Take a gander at these fun bicycle related links

28 03 2010

Urban Electric Cars

Firstly here is a link to a story on the Australian ABC’s Catalyst programme. It’s definitely worth watching for Dr Jonica’s stack at the end. It’s a story about the MIT City Car and the MIT Green Wheel.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the MIT City Car is a better type of electric car than other electric cars, because it is not much bigger than a bicycle. I also like the idea that it is going to be rentable, like a bike share scheme, and of course there is nothing to say that there couldn’t be the one scheme with the two hireable vehicles, the pedal bike, and the small footprint electric car. And such a scheme would work best, if all other cars were banned from a city’s streets, and if they were limited in number to a level such that congestion won’t occur and their price was linked to the current demand for hiring them. The bikes would always be cheaper by at least three fold, but when the car price rockets in the peaks, the rentable bikes would still be the same price. Of course private cars would be banned from the streets, but the privately-owned bike would be welcome, and you could spec it out with trailers and electric motors as you saw fit. If the electric cars were then speed limited to 25 km/hr when a bicycle was detected in proximity to the car, the road surface could be shared, and there isn’t a need for separate cycling infrastructure.

Anyway enough about the Catalyst story.

“Dave on a Bike

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is one dog better than the Mexican state of Chihuahua. When I travelled across Newfoundland in 2007 I discovered the joy of listening to the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean. There are free podcasts available on the web and sometimes they’re a little hokey and sentimental, but on the whole I love it, and think it is the world’s best radio show. This week’s story is “Dave on a Bike” and it is hilarious. Get it here at the CBC , (you can also subscribe to the podcasts here) and it is much the same as any of the shows. (If unsure if you want to subscribe, listen here to see if you like his style in this story about the boy who went over Niagara Falls. Definitely it is worth a listen, as is last week’s show, a repeat, sacre bleu, about Winnipeg, and it has great music from the Weakerthans) He has a bit of talk, this week about Gander, Newfoundland. (I’ve been to Gander twice, once landing there to refuel because of headwinds on an Icelandair flight from Reykjavik to Halifax, and the other I went there by choice, and neither time did I go and visit the Gander Airport Lounge, apparently the 8th Wonder of the World) Then it has some nice music and then it has a story about Dave, the owner of the Vinyl Cafe. This week the story is bike related and as I said it is pretty funny.

The Gander Airport lounge is a 1950’s modernist wonder. If you think that means yucky poo architecture, then I recommend a visit to the Oslo City Hall, or even in St John’s, Newfoundland, Confederation House is quite a handsome building. (Update: so many people are getting to my blog looking for info on the Gander Airport, after hearing the Vinyl Cafe Show 🙂 – here’s a link to a picture of the mural)

I went to Newfoundland to look for the Golden Spikes. A Golden Spike, or a GSSP (a global standard section and point), which shows the stratotype where a division in the geological time scale has been placed, is like one of these. This one showing the base of the Ediacaran Period at Enorama Creek in South Australia. Above the line it is Ediacaran rocks (a cap carbonate), less than 635 million years old, and below it are Cryogenian rocks (a tillite), older than approx 635 million years old.

The Ediacaran is when the Ediacaran, sometimes called Vendian, fauna, existed. There are some Ediacaran aged fossils at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, and I went there, but didn’t find them. Somewhere down on those slabs apparently:

I also went looking for the base of the Cambrian period at Fortune Head at the end of the Burin Peninsula, and apparently the stratotype of the base of the Cambrian is somewhere amongst those rocks, but I didn’t find a little bronze disk. Anyone know if there is one?:

And I went to Green Point over on the west coast to look for the base of the Ordovician. I found similar to the South Australian palaeomagnetic drill core holes and a few graptolite fossils on the Ordovician side of the point, and I’m pretty certain the stratotype is in one of these layers, but which one, I don’t know. I couldn’t find a little bronze disk.

Later in 2007 I went to Atoka, Oklahoma to find the GSSP for the base of the Katian Stage of the Ordovician, and couldn’t find it either. I’m like the world’s most inept geological tourist.

In bicycle news this weekend I rode my bike only as far as the Manakau Pub for lunch and got a flat tyre on the way home. I’ve written about that route before, Manakau is halfway on the ride from Otaki to Waikawa Beach.

Now if there are any rich publishers out there willing to give me enough dosh to fund a trip where I write a book where I try to go and find (and inevitably fail to find) each golden spike in the world, riding between the sites on an electric bike (and my girlfriend wants to come too, and so that will be two electric bikes and 4 or 6 batteries) then please get in touch. A $100,000 advance should cover it. I’d love to ride an e-bike through Newfoundland, England, Italy, China, Texas, Nevada, and the Czech Republic.

Another Wellingtonian gets an electric bike

26 03 2010

On Guim’s Electric Bicycle World Tour Blog (he’s still in New Zealand) there is a short piece on Wellingtonian, Craig Killey, whose current job is writing a separate standard for power assisted cycles for Standards New Zealand.

It is encouraging, because he tried out an electric bike as part of his investigations and now he is hooked on them. This bodes well. Someone in the public service who is going to help make the laws and he’s going to understand the technology when he does so. Brilliant!! That is the way the world should work.

In one of my longer posts I wax lyrical about what I think power assisted cycle standards should be. Craig, I hope you’ve come up with similar conclusions.

Here are the relevant parts from my post:

Allowable pedal assist
One of the joys of using a cycle path is being out of the noise cone of traffic. This tranquility is ruined by 2 stroke engines, or any petrol engine, not to mention the breathing of filthy exhaust. So all forms of assistance to pedal power should be provided by electric motors. ie all 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine assists should be banned from classification as a bike. Preferably they are banned outright, but at the very least they should be classified as mopeds or motorcycles and kept out of bike paths and bike lanes.

All pedal electric bicycles need pedals, except for the special case of bikes for the disabled and infirm. Segways and the like would breach that, but Segways have failed in the marketplace and need not be considered.

Max Speed
There should be no maximum speed defined for an electric bike. Maximum speeds as signposted for other vehicles may or may not be enforced as per local custom. If there is to be a maximum speed defined then it should be reasonable. 25km/hr is way too slow. 30 km/hr is also too slow. Regular (ie non electric) road bike users can routinely go 40km/hr. Some cyclists going downhill easily go past 50km/hr. Recumbent trikes are inherently more stable than bicycles and the speeds are both faster and safer than a normal bike. So if maximum speeds are set they should be set at different levels for bikes, trikes and velomobiles.  Any speed restriction for cutting out the electric motor relies on some way to assess the current speed which adds to the expense of the bike. It is better to limit the bike by its maximum power, rather than it’s maximum speed.

Max Power
200W and 300W does not give much speed advantage over regular cycling. California probably has the most liberal practical law here, and it limits the max power to 1000W. I don’t know if that is for one motor, or it is possible to have that on each of two motors. I would tend to suggest whatever makes a normal rider go at about 40km/hr is about right. Good riders could exceed that. More should be allowed for recumbent trikes due to their stability. Youths’ pedelecs should have a max power of whatever takes them up to about 30 km/hr.

Power Assistance
Power to the motors driving the wheels should not be limited to when the pedals are turning. When braking power to the motors should be removed. Regenerative braking is optional. Some form of charging the batteries when rolling down hills is also optional. Power should not be removed from the motor when a maximum speed is reached.

Bicycles in all forms should not require licensing, nor registration. Kids, youths and adults should be exposed to safety education campaigns, but there should be nothing formalised to stop the spur of the moment freedom to ride.

Where pedal electrics can be ridden and taken
Everywhere that a normal bicycle can be ridden, including bike paths and bike lanes, and on the road two abreast, including velomobiles. There is no reason why off road bicycle paths should be shut to pedal electrics like in Boulder, Colorado (which sounds like it had one of the lycra brigade be a bit snobby about pedelecs). On trains that carry bikes, there is no reason to disallow pedelec bikes (but trikes and velomobiles are another story).

Max weight
30kg for bikes, 40kg for recumbants and velomobiles. This rules out lots of heavy sealed lead acid batteries, but that is probably a good thing.

Is it fair that cyclists are subsidising motorists?

23 03 2010

In New Zealand and in Australia if you buy $30 worth of groceries or more at the supermarket you get a voucher for 4 or 5 cents a litre off the price of petrol. This amounts to three or so dollars off on a 50 litre tank of fuel. So presumably food prices are up to 10% more than they have to be to cross-subsidise the vouchers. If you go to the shops in your car and spend your $30 you get a voucher, and if you go by bike and put your $30 of  groceries into your panniers you also get a voucher, but fat lot of good it will do you. So everyone is paying more to make it cheaper for motorists to buy petrol, which of course only encourages motoring and more fuel use.

I think I’d much rather cheaper cheese than cheaper petrol, but with all those lots of 4 cents I save I can buy me a shiny new machine that runs on lies and gasoline.

C’mon New World, Pak N ‘Save, Coles and bloody Woolworths, stop colluding with Shell and BP and Exxon Mobil. Motorists should pay for their own bloody petrol. It’s not bloody ethical to make cyclists, and pedestrians and old ladies on the bus subsidise motorists’ excesses. And neither is charging $12 for a half kilo of mozzarella. Drop your prices and drop the scheme.

In other news: If you have a WordPress blog you’ll already know that you can see what people put into search engines to find your site. Well I just got ‘”bikes should keep off the streets of wellington”, and if that person comes back for another look, I’d just like to say that that person should be drowned in the Cuba Mall Bucket Fountain, whilst being whipped by the Zephyrometer. The SH1 is that way mate, and don’t come back.

Bike Trailers for trams in Stuttgart (and in Wellington)

14 03 2010

I pinched this picture from a blog from Atlanta and apparently it is in Stuttgart. The trailer is at the front of the tram. It seems like a good idea to me. It seems to carry about 8 bikes and being on the front of the tram it lets the driver see if you’re fluffing about with it.  I know Wellington doesn’t have any trams at the moment …

but it used to: (this map pinched from the Wikipedia commons- click left)

and it could one day again: (pinched from the Green Party’s plan, click left, which has some good ideas. Someday I’ll get around to critiquing it)

Dunedin Cycleways

10 03 2010

Amongst the projects that missed out on the National Cycleway funding is the Dunedin Tunnels Trail, linking Mosgiel to Dunedin. It’s another one of those projects where it’s a real pity it missed out on funding as it would appeal as a tourist ride and as a commuter cycleway. For the 7000 odd people in Mosgiel riding a bike to Dunedin, dealing with the hills and the motorway is a big ask. But the route through the two old railway tunnels, called the Caversham Tunnel and the Chain Hills Tunnel, linking Dunedin to Wingatui and hence to Mosgiel and the whole Taieri Plains, would get rid of all those obstacles. I knicked this picture from the Caversham Tunnel website, a site promoting the route. The picture is of the Caversham Tunnel. It is 865 metres long, so it’d be a nice long ride through.

There are also plans to extend a cycleway along the north side of Otago Harbour to Port Chalmers. Have a look at this great news story from the Otago Daily Times, and you have to look at the second photo on it to see just the best submission on any cycleway ever.

Whilst I’m beating the drum for Dunedin, did you know that Dunedin once had a whole lot of cable trams and did you know suburban rail services operated from Dunedin to Port Chalmers until 1979 and to Mosgiel  until 1982?

So how about linking the cycleways and having a Port Chalmers to Mosgiel through cycleway, and extending it out to the airport? And reviving suburban rail services in Dunedin over the same route, with a new 2km single track spur into the airport? It’s an international airport, that gets about 15-20 arrivals and departures each day. A single train that just goes back and forth stopping at old and new intermediate stations between Port Chalmers and the Airport wouldn’t give all that frequent service, but have it so it can take bikes.

The cycleways and the train service would be smart ways to reuse existing infrastructure, and both would enable car-free or car-lite lives in that part of Otago.

Dunedin’s central railway station, now so very quiet.

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle

6 03 2010

Looking through my bookshelves I found that I still had a book from my childhood, Banjo Patterson’s 1896 poem of Mulga Bill.

He is the guy on the Australian $10 note with (in microprint, so go squint) the words to the Man from Snowy River. He also wrote Clancy of the Overflow and at least the words to Waltzing Matilda.

My picture book was from 1973 and is just the poem with some great illustrations, with a long faced Mulga Bill and a penny farthing. I wonder has anyone out there put an e-bike kit on a penny farthing?

MULGA BILL’S BICYCLE by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, “Excuse me, can you ride?”

“See here, young man,” said Mulga Bill, “from Walgett* to the sea,
From Conroy’s Gap* to Castlereagh*, there’s none can ride like me.
I’m good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I’m not the one to talk – I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There’s nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There’s nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I’ll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I’ll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight.”

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man’s Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ‘ere he’d gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man’s Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:*
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man’s Creek.

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk*, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, “I’ve had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I’ve rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I’ve encountered yet.
I’ll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it’s shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It’s safe at rest in Dead Man’s Creek, we’ll leave it lying still;
A horse’s back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill.”

*a white-box is a type of eucalyptus
Eaglehawk is a part of Bendigo, on the Victorian Goldfields.

Conroy’s Gap is near Yass in New South Wales.

Walgett is in north-west New South Wales.

Castlereagh is now on the fringes of Western Sydney, and in 1896 would still have been a long way from town.

A ride through the windfarms

6 03 2010

I’d just spent the working week in Palmerston North and it was POETS day, (*iss off early tomorrow’s Saturday) as I knew it would be, so I had the bike at hand for an afternoon ride. On the top of the Tararua Range between the Manawatu and Tararua districts, there is the rather scenic 4-wd road through the windfarms. For more info see this page at Manawatu Trails. I started at the Pahiatua Track Road end and the road to the new Te Rere Hau wind farm with its two bladed turbines is a smooth gravel for 4km, then it turns to churned up 4-wd track (which was fun to ride) then at the Tararua windfarm side the road becomes a smooth gravel again. There’s not too much bad stuff in the middle section, but you wouldn’t want to take your normal car through, nor your 4-wd either (well it’s probably not rough enough for the 4-wd rednecks and they’d probably prefer to be noisy anti-environmentalists somewhere else, and the cyclists will prefer the quiet without them)

Here’s the view of Palmie from Range Road North near the Pahiatua Track junction:

and here is the Tararua District:

There’s a bit of roughness to deal with:

but its not too bad, unless you’ve been squished like a possum:

It does have a few mud patches to negotiate:

and the road is mainly pretty level, being cut into the hills, rather than go up and down them:

If you are listening to a nice piece of music as you are riding along try to time the crescendo for when the main block of turbines of the Tararua wind farm comes into view:

There are the three types of turbine on top of the ridge, the two blade, and the two three blades, one with the enclosed tower, and one with the open. It wasn’t such a windy day up there for me. I imagine when they’re going like the clappers the winds would make for an interesting ride. Some of them were still turning even though it was probably getting down to the lower bounds for when they operate. It was such a clear sunny day I could see Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngaruhoe to the north west well over 100km away.

I didn’t ride much past this point, and when the road started going down hill in a big way heading down to the Manawatu Gorge I turned around and rode it all in reverse.

One of the proposed national cycleway projects that missed out on funding was from the Palmie City Council who wants to extend the riverside trail in Palmerston North to Ashhurst. Somehow if this ridge and the river track were linked into a circuit (not through the Manawatu Gorge, a dangerous route for cyclists) then yet again there is a day’s bike ride that has a bit of tourist potential. There’s a bike hire business and extra Palmie visitor nights in that I’m sure. Or how about some tourism Think Big? How about a gondola up from Woodville with views over the gorge and then up to a visitor centre explaining about all the wind farms, with one tower that visitors can ride to the top in to see the inside of one, and the views, with a developed walking track around the base of some of the towers and people can hire a bike and ride along the ridge.

110,000 homes is a lot of electricity, and who’d want to ride their bike around a coal fired power station?