Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Bicycle

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 12

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Where I live there is only one flat route out of Arbutus Village park – north west along Valley Drive. In any other direction there is a hill. In fact to get up to the Arbutus Corridor I have to get off and push. So when I saw a crowd funder for an electric wheel, that provides assistance when cycling, I decided to take a chance. It has taken six months from making my payment through KickStarter for the first of two wheels to arrive. I got one for myself and am still waiting for the one for my partner.

In the intervening period the name of the project had to be changed from UrbanX to UrbaNext.

Via Kickstarter the team reported

We received notification from BMW Auto Group that our product name UrbanX was too close to their venture fund called URBAN-X which focuses on helping emerging and start-up companies in the fields of technology and design for urban environments. You can read more about the program here. Despite our best efforts in researching our product name, we were unaware of similarity to their program and program name. The program does seem very cool in its mission to work with small businesses and help fund new innovation in urban environments.

KickStarter provided regular project updates and this video about installation

So that all looks pretty straightforward I thought. Once my wheel arrived, I unpacked it and took it down to the basement. Taking off the existing front wheel is easy, but the new wheel was a real problem. Some time ago, after renting a very comfortable bike in San Francisco, I had my Trek 800 upgraded by fitting suspension forks and a sprung saddle post. The forks were simply too fat to admit the wheel properly – and the bracket for a disc brake got in the way of inserting the battery. I took the bike with the wheel to West Point Cycles in Kerrisdale, and they replaced the forks (no suspension) and installed the new wheel for me. I then spent a while hooking up the cables and installing the control and the phone carrier – as the functioning of the electric wheel is controlled through an app. No, that installation video does not mention that – but you do get an instruction manual with the wheel. That includes a QR code for the app which is called iMortor. If you go to YouTube you will see other videos about iMortor and another UrbanX user called Edgar Cornejo who has made a number of youtube videos about his experiences.

I first tried out the new wheel in our underground garage. That really did not get me enough space to get up to speed (5km/hr), and I also missed the point that you are supposed to hold the throttle open for ten seconds, while pedalling, to get the motor to kick in. My next trip was to take the bike up to the Greenway by the hill on King Edward Avenue. This gave me enough distance to get up to speed and to hold the throttle open for long enough – and I knew the motor had kicked in as I did not have to get off and push. The app allows for three speed settings, and all of my first trip was in speed 1. The ride up to Kerrisdale by the Greenway is actually not a problem for me, I just gear down and keep twiddling. This time I did not have to gear down. As long as I was pedalling the bike kept going – and that seemed to be true even when I let go the throttle. I tried other speeds too, but that is not so easy when trying to hit the very small button on the app while moving.

Of course, no-one needs help to ride downhill. What is missing from the UrbaNext is a regenerative brake setting, which could act as a retarder and recharge the battery. Not only that but as I was in speed 1 and the app and motor was stilled turned on even pedalling downhill on King Edward, hoping to keep up with traffic, all I could manage was 12 km/hr.

Today I decided to venture further afield, so I added a bottle of water and some Cliff bars to the pannier and headed  south on the Greenway to Burrard, hoping to use the new bikeway across the bridge. The east side of the bridge was closed by barriers, and a sign instructing “use West walkway”. I rode wrong way in the bike lane – and noticed that there might have been room to ride in the vehicle lane if I had been daring enough. Then down Beach Avenue and round Stanley Park (via the Chilco Loop). By now I was getting used to riding with and without assistance. In fact there were times when, with the throttle closed, I wished it was not “helping”. Equally there were times when I was below the 5km/hr when help starts and I would have appreciated it much sooner!

I had a pleasant break near the Lumberman’s arch, with a view of the Lions’ Gate Bridge and some charming company. By the time I got to the Second Beach pool, the lights on the control box were showing red – or 30% of capacity. So I stopped using the motor by simply hitting the off button, hoping to conserve power. The bike was much heavier, thanks to the wheel and its battery, but there also seemed to be significant rolling resistance when there was no power available. Given the lack of regenerative braking I found that puzzling. By the time I got to Cornwall, I decided I had had enough, and waited for the #2 bus. Getting the bike on the bus wasn’t easy before the new wheel. Now it was beyond my ability unaided. Fortunately a very strong young chap who was passing offered assistance, and the bus driver got out too! I had taken the phone off the bike to use the transit app to find out how long I had to wait, so I just shoved the phone into my pocket when the bus arrived.

The #2 was short turning at 16th Avenue, so the driver was not pressed for time, and told me she would help me get the bike off. What with the ratchet on the bike rack’s bracket and the weight of the front wheel I was very glad of her help.

I set off home along the familiar nearly flat Valley Drive route, and just out of curiosity flicked on the throttle to see how much power was left. Amazingly the bike took off like a rocket. There was no phone controlling the app – I had taken it off the bike, and hit the iPhone’s power off button reflexively when putting it in my pocket. I even stopped pedalling altogether and the motor actually accelerated! I used no muscle power at all to get home, and in fact did a lap of honour round the garage all unaided by pedalling!

It has taken only an hour or so to recharge the battery. I should also point out that getting the battery out of the wheel is in itself no mean feat. It really helps to wait awhile for it to cool down first. Then you have to hold down the two top latches while pulling evenly on both sides.

As I was an initial funder through KickStarter I paid $800 – plus $200 shipping – for two wheels. That is considerably cheaper than other electric assist bikes – or wheel conversions. However you only get what you pay for – and while others are expensive they can also be installed for you. Their offered range is considerably greater than the UrbaNext. They do have a facebook page and currently offer the wheel at $319. If you click on the Shop Now link on that page it takes you to IndieGoGo – where the “60 second conversion” claim is repeated. Sorry, that 60 seconds is not actually possible. Even if your front forks do fit first time! Allow at least an hour to set it up properly.

POSTSCRIPT I should have mentioned that I got the 350W version: there is also a 250W which is a bit cheaper.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

A Route Planner to Facilitate and Promote Cycling in Metro Vancouver

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Now isn’t that a title to stir your heart?

As I am sure most of you know, while I am a cyclist – sometimes – I am a fairly cautious one. That is because I am a fat old man with a dicky ticker. Where I live there are steep hills in three of the four cardinal compass points. We live in a bowl – and Valley Drive is the only flat way out. It is uphill from here to Kerrisdale or Shaughnessy and even Kits requires tackling a short but killer grind up Nanton to the new Greenway. So the idea of a tool that takes topography into account as one of the keys to route choice had an instant appeal to me.

I came across it due to a new twitter account called Vancouver Studies run by my old friend Raul Pacheco-Vega. “This account tweets scholarly studies about the city of Vancouver (BC, Canada).”

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So that link took me to the academic publisher Elsevier who, of course, charge an arm and a leg to read research articles – but at least the Abstract provided a link to the program itself. I thought.

With increasing fuel costs, greater awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and increasing obesity levels, cycling is promoted as a health promoting and sustainable transport mode. We developed a cycling route planner (http://cyclevancouver.ubc.ca) for Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to facilitate cycling amongst the general public and to facilitate new route location by transportation planners. The geographical information system-based planner incorporates variables that influence choices to travel by bicycle (e.g., distance, elevation gain, safety, route features, air pollution and links to transit) in selecting the preferred routing. Using a familiar and user-friendly Google Maps interface, the planner allows individuals to seek optimized cycling routes throughout the region based on their own preferences. In addition to the incorporation of multiple user preferences in route selection, the planner is unique amongst cycling route planners in its use of topology to minimize data storage redundancy, its reliance on node/vertex index tables to increase efficiency of the route selection process, and the use of web services and asynchronous technologies for quick data delivery. Use of this tool can help promote bicycle travel as a form of active transportation and help lower greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and air pollutant emissions by reducing car trips.

I have disabled the link in the quote because that site no longer responds. But Topophilo will give you both the sad story of why this useful tool is no longer available and what else is around to help you.

Cycle Vancouver Is Now Offline

October 31st, 2014

CycleVancouver, Metro Vancouver’s cycling trip planner, has been taken offline because it is no longer receiving funding to be maintained and hosted.

Other useful resources that may be helpful in planning your route are:

and then it also says

The original Cycle Vancouver code has been posted to GitHub for reference.

Which might be good news if we can come up with a rescue plan. Doesn’t this seem to be a Good Idea for crowdfunding? Or maybe support from the City – or even Metro? Isn’t Translink supposed to be into this alternative mode stuff too?

Of course being dead for three years may mean all of this has been tried before – but now the Mayors have come up with some funding for Translink, and even the feds seem interested in less carbon intensive ways of getting around (which wasn’t the case back in 2014) shouldn’t we be trying to resuscitate the patient?

UPDATE Sunday January 8

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and because that link won’t work in an image

AFTERWORD May 16, 2017

Written by Stephen Rees

January 7, 2017 at 7:21 pm

The Bicycle Diaries

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bike

There is no copyright in titles, but I do happen to be reading David Byrne‘s excellent collection of short pieces right now, and the return of the warmer weather saw me get my bike out of the shed this weekend. I simply wiped off the dust, pumped up the tires and oiled the chain. Everything seemed to be working ok until I needed the small front gear ring – so I need to do a bit more adjustment on that for when I leave Lulu Island.

Byrne’s diaries are “observations and insights – what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about – as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities”. Well worth reading. My aim is perhaps more limited and I doubt I will be covering anything like his geographic compass. What I tend to be thinking about when I am cycling is cycling – and the state of the route I am using, as opposed to the state of life, the universe and everything.

Steveston at No 4 Rd

Steveston at No 4 Rd

In no particular order let’s start with Richmond. I have been cycling here now for 15 years or so, and I have seen very little change in that time in the bike route network or its facilities, and many have needed upgrading for a long time. The concept of cycling as transportation seems foreign to Richmond. though being completely flat, it shouldn’t be. The dykes are fine – though I would prefer a better surface than loose gravel.  Some of the issues of cycling in Richmond have been covered here in this blog, so I will try not to repeat myself. Both No 4 Road (at least north of Steveston Highway) and Steveston Highway itself should be avoided. These are arterial routes that drivers use for fast travel: they are posted at 50km/hr but hardly anyone drives at that speed. There are no marked cycle facilities of any kind so wary cyclists who have no choice but to use short lengths of these roads ride on the sidewalk, illegally but a lot more safely. Please, if you have to do that, ride slowly so that you can stop quickly if someone walks out of a gate in a hedge.

Garden City might be good alternate to No 4 but there is no way you can proceed safely south through the Granville Road intersection.

Empty trail 2

The Shell Road trail is a joy to ride but dead ends at Highway #99. The boundary between MoT and CoR is marked by signs and a clear shift in attitude. MoT does not seem to have a cycling policy. While Highway #99 is getting bus lanes added to it (and not before time!) the bridge over Shell Road is a work site. Underneath, in the CN right of way is the works yard. There is plenty of room here for a northbound continuation  of the bike route all the way to River Road within the road allowance. It would be nice if, when the work is finished, at least the bit under Highway #99 was left as a bike route. I will be surprised if it is.

Highway 99 overpass

A common issue for many major intersections in Richmond is the use of right turn lanes. These are simply designed to speed up vehicle movements – and pose a significant hazard to cyclists and pedestrians alike. Cars driving fast west along Westminster Highway and turning north onto Shell have no intention of stopping, and the location of the crossing at the apex of the bend actually reduces the sightline of cars and bikes. Signalization of intersections like this (the next one north at Shell and Alderbridge is the same) ignores the turn so you don’t get a button to push or a light to stop the cars except on the straight through movements. And even then, traffic making left turns does so when you get the white walk sign (the existence of cycles is simply ignored by drivers and traffic engineers alike).

Shell at Westminster Hwy

Shell at Westminster Hwy

The section of River Road between No 4 and Shell has been narrowed to deter car racing. However this is a residential street on the south side, so cyclists who do not want impatient drivers crowding them through the chicanes use the sidewalk. The dyke is also an alternate through route, but less convenient if you are headed to or from Vancouver over the new Canada Line Bridge.   And as I noted at the time, that drops you down to Kent Avenue for the climb back up to the ridge. A gentler, straight ramp to S E Marine Drive would have been far better and neater. The “sharrows” on the tarmac seem to indicate use of Cambie but I would avoid Marine for the same reasons I avoid Steveston Highway. Kent to Ontario is much quieter.

If the climb from Marine deters you there is a lot of choice – put the bike on a variety of bus routes or the Canada Line itself. Ontario Street southbound from the Ridgeway, on the other hand is a joy. Just a note to other users. Those round things in the middle of intersections make them traffic circles NOT roundabouts. If you don’t know the difference you should.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

Posted in bicycles, cycling

Tagged with , , ,

Another nasty antibike ad

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People who sell car insurance think it is ok to poke fun at people trying to use bicycles in a country obsessed with cars. Streetsblog does not like this – and does not find it funny. They provide this link to the maker for your feedback.

I think I agree with them. Click now before it gets taken down and another grovelling apology appears. Did it make you smile?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2008 at 9:09 pm

More on cycling in Europe

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World Transport Policy & Practice
Volume 13. Number 3. December 2007 (link goes to download a large pdf file)

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Abstract

At the Frontiers of Cycling: Policy Innovations in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany

John Pucher and Ralph Buehler

This article presents six detailed case studies of cycling in the Netherlands (Amsterdam
and Groningen), Denmark (Copenhagen and Odense), and Germany (Berlin and
Muenster). Except for Berlin, they represent the very best in coordinated policies and
programs to make cycling safe, convenient, and attractive. Not only are cycling levels
extraordinarily high in these cities, but virtually everyone cycles: women as well as men,
the old and the young, the rich and the poor. Moreover, they cycle for a wide range of
daily, practical trips purposes and not mainly for recreation. Berlin is a special case. It does
not even approach the five other cities in their cycling orientation. Nevertheless, its recent
measures to encourage cycling have achieved an impressive bike share of trips for such a
large city, higher than any other European city of that size. Thus, all six of the bicycling
case study cities examined in this article truly are at the frontiers of cycling. They have
many lessons to offer other cities in the Western World about the best ways to encourage
more cycling.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 3, 2008 at 8:06 am