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!

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It all comes down to the word “go”

Move yourself. Move others. Move across time and space. Überfahr investigates the people, technologies, innovations, laws, trends, solutions and systems that help move our urban centers to a post-automobile reality.

The bicycle and cycling culture are the current ingredients that flavor Überfahr. This will change as innovation catches up to the massive and massively subsidized automobile industry and all of its impact. From the violence that permeates our streets and daily lives, to the choking fumes and poisonous gases that envelop our planet; the automobile is a deadly and expensive form of transportation that corrodes our daily life with crushing cash layouts, noise, congestion, and general violence.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” – albert einstein

From our primordial selves and our competitive advantage as diurnal long-distance runners able to hunt and avoid being hunted by nocturnal predators, to our ability to harness local energy from our existing very local source – our bodies; we are whole. Brain and body.

As is our brain to our tools, so might be our body to our energy sources and resources. And so might the body and the brain continue to intertwine in perpetual motion. But not as factory workers in some interior caverns of degradation or as office slugs, no less interior or bodily degrading. Rather, as upright, moving, environmentally connected natural and proud human selves.

There is a fundamental shift before us. We seem mostly unaware that America’s earliest paved roads, shortly after the Civil War, were created for bicycle transportation and that this pre-dated the automobile. Even as late as 1997, the bicycle moved more people and things on this planet earth than any other transportation type. This timeline also parallels the rise of the bicycle in the 1850s-1890s and the rise of the automobile, not much later, in the 1900s.

These are all clues to where we will be going, without a doubt. We will soon see incredible technological innovations of human-powered and human-assisted transport technologies that are more convenient much more economical and practical. This will then demand a recalibration of our current, near 100% allocation of roads and highways to motorized vehicles, in contrast to non-motorized/human-powered/assisted transport units.

Early data on the scant research being done on the role of the bicycle indicates that when bicycles are a critical part of the transportation infrastructure, positive phenomena results: more jobs are created than building highways or roads; accident rates drop amongst all transportation and moving types – automobile accidents, bike accidents, pedestrian accidents, related; and there is reason to believe that people who enjoy daily bicycle exercise are healthier than people who do not exercise.

The video below is part of the story. We intend to follow this entire story – for the ride.

“The bicycle is such a success because it makes people’s lives easier.

The Bicycle City. Trailer from Greg Sucharew on Vimeo.