Halo Vapour Rims, SP Dynamo Hub in front, Surly Ultra New Hub in back, Halo Clickster 18t freewheel, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 2.0 tyres with tubes, Thomson seat post, Brooks Cambium C15 saddle, ESI silicone grips, ESI bar tape and silicone tape, Jones 710 Loop h-bar aluminium, Avid BB7 brakes, Shimano square taper bottom bracket, Middleburn RS7 cranks, Surly 32t chain ring, KMC chain

Mounted on bars and frame

  • Exposure MaXx-D Mk4 Front Light
  • Garmin eTrex20 with 16GB MicroSD and Energiser rechargeable batteries
  • GoPro Hero3 in casing with bar mount
  • CatEye Strada wireless cycle computer
  • Specialized Cage with Optimus 0.6l Fuel Bottle
  • MuckyNutz fender
  • Spot Gen3 Satellite Tracker

Salsa Anything Cage HD with Salsa Anything Bag 1:

  • Alpkit titanium pot and lid 800 ml
  • Primus Omni Fuel stove and fuel pump
  • Foldable cup
  • Matches & lighter
  • Tea and coffee in plastic bag
  • Windshield and ground shield for stove
  • Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Day pack
  • Olive oil in Nalgene container

Salsa Anything Cage HD with Salsa Anything Bag 2:

  • Cable and combination lock
  • 2 spare Schwalbe tubes
  • Brooks MT 21 multi tool
  • workshop gloves
  • Optimus tool for stove
  • Ice Tools chain checker
  • 1 tube of Schwalbe Latex for tubeless tyres
  • Freewheel tool
  • Purple Extreme Lube and 2 cloths
  • Diverse nuts and bolts, spare cleats, chain link, brake cable
  • Patches & tyre boot
  • ESI silicone tape
  • Electrical tape
  • 2 sets of Avid brake pads, sintered
  • Cable ties
  • 1 small tube of grease
  • Leatherman Wingman tool
  • Torx T25 key
  • Strapped outside on bag
    • Schwalbe Rocket Ron foldable tyre
    • Lezyne Micro Floor Drive Pump with pressure gauge
    • Oakley Racing Jacket glasses with black, yellow and clear lenses in Swiss Eye protective case

Apidura Handlebar Pack Compact (lined with Exped Dry Bag)

  • Nordisk Telemark 1 ULW tent (aluminium instead of carbon poles)
  • Yeti Purity Down Jacket
  • Exped Synmat Hyperlite M sleeping mat
  • Montane Extreme Mitts
  • Tineli Thermal Gloves
  • Tineli Thermal Booties

Apidura Accesory Pocket

  • Sea to Summit X-Pot expandable 2.8l pot
  • Sea to Summit X Bowl (fits into pot)
  • 1 tube alcohol gel
  • 2 tubes sunscreen
  • Opinel knife and Snowpeak titanium spork
  • Logitech Keys To Go portable keyboard (in Sea to Summit dry sack)

Spokwerks Jones Loop Bar Bag

  • Xtorn Powerbank Air 6000 (in Sea to Summit dry sack)
  • PDW Aether Demon USB backlight
  • USB cable for charging light
  • USB cable for charging Exposure light
  • Pepper spray
  • Citrus Squeezy (against dogs)
  • Sinewave Cycles Revolution (USB charger)

Spokwerks Cookie Jar 1 (lined with Sea to Summit Dry Sack)

  • 2 Duracell batteries for Canon S120 camera
  • 4 Energiser AAA batteries
  • 2 Energiser AA batteries
  • Charging cable for portable keyboard
  • Charging cable for GoPro & GPS
  • Shoulderpod mount for iPhone
  • Additional mount for GoPro
  • Tripod mount for GoPro
  • Apple USB charger
  • Apple iPhone cable
  • Petzl Tikka Plus head torch

Spokwerks Cookie Jar 2 (lined with Sea to Summit Dry Sack)

  • Canon S120 camera in Hama Case
  • Montane Featherlite Jacket

Apidura Frame Bag (Prototype)

  • 6 spare spokes and nipples
  • Camelbak 3l reservoir
  • Katadyn FIlter Mini
  • Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod

Apidura Top Tube Pack Extended

  • Used for food only

Apidura Saddle Pack Regular (lined with Exped Dry Bag) & everything I wear on my body

  • iPhone 6plus with Lifeproof NÜÜD case
  • Specialized BG Gel Wiretap gloves
  • Lifeventure wallet
  • Bottle opener (!)
  • Buff mobile phone cleaner
  • Pen
  • Nike Free 5.0 Shoes
  • Travel towel
  • Lake MX175 MTB shoes and 45NRTH Japanther Boot (Iceland)
  • Gore Bike Wear Element GT Paclite Jacket
  • Surly 5’’ wool socks
  • Halo Aireator socks
  • Defeet Woolie Boolie 6’’ socks
  • 2 boxer shorts
  • Tineli Knee Warmers
  • Tineli Aero Gloves
  • Tineli MTB Trail Shorts
  • Skins A200 compression tights
  • Tineli Thermal Bibtights
  • Tineli Lime Bibs x 2
  • Montane Bionic SS base layer
  • Montane Bionic LS base Layer
  • Short sleeve base layer
  • Tineli Lime Intermediate Jacket
  • Tineli Lime SS jersey
  • Tineli Sun Protectors
  • Defeet Merino Arm warmers
  • Insect and UV proof Buff
  • 45NRTH Greazy Merino Hat
  • Tineli Winter Cap
  • Tineli Team Cap
  • Specialized S3 Helmet
  • Yeti Passion 3 Sleeping Bag
  • Teeth Kit: Tooth brush, floss, interdental brushes, tooth paste
  • Wash Kit: Shower gel, soap, shaving water, ear plugs, hand cream
  • Pixo C-USB Charger
  • Moleskine Diary
  • Medical Kit with plaster, antibiotics, Ibuprofen, scissors, bandages, gloves and sewing kit.

markus stitz

Source: Markus Stitz

Jill Kintner – Queen of Crankworx 2016

A massive congratulations to Jill Kintner – Queen of Crankworx World Tour!! I’ve been watching all her runs and rides this year and was very impressed watching her come back after some issues and injuries that ended in a 4th place overall last year. But this year she has been on fire! Smashing the competition and ripping at events like the dual salmon, BMX, downhill and her list of her achievements goes on and on … Awesome!!

Aside from loving riding and training hard, I really appreciate that Jill is also a consummate artist and actively integrates her artwork into her routine – an inspiration for being a well balanced, kick-ass role model for us up and comers!!

Jill Kintner – Queen of Crankworx 2016

Jill’s story is inspirational as it really exemplifies how diverse riders and their skills can be. Not only does Jill embody this, but she is also unusual in that she is not only an exceptional gifted and hard working rider. She has been very successful in a wide range of events and disciplines in riding – not just good at one – but in her case two, three, four and more!

Her story is great as it clearly shows that riding bikes can make positive change in your life. Obviously biking is not just for health, transport and happiness, but also, for a few select people with the opportunity and dedication like Jill, can also be an avenue to forge a career. With this comes travel, sponsors and exposure. However, all of that must be earned –  which Jill certainly has. I hope she is stoked and reaping the rewards of all her hard work over the Crankworx season this year!

People ride bikes at all kinds of level of confidence, skill and intensity. I am a big fan of her dedication, skill and tenacity for making it happen. It was great to se her husband Bryn (Cairns born and bred not less!) and her mates out in full support mode – including mocking up a photo of ‘Jill for Queen’ Posters – GOLD!

So, congrats on this year’s season Jill – your an inspiration!! Now I’m off to practice my pump track skills!!

Source: Bike mag Anthony Smith
Source: Bike mag Anthony Smith

 

Bike tourism in Peru

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger

 

3 Opportunities to get on a bike to be part of the ‘real’ tourism in Peru

Bicycles mean more than a means of transport, they are also a serious sport, a hobby and now this post will talk about a how bicycles represent a unique way to know the word to conduct tourism.

Bicycles represent an inexpensive business investment and an affordable alternative for those who are looking to see the world.  That said, the use of bicycles in tourism is a worthy business opportunity.

Some people may opt for going to luxurious hotels surrounded by expensive details in a comfortable room, eating five-star food, resting and forgetting about all their problems. However, there is a different market for those who are looking for adventures, and want to be surrounded by nature and visit wonderful places off the beaten track that seem to be taken from someone with a lot of imagination’s dream.

These adventures are more affordable and exciting that we may think. For instance, if you go to Peru to see the Andes and Machu Picchu, there are tours where you can live a real life adventure and see singularly spectacular landscapes that otherwise would be impossible to view from a car. And let’s face it, riding a bicycle through these indomitable roads is just fun enough in itself and will help anyone forget any problem they might have.

Sacred rides

One such venture, called Sacred Rides, is where you can find rides according to any budget and skill level. This business is focused on people who are looking for extreme adventures, places that will get the adrenaline flowing and interacting with the beautiful and wild natural surrounds.

Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides

Cycle Peru

For those who are looking for a comfortable ride, complete with a tour guide, through ancient cities and for those who want to participate in community activities, there are options that cater for these tourists on bikes as well.  In this case, Cycle Peru would be an interesting option. Just because the trip is calmer, doesn’t mean you will miss out on any of the fun – and this outfit will provide a very authentic opportunity to get to know the true Peru.

Gravity Peru

If you are in Peru and are a real adrenaline junkie, then Gravity Peru is the business for you – they will not muck you around! If you want a serious time on a bike and maybe some more dangerous adventures, they will have have exactly what you need. See the video below.

In conclusion, maybe the best part of traveling to South America are the stunning landscapes and the experiences that you will never forget. So what better way to fully appreciate such an experience than by grabbing a bicycle – leave the car at home and get off the tour bus – you will be surprised by all the things you may be missing out on by not being a tourist on a bicycle. Have a good trip!

 

Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

Pollie Pedal Charity Bike Ride

Last December, following a very enjoyable MTB trip to NZ, I was lamenting in the Politicians and Prime Ministers riding bikes post the sad state of difference between the progressive, decisive and uber cycling supportive NZ Government and that of our own fickle and overly car-dependant Australian (especially Queensland!) Government.

It seems that Australia has an obvious lack of political forward thinking and active leadership in moving towards a healthier and more sustainable society, which incorporates citywide safe bicycling into current city designs and future infrastructure. Which is a pity, because most other developed countries and major cities elsewhere have adopted such urban policies as a political, economic or social imperative – like Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France – where ‘continued investment’ in bicycles is known as ‘smart investments’.

During my lament, I had mentioned that it was sad that NZ politicians were out on bikes (in suits no less) and that I was yet to see their Australian counterparts do the same.

Well, this week my wish came true.

 

Pollie Bike Ride: The Australian, April 4th, 2016
Pollie Bike Ride: The Australian, April 4th, 2016

Pollie Pedal Charity Bike Ride

A I know that just getting on a bike for a few minutes media photos shoot is not the same as changing laws for better active transport nationwide. However, unlike the NZ pollies (who were in suits and obviously doing a photo shoot) at least some of our politicians have committed to decent whack of time in the saddle for the 19th Annual Pollie Pedal Charity Bike Ride.

Tony Abbot has been the most publicised pollie in this year’s ride – and leaving actual politics out of the event (which is a little hard), the ride is not only raising money for charities, it is a decent length at 1,000km in 8 days ride. It leaves Parliament House for Melbourne to onto Sydney. It is travelling through the worst of the Black Saturday areas and has regular stops at schools, pubs, public services and local business.

No matter what you may think about Tony Abbott, his politics or his former leadership, it is difficult to criticize him for getting on a bike to raise much needed money for charity. Although it will be a continuous media circus the whole Tour D’Abbott, it is hard to begrudge any politician who stays fit and will get on a bike for 1,000km. It is not like Belgium’s Health Minister Maggie de Block, who at 127kgs (20 stone), could well be in a position which some may argue, she is not ‘fit for’. Conversely, according to data from 2008, 47% of all adults in Belgium were overweight, so maybe she truly is representing the common people.

Either way, at least we still have politicians who get out and about, even if it is for 9 days a year. The Pollies on the ride still have to sit on their bike seats and ride – just like the rest of us.

 

Source: Executive Styles.com