Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Shirt off My Back - or the shelf

Last summer, I had the idea to create an annual line of T shirts that would feature (for the most part) emerging designers and artists.  I, together with Naseem Rafiei, put out a call for artists and we got some tremendous work in return.

We selected the artists/designers whose work you see below.

The T shirts have been ready since October, but we wanted to wait until spring to unleash them upon the world as short-sleeved shirts aren't big sellers in the winter - at least not in the Twin Cities.

Charles Youel, of Artcrank fame, has agreed to help us promote this line of shirts. Once sold, 60% of gross sales will go to the artists who chose this over a singly payment up front. 100% of the net profit will go to help a non-profit in the cycling advocacy world. At the appropriate time, we will conduct a poll here and on Twitter (@minneapolize) to determine to whom we will write the check.

In the meantime, buy many and help the cycling world. The shirts can be found here:


The artists and their work:


Cody Mastel

Artist's statement 
Design inspired by the Dreamcatcher of the Ojibwe people. The words within the circle, Bangan Mashkawaa Nibwaakaa, translate in Ojibwe to Be Peaceful, Be Strong, Be Wise. These words apply well to the concept of safe, smart, and most of all, enjoyable cycling. 

With purchase of this shirt, ALL proceeds will benefit both Minneapolize and Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood. A Minneapolis pre-school language immersion program to help preserve the language and culture of the Ojibwe people. Learn more about Wicoie Nandagikendan  here.


Naseem Rafiei

Artist's statement:

I tend to gravitate more towards the aspects of researching, asking tons of questions, and strategizing in my design work-- process and a solid understanding are my essential weapons. I guess I'm more of a thinker in that way than a straightforward visual designer. On the opposite end, sometimes I dive in head first with zeal just because I want to get started so bad, no matter the project. Sometimes I take on the roles of PR person and copywriter while I'm designing. It's like the "too many cooks in the kitchen" metaphor, except one cook with a lot of pots.


Clare O'Neill


Andrea Tetrault
Artist's statement: 
Andrea Tétrault is an avid cyclist and author of the Winnipeg CycleChick blog, where she records her meandering misadventures on a bike and explores the intricate nooks and crannies of cycling culture. She discovered cycling "accidentally" during a brief and unfortunate triathlon phase and has been hooked ever since. From racing to randonneuring, commuting to alley catting, Andrea's obsession with bikes and biking is boundless.

"I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find one thing that satisfies so many things that are important to me – social interaction, competition, fitness, utility, culture, and design. Biking touches every part of my life, and my only disappointment is that I didn't discover it sooner. And that I can't have more bikes."

When she's not on her bike, Andrea and husband Paul are partners at Tétro Design, an award-winning graphic design firm with clients ranging from Canada's national theatre to makers of silverwear cleaners. In recent years, they have added an increasing volume of cycling-related work to their portfolio, including race promotions, jersey designs, and a series of cheeky videos aimed at teaching people good bike handling and traffic skills.

Andrea's dream is to land a reality show about a prairie girl exploring the gastronomic pleasures of Europe by bike – preferably in the company of Anthony Bourdain.



Alison Brueggemann
Artist's statement: 
Alison is a freelance graphic designer specializing in branding and web design. Her love for design and entrepreneurial endeavors dates back to her elementary school days, when she would sell homemade stationary door-to-door in her neighborhood. Today she enjoys working with small business owners and non-profits to create compelling, beautiful, and empirical means for conveying their stories. She has successfully run her own business for over 5 years and just recently moved to Brooklyn, NY, where she plans to grow her network of collaborators and clients. 
Alison loves biking for s many reasons, but mostly for the sense of freedom and the connections to one's surroundings it inspires. Biking breaks down barriers (which cars create), increasing one's individual mobility and his or her sense of space and community.


Natalie Wynings
Andrea Lane
Artist's statement: 

What does biking mean to me.....? Well...growing up in rural Australia I was originally a horse person! I LOVED the freedom it allowed me to have fun, get to where I was going and feel the wind in my hair and sun on my face and really FEEL and live my surroundings. Now, as someone who lives in a more urban setting I love biking for the same reasons. And while bikes don't require the same amount of maintenance as a pony, it truly is a wire donkey. And speaking of my bike,  I LOVE my On-One that I received a gift, built by Hurl at Cars-R-Coffins. It is a gorgeous piece of art. :)

I am a web/graphic designer working in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. I work at Space2Burn New Media, alongside my husband, Trevor Lettman, and Jon Wittman, our business partner, as well as a group of amazing and talented professionals and interns we enjoy in our company! I really love my job because of the flexibility it gives me, and I am always working on something new. I have a passion for most things visual and love patterns, fresh colours, forward thinking, 3D design and beautiful, clean layouts. I am also a bit of a type-nerd. :)




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Frustration


Tomorrow my 23 year old daughter is moving from the Twin Cities to Chicago to start a life away from home. She was going to fly and I convinced her that by taking the train she could:

  • Save money (fare was cheaper than airfare).
  • Check two big bags for free.
  • Experience more of a life transition than a 45 minute flight will offer.
  • Help reduce her carbon footprint.

To be fair, she wasn’t as excited about the 4th point of savings. It seems kids of all generations stray from their parents choices to make their own – for better or worse.

I’m traveling early in the morning myself, but not as early as her departure time so I plan to take her to the station. To get a feeling for whether the train will be on time or not I looked at today’s arrival schedule. The Empire Builder from Seattle is running three hours late today. In an attempt to learn why I looked at local news sources and voila, I found it.

Minnesota Public Radio is running a story of how the rail line between here and Seattle is becoming choked with oil trains carrying frack sand oil out of North Dakota to parts unknown. The added freight traffic on rails not ready for that much traffic are squeezing out Amtrak sometime with delays of up to 13 hours.

One could argue it’s just an inconvenience but probably feels less so to passengers coming east.

Yesterday there was a Salon.com piece about how fracking is using up billions of gallons of water in the places that can most ill afford to give it up. The potentially historic drought out west is proving to be a bit more than an inconvenience. Many cities may soon see inhabitants turning on the faucet to find nothing coming out.

One (who, I don’t know) could argue this too is an inconvenience but as said yesterday on Twitter, we can live without oil but not without water to drink.

There is the long standing argument about how jobs will trump all, but if I can’t get water to drink from my local well or water utility, the importance of oil industry jobs will pale quickly.

A word about jobs and about what leaving our cars at home will mean to our local economies. Let’s say your gasoline budget is $150/month. That’s $150 that you are spending, very little of it will stay in your community thus helping you and your neighbors. What if you reduce driving by 2/3 – easy to do, even in the cold for most? This is $100/month or $1,200/year that you can now spend at local establishments. Jobs for you and your friends, not nameless folks in the Middle East, North Dakota, Russia, Norway, or other parts unknown.

On a related note, the StarTribune ran an article about discussions related to the Vikings Stadium and the adjacent 1,600-car parking garage that will be built adjacent to it. The discussion is revolving around what will be build on top rather than whether or not we need 1,600 more parking spaces downtown Minneapolis.

How does this relate? Think about all of this:

  • Since 2005 we are driving few miles every year. 
  • Gen Yers – the largest demographic - are buying cars at a rate 1/3 less than Xers or Boomers 
  • The need for oil based on projections unrelated to facts above is resulting in the loss of precious drinking water. Forget that it damages underground water supplies as well. 
  • The same need for oil is clogging one of our few remaining efficient transcontinental travel systems that is relatively friendly to our pocket books and our environment.

Am I the only one frustrated by this? I sincerely hope not.

TD

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Planning

Urban, transit, parks, traffic, highway, communications and more, much more - all require planning. A lot of planning to work successfully. Reading about the events in Atlanta this week made me think more about this. A couple of inches of snow and some slick ice caused epic traffic jams, gridlock, pain, boredom, and sadly, even several fatalities. Poor planning to say the least.

Now much is always written about cities with no history of snow or ice and how few snow plows they own etc. but this could have been avoided. Alert businesses that they must adjust opening times based on the first letter in their name. Tell people to stay home - before the event. Tell people to ride their bikes in (Sorry I had to throw that in) to work. It would have been a bit comical but bikes move much better than cars in this weather. I know, I know, nobody has studded tires on their bikes. Lower the seat so you can put both feet on the ground when things gets dicey. Done and done.

As I write the Twin Cities is getting about an inch per hour of snowfall right in the middle of rush hour. Everyone will be late to work but the system is moving, albeit slowly. I was waiting for the bus on Marshall and Cretin and watching traffic. I was thinking surely in the 5 minutes I'm waiting that I'll see a fender bender. Instead traffic was moving very slowly but steadily. One (only one) cyclist rode by on his or her (couldn't tell through the gear) fat bike and was moving faster than traffic by a wide margin.

I didn't really want to write about the above this morning but the words fell onto the keyboard. What I really want to write about is personal planning in a car-light or car-free world.

We have a car, an awesome, go-through-any-depth-snow mid 90's Volvo that seems to be indestructible. My wife (not a winter cyclist) had to be at work early this morning so she took the car. Then I started planning.

Work is only about 4 miles away. My commuter bike simply won't move in 5" of fresh snow. I've tried and it resulted in more walking than riding. So....bus? train? Car2Go? walk? Combo? OMGtransit.com? GoogleMaps?

Each required it's own plan and there were certain criteria I wanted to consider.

  • Do I want to minimize the amount of walking in the deep stuff?
  • Do I want to minimize wait time at the bus stop?
  • Do I want to just stay home and work here? (an option on most days but not today)
  • Do I want the shortest trip time?
The most important criterion for me was to ensure that I'd get some time at Blue Moon coffee - where I'm writing this. Still most options were on the table.

I opted for simple. I went on OMGtransit.com a very cool real time scheduler for bus routes and determined when I should leave. I can bore you with the details but suffice to say, two buses and 25 minutes later, I was here with my coffee and sweet. I was even treated to the ballet of the traffic during my transfer wait.

Point is, if you want to leave your car at home, it's easy. It just requires a bit of planning. Of course the "easiest" plan would have been to drive my wife to work and take the car. I think if I had taken that option, I'd still be in the car - cursing.

Stay safe everyone!

TD



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chat with MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle


Late last year, I met with Charlie Zelle, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation to discuss options for potential state funding of bike share in Greater Minnesota. After our discussion, Charlie agreed to a short interview for minneapolize.

The Commissioner is passionate about creating solutions for Minnesota that include all modes of transportation and to improving pedestrian and cycling solutions for greater safety and convenience.

Full disclosure: I’ve served on a committee with Mr. Zelle for several years and we’ve become (if distant) friends. This might explain the softball nature of the questions. Still, even this short interview gives a good insight into how he intends to lead the Department.

I’m told that when he arrived at the job, he was told that he could acquire a new Chevy Suburban – the past standard - as his work vehicle. He instead chose a Chevy Volt (plug-in hybrid) as his daily driver. If you see a dark blue Volt with white MnDOT graphics on the doors plying the streets and highways of the state, wave hello to your Commissioner of Transportation.

The interview begins with me in bold:

I understand when you went to a meeting at Camp Ripley with your senior managers that you rode a bike part of the way, can you talk about that decision and the experience?

It was a great experience; I'll start there. I was amazed at the level of passion within what has traditionally been viewed as a highway department, but it is a truly multimodal transportation company and there are a number of people within the agency who love riding a bike and some commute every day through the winter to MnDOT. I'd committed to riding a bike to Camp Ripley, in February, when I was to be the commissioner. It was when I actually did a Google search to see exactly how far was that, and I realized it was like 140 miles so I said, “Can I take the train part of the way?” So I took Northstar, and I said let's meet for those who want to leave, we are leaving from Target Field at six in the morning, and we're going to try to get to the managers meeting at Camp Ripley that afternoon.  And there were only two people waiting at the station and so with me there were three. We headed out and then we met up with another person, a woman at the Rogers stop.  So now there's 4 of us.  And we rode, the four of us from Big Lake to St. Cloud, which was clearly the hardest for me, part of the trip because these were really fit bike riders and they were not very easy on the commissioner. We were averaging around 15 miles per hour and then they started going 16 miles per hour, and then 17 miles per hour

.




And you're going 14 then 15.

We were at about 18 miles per hour on average, and I was about an inch behind one of the guys wheels because I wanted every help I could get through drafting, and when he was averaging 19 or 20 miles per hour, after about 20 miles I kind of said, "Hey Guys? Be nice to your commissioner.”  Someone said, “Oh, oh.  I didn't realize that”.  By the time we got to St. Cloud, we met up with another 10 people and along the way in Little Falls another 7 people so by the time we rode into Camp Ripley there must have been 30 of us and it was great. It was really great, a beautiful day.  



How did you get home?

There was a group, maybe about half of them that rode home, I had a meeting that was an excuse, I actually ended up getting a ride back.  Next year, I'll try to make it both ways. It's an annual meeting, it's not necessarily at Camp Ripley, we have a managers meeting at least twice per year.  All MnDot managers, around 200 people, come together. This last meeting was in Eagan, it was after a snowfall and I opened the meeting by saying I realized it was snowing so I wasn't going to ride my bike, and there were two people that had just arrived by bike so really we should be doing it year round.

Now, you took this job - you brought a different kind of perspective from what we've seen in the past, in terms of MnDOT being a highway department in the past and a transportation entity or organization now and into the future.  As you may know minneapolize is a cycling advocacy blog  - I'd like to get, in general, your view on cycling in the Twin Cities but also around the state in terms of what you've seen.  What you're encouraged by, and what you're discouraged by.

Well first, it has been really gratifying being part of the department of transportation which came together in the 70's as a collection of a lot of different transportation modes, and culturally they've been living in their own mode, aeronautics, freight, railroad, ports.  Highways and bridges dominate the agency but it has been very exciting because I think we're pulling together with one multi-modal vision, and that is that all these modes fit together.  

In terms of both passenger individual, and freight movements, I can't think of any trip which we call peoples’ individual A-to-B story that doesn't involve going from one mode to the next.  You could walk to your car, that's still to me two different ways. You might take a bus, which connects to a train which connects to the park and ride and the idea behind an integrated vision state wide is that we need to think as much about the connections as we do each individual mode and biking/pedestrian is obviously a great interest of mine, but also a tremendous connector of a lot of transit and even cars for employees traveling to work.  

It is just part of this larger matrix of transportation and an increasingly vital one.  And I've been really surprised, delightfully surprised, that some of the greatest passion for developing this inter-modal multi-modal bike and pedestrian system is in Greater Minnesota.  I've seen it in larger regional centers and I've seen it in our smaller towns but what it says to me is both that this is a generational shift, but also it's one where communities are seeing the facts of the boost to their economy. It really is a true economic development factor around making bicycle centers. Livability really matters to communities, not just because it's nicer to live there but because it attracts people and businesses.  

So we see MnDOT in our new vision, is to have a multi-modal system that maximizes the health of individuals, the environment, and our economy so when we think about that overriding vision for our agency, bicycles kind of fit right in to the center of what we are, which is a system that helps support peoples lives as opposed to frankly, sometimes it feeling the other way around. 

So you're working currently for a democratic governor in a democratic administration, I think it's safe to say that cycling in the past has always been thought of as a progressive left wing idea but in Indianapolis where they just built the 13 mile cultural corridor which is a huge addition to the city and was very expensive. It was started and promoted by a republican mayor.  

What I've been saying is transportation is generally bipartisan and is as much generational as opposed to political. There is growing acceptance to each individual mode and biking, as it's grabbed more mainstream attention, is not just a nice recreation or exercise, but it's an affordable and environmentally sound way of getting around.  And I think there is a litmus test which is having it embraced by as many businesses as a good (ed. Transportation) alternative.  And I think that, you know, we do have a democratic governor and I certainly care about it personally, but I think it is here to stay.  No matter who is the administrating agency or government, because that's what people want.

Lastly, I'm very excited about the Mississippi River Trail. So many of the cross country trips in the US seem to go from the west coast to the east coast, but I would love to ride from Itasca down to New Orleans and right now so much of that trail is on roadways some of which have wide shoulders, others which have not so wide shoulders and will challenge even very confident cyclists as well as those that would like to ride more if there was a safe place to do so,.  Do you envision, or would you like to see much or all of the MRT - even nationwide - going to a dedicated non-motorized trail?

Oh I love that, and I think it's good to keep an eye on that type of vision, and that's it, you put your finger on the challenging part of developing a larger, even a state wide system, is that there's always those gaps where there's no good shoulder or pavement options, but having said that, transportation systems took a while to be built and they take a longer time to evolve but unless we kind of keep an eye on the goal we'll never get there.  As we've seen over the past 10 years a lot of those gaps have been filled.  So I think that over time particularly focusing on a few key corridors like the Mississippi river trail and some others, we'll get there.  But it's...

So maybe your next managers meeting will be in New Orleans?

Do you want to lead that trip Tony?  I'll have to take a bus to start it off, I'll ride the last 80 miles.

I promise to keep the speed at 12 miles per hour. It's all down hill from here to New Orleans anyway right? Well thanks very much.

Thanks Tony, it was fun talking.

TD

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Slow Down


When I had a car, I always had a list of "things to do." I was adamant about completing these tasks, and struggled to get it all in.

My memory flashes back to moments where I drove to DSW 20 minutes away just to try on a pair of shoes, or the time I went to a coop 25 minutes away just because I needed a certain flavor of yogurt for my breakfast the next morning. I got so bogged down in tedious chores that I exhausted myself by the time I got home. 

Now, entrenched in a life without a car, I'm experiencing something I like to call the "slow down."
My notebook gets it. 


It may take me longer to get certain things done or to get all my groceries on one trip. But instead of living a life mixed up in daily minutia, I'm living a life surrounded by good people and activities that make me happy — all while keeping a clean apartment and a generally organized life.

I'm even cutting back on all the clutter, selling some clothes, and making meals instead of going out to eat all the time. Believe me, not dining out is the hardest thing to do as a biker. Becoming a cyclist means you also become a foodie. You're constantly exploring unknown parts of the city and happening upon diamonds in the rough. It's easy to make restaurants your end destination too, but for now, I'll pass on Longfellow's sweet potato fries. I'll miss you.

The only thing that really suffers from the slow down is my laundry basket. I think it can survive though.

SK



Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Build a Bike Lane

UPDATE:
The "lane " was removed by the city in a few days (but graffitti remained?)

An interesting question for cycling advocates. We want safe routes to work, school, shopping and just for riding. We want our cities to be invested in these things. In short we cyclists want our cities to become bike places ala Copenhagen and Amsterdam - as well as a half dozen other northern European cities. And a few here - Minneapolis?

One way to get lanes built is to lobby lawmakers, rally support among residents, work the media angle, shout from the treetops and wait. Seems like waiting is thing we do most.

There is another way. My friend Liz Patek and some her friends - a group calling themselves Right of Way - in New York understood the need for the expansion of the 6th Avenue bike lane that has a current northern terminus at 42 Street. It was along this stretch of 6th Avenue that a British tourist had been hit by a taxi, severing her leg. The taxi driver later said he was blinded with rage having to share the streets with cyclists. He jumped the curb and hit this woman while she walked on the sidewalk.

So what did they do? In advance of the global Car Free Day(s), they got out their cardboard templates, spray paint and started building the lane.

Templates on a cargo bike

From 42nd Street moving up town along 6th Avenue, they painted the dividing line and several bike images from their own Right of Way "brand" - a cyclist with wings.

I'm intrigued about the graphic and its meaning. I don't know the intent but from an homage to those who have died on their bikes to the "I can fly" when on my my bike, the meaning can be powerful.

During construction, done in busy traffic from the looks of it, the lane was almost immediately accepted by cyclists and with few exceptions, motorists. One motorist drove across the wet paint spreading the wings across the pavement.

Fun with paint

By morning, the lane was in place and cyclists in celebration of Car Free Day flocked to it making it a legitimate thoroughfare in the city. Bike lane? Done and done.

At Times Square - Car Free Day

6th Avenue Bike Lane

There has been some talk about making urban places and events using a principal pioneered by the folks at Project for Public Spaces. Lighter Quicker Cheaper. Rather than pulling out our hair wishing for solutions to come out of the typical processes, take an idea and quickly implement it with as little resources as necessary and test it's effectiveness. Parks? Events? Bike lanes? All can work.

I lived in New York in the late 70's and early 80's when graffitti was rampant. I was struck by how, once created, it just stayed there. For years. I'm thinking of the 6th Avenue bike lane as a kind of graffiti. Leave it there and people will come to accept that this is making New York safer.

Footnote: A Youtube video of the project is here: 


TD


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stuck in a Commuter's Body


Smooth, efficient, relaxing. These are three words that I have never used to describe my commuting experience. Stressful, agitated, and wasteful are closer to reality. I love being on a bike and having the freedom to avoid traffic and go where I please. Thus, there are many times as I am driving from one place to another I find my mind and my car hugging routes that offer some form of that freedom. Back roads and scenic drives that may lack in expedience but provide that windows down fleeting exuberance of enjoying transportation. 

A recent Portland State University study pointed out, 60 % of respondents say that they would ride their bikes more if they felt safe doing so - they are "interested but concerned". 

Read about it here:
http://bikeportland.org/2012/07/18/psu-research-delves-deeper-into-four-types-of-cyclists-74938

I fall within that group as there is little infrastructure for riding where I live and often I even have to drive to go biking (cardinal sin I know). There are days that I'm rushing around from meeting to meeting and even though it may take a bit more time I find myself driving the same route I would prefer traveling on a bike. Summit Ave, along the rivers, any road that doesn't have a "94" in it. I crave the freedom of not being framed in by red brake lights and exhaust and I don't want to spend 10% of my life looking at recently poured concrete (as it seems every interstate within 100 miles this summer is under construction). 

I'm a cyclist stuck in a commuter's body.  

FB