Welcome to the City Bikes clearance bin for all the overstock thoughts, rants, news items, and other idea fragments that we need to turn over. Check back often, as stock is refreshed frequently

Thursday, July 24, 2008

David Bono - local cycling hero

Another brave cyclist in the District. Mr. Bono was quoted as saying "you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away."

Thank you Mr. Bono!


Novak cited after hitting pedestrian
By JONATHAN MARTIN & CHRIS FRATES | 7/23/08 2:02 PM EST Updated: 7/23/08 2:02 PM EST Text Size:

Novak, 77, has earned a reputation around the capital as an aggressive driver.
Photo: AP

Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak was cited by police after he hit a pedestrian with his black Corvette in downtown Washington, D.C., on Wednesday morning.

A Politico reporter saw Novak in the front of a police car with a citation in his hand; a WJLA-TV crew and reporter saw Novak as well. The pedestrian, a 66-year-old man who was not further identified by authorities, was treated at George Washington University Hospital for minor injuries, according to D.C. Fire and EMS. Novak was later released by police and drove away from the scene.

“I didn’t know I hit him. ... I feel terrible,” a shaken Novak told reporters from Politico and WJLA as he was returning to his car. "He's not dead, that's the main thing." Novak said he was a block away from 18th and K streets Northwest, where the accident occurred, when a bicyclist stopped him and said he had hit someone. He said he was cited for failing to yield the right of way.

The bicyclist was David Bono, a partner at Harkins Cunningham, who was on his usual bike commute to work at 1700 K St. N.W. when he witnessed the accident.

As he traveled east on K Street, crossing 18th, Bono said "a black Corvette convertible with top closed plows into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed into the windshield.”

Bono said that the pedestrian, who was crossing the street on a "Walk" signal and was in the crosswalk, rolled off the windshield and that Novak then made a right into the service lane of K Street. “This car is speeding away. What’s going through my mind is, you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away,” Bono said.

He said he chased Novak half a block down K Street, finally caught up with him and then put his bike in front of the car to block it and called 911. Traffic immediately backed up, horns blaring, until commuters behind Novak backed up so he could pull over.

Bono said that throughout, Novak "keeps trying to get away. He keeps trying to go.” He said he vaguely recognized the longtime political reporter and columnist as a news personality but could not precisely place him.

Finally, Bono said, Novak put his head out the window of his car and motioned him over. Bono said he told him that you can't hit a pedestrian and just drive away. He quoted Novak as responding: “I didn’t see him there.”

A concierge at 1700 K Street said that she saw a bicyclist yelling and walked outside to see what the commotion was about.

"This guy hit somebody and he won't stop so I'm going to stay here until the police come," Aleta Petty quoted Bono as saying, as he stood in K Street, blocking traffic.

D.C. police confirmed that there was an accident at 18th and K streets NW at approximately 10 a.m. involving a black Corvette convertible and that the driver was a white male.

The intersection is in the hub of Washington’s business district and is filled with pedestrians who work in the law firms and lobby shops that line the corridor.

Novak, 77, has earned a reputation around the capital as an aggressive driver, easily identified in his convertible sports car.

In 2001, he cursed at a pedestrian on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th streets Northwest for allegedly jaywalking.

“’Learn to read the signs, [bodily orifice]!’ Novak snapped before speeding away,” according to an item in The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column.

Novak explained to the paper: "He was crossing on the red light. I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don't run the country, all I can do is yell at 'em. The other option is to run 'em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that."

Two years later, the same column reported that Novak had gone to a racing school in Florida.

"I've wanted to be a racecar driver all my life, and anyone who has watched me drive can tell you that,” Novak said.

Anne Schroeder Mullins and Adrienne Smutko contributed to this story.

More from ABC7 News: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0708/537957.html

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bike Transportation Fringe Benefit Reintroduced

Rep. Blumenauer (Democrat from Oregon's 3rd.... The Bikin' 3rd!) yesterday followed through on a promised reintroduction of the bill that would allow employers to offer a tax-free subsidy for bicycle commuting. Welcome, H.R 6495.

Here's the relevant text. It looks like it would give $50 a month for an undefined 'qualified bicycle commuting month' (as opposed to the $20 that made it through the House last time round). Additionally, it also proposes to actually fund and pay out that tax-free benefit for Federal employees, lucky ducks. It would also crank up the existing mass transit benefit cap to $200.

As always, do not get your hopes up. It just hit the House floor, and if it comes out of committee(s), who knows what it might include. I did not see any paygo provisions, which will need to be tagged on there, and often act as poison pills. And finally, it needs to tickle the tastebuds of 60 Senators (why 60, not 50?). Anyway, the tracker widget on the right has been edited.

If, unlike a majority of the readers of this blog, you are represented by a fully-empowered Senator or member of Congress, please write or email yet again, voicing your support for this bill.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Full Service!

In case you didn't catch that handsome mug on the TV, Tripp is receiving some well-deserved plaudits for administering some timely first aid in a shooting incident nearby the Adams Morgan store yesterday...

Come on in to tell him job well done, or to apply a tourniquet to any wounds incurred, or whatever. Don't worry, it's all clear.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Emperor's New Handlebars

And they can be yours, Grape Ape.

Ghost Bike dedication for Alice Swanson

I haven't posted anything on the accident at 20th and R, because I just don't really know what to say. I think I may have met Ms. Swanson a few months back, I'm not sure. But regardless, the whole situation is quite jarring. WABA did their ghost bike unveiling and press conference last evening. Eric Gilliland's comments largely echoed their press releases on the incident, and quite appropriately, were measured and moderate in tone. The rest of the WABA staff was on hand, passing out copies of their safe cycling booklet and the pocket guide to DC bike laws.
And here's the memorial. Note the size of the crowd, lots of folks turned out. Including friends and/or family, more than a few tearful folks left flowers. I just didn't have the stomach to capture them on film, so look elsewhere for that sort of thing.

I got myself into a frightening conflagration as I soft-pedaled my way home. I was approaching a line of cars stopped at a stop sign on S street eastbound, and passed the line on the right. About a block or two down the road, an old white Chevy van with a smashed in front-end and a bad exhaust system laid on his horn, was beating on his steering wheel as he passed me, and screamed about how he was going to kill me if he ever saw me on the streets again. Because I passed him on the right? I guess? I don't know, I wasn't holding anybody up, there was plenty of room to pass.

I was pretty ragged already, and pulled over to back down from the fight and take myself out of harms way. I know this is the logical thing to do, but I'm still stewing over it. I've been yelled at plenty of times, even been threatened, but the ferocity of this guy, combined with the events of the day, scared the crap out of me. Thanks to the pedestrian who witnessed it, and asked if I was OK. Everybody be safe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Suspicious Bicycle"

My wife just got one of those all-points office emails stating in part, "The 1700 Block of F Street is closed due to a suspicious bicycle in the vicinity of 17th and F Streets." Suspicious bicycle? What do you want to bet that somebody locked up a bike with a "This Bike is a Pipe Bomb" sticker?

[edit -- turns out, this exact scenario reportedly occurred in Ohio. I plagiarized reality.]

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Bike Industry To-Do List #4 (Marketing to customers, not pushing product)

Note: This is the third in an ignorant eight-part suggestion of some measures the bike brands could take to better appeal to the majority of Americans, who have little or no interest in cycling.
Part 1 described the situation, the challenges, and some important caveats.
Part 2 examined the importance of cosmetics, and our lack of visual differentiation.
Part 3 suggested that bike development should depend on end-customer research
In this part, I will suggest a few ways the bike brands can adjust their marketing tactics to better target all these new customers.
So, in the last part, I tried to make the case that the bikes we try to sell to casual cyclists pay little attention to what these cyclists want. Rather, they largely reflect the input of experienced cyclists in the industry, who design a bike that reflects our ideal of what such a customer should have. And a quick review of the bikes ridden by our staff shows that our tastes definitely tickle the outer boundaries of mainstream tastes.
Now let's say a big bike brand goes out and does all the market research. They design a line of great bikes, say in the $500-600 range, that are really attractive, or useful, or whatever really has the potential to get people excited about a bicycle who never even had them on their radar screen. The Model T of bicycles. How are you going to publicize it? And who are you targeting?
This is an area where real change has already been made. More and more, we are seeing obviously-planted mainstream media attention paid to particular bicycles, whether it is in the latest buy-this article in Men's Journal, the full-on PR blitz Shimano put on for their Coasting bikes, or the many celeb riding sightings lately. Paid ad placement is also flowing to the outlets where non-cyclists congregate, as it should. The old intuition held that someone looking for a bike would pick up a bicycling magazine. Logical. The reality is that non-cyclists are not actually looking for a bicycle, and those that are more apt to simply pick up the cheapest bike they can find. Thus, the only opportunity to differentiate a particular bicycle or brand is putting it out in the mainstream, and creating demand. Again, Coasting (and the Trek Lime in particular), and the paid media placements in targeted non-cycling publications last summer, provides a great case study on the value of taking this approach to appealing to non-cyclists. What might the next step in end-user marketing be? I would propose that more deliberate targeting of particular customer populations is necessary. The vast sea of non-cyclists are not a homogeneous population. My retired parents, my early-thirties city-dwelling friends, and Larry the Cable Guy are all non-cyclists. They don't read the same magazines, don't go to the same websites, and don't have the same tastes ("git 'r done!"). Should any of them decide to pick up a bike and start riding, each would probably be compelled to do so for different reasons, and would be attracted to different bikes or brands.
In this brave new world of bicycle development, we have done some research into our customer's tastes, and designed bicycles that will appeal to groups of non-cyclists. Maybe those groups are defined by demographics, or psychographics, or whatever. It is logical to then follow through, and target the marketing to particular groups.
Further, this marketing must go beyond the simple tactics described earlier. Marketing particular bicycles to particular groups must involve the dealer network, who would carry out and reinforce the targeted tactics on a local level, tailor their staffing and sales training to effectively carry out the marketing messages, and be allowed to choose to stock or not stock line items that do not appeal to their customer base.
The bike industry has done a great job of designing particular bicycles for every conceivable use. BikesnobNYC says this has gone overboard. And folks within the industry are starting to agree (scroll to bottom). But somewhere within the lineup, line items need to be devoted to appealing to tastes of large populations, rather than focusing on every possible whim of small ones.
Too corporate? Too cynical? Too much marketing mumbo-jumbo? Well, bypass the next post, when we'll discuss branding, and... I dunno, go take a refresher course on the Sheldon Brown gospel. And remember that this discussion is meant to just address how to appeal to the 170 million people in the US who could bike, but do so rarely or never. Developing, marketing, and selling the cool bikes the 13 million of us enjoy today can and should continue and thrive. But it shouldn't be to the exclusion of everybody else.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Good stuff lately from Bicycle Design blog

First was a nice post on the problem of appealing to non-cyclists, which I have been posting a lot about recently. Unlike me, he was able to pull some stats on the potential size of the markets we are missing from Trek, posted below. My only quibble is that they infer that the answer may lie with folding and Dutch bikes, which are certainly quite in style these days. But I just don't see those bikes resonating with the general public right now, and they are not bringing in those 'blue ocean' people. As much as I love those bicycles personally, I worry that they are indicative of our industry's penchant for only asking ourselves what is cool. No, I don't have any better ideas.
The second post that caught my eye was a little bittersweet. The folks at Trek are pilot testing a kiosk, called the Trek Stop, which features a vending machine that dispenses tubes, patch kits, nutrition bars, and the like. My dad, who serviced and reconditioned vending machines for a few years, mucked around with a couple of old units, in an attempt to create something that we could plunk outside the store for the line of folks with punctures who are lined up every morning. We could never get the units configured quite right, and we were never convinced that they would stand up to the quick and frequent off-hours assaults they would receive outside the Adams Morgan store. So we scotched it. Good to see Trek running with the concept, I do wonder about how sturdy that front glass surface is.
Down in the comments, Aaron of Aaron's Bicycle Repair in Seattle provided the last pic, which he claims is the first tube vending machine, operational since 2005. Sigh. Trek, Aaron, well done to both of you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day

Wasn't feeling the draw of the poutine to head to the embassy for their shindig, so I threw back a Molson Ex and some rye, took the bike and tools out on the patio, and tried unsuccessfully to get rid of a bottom bracket tick.  No lamer than fireworks.