Monday, June 30, 2014

Sisyphus had an easier task

For the past few years the Philadelphia Mayor's office has been testing parklets throughout Philadelphia. A parklet is created by temporarily converting two parking spaces into an out door seating area. For anyone to use. Studies have shown that with the increased foot traffic businesses have seen an increase of 15% to 40% in revenue.

With this success of parklets the Philadelphia City Council is now moving a bill through its chambers to cut through the red tape of the permitting process the Streets Department uses. And by eliminating red tape I mean that the Philadelphia City Council has once again made it impossible for any new pedestrian or bicycling infrastructure to be created.

Now if you want to get a bicycle corral or parklet in your neighborhood you only have to do one of two things. The first is to get 100% of the community would have to agree to the installation of a bike corral or a parklet. Which will be an easy-peasy thing to achieve since we can always count on a entire community to agree to on a single subject. All it will take is 1 person to stop the process in its tracks.

Fortunately there is a second option. Get your district Philadelphia City Council member to write a letter stipulating that he or she felt the great majority of residents were in favor. Which leaves at the mercy of professional politicians who make up the Philadelphia City Council. Meaning you are going owe and be owned by your district Philadelphia City Council member for a future I.O.U. You may not like.

The harsh reality of this bill is that the Philadelphia City Council has eliminated all of the red tape that normally makes obtaining a permit possible a Sisyphean task.

It seems that every time Mayor Nutter dares to create any kind of infrastructure that benefits pedestrians and cyclists you can always count on Philadelphia City Council to do everything they can to turn it into a political power play. And with this bill moving through Philadelphia City Council it appears nothing has changed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ode to a Tank

Over the course of 40 years as a cyclist I have seen many things change. Frames have changed from steel to aluminum to hi-tech blends and carbon fiber. Tires have gone from skinny racing tires to 4' wide Fat bike tires. Shifting has gone from friction to indexed and even electronic. Mountain Bikes were home made contraptions and have become the most technologically sophisticated bikes engineered. And just when I thought that big box stores would kill consumer demand for quality bikes a resurgence of hand built bikes has occurred.

But the one thing that has never changed for me was my tank. In 1992 I needed a bike to get to and from work. Living in a city with no bike shops that were close to me I wound up in K-Mart and bought a steel frame, 10 speed mountain bike. A 25 pound monster with friction shifters, that never got any maintenance, and I babied by keeping it indoors. I logged thousands of miles commuting, running errands, and occasional recreational rides. Over the years I worked on jobs that required me to travel to large scale work sites and my tank came with me. So I could get around on site because I often had to park at remote locations. My tank was also theft proof as no bike thief in their right mind was going to steal an antique like mine locked with the latest Kryptonite lock.

But in 2007 my tank gave up the ghost and repairing a K-Mart bike was not worth the cost. Two new bikes with lighter frames and high end components eventually replaced my tank. In the last few years I rebuilt two project bikes, just to see if I could do it. With the help of Neighborhood Bike Works Bike Church and now battered and greasy copy of Bike Repair for Dummies.

Now I find myself preparing to build a new tank. Something that will get me around town, carry things I may buy along the way, and never attract the attention of a bike thief. My new tank will be a three speed bike. Complete with fenders to keep water and dirt off me when I ride through a puddle, a chain guard so I won't get a gear ring tattoo, a rear mounted basket to carry stuff, and a skirt frame. So if I have to stop suddenly I can keep my man parts pain free. Along with a quick release front rim for easy transport in my car.

I'll rebuild the build the bike; repack all of the bearings in new grease, replace worn out parts, and clean out all of the accumulated grime in the nooks and crannies that bikes have. When I am done I will have a tank that will be as good as the day it was first assembled. And like my first tank it will remain with me for many years to come. Continuing to serve in the same tradition of my first tank.