We bicyclists like to tout our enviro-cred in these days of climate change concern, and there’s no doubt that converting auto trips to bicycle trips does a lot of good. But what about our waste stream? How are we doing when it comes to stuff heading for the landfill?
That’s where we have to start thinking about materials and design, and maybe tell bicycle manufacturers to start thinking about it, too.
Let’s start with the most essential piece of the bicycle: the frame. In the field of waste reduction, the priorities are:
1) Repair – can the frame be repaired if scratched, dented, bent, or broken?
2) Reuse – can the frame tubes be cut apart to be used for something else?
3) Recycle – can the material in the frame be recycled into raw materials for something else (or another frame)?
Cross section of a carbon fiber bicycle frame tube.
Carbon Fiber falls short for all three strategies. Repairing a carbon fiber frame often requires more expertise and time than the frame is actually worth; if it can be repaired at all. Reusing carbon fiber tubes similarly requires the same advanced skills and technology to use them for some other function. Recycling it into its component parts may be feasible in the future, but the environmental and energy ramifications of that are unknown.
Titanium is somewhat better. It’s such a strong metal that it takes a serious crash to damage it. If it is damaged, the frame can be repaired, though it takes a more skilled and knowledgeable craftsman. The same would be said for reuse of the tubing. Like aluminum, titanium can be fully recycled.
Aluminum frames generally cannot be repaired if the metal has been bent. Anyone who has played with an aluminum can knows that just a few bends will make the metal snap. Reuse of the tubing is fairly easy, and we all know aluminum is easily recycled (it actually requires less energy to recycle aluminum than to refine it from ore).
Steel frames are easy to repair with basic equipment and metalworking skills, and equally easy to reuse. And more steel is actually recycled than aluminum.
So next time you’re in the market for a bicycle, ask yourself how important it is to save a few ounces off your bike compared to how much you’ll eventually be sending to the landfill.
For an excellent read on how our waste stream needs to change, pick up Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. It will change the way you look at the world.
Posted in Bicycles & Equipment
, Green Business
, carbon fiber
A full-sized van or SUV with its door open would take up at least another foot of this Baldwin Park bike lane.
On April 16 and 17 Metroplan Orlando hosted a Bicycle Facilities Design Course. Thirty planners and engineers from local governments and consulting firms attended. (Kudos to instructors Michael Moule and Craig Williams.)
On the 17th I led an on-bike facilities tour from downtown Orlando to Baldwin Park and back to showcase and discuss examples of good and bad facilities and designs.
I’m sure the attendees learned a lot, but…
During both the classroom design session and in the field, door zone bike lanes were discussed and explained; how it’s impossible for a cyclist to react effectively if a car door is opened too close ahead of the cyclist.
A short while after illustrating the problem in the field, we rode down one of Baldwin Park’s streets with door zone bike lanes. The combined width of the parking and bike lanes is 12 feet; one foot less than the Florida Green Book standard. If your wheel is in the bike lane there, the right end of your handlebar is in the door zone and you are at risk. With 13 feet you can at least keep out of the door zone by staying all the way to the left side of the bike lane.
Nearly every single person drove in the bike lane. I called out to everyone within earshot, reminding them that they were traveling in the door zone.
They all stayed in the bike lane.
This was a group of professional planners and engineers.
As Keri Caffrey has pointed out, this problem goes beyond education. These folks all knew better. It’s about social conditioning. Bicyclists need to not only learn what is actually safe and unsafe, but shed the belief that the “authorities” always know or do what’s best for them, and also shed the belief that standing up for one’s own interests as a roadway user is not merely acceptable, but preferred.
Posted in Bikeways
Tags: bicycle lane
, bike lane
, bikeway design
, door zone
While I haven’t bought a whole lot of bikes during my lifetime — I prefer to get as good as I can afford and keep it as long as possible — I have noticed something about the tubes and rim strips that come on new bikes:
They tend to be really cheap.
My $1,500 Trek mountain bike (bought about 12 years ago) came with tubes so cheap they failed at the seams.
The rim strips on my more modestly priced Marin Novato (the base for my Xtracycle conversion) have been giving me flats on the spoke side of the rim. The thin rubber is evidently stretching so much into the spoke holes that the tube is getting getting cut there.
So unless you’re spending really big bucks on a bike and your shop upgrades some of the stock parts, expect some problems in these areas.
Cloth rim tape is much better than a rubber rim strip. I actually use 1/2 inch first aid tape; it’s cheaper.
Posted in Bicycles & Equipment
Tags: flat tires
, new bike
, rim strip
Last week the late cold front caught me by surprise. My neon yellow jacket was in the hamper, heading for the washer; I figured I wouldn’t need it again until November. So I grabbed my dark green shell to keep the chill off. Not exactly the most conspicuous thing one can wear, but I don’t ride any high-speed roads on my way to work.
As I rode through the intersection of Mills and Anderson, an off-duty Orange County sheriff pulled up along side of me to say that I needed lights because I could barely be seen. Now it’s true that Mills has quite a bit of canopy, so it’s a little dark in the morning; but this was ten minutes past sun-up.
Let’s stop and think for a moment about what he was saying: That an adult bicyclist wearing a dark green jacket is not conspicuous enough to be seen after sunrise on a neighborhood collector street. Law enforcement officers usually have some understanding of stopping distance; it’s important to know when righting up citations and crash reports.
I was riding at about 15 mph. The posted speed for Mills Ave. is 30 mph; so overtaking motorists are approaching me at 15 mph (20 if they’re busting the speed limit by 5 mph). Two-and-a-half seconds of perception and reaction time is the standard used by engineers. At 15 mph that works out to about 53 feet. Braking distance at that speed is about 30 feet. So a motorist doing 30 mph should easily be able to see, react to and slow for a bicyclist going 15 mph after seeing the cyclist only 85 feet away. For the motorist exceeding the posted speed at 35 mph, the total distance is about 110 feet.
Does the officer really think a competent motorist can’t see any cyclist in daylight from only 85 to 110 feet?
When it comes to bicycling it seems, professional training and reason often go out the window.
Posted in Safety
Tags: being visible
, law enforcement
The item on all the major news outlets today is the new crash test report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Now IIHS does some good work, so I don’t want to slam them. Really, they’re just echoing the culture with this report.
Of course: people in smaller cars don’t fare well in crashes with bigger vehicles. Duh. Neither do motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians.
The approach to safety in this country is virtually all about how to reduce the impact on yourself and your family; rarely on how you might reduce your impact on others.
Perhaps instead of a headline like Small Cars Rate Poorly in New Crash Tests, we could once in a while see one like Larger Vehicles Cause More Serious Injuries and Deaths in Crashes.
Oh, but we knew that already too, didn’t we? I guess we just don’t like to be reminded.
Better yet, how about this headline: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Finds Bicyclists, Pedestrians Have Virtually No Impact on Others.
Posted in Cars
, crash test
, insurance institute for highway safety
Explaining a diversionary fall and how to cross RR tracks safely in downtown Orlando. Photo by Keri Caffrey.
Keri Caffrey and I taught roadway cycling to a handful of teens from Parramore Kidz Zone today.
While on the one hand it’s rather like trying to herd cats, on the other it’s more rewarding that teaching cyclists who already “know it all.” Fewer bad habits to break, and more smiles from the sense of accomplishment.
When you tell a teen, “It’s safer to ride in the center of the lane than to hug the curb,” they welcome the advice. They haven’t been socialized as much to keep all the way to the right. They also see us adult instructors as real experts, while many club cyclists think we’re just self-appointed know-it-alls; so the teen are more receptive to our teachings. And I’m sure they really like the idea of being able to do something they originally thought was wrong, and that makes them feel like equals and grown-ups.
The ideal payoff for this will be seeing one or more of them out on the road on their own and implementing the skills and practices we’ve taught them.
Posted in Basic Skills
, Traffic Skills
Never mind the reasons why I’ve been away, but I’m back at it here at Bicycling is Better.
Posted in Uncategorized