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Cars are like cigarettes

Matthew Modine (yes, the actor and founder of Bicycle For A Day) has penned a condemnation of modern automobile society, urging everyone to get back to bicycling.

I am often asked, “Why do you love bicycles?” For a few reasons, but mostly because I am in love with self-propulsion and self-motivation. I love finding solutions to problems and I want to leave the world in better condition than when I arrived. For too long we’ve behaved as if the resources of our world are infinite. They are not. They are finite. The disappearing species around the globe should be a canary in the coal mine for all of us.

Have you ever been witness to a baby’s first steps? The open mouth smile and the parents, with arms outstretched, as the child wobbles into their waiting arms. With each step the child builds confidence and ventures further out into the world. I don’t remember my first steps, but I remember the first time I found my balance and pedaled away from my father as he let go of the seat of my first bike. I remember. My heart seemed to stop and I gasped for breath. Balance. More than just a word, a metaphor.

The bicycle provides a greater sense of self-propulsion because it can carry us further and faster than our feet. At some point during the mid 19th century, during the height of the industrial revolution, the love of two-wheeled transportation began to catch hold in different corners of the world. Since that time there have been countless shapes and forms. But each design provides the rider with the same freedom that the first model gave its operator, the ability to get from one place to another quickly and in style.

Sometimes I feel like I am flying when I ride my bike. It’s exciting to turn a corner and suddenly find myself in a sea of other bicyclists. They seem to share this feeling of self-empowerment. In love with the knowledge that, as they pass through the air that surrounds them, they are not polluting what we all share and breathe. Bicyclists are free from the petroleum products that have compromised our global environment. They don’t have to worry about paying for parking, tipping valets, car insurance, car inspections or car maintenance. And this makes them smile. And, as an added bonus, bicyclists are less tense than the people belted into their metal, four-wheeled boxes.

The statistical truth is that 90% of trips made in cars are less than five miles from our homes. A very comfortable journey made on a bicycle. In addition to saving the aforementioned automobile expenses, riding a bike–just a couple hours a week–will reduce a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke by 50%, not to mention reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes, two of the biggest killers in the United States. The more people that ride bikes, the safer it gets to share the road with pedestrians and cars.

Perhaps the best part of choosing a bike instead of a car is what you are saying by pedaling. You are saying to yourself, your friends, your family, and the cars that clog our roads and highways, that you care about the air we breathe and that you care about the environment. You’re saying you want to do something to reduce carbon emissions and that you want to improve your health. This personal and environmental awareness is the legacy that you want to share with your friends and family. You are a person that wants to pose beside your new bicycle instead of a new car. Not to mention how much fun it is to ride. The Zen of bicycling is way cooler than the art of motorcycle maintenance.

Our country has had a long love affair with the automobile. Since its invention, the automobile has provided us with the freedom and liberty we yearned for since we took those first baby steps. The automobile took us further and faster than we could have ever done by self-propulsion. But that speed and distance has brought the world to the edge of extinction. We must now look at the automobile with an understanding of what it really is. We must look at the movies and songs that celebrated the automobile with a new consciousness and awareness. We must look at the automobile as a cigarette–a cancer stick–a nail in our collective coffin. The sexy lifestyle that the tobacco industry sold to us contains the same advertising lies and poison which the automobile industry sold and continues to sell to the world. Look at the ads for automobiles and you’ll begin to recognize the lies. You’ll see open roads with happy smiling drivers. Ask yourself, When was the last time I was NOT stuck in traffic? When was the last time I was not pissed off and stressed out after just a few hours spent driving behind the wheel of a car? The automobile ads always present cars in a setting that is free of traffic and the drivers appear powerful, happy and liberated behind the wheel. Yeah, like that ever happens in the modern world.

Just as tobacco has killed millions with different forms of cancer, the automobile industry and the pollution that has spewed from exhaust pipes ever since Henry Ford’s Model ‘A’ rolled off the assembly line, must be looked upon as a carton of cigarettes and a cancer to civilization. The automobile industry should not be bailed out so it can continue to manufacture the same product. The automobile industry should be transformed into an industry that builds non-combustion engines. They should be given contracts to build new light rail trains that can carry passengers comfortably and safely. And the light rail cars should have bike racks so passengers can get home from commutes too long to be made by bicycle. Imagine how many jobs could be created if the US supported light and heavy rail systems. The car is a mode of transportation that cannot propel itself or our country into the future. The burning of fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine is dead. Raise your glass to self-propulsion! Long live the bicycle.


Google takes to trikes for Street View

Google Street View Trike :: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Google put out a press release yesterday about one of their Street View trikes. They must be newly in use in Europe as the Street View trikes have been seen out and about in the US already. Google stopped by RBR with one some months ago looking for a tune up.


Trike with a view

Google & VisitBritain poll British public for the best spots for the Street View Trike to visit this summer

We’ve heard from people around the UK that they’d like us to include even more images of our national tourist treasures in Street View and put Britain’s famous landmarks on the map. That’s why we’re giving people a sneak preview of our latest groundbreaking invention – the Google Trike. This mechanical masterpiece comprises 3 bicycle wheels, a mounted Street View camera and a specially decorated box containing image collecting gadgetry. It comes replete with a very athletic cyclist in customised Google apparel.

The Trikes have the same capability as Street View cars for collecting street-level imagery and are designed to help Google make special imagery collections in places less accessible by cars such as historic landmarks.

We can also reveal that we’re polling the British public for suggestions of extra special tourist spots, such as historic castles or famous landmarks, that the trike might visit. Google has teamed up with VisitBritain, with their unrivaled knowledge of Britain’s tourist treasures, to devise 5 categories under which people can submit their ideas. The categories are: Castles, Coastal paths, Natural Wonders, Historic Buildings & Monuments and (Sports) Stadiums. We’ll then work with VisitBritain to choose the most original ideas from each category. The public will then be able to cast their final votes to choose the top 3 locations the Google Trike will visit first.

People can send us their ideas via an online form linked to from: As we only collect images from public roads we’ll work closely with the relevant organizations to collect images of privately-owned locations.

Justin Reid, Head of Online Marketing for VisitBritain said:
“We were only too happy to join forces with Google for the UK launch of Street View. The new trike will enable us to showcase even more of Britain’s wonderful destinations and we look forward to some great ideas from the public.”

The trike will be starting in Genoa, Italy where we’ll be making the most of the good weather to collect images. The trike is expected to land on British shores later in the summer.

Due to operational factors such as light levels and the weather (and what could be a pretty tired cyclist), the trike will only be in the UK for a limited time during the summer. Images collected by the trike will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date in Street View on Google Maps.

About Street View in UK

Street View is a hugely popular feature of Google Maps which is already available in more than 100 metropolitan areas around the world. It is also available in Google Earth and on Google Maps for Mobile. We launched Street View imagery in UK in April allowing people to view and navigate 360 degree street-level imagery in 25 British towns.

In areas where Street View is available, you can access street-level imagery by zooming into the lowest level on Google Maps, or by dragging the orange “Pegman” icon on the left-hand side of the map onto a blue highlighted street. You can check out a restaurant before arriving, make travel plans, arrange meeting points, get a helping hand with geography homework, or just explore and get to know your town better.

As well as consumers, UK businesses can also benefit from the Street View technology by embedding Google Maps directly into their site for free, helping them to promote a chain of hotels or increase awareness of a local library or restaurant.

Notes to editors

  • The trike weighs nearly 18 stone!

  • We will use specially trained super fit Google employees and contractors to ride the Trikes.

  • The “trikers” wear Google cycle helmets and clothing

  • There are 5 categories under which people can submit their ideas. The categories are: Castles, Coastal paths, Natural Wonders, Historic Buildings & Monuments and (Sports) Stadiums.

  • We will be accepting suggestions for a limited time and we’ll then work with Visit Britain to choose the most original ideas from each category. The public will then be able to cast their final votes and choose the top 3 locations we’ll try to add to Street View (pending sunny weather).

  • As we only collect images from public roads we’ll work closely with the relevant organizations to collect images of privately-owned locations.

  • As with all Street View imagery in the UK, we will apply our face-blurring and license plate blurring to all these images to protect people’s privacy. People will be able to report images for removal in the same way as they can now by clicking on ‘report a problem’ on the bottom left hand corner of the image. From here they complete a short form where they indicate the precise image to be removed

Press contact: Laura Scott, or 0207 031 3130

PA Bike Summit a success

2009 PA Bike Summit :: PA state cyclists gathered in Harrisburg to have their voices heard
PA Bikes & Walks organized a successful PA Bike Summit on May 5 in Harrisburg. Nearly 100 Pennsylvanians from across [sic] rallied at the State Capitol Building to speak to legislators about supporting “safe passing legislation” and Safe Routes to Schools. The event was the first gathering of what participants hope is an annual event. The Harrisburg Bicycle Club jumped in to volunteer and to make sure bicyclists were welcome, safe, and comfortable in their host city. The Capitol Police and the Harrisburg City Police worked together to provide an escort from the Farm Show Complex to the Capitol Stairs where bicyclists assembled around their elected officials to hear them address the issues most important to them. Fuji Advanced Sports generously provided bicycles for riders who traveled from the farthest locations in PA. Company representatives joined ralliers to gain recognition for the bicycle industry and their economic benefits to our state.

State Representative Dave Kessler lead the event with a reading of the Governor’s Pennsylvania Bike Month Proclamation and presentation of the PA House Bike Month Resolution. Senator O’Pake’s office also provided a PA Senate Bike Month Resolution. Jointly, these documents recognize May 2009 as Bike Month, May 11-15 as Bike Week, and May 15 as Bike to Work Day.

Representative Ron Miller introduced HB1110 (Safe Passing) on March 25 with 37 co-sponsors and HB1109 (Harassment), explaining the importance of shared roads for all modes of transportation. Senator Mike Folmer also spoke of SB776 introduced on April 18 with 14 co-sponsors.

HB 1110 and SB 776 would protect bicyclists in two important ways:

  • Require motor vehicles to pass cyclists with a minimum of 4 feet, and
  • Protect cyclists from a “right hook” where a motorist overtakes a bicyclist and then cuts them off by making an improper right turn into the bicyclist’s direction of travel.


Motorists misjudging the space required to pass a bicyclist and motorists turning into the path of an approaching bicyclist are two of the most common causes of bicycle crashes, accounting for 8-12% of all bicycle crashes.

The League of American Bicyclists cites the lack of laws protecting bicyclists from closely passing cars and from right hooks as one of the primary reasons Pennsylvania ranks so poorly as a bicycle-friendly state. Pennsylvania was ranked 40th (or the 11th worst state) for bicycle-friendliness in 2008.

George E. Cornelius, Secretary of Community and Economic Development emphasized the economic impact of the bicycling industry in Pennsylvania, home to 340 bike shops, three national bicycling magazines, a distribution plant for Cannondale and the world headquarters of Fuji Advanced Sports, Inc.

Michele Barrett, spokesperson for PA Walks & Bikes brought attention to the Safe Routes to School program in Pennsylvania. “We are far behind the rest of the nation; we have $21 million to create connections in communities for better, safer access in the core of our neighborhoods, and healthier living for all of our children. Community leaders, parents and schools across the US are using Safe Routes to School programs to enable and encourage more children to safely walk and bicycle to school. But Pennsylvania has fallen behind. Nationwide, more than 90% of national Safe Routes to Schools federal funds have been awarded. Four years into the program, PennDOT has awarded just 11 mini-grants of $5,000 each and $2 million to Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity (PANA). Only Georgia has awarded fewer grants to local communities.” Special guests Sharon Brumbaugh, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education and Brenda Barrett, Director of DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation & Conservation also joined the event.

Tom Sexton, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Northeast Regional Office Director energized the crowd with his comments to build Trail Enhancements and connectivity. “The bike advocacy community and the rail-trail (all multi-purpose trails really) advocates are much closer aligned now than the old days when the bike community looked at trails as an excuse not to build on-road facilities. Rail -Trails are somewhat finite and will only provide a small percent of the bike facilities required, but they can be a necessary first step toward creating a network of bike facilities throughout a community and be the training ground for new riders before they venture onto the road. Harrisburg is a perfect example of a city that needs to take the next step – it has a 20 mile trail around it but not one foot of bike lanes.”

Representative Rick Geist, Chairman Republican Transportation Committee, closed the guest speaker comments with stories of the former Governor’s annual bike rides, Altoona’s Tour de ‘Toona, and his many personal cycling anecdotes that tied together all of the shared support for bicycling transportation, tourism and recreation.

Hans van Naerssen says, “To accomplish our mission, we have and will continue to work with many organizations and individuals. Within our first two months as an organization we successfully reached out to others to get awareness and participation by bicyclists and legislators at the first PA Bike Summit. We also got an eightfold increase in the number of state legislators sponsoring the safe passing legislation as drafted within PPAC. A lot of work remains to make that proposed legislation the law, and to make bicycling and walking safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable to all Pennsylvanians. We look forward to working with others to make that happen.”

PAWalks & Bikes was formed in March of this year by executives from Bike Pittsburgh, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, WalkBikeBerks, as well as former state legislators Ed and Pat Krebs, and Megan Auman. PA Walks & Bikes is a new nonprofit organization creating healthy, sustainable communities across Pennsylvania by making bicycling and walking safer, more convenient and more enjoyable.

Those interested may join the state-wide conversation at Livable Streets . Readers may learn more about the recent Bike Summit event, join our mailing list, or complete a feedback form after speaking to legislators/senators about bicycling issues online at . Photographs may be viewed at .

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Michele Barrett
PO BOX 6795
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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