Bike It
Jun 30

Benicia Trails, Two Bridges, Fennel Forests, Hot Hot Hot

Sunday was a good day:

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How often do you get to ride all day, along the Bay, and through fragrant fennel fields?

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Or bike on smooth, paved, separated paths across two major bridges (the Benicia-Martinez Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge)?

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And with a group of game friends who, when your sketched-out route suddenly changes into dirt trails, forgive you (well, eventually)? 

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And with, after the grueling 15% grade section of McEwen in mid-90s heat, the reward of miles and miles of swooping gradual downhill and roadside blackberries?

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Sunday was a good day.

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Jun 22

Bike rack outside a chiropractor’s office.

Jun 16

Evening Zen Tour, Copenhagen (Two Strangers, Riding in Silence)

The BikeMike Copenhagen Evening Zen Tour: “One stop only as we let the passing cityscape and natural environment do the talking. Hard to believe it’s a city bike tour. We bike through rural areas without ever leaving the city of Copenhagen. Come and join this wonderful ride through beautiful mood pictures of Copenhagen when she is stressing down from another busy day and try to do the same yourself. The tour experience embraces the philosophy: “When we bike, the city does all the talking, when we stop, we do the talking”. Treat yourself to the luxury of two hours of total calm. You’ll hear more birds singing than cars racing by… Please understand and respect that no talking at all is accepted during the bike tour. Silence is a big part of the experience.”

Two of us met up, Mike introduced himself, then he set off in some direction and I just tried to keep up. No speaking for a few hours, almost no eye contact (occasionally he looked back to make sure I was still there)— just ride and listen and look.

After maybe half an hour in my brain was free-associating from each little thing I focused on, and my perception felt sharpened— I took in moments and scenes in great detail and they stuck with me. We’d ride through the woods surrounded by vocal pre-sunset birds and the white noise of wind ruffling branches… then for 30 seconds ride past a group of raucous youngsters partying along the side of the road or the bellow of a horse in a paddock, which would then quickly fade back away. 

Moments I can still visualize in detailed clarity even a few weeks later:

  • A particular older couple on their second-floor balcony eating dinner at sunset with glasses of wine, each reading a magazine
  • A brief locking of eyes and shared smile with a woman with deep-red-dyed hair and an apron taking a solo smoke break by a tiny door in an alley
  • Three intoxicated friends, one carrying a tiny dog, stumbling down steps in front of us and freezing and staring, wide-eyed
  • Deserted parking lots along the water, the thumping beat of music ahead… whipping past a club and about 100 people milling about… and then just like that, back to the ambient city sounds
  • Breaking out of a grove of bushes and onto an open bridge high above train tracks, looking down into the city
  • Turning suddenly from roads onto brick-arched arcades between buildings, up metal ramps, through courtyards, and down and out into the next street over

If you’re ever in Copenhagen and are comfortable riding without any control or complaint, I highly recommend it. I’m not going to spoil the route, but here are a handful of blind snapshots I took with a camera in my basket and looked at later.

Jun 15

Biking Kalvebod Fælled wetlands, South of Copenhagen

Another day in Copenhagen, another itch to point the bike in a direction and explore under the wide-open sky. Apparently I lucked out and this was the first sunny week all year.

My phone showed  a large green area , labeled “Kalvebod Fælled” criss-crossed with car-free paths (thanks, Google maps bike layer) between the city and the airport. But what is it?

From Wikipedia"[Kalvebod Fælled] consists of reclaimed sea bed, with a number of former islets making up small isolated hills; it was dammed and drained during the 1940s to serve as an artillery training range. […] Most of the area, however, lies as lightly maintained parkland featuring a range of nature types, from young forests to tidal marshes […] After years of preparation the area was finally cleared of unexploded munitions and fully opened to the general public on October 15, 2010."

That was enough for me— after half an hour of city riding, navigating parking lots, and a few paved but heavy foot-traffic smaller parks, the undergrowth and sky opened up in front of me:

Paved paths:

Some paths were dirt:

A few impulsive side turns through the woods had me ducking overhanging branches as they whipped by, riding along footpaths or animal trails:

At the border between two sections of the park, a cattle grid and a gate counterweighted with a cinder block. There must be livestock beyond.

A long paved stretch of path curved along the water. The color gradually faded and the wind and light became more harsh and brisk (though still beautiful) as the path gradually curved and exposed more of the ocean:

I rode for a few miles with a fence on the left and the ocean on the right, only seeing a few other cyclists and hearing the cry of birds. Not a good place to have a breakdown.

And then, rounding another bend, the sunlight returned, the fence disappeared, and I cut back through the park., stopping for a picnic break:

And afterwards, back to Copenhagen:

And an obligatory stop at the original Mikkeller Bar:

All of that only 5-10 miles from the city center:

Jun 14

Biking in Malmo, Sweden

Copenhagen’s close to Sweden, and I couldn’t resist the excuse to head over for an evening (to be honest— partly just to be on my bike in yet another country, though the train across the ocean was also an experience).

It’s a small, casual city, with old and new architecture, a lot of cobbled streets less pleasant to bike on, and a fair number of wandering tourists. Interesting, but not a must-see, and it felt less lively than Copenhagen.

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Bar ends seen in a BikeID:

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Pit stop:

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And, seen in the blurry distance from the train crossing the 12-km-long Denmark-Sweden bridge, offshore wind turbines:

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You need to buy your bike its own separate (and cheaper) ticket, like a child…

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Jun 13

Biking to the Louisiana Modern Art Museum (North of Copenhagen)

While in Copenhagen, I took a few rides farther afield. Riding about 25 miles North was a great way to spend an afternoon (and about the comfort limit on my creaky rented city cruiser, in jeans), and the Louisiana was one of the best modern art museums I’ve been to.

Denmark’s bike infrastructure extends far beyond the major cities— even through the countryside I was almost exclusively riding on separated bike paths.

Signs every few km pointed you to various bike routes and destinations. This “Bike Route 9” was the one I mostly followed. If I’d gone another 10 miles I would have made it to Helsingor (a.k.a. Hamlet’s castle), but the museum was too interesting to hurry through.

At times, the path ran behind people’s houses, at times along roads, at times through wide-open parks with only the occasional horse or cyclist or wild deer.

For one stretch, I took Bike Rt 152 which seemed slightly more direct and ran along the ocean… but it was also less pleasant, with headwinds and busy traffic on the adjacent road. It’s a sign of how spoiled I was by Denmark’s cycling infrastructure that I expected I could do better than “a dedicated, physically separated, paved path along a road”:

The Lousiana itself was excellent— an interesting set of collections combined with inspiring internal architecture— natural light illuminating much of the work (large windows and a much more open feeling than typical galleries), and a meandering floorplan revealing something new at every turn. A delightful merging of outdoor and indoor spaces.

A fine museum cafe and outdoor seating, with a sculpture garden on a bluff with panoramic views of the ocean:

And as the evening closed in, I hopped on the train back to Copenhagen. 

Jun 02

Copenhagen: Bike Infrastructure

A few photos I snapped while out and about of my favorite bike-friendly infrastructure.

Wide, paved, separated bike paths around the city:

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A road that in many cities would be two car lanes plus some street parking. In Denmark, I’d see roads with one-way car traffic, spacious separated two-bike bike traffic, and a pedestrian sidewalk:

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Out of this busy 4-lane street, two lanes for cars, two lanes dedicated for bikes (the two right lanes shown here are bikes-only— one for cyclists going straight, and one for cyclists turning left), though this was less common than the separated bike lanes between road and sidewalk:

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This is a fairly small group of “cyclists waiting for a light” in a bike box for Copenhagen. At other times there could be 40-50 cyclists waiting for a light.

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Bike paths had plenty of signage at turns and intersections, and the river was lined with bike/walking paths (one of the only places in the city that didn’t have separate cyclist and pedestrian paths— but I saw almost no cyclist/pedestrian contention the entire trip):

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An example of what I hear is a new piece of infrastructure— a rail for cyclists to rest their right foos on while waiting for longer lights to change, to make it easier to stay on the seat and start up quickly: 

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You could take bikes on many trains (adorably, you bought the bike its own slightly cheaper train ticket, like a child):

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There’s even a little “seat belt” hook every few seats to hold a bike in place:

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Two-level retracting bike parking at a train station:

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And, enclosed/monitored bike parking at the site of a long-distance train station (not actually Copenhagen— just across the border in Sweden at Malmo):

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This is just a small sample of the in-city infrastructure… what a great, low-stress city to get around by bike.

Jun 01

Bikes in Copenhagen

I got to visit Copenhagen for the first time last week. Some photos of infrastructure and rides in the surrounding countryside are coming, but to start— a few photos of bikes and the streets:

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Front-loading cargo bikes were everywhere, whether carrying children, bread, musical instruments, folding tables, mops and buckets, tipsy friends (men or women), or a mix.

And museums and other public buildings were surrounded by seas of bikes:

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And, just one example of an intersection of two busy arterial roads in Copenhagen at a light change, during the day on a weekday. Bikes massed in both directions.

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May 31

City Biking Paris

After taking the London city bikes for a spin, I had to give the famous Paris Velib that kicked off the recent worldwide expansion of city bike programs a try.

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I’d heard the terminals only take chip-and-pin credit cards, so I pre-purchased a 1-day Velib membership online (for about $2.50) before my trip. I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked— I entered the numbers from that receipt and my PIN into a terminal, and I was able to quickly/easily check out a Velib for 30 minutes from anywhere in the city.

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Paris was a mix of rough cobbles, busy traffic, narrow streets… and also impressively good bike infrastructure along certain streets (separated bike paths, bike boxes, and clear markings for how bikes should cut across complex multi-way intersections, often with bike-specific traffic signals that guided bikes across on a green while cars had reds in both directions for a short period of time).

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Unrelated but obligatory photo of a macaron:

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May 30

Brooks Leather Showroom, London

B1866, a Brooks showroom recently opened in London: