Revolution Round Up

Having returned from a fabulous summer 2011 in Vienna and Upper Austria, with excursions to London and Prague, it is clear that the bicycle revolution is a global phenomena that has all of the hallmarks of a sustainable paradigm shift. Unlike 16 years ago when I last was in Europe and as someone who practically grew up in Austria, it is clear that there is an exponential growth in bicycling happening there. Whether in urban areas like London or Vienna, or in rural areas where families enjoy bicycling as an integral part of their vacation and free time, Europe’s broader embrace of cycling is a harbinger.

And across the globe, in Shanghai, the fixie bicycle culture is booming as the Peoples Bike (PB) makes its mark and the first fixie magazine for China 48X15 was released on August 19, 2011 by PB’s Tyler Bowa straight out of the alleys and bikeways and streets of Shanghai. Meanwhile Hong Kong continues to forge ahead with alley cat races sweeping cities worldwide. This gritty messenger, urban culture emerging across the globe – from New York, to LA to Tokyo, Shanghai, Berlin, London and lots more places is an unstoppable juggernaut of human spirit combined with practical technology that transcends our current comprehension of what is really possible.

It is no wonder then that Twitter is alive with chatter about cycling for fun (#bike, #cycling), and as a serious form of transportation (#transport). And it is no wonder that LinkedIn is seeing a renaissance in cycling-related discussion groups including Bike Commuters and Bicycle to Work!. One of the gems to come out of Twitter- James D. Schwartz writing for The Urban Country suggests that “motorists are socialists” given our generally-accepted definitions of socialism.

As an economic phenomena, the author makes the point, automobile drivers enjoy massive state subsidies for roads, health care, fuel, and pollution (lack of proper expensing). This has resulted in many problems, including a lack of innovation for alternative transport modes – something we will be discussing more on this site. The economic problem of the automobile and the negative impact on innovation is one that we should seek to define as a hacker-style opportunity, one that upends current, distorted transportation subsidies and cost allocations in favor of a variable cost model – or pay as you go. Scientific measures relating to this question will favor variable cost models if we are committed to measures of efficiency and market-based outcomes.

A gem to emerge from the LinkedIn discussions was the issue of bicycle “safety” and the use of helmets – and how complex and meaningful this question really is. This TED video suggested by Patrick Walker features Mikael Colville-Andersen and provides a strong set of bicycle safety related ideas based on facts for us all to ponder when it comes to this question of bicycle helmets.

Next post we will turn attention to my home base of Los Angeles to learn about this spoke in the revolutionary wheel that is rolling across the world. No stopping it – and that’s a sure thing!