Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A bike to catch thieves

I've just found this video reccomended on a radio programme blog. It's about a Chinese man who uses his bike to stop a couple of thieves who had stolen a woman's purse.

What do you think about it?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter cycling

This year has been snowy and cold everywhere in Europe. I've heard news of snow in Spain and Italy, and Austria received first snow before Turku, Finland. Actually, we don't always get a good snowy and cold winter here either. A couple of years ago there was no termic winter (temperature drops permanently below zero) here at all, but that was exceptional. I have never experienced such a poor winter before, and it really sucked. However, this year has been delightfully snowy and cold, we received permanent snow cover a few weeks back, earlier than usually (I have to mention that in Turku the statistical average for that is in the Christmas Eve :D). So, considering my little winter cycling experiment, the conditions have been ideal. Apart from the raging blizzard outside as I'm writing this.

In the middle: walking on frozen Kallavesi lake, Kuopio; other images: modifications for the winter

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Got any bike related presents?

In Austria we celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December. I got many sweet presents from my family. One of my sisters, for example, handed me some bicycle cocktail stirrers:

Cocktail stirrers

Apart from that I (luckily) did not get any bike stuff. But I gave a good U-lock to my dad. You'll learn more about the story behind that gift another time :).

A lock for my dad

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spittelberg's bicycles

Spittelberg is an old quarter of Vienna, located in the 7th district (known as Neubau) behind the MQ (Vienna's stylish museums quarter and former K.&K. stables). Till 1850 it was a town on its own. There are many nice houses in Biedermeier style and lovely narrow cobbled streets.

Spittelberg (highlighted area on the bottom) around 1830

Spittelberg is well-kown for its yearly Christmas market. So far it's the one I like best in Vienna, just because the narrow streets is so beautiful. This year I like it even more for one very particular reason: mugs.

Mugs? You must know that Christmas markets in Vienna produce their own mugs with changing imprints. This year the Spittelberg Christmas market put some snow-covered bicycles on their mugs. Absolutely lovely! Even I can't think of a better logo :).

Spittelberg Christmas market -- ...
... a place to drink Glühwein and Punsch ...
... in lovely mugs with bike imprints :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A stroll through Schönbrunn

There are so many nice places in Vienna that I never bother mentioning them -- simply because I hardly ever go there, but also because I am so used to them, that I do not consider them so special. However, it's always nice, to take a walk around the center (it's a pedestrian zone) or other parks. Filigree has once mentioned the Augarten as her favorite park in Vienna. Now here's one rather touristy place that is also very enjoyable:

Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

The Schönbrunn palace (with an umlaut written as "Schoenbrunn") is the former residence of the Habsburg monarchs and the whole area very very pompous, both the palace and the surrounding gardens. If you're interested in the historical background I recommend to visit the offical website of the Schönbrunn palace or Wikipedia (and Vienna :)).

Soon after the end of the monarchy the population of Vienna discovered the park as an attractive recreational area, which it is still. In December 1996 the Schönbrunn Palace was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.

Map of the palace (the yellow thing in the South) and parks at Schönbrunn

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lingerie on bikes

Earlier we already discussed whether there is something called "bike fashion". Well, there is, in some ways. But these days also the "usual fashion" is proudly presented on bikes -- even underwear! Here's a picture of the lingerie collection "Sonia Rykiel pour H&M" presented on beautiful old-style bikes in Paris:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

COP15 and cycling

COP15, the Copenhagen climate change conference, is trying to find appropriate mitigation and adaptation goals and strategies against climate change. Cycling is a carbon-efficient means of transport that in many cases presents a true alternative to driving a car. Let's take a look at how cycling has been showing in the first week of Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Denmark is a country of utility cycling, which can be an inspiration to both the conference participants and internationally. In Copenhagen, 1/3 of commuters cycle to work or school, but the city goal is even higher. Copenhagen is aiming at becoming the cycling capital of the world and hopes to achieve the cycling commuter rate of 1/2 by 2015. That city knows how to set a positive example!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bike messengers in Vienna

Sorry, we're quite busy these days before Christmas. However, I always have the time to take some pictures while cycling. These are a few of bike messengers in Vienna. Although I have a rather short commute (and not so much in the city center), I do see them sometimes. Do you have any/many bike messengers in your town? What do they look like?

Monday, December 7, 2009

There's nothing wrong with buying a bike in the middle of the winter

Maybe you remember my test ride on the Retrovelo Paul in November. It had a little poll in the end asking what kind of color you would choose for a Retrovelo Paula. Surprisingly enough the traffic white bike I was testing did not get any votes. On the other hand -- and that's now also the time to reveal my choice -- the pigeon blue came in first with a vast majority of 26%. I had actually already decided what kind of colors I would pick before I asked the question. However, it was really interesting to see that many people (Filigree, Carinthia, Justine, Trisha etc.) voted for the same bike and also mentioned the creamy tires and brown saddle and grips.

Well, here I proudly present my new beauty:

Pigeon-blue Retrovelo Paula (for the specs click on the picture)

I ordered the 7-speed version last week and am looking forward to receive my new bike some time in January :). In the meantime I just have to find a place to park it.

Many of my friends I told about my new steed already placed a reservation for a test ride which, of course, I will gladly offer. For the rest of you I can at least recommend Retrovelo's homepage and their catalogues (both in German and English)...

By the way, regarding benefits of cycling in the winter, I read in the news today that physical activity prevents depressions: "Bewegung beugt Depressionen vor". Psychiatrists claim that the lack of exercise leads to anergia and isolation, especially among young people. It's not only about prevention though, they also recommend physical activity, a regular day-night-rhythm etc. as part of a therapy in many such cases. The WHO tells us the following about physical (in)activity:

"Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity, (a lack of physical activity) is an independent risk factor for chronic diseases, and overall is estimated to cause 1.9 million deaths globally.

Regular physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or dancing – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, help control weight, and promote psychological well-being. Everyone should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. More activity may be required for weight control."

From my personal experience I can also tell that that cycling makes me a happier, more efficient and well-balanced human being (see "Is cycling addictive?"). I also see that many people don't care enough about their physical health which also effects their mental health in a negative way.

I'm curious if you have similar experiences to mine, especially if you only started everyday cycling recently. Did you notice a difference in your overall way of life?

Friday, December 4, 2009

These boots are made for cyclin'

Last week I received a packet from the US. It contained shoes -- a pair of Chrome Arnhem Black Suede, to be precise. Everybody wears shoes, so what's so special about them, you might wonder. Well, these shoes are made for cycling and that's why I got a pair to review them.

Chrome Arnhem Black Suede

Cycling shoes? But not clip-less? What the heck is that supposed to be? What's wrong with my usual shoes? That was basically my first confusion, but it also got me interested. I already own a Chrome messenger bag, and since I'm quite happy with that, I wanted to give their shoes a chance too. Chrome produced a series of shoes with the following intentions:
"We wanted tough shoes we could wear every day – not just on our bikes. Here they are: shoes built to work well in all kinds of situations, with quality materials, solid construction, and simple style."
So let's see what I found out and whether all of that proves true...

Yeah, the shoes simply look awesome. They are made of lovely black suede combined with a fine red line and a red sole. Very stylish and elegant at the same time. I like the design.
To be fair, they are not super-elegant and to be worn with a ball gown, but especially the Arnhem can definitely compete with other mid-height footwear.

At first the shoes felt a bit stiff, but they good soft pretty soon. I wore them now for one week and they are super comfy and fit perfectly. The Arnhem go up to the ankles which makes them a good companion for this ugly gray, cold and rainy weather we have in Vienna at this time of the year. Despite of that, although I wore them all day long, I never sweat in them. Thus they are quite breathable too.

Durability and Quality
Well, I can't tell much about that as I only have them since one week. However, the high quality of their bags seems to carry of over to their shoes. They are neat workmanship with great affection to details (just look at the sewed in dragon).

Weather resistance
As already mentioned, I think the shoes are very good for this kind of rainy weather we have these days. I don't think they are completely waterproof, but certainly very water-repellent (I did actually test them in rain :)), something that I cannot claim from all my usual shoes. Some of the latter got soaked a few times during cycling and I tinkered with the idea of buying waterproof mid-height shoes, but such pairs just never met my fashion standards. So I think that the Chrome shoes can be a good fashionable alternative in light/normal rain.
Regarding temperature I think they are good for fall, spring and mild winters. Yesterday has been a rather cold day and I got the impression that I can not cycle in the Arnhem throughout the winter. Well, some thicker socks might do the trick :).

Usability for cycling
The Chrome shoes do in fact have some features that one could consider bike related. Besides weather resistance, their shoes also have a skid-resistant rubber sole, a low profile design to fit in toe cages and most remarkably reflective safety hits at the heels.
Whether one needs all of the above (and more) probably also depends on how well-equipped the bike is. For example, I already have reflectors on my pedals and don't really want my shoes to reflect. But then it's not disturbing either. Chrome obviously put in some effort to create shoes that are comfy and safe in any condition.

I experimented with the shoes in different ways, and also tried to combine them with different clothes. I think the Arnhem, my cord skirt and especially my black&red leg warmers matched up nicely :).
Sometimes the shoes make a funny sound when I walk. It's not really disturbing or loud, but my office mates occasionally notice my shamble along the corridor prior my arrival. Haven't yet figured out why they do that, and why only sometimes (maybe it's just my funny way of walking).

Finally, I hope that was of some help in case you're looking for some shoes like that. I will continue to enjoy the Chrome Arnhem as well as all my other usual shoes -- namely during cycling :).

More details about all their designs (Arnhem, Midway, Saipan, Kursk): Chrome shoes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cycling makes you more intelligent!

Well, this isn't something I have cooked up. I read it in the news today: "Sich bewegen bringt doppelt Segen" (to take exercise is a double blessing). The article is based on a scientific study carried out in Sweden and claims that sport increases intelligence and slows down aging.

by Kevin Saunders

For more details see the article "Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood" (2009, abstract, full text). I just copied some of the results:
"During early adulthood, a phase in which the central nervous system displays considerable plasticity and in which important cognitive traits are shaped, the effects of exercise on cognition remain poorly understood. We performed a cohort study of all Swedish men born in 1950 through 1976 who were enlisted for military service at age 18 (N = 1,221,727). [...] Physical fitness and intelligence performance data were collected during conscription examinations and linked with other national databases for information on school achievement, socioeconomic status, and sibship. [...] Cardiovascular fitness, as measured by ergometer cycling, positively associated with intelligence after adjusting for relevant confounders [...] In contrast, muscle strength was not associated with cognitive performance. Cross-twin cross-trait analyses showed that the associations were primarily explained by individual specific, non-shared environmental influences (≥80%), whereas heritability explained less than 15% of covariation. Cardiovascular fitness changes between age 15 and 18 y predicted cognitive performance at 18 y. Cox proportional-hazards models showed that cardiovascular fitness at age 18 y predicted educational achievements later in life. These data substantiate that physical exercise could be an important instrument for public health initiatives to optimize educational achievements, cognitive performance, as well as disease prevention at the society level."
So let our young people cycle (to school)!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Campaigns against drink-driving

In Austria a lot of alcohol-related accidents happen especially at this time of the year. We have a Christmas market- and hence also a Glühwein and Punsch-drinking tradition (in English this is called mulled wine and glogg as far as I know). So recently we also have a new campaign against drink-driving (in German):

"Alkohol am Steuer: Könnten Sie damit leben?" / "Drink-driving: Could you live with it?"

It's all about first times (walking, car ownership, being promoted etc.) of Stefan and Tobias -- and about the first time drink-driving and it's consequences... I think the question "Could you live with the consequences?" at the end is of course dramatic, but still very realistic. There is a similar spot from Ireland (in English):

"Could you live with the shame?"

In 2002 we had this, well, rather funny spot about drink-driving in Austria which is more directed towards young people who, on the countryside, often heavily depend on cars when they want to go out. It shows three zombies coming out of their graves and talk about their last disco visit: how drunk they were, that one said he could still drive, that the others joined and wanted to drive to another bar etc. It ends with "Und was ist dann eigentlich passiert?" / "And what happened then?" before you can hear cars crashing in the background:

"Drink + Drive = Death"

Do you have campaigns against drink-driving in your country? Do you think such TV spots can make a difference? If so, which ones do you consider most effective? Do you think they have to be shocking in order to show any effect?

By the way, what blood alcohol limits do you have in your country? In Austria we have a 0.5‰ drink-drive-limit for car drivers (and basically 0 for beginners). However, this regulation is only written down in the Kfz-Gesetz (law for motorists). Generally, and hence also for cyclists, we have 0.8‰ limit which previously used to be the overall limit (before they lowered it in 1998). If you know German and are interested in details you can continue reading in the "Handbuch Alkohol - Österreich" and the newspaper article "Angetrankelt mit dem Fahrrad unterwegs" (about drink-biking).

Do you ever drink-bike? I really try to avoid that. When I plan to go out I either leave my bike at home or just don't drink at all. I think that a slow reaction can be pretty dangerous if one has to ride between cars. Thus in that sense it also matters where I'm cycling. I don't mind having a beer and cycling back home on a lonesome cycle path in the countryside. Good lighting at night, however, is always essential!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Animals on bikes

Cycling doesn't have to be serious. Have some fun too!

What about decorating your bike with a duck?
Or a zebra... ehm giraffe? (see also meligrosa's pic of the very same thing)
Butterflies are a quite common too:
In Budapest I even came across a ladybird and a hedgehog...

Well, I've also seen lions, snakes and other exotic animals on bikes. There seems to be no limit to creativity :).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Enjoying a ride on a Retrovelo bike

Last Saturday I went to test ride some bikes with Filigree from the Lovely Bicycle! blog. I tried a Retrovelo Paul (the male version of the classy Paula) and Filigree a Specialized Globe Haul (a Mixte for heavy loads), both of which were gladly lent to use by the Citybiker bike shop on Lerchenfelderstraße.

The Retrovelo Paul in the Schmerling Park in Vienna (more pictures on flickr)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A scenic bike ride through the center of Vienna

For another time Filigree from the Lovely Bicycle! blog is in town. She's a real expert when it comes to, well, lovely bicycles. And as I'm keen on getting such a bike I asked her for advice. Of course I know many bike brands but am kind of lost in the big field and only very few of them are actually available in bike shops in Vienna. Her immediate answer was that I should check out Retrovelo bikes.

Filigree found out that the Citybiker in Vienna is a dealer for Retrovelo, so we asked them for a test ride which they gladly offered. However, as they only had the male models in stock, I was the only one who ended up on a white 7-speed Retrovelo Paul (more about it next time). Filigree test rode the Globe Haul instead (a Mixte made of Specialized components, have a look at it here) whose rear rack can carry up to 50kg! But more about the bikes another time, this post is devoted to our scenic ride through the center of Vienna:

Our first destination was the Schmerling square beside the Parliament where we had an extensive look at the bikes. When we shot some pictures at the Parliament, we were suddenly surrounded by a bunch of Chinese tourists. Well, they weren't really interested in us, but certainly in the Retrovelo bike. A girl asked for the brand and the price, the guys surrounded the bike (and hence us) to take some pictures and videos. Amazing how much attention one gets with such a bike! Filigree wrote a whole post about this funny encounter, see "Cycling the Parliament".

Filigree cycling at the Schmerling squareThe two of us surrounded by Chinese tourists at the Parliament

We changed the side of the Ring road and started cycling along the Ring bike path and passed by many lovely buildings in the 1st district (the natural and art history museum, the opera etc.). I quite like the Ring bike path in fall, cause the alley is all yellow at this time of the year. The bike path itself is on the sidewalk which often leads to confusions among tourists but also residents. Some of the bits are rather small, especially beside subway stations and tram stops where cautious cycling is necessary. In other places the path is very wide and clear, and it's possible to overtake or even cycle beside each other. Generally, the Ring bike path is great for recreational rides in the historical center, but not so well-designed for “normal” everyday cycling when safe fast connections are preferable.

Cycling along the Ring bike path in the city center

We hit the Danube canal at the Urania and continued cycling on the combined foot and bike path along the canal. That's a very relaxing, however not fast, stretch. There are some night clubs (especially in the summer) and many people go jogging or for a walk there. If you're interested in urban art you should definitely have a look at the graffitis near Schwedenplatz – there are many huge ones which keep changing regularly.

Later on Filigree had the idea to ride to the Augarten. Unfortunately I missed the right street (shame on me) and we ended up on a long cobbled street. Nothing I particularly fancy riding on, but on the other hand it was a good for testing the bikes. After some time in the 20th district, we started our way back through the 9th district along Alserbachstraße und Liechtensteinstraße (both have bike lanes in the door zone), until we hit the Ring bike path again and then changed to the so-called “2er Linie”.

All in all we have been on a long and lovely ride through the center of Vienna which took us about 2 hours (including a lot of photo shooting, of course). Thanks for all the fun on a gray Saturday morning, Filigree :).

If you still haven't seen enough pictures, have a look at our flickr sites (Filigree's and mine). Of course I really enjoyed riding the Retrovelo, but I shall tell you more about the bike itself in the next post. So stay tuned for more stories – here and on Filigree's bike blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bicycle spirits

An unusual bicycle in Vienna, seen in a bottle shop in Neubaugasse. Handmade, of course. Who wouldn't like to drink from such a marvelous bottle :).

A bike ride a day keeps the doctor away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some confusion with my new tires

As already mentioned before my old steed was rewarded with some new tires. So far I only had typical cross country tires (Stollenreifen, in German) on my mountain bike. These days, however, I'm mostly only cycling on the road and a flatter profile is preferable. On the other hand, with the winter in sight (and that also means snow in Vienna) I did not completely want to turn studs down.

A compromise was found and I settled for the Schwalbe Land Cruiser. That's a tough, puncture-resistant and versatile mixed surface tire. The tires have a central pattern for tarmac but also serrated side knobs for dirt roads (and hence also snow). With 15€ per tire they are quite cheap too. For more information have a look at the Schwalbe homepage.

To explain the title of this post I must admit that at first I had some trouble when mounting the tires. Well, usually the direction of wheel travel is pretty obvious from the tire pattern itself but this time I was really confused because there were two direction arrows written on the tire sidewalls, pointing in opposite directions: <-FRONT-| |-REAR->

What was that supposed to mean? Should the <-FRONT-| arrow point to the front of bicycle and the |-REAR-> arrow point to the back of it? Or do these arrows indicate that the front and rear tires should be mounted differently? Would that make any sense?

This is how my front tire (left) and rear tire (right) are mounted now

Well, according to the explanation on the Schwalbe homepage the front and rear wheel should really be treated differently for mountain bikes. Curious as I am, I tried to find out why that makes sense. Apparently, directing the tires this way leads to better braking characteristics on muddy surfaces. I don't know if it actually makes a difference, but I'm ready to give it a go.

What kind of tires do you ride? Does anybody out there know more about the sense of differently directed front and rear tires?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Do it yourself!

A piece of art on the wall of the bike flea market in Aurinkotehdas

I don't know much about mechanics. Actually I'm quite hopeless when it comes to fixing anything, especially anything as complex as bikes. That is why bike kitchens are awesome!

There is a multipurpose center called Aurinkotehdas ("Sun Factory") in Turku. The headquarters of the Uusi tuuli ry non-governmental organization is located there, and that's also where some of its activities take place. Its probably most famous project was to build the ship Estelle that nowadays sails around the world buying fair trade products and bringing them back to Finland. They also have a bicycle flea market that has a do-it-yourself day every Thursday. They teach people how to fix their bikes free of charge.


In the past, when my bike needed to be fixed, I took her into a bike shop. (You know, fathers don't usually teach these things to their daughters...) Well, not anymore. I've been to the bike kitchen a few times this fall bugging the mechanicians with stupid questions and they have tought me loads of new things: I barely even knew how to change a tire until they told me how it is properly done. Among other things, they tought me how to fix and adjust a handbrake and straighten wheels. Last week a mechanician showed me how to make a makeshift spare part to fix the broken seat. A few weeks back an exchange intern fixed the brakes of my bike and thought me new things about bike anatomy. The next time winter tires need to be changed because black ice is beginning to appear on the roads.

A mechanician working on a bike after the rush hour on the do-it-yourself day

Here's a link to the Vienna bike kitchen and a video about Hobart bike kitchen (BTW: I love her shirt!). Care to share your experiences about similar projects?

Friday, November 6, 2009

You still here with your car?

Lately, more and more Spanish cities are promoting cycling with bike-sharing initiatives or by building cycling lanes.

Not far away from my hometown, there is a lovely city, Girona, which has also taken up to promote cycling as a fast (and healthy) way of moving around. Last Sunday I went for a stroll with my family there and I saw what is for me a pretty good ad to promote cycling. The ad is created by "Mou-te en bici" ("Move around on a bike"), an organization which advocates sustainable mobility.

The translation from Catalan into English would be: Do you still drive a car? If you rode a bike you would already be there!


...this is where the ad was placed: in a place where all car drivers can see it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oops!... I did it again

Yes, again. Or better: not. Again I didn't buy a new bicycle although I claimed in spring that I will (and this summer for sure).

Should I? I already have one bicycle. My dear old friend, my red Kästle mountain bike (read more if you like). It has accompanied me for many many years now, and guess what -- it still works perfectly fine for me. No, it wasn't particularly expensive. But I looked after it.

Speaking of maintenance: That's why I'm bike-free this week. My bike is, as every beginning of the winter, with a real bike mechanic that checks all the bits and pieces. As for now, we have already agreed to replace the chain and the tires as both are almost worn-out. Of course, small repairs I do myself but I treat my bike with a proper service every year (for all-year cyclists it is recommended to get that at the beginning of the winter). So far that has paid off and I can highly recommend checking the bike or getting it checked, even when nothing is broken or causes trouble. Scroll down on this page to read about the "art of cycle maintenance" daily/weekly/monthly/yearly.

Me and my beloved bike

Of course, I would love to have many bikes starting with a retro kind of girlie bike, a folding bike, a tandem, a fixie, a cargo bike, a road bike and so on. I'm sure I could even find use for all of them. But actually it doesn't matter so much. It doesn't matter what kind of bike I ride as long as I ride -- any bike will do just fine :).

By using just one bike I can at least claim that I safe natural resources. Having learned much about mining lately, I can tell you that already iron is an important resource (probably even the most important one) and that it's by no means easy to get all that stuff out of the earth's crust. You shouldn't believe that it's all about oil -- rising prices and shortage on iron (and hence coal etc.) can mess us up even more! If you're interested in the topic you may read the recent world mining report. For example, did you know each year we produce about 1 billion tons of iron worldwide, and that more than 70% of the ore come from politically instable countries? Do you know how difficult and energy/time consuming it is to detect, mine, smelt and process raw materials to finally obtain something that we just take for granted and buy in a supermarket? Well, I don't want to be preachy, but I think everybody should be aware of such simple facts. It's already too hard to imagine what stuff went into my notebook and how it got there. Such things always leave me astonished and wondering...

Well, after that short side note, back to bikes. I will eventually buy a new bike (or a nice second-hand bike?) cause I want to be fancy and have a bike with better lighting, more transport capacity, proper rain and clothes protection and so on. Maybe not this year, maybe not even next year. But one day for sure :).

How many bikes do you have? What kinds? Got one all-time favorite?

Somehow I have the impression that Americans tend to have more bikes (if they have any) whereas Europeans mostly only own one (but there are more bike owners). Would be interesting to see whether this assertion holds in general :).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leg warmers are ladies' best friends in the winter

You like to ride in skirts and dresses? Ever wondered how to survive a cold winter's day with just (thin) tights? Well, let me tell you that suffering is not necessary. There is a simple and elegant solutions called leg warmers.

Leg warmers will obviously warm your legs. But they don't just keep you warm, they are also fashionable. They come in different lengths, colors and fabrics. Currently I own three woolen pairs, one of which is over knees. That is particularly useful if I want to wear rather thin tights underneath, or short skirts.

The good thing about all of them: once you get inside they are easy to take off or can simply be pushed down to the ankles. Besides you can wear them with all kinds of clothes (may it be skirts, dresses or trousers) and footwear (even boots).

And you can easily knit them yourself! It's almost as easy as kniting a scarf :). Find a few how-tos here: How to knit leg warmers, How to knit your own leg warmers, Knitting Pattern Central etc.

Ready for the winter now?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Suburbanization and cycling

Suburban sprawl by David Shankbone 2008

As you may know, I am a geography student, so why not utilize my education? Forgive me if I'm dry, I'll try to be at least informative :)

There are 2 types of suburbanization: British and American. Both mean that people desire to live outside the city center. The British suburbanized in the 19th century by developing public transit system. The American way was to get to the suburbs by private automobile, which also enables the low density population structure and urban sprawl. Nowadays there the both suburbanization types occur in Europe too. The American type has proved to be particularly detrimental for cycling, because the distances are too long and often the necessary and safe light traffic infrastructure does not exist.

Low density housing in America pretty much destroyed community walkability and light traffic infrastructure, but in those European towns that have managed to invest in cyclist friendly infrastructure the cyclist rates are still very high (Follman 2007). The examples of 20th century Amsterdam and Copenhagen prove this point but they also show that it is possible to reverse this development and break the connection between suburbanization and lower cycling rates.

In the 1st half of the 20th century up to 75% of trips in Amsterdam were done by bike. 75 percent! After the second world war cars took over Amsterdam and the city expanded. This obviously had a massive effect on cycling, and the cycling rate dropped to the all time low of 25% in Amsterdam and 10% in Copenhagen by the 70s. How ever, the city road capacity couldn't handle many cars and the oil crises forced the government to think of measures to decrease oil dependency, so they began aggressively promoting cycling among other things by investing in bicycling infrastructure and enhancing cyclist priority in traffic. They succeeded and nowadays the cities have 35-40% bike trip share. That is impressive! Nowadays the cities are known for their cyclist friendliness and are among the safest cycling cities of the world (Jacobson 2009).

So, usually suburbanization and cycling decline go hand-in-hand, but it does not have to be that way. Suburbanization can also promote cycling if the suburb is not too far, but that would be on the expense of pedestrians or public transit, not cars. It is better to reign in the (mostly the American type) suburbanization a bit by supporting strong city centers and restricting suburban mall-building. E.g Muenster has some positive experiences of that strategy (Pucher and Buehler 2007).

Turku has both American and European type suburbs. Less than half of the households on the closer and denser (British type) suburbs have cars, but 70% of the more distant ones have at least one. The highest cyclist rates coming to the center of the city are from the closer suburb area. Surprisingly the cyclists are not coming to the grid plan center as often as the average cycling rate (11,5% of all trips) suggests. From the more distant “American type” suburbs almost no-one bothers to ride a bike to the center (numbers are from Turku Bustrip self-assessment report 2006, in Finnish).

So, it looks like these suburb theories do fit pretty well on my town. How about you, do you have any theories about the connection of suburbanization and cycling or would you like to share your experience? Is this kinda stuff too boring for you or do you wanna hear more of my academic brain farts?

P.S. Here's a video about the solution to the problems presented by urban sprawl (which is not the same as suburbanization, but closely related to the American type)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Major bike paths in Vienna

Due to the ring structure of Vienna, there are two major roads, called Ring (the inner ring) and Gürtel (the outer ring), in the center. Both of them are of course highly frequented by cars, cyclists and pedestrians. There are bike paths on both streets, but none of them is really pleasant for cyclists.

Two major connections in Vienna: Gürtel and Ring bike path

The main complaints of cyclists are
  • bad design (including too small width, horrible alignment, detours etc.)
  • ignorant behavior of other road users (pedestrians who don't care about where they walk, broken glass, illegally parked cars etc.)
  • most inconvenient traffic signals for cyclists (sometimes one has to wait a few minutes every 50m)
  • in some places insufficient street lighting
  • currently also a lot of building sites which lead to complicated detours for cyclists and conflicts with pedestrians (while on the other hand at the Gürtel car drivers still have 8 untouched lanes for themselves)
  • almost painful noise, itchy dust and car exhausts (due to heavy motor traffic)
  • ...
As it is now I would prefer to ride in the car lanes, but due to our traffic regulations I'm not allowed to (exceptions only for road bikes and certain trailers, see StVO §68 (1)). I'm only allowed to use "the road" when there is no bike path.

Because of one of the building sites at the Gürtel bike path (they repair a short piece of tram lines and block the bike paths for weeks now) at U6 Thaliastraße I actually can use the "normal road" legally in one direction for about 50m. I always enjoy that. So much space, so fast :). Usually cars are ok with me cycling there. Not all of them might see the obstructions for cyclists, but as I'm only in "their lane" for a short while and they are often stuck in a traffic jam anyhow, "they" let me be.

However, today, on our national holiday, within these 50m two car drivers honked at me. Apparently they didn't see the building site and of course there first reaction was something like "Hey, you cyclist, get out of my way!". I really don't understand such a behavior a) at all and b) on a holiday where nobody is in a hurry anyhow. Suggestions?

A not so bad part of the Gürtel bike path

Well, since I'm almost daily annoyed with both of these bike paths, I will write a little more about them and show you some explicit incorrect planning of bicycle infrastructure in Vienna. In my humble opinion is this halfhearted planning one of the main reasons why a city with so much bicycle infrastructure (> 1000 km) still has such a small amount of cyclists (~ 5 %).

The Ring bike path is currently under construction. Small bits are improved, but the whole of it still just is a patchwork of leftover areas assigned to cyclists rather than a thought-through bike path. You can get some insight by reading "Stadt Wien beschließt RingRundFiasko" by IG Fahrrad (a Viennese bicycle lobby).

For the Gürtel area I have a rather radical suggestion for a redesign which would be convenient for most people (abutters, pedestrians, cyclists, shop owners, bars etc.), but well, is novel. More about all that another time.

Nevertheless I will also show you some of the good things about these bike paths, maybe do some videos so that you get an overall picture. After all, cycling is fun and I like to share that :).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The importance of bike racks

According to Christoph Chorherr's blog entry from April 2009 (a Green politician) there are about 1 Million bicycles in Vienna but only 18.000 bike racks available. This is of course far to few and explains
a) why many bikes get stolen (locking the bike frame to a fixed object is essential) and
b) why so many bikes are locked to street lamps, traffic signs, fences etc.

Well, this number is old. Recently I have seen many new bike racks, especially in the city center. The city of Vienna builds bike racks in two different types, both of which are pretty safe if one uses them correctly (see how to secure bicycles).

The most common type of bike racks in Vienna and many European cities.
Do you have such public bike racks too? Or does your city build other ones?

But it's not just the sufficient number of bike racks that is important, it's also the accessibility that plays a key role. I don't mind walking 500m from the bike rack to my destination if I leave my bike for a few hours (e.g. if I go to the cinema, theater, dinner or so), but if I just have to buy a milk or post a letter (which takes less than 5min) I want to be able to park my bike right outside of the shop.

This is something that is certainly missing in Vienna. There are very very few shops with bike racks, even in major shopping streets like Mariahilfer Straße bike racks are rare. There is, however, one positive example that sticks out:

Bike racks at U6 Floridsdorf: subway and train station
and a big shopping mall are right beside the racks, which are even canopied!

Talking about it, other important spots for bike racks are of course public transport stations, especially train and subway stations. Vienna lacks many bike racks in these places as well as in front of schools and universities. But the city builds many new racks these days and is certainly improving, something that I can only appreciate :).

Still, the best and most bike racks ain't help if they are occupied by someone else. So I kindly ask all moped and motorbike riders: please park your vehicles somewhere else and don't block the few racks that are available for safe bike parking.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Well, as most of you probably already know, there are two Annas writing on this blog:
anna from Vienna, Austria (me)
Anna from Barcelona, Spain
Although we live far apart, we've been close friends for many years now. We don't meet often, but whenever we do we share a great time. I visited Anna last in April 2009 in Barcelona (a surprise visit for her birthday) and also wrote about my impressions of cycling in Barcelona on the shared BiCiNg bikes: Anna cycling in Barcelona. Moreover I also shot my first bike video in this fancy place (none have followed so far, but I plan to do one in Vienna too).

One of the best things about our last reunion was definitely the Tandeming on Anna's birthday. You can see a few pictures and read about all the fun we had if you follow this link. There is, however, another picture that I shot with my analogue medium format camera Diana (it's a lomo camera in case anybody is familiar with the concept) and which is still unknown to Anna. Since I don't use the camera very often it takes forever to finish and develop the films. Thus I only received this funny picture a few days ago:

From left to right: anna, Anna, anna and Anna

Note that the "doubling" effect is not due to Photoshop (boring) but due to a so-called Splitzer (a multiple imaging slicing accessory for the Diana) and a rearragement of ourselves. The quality could of course be better, but hey, it's just a fun camera. And we certainly had a lot of fun!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hey, we are missing an indian summer here

Let's talk about winter. I like winter. I love the snow. And the feeling of coming in from the cold to a warm cup of black tea with milk. But ...

View from my window

... it's only October! And it's unusual for Vienna to have snow in the middle of October. Imagine, we still had 28°C (about 82 F) last week in Vienna. Well, now it's less. Far less. We had snow on Wednesday for the first time. Apparently, according to the news (in German), this is the first October with so much snow in Austria in 25 years. Cool, eh?

Oh, I enjoyed it so much. I like to get all wrapped up in my velvet jacket, my warm gloves, my cosy scarf and my colorful cap. And then the snow. Snow just looks lovely. And cycling in the snow is much better than cycling in the rain. One arrives a lot drier. And happier :-).

Ready to hit the road (me in winter clothes)My "I don't like to be stuck in a traffic jam generated by lazy I-use-my-car-cause-I-don't-want-to-get-a-cool-butt-people when it's f***ing freezing"-faceYeah, snow is nice (me dreaming of winter already :-))

Well, the snow unfortunately didn't stay and they claim that it will be a lot warmer again next week. Generally fall in Vienna means the following: fog – fog – rain – fog – rain – fog – wind – fog – rain – rain – wind – fog. That's a good weather to get into a slow and lazy mood. For proper snow we probably have to wait a few more weeks ...

Still, it's time to dig out your winter clothes and strong bike lights, and to peacefully cycle into a winter full of snow (as always I hope that there will be a lot of snow, I hope you agree). For some general tips about winter cycling see my posts from last time:
  1. the bicycle
  2. the cyclist
  3. cycling