Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘bike

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

No cycling on the bike path

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This is Kits Beach “It’s between the parking lot path and the Boathouse restaurant, due west of the tennis courts” (Anthony Floyd). The picture was taken by me on Monday January 9, around lunch time – and posted to Twitter. In fact this entire post is crowd sourced from Tweetdeck.

In the summer there are signs on both sides of the concession building asking cyclists to dismount due to the heavy foot traffic between the beach, bathrooms, changing rooms, concession, first aid/lifeguard station, restaurant etc.

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This is a crop from the official bike route map of the City of Vancouver – and the picture was taken just to the right of the letter k in “Kitsilano Beach Park” (courtesy Jens van Bergmann)

This is like putting “no driving” between the road and parking lot. (Anthony Floyd)

“No cycling” sign on official bike path? Can we please get this sorted out (Jens van Bergmann) to the City and the Park Board

The City responded “Thanks guys! I’ve sent an inquiry over to Active Transportation team via case 8965477! ^BP” – and once we get a response that will be added here

Incidentally while I was sending the picture and caption to Instagram I saw someone cycle past the sign, blythely ignoring it. There is another sign like near the path to the beach and the Biennale’s chair exhibit.

And one comment might be worth noting from Instagram user Colin M Stein “Misquoting Jack Nicholson’s 1989 Joker: “This Park Board needs an enema.””

UPDATE

No Cycling sign

This is by the entrance to the Parking Lot of the Maritime Museum.

From Twitter on January 27

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Written by Stephen Rees

January 9, 2017 at 2:27 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

Richmond Bikes Still Lagging Behind

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That has been my view for a long time – but the title is taken from a “Friday Feature” in the Richmond News. Although I no longer live there, I still find that I go there quite a lot. The airport, picking up parcels from couriers who did not find me at home, car servicing, the doctor … the list is quite long. I have not tried to get there by bike. Though it would be straightforward enough, and with bike racks on buses, easy to avoid Vancouver’s hilly bits. But if I am going to use transit anyway, why hamper myself with a bike? We also still like walking on the dyke. And at one time we used to put the bikes on the car rack and go further. I am not sure why that has not been happening of late. I feel a Bicycle Diary coming on but I will leave that for later.

Richmond ought to be great for cyclists as it is as flat as a billiard table. There has long been a cycling committee there – and I am afraid that they have not achieved very much. If you remove the use of the dyke – which is much more about recreation than transportation – then there is actually not much cycling in Richmond. It is still very much a car oriented suburb and what facilities there are, were grudgingly conceded. Or pushed by the availability of funding from Translink or extracted from developers. Few bike lanes – lots of sharrows. And one or two paths shared with pedestrians and unpaved.

Raised Bike Lane No 3 Road

There is a pretty fair summation in the News piece.  It would not have gone amiss to have pointed out that the No 3 Road lane was separated and raised – for some of its length, but ruined by incompetent paving and never corrected. The best example of arterial road reorganization is still Williams Road. For much of its length the traditional four lanes of traffic has been reduced to two with a centre turn lane and bike lanes each side. This gets altered at intersections, with  no priority for bikes, and actually improves traffic flow, just as separated bike lanes have done in Vancouver. It also should stop on street parking – but is not well enforced.

Bad Parking 1

The biggest issue for me is that after twenty years of “demonstration” it has not been replicated and should have been. Critical intersections like Granville at Garden City, or Shell at Hwy 99 remain diabolical for cyclists.

Highway 99 overpass

The News does not expect much to change any time soon and I think they are right. The City Council is very secure and is unlikely to face any great challenge at the ballot box, so smugness rules. They will not change and no-one seems likely to make them.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Velopalooza

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Velopalooza

More info, including the event calendar, at www.velopalooza.ca

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Transportation

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