... in cycling

Destroying e-bikes for profit

28 May 2020 | 243 words | cycling capitalism

early last year i wrote about the joy of using JUMP e-bikes during a short stay in San Francisco1. Turns out that less than one and half years after being introduced, these bikes, while still being perfectly good and much needed, are getting retired and destroyed by the truckload.

This seems to be the outcome of an unfortunate but probably inevitable collisions of the logics of startup consolidation and the dysfunctional way how the US legal system structures liability. As many others have pointed out before me, destroying perfectly good bikes instead of giving them away to people for whom having access to a bike could make a world of difference, is the logical conclsuions of the sociopathic business model of so called “sharing platforms”.

  1. I have sometimes wondered if that post was not too much in terms of expressing admiration for an UBER owned service, but i really did enjoy riding on those bikes. So i am somewhat relieved to find out that i am not the only one who admired these particular bikes. As Kurt from the bikesharemusuem observes: “Put simply, the JUMP e-bike is a wonderfully clean and well thought-out design, straight out of The Jetsons; just substitute the wheels for rockets. This made the experience of riding all the more exciting, in the same way some become giddy at the thought of driving a Lamborghini at 10 mph: It’s not that you’re doing anything extreme, it just feels special.” ↩︎

On urban cycling and electricity

20 Nov 2019 | 141 words | cycling urbanism

I have always considered myself to be a fairly accomplished urban cyclist. Much of this confidence stems from having worked as a bike messenger between 1993 and 2004, mainly riding fixed with no brakes. Over the years, the rules of the urban cycling game have not changed much even though cycling became massively more popular during at the same time.

However, over the last few months the game is changing by the emergence of a new class of participant, the electrical motor assisted cyclist. As a result i am finding myself learning again, this time trying to master the art of drafting-off e-assisted cyclists navigating though urban traffic1, which is a fun game to play… (these days on bikes with imperfect brakes which significantly increases the difficulty)

  1. These days i am riding bike with brakes, although this does not necessarily help. ↩︎

Cheating in San Francisco

27 Jan 2019 | 623 words | cycling united states

The last time i rode a bike in San Francisco was in 1996 when i was here for the Cycle Messenger World Championships. Since then the city has changed a lot, and while much of that change has not been for the better, when it comes to cycling things have improved a lot.

In 1996 bike messengers where pretty much the only ones cycling and as a cyclist you had to fight for your space on the road which was pretty much constantly challenged by ignorant/agressive motorists. These days the city is full of well marked bike lanes and the majority of motorists seem to treat cyclists with respect. The bike lane system is pretty remarkable with dedicated bycicle only shortcuts and clear indications on many streets that cyclists have the right to use a full lane. Combined with Google maps that skillfull routes you around the most challenging hills this makes for a really cycling freindly city and there are actually a lot of cyclists in the streets.

Cruising uphill on McAllistair Street

Over the past few days i have been criss-crossing the city on JUMP shared bycicles. The JUMP fleet of shared bycicles is brand new (the seem to be on the streets since earlier this month) and what sets them apart from other shared bikes is thier build quality and (more importantly) the fact that they are pedal assited electric bikes1. The bikes come with a electric motor that kicks in as you pedal and provides more power the harder you pedal. This makes for an extremely fun ride and a super fast way to get across town. The electric motor makes the most difference when going uphill which is a pretty effortless affair on one of these bikes. In fact going up hills is so easy that it constantly felt like cheating compared to my earlier adventures in this city and especially when you are passing a ‘real’ cyclist who is struggeling to climb up a hill.

These JUMP bikes are the most convincing implementation of a bike share programme that i have encountered yet. Clearly a lot of care went into both the design of the bikes and the overall system2. The bikes feel very solid and are fun to ride (in part due to the fact that they also have excellent brakes). Still i have my doubts that these bikes will indeed last for the three to five years that JUMP expects them to last. While the bikes feel rock solid at this point they have been in use for less than a month and i already had some minor hickups with the 3 speed rear hub which feels as if these will break relatively quickly. I also have my doubts regarding the exposed front disc brake which seems destined to come loose sooner rather than later.

It seems to me that at this stage the idea that these bikes can do with “a yearly check-up” is a little bit premature, but these weak spots shouldn’t be difficult to fix (go single speed and shield the front caliper assembly). All in all these bikes show that the shared micro mobility space is maturing and that a well-designed bike share system can really add to a city.

  1. This seems to fit into the local trend of turning pretty much everything that has wheels into a battery electric powered version of itself. ↩︎

  2. When you sign-up for the JUMP app you have to approve that JUMP can sharing your trip data with the city government. This is very much in line with calls that data produced by private companies using public spaces should be available to the public to improve public services (something that seems badly needed in this city). ↩︎

The original (fixie) hipster was a cop

31 Aug 2014 | 34 words | new york hipsters cycling

From the amazing collection of public domain images extracted from the scanned books of the Internet Archive:

Image from page 224 of “The Great north side, or, Borough of the Bronx, New York” (1897)

What is a bike messenger?

22 Aug 2010 | 224 words | cycling drugs traffic work urbanism

Couple of days ago boingboing ran a post about a SF bike messenger who claims to work while tripping on LSD. Today i finally read the whole text (as opposed to just the short quote on boingboing which focusses on his cycling while tripping experience). Turns out that the his entire rant is rather amusing and that it contains one of the best descriptions of how the bike messenger business works i have ever come across:

In big cities, cars are fucking everywhere. It’s a wonder people still buy them, because they move at approximately the same speed as tortoises with arthritis, are goddamn expensive, and you use up more of your gas tank waiting at stop lights then you do actually driving. And because some people in big cities need packages transported from Point A to Point B in a very short amount of time (faster than the tortoises with arthritis can carry them) these people pay us an exorbitant amount of money to us, bike messengers, to bust our asses to transport said packages from Point A to Point B in a very short amount of time. Then, the company that hires us takes a small finder’s fee (approximately 90% of our wages) and gives us our pittance sum of cash that we get for risking our lives on a daily basis.

Best cycling jacket ever

12 Jul 2010 | 208 words | amsterdam cycling fashion rain urbanism

Usually i do not promote products on this page, but i am so happy with my (relatively) new cycling jacket that i make an exception here. My new kättermusen einride jacket is more or less perfect for a cycling jacket:

The einride jacket (which is for some strange reason marketing as a mountaineering/trekking garment) has the perfect cut for cycling including a hood that that protects your head against the rain without impairing your field of vision or your ability to move around your head. but the best thing is the fabric: instead of some highly engineered synthetic fabric the jacket is made from super densely woven cotton. Apparently the fabric, called EtaProof was developed during the second world war:

At that time the fabric was developed for British Hurricane pilots who often were forced to bail out with the parachute or make an emergency landing in the ice-cold Atlantic. During the nineties, Stotz & Co. adapted the fabric to the newest standards and turned it into EtaProof. Today this high-tech product made of pure cotton…

The stuff is not exactly rain proof, but it feels super nice and gets you dry through 15 minutes or so of rain. in other words it’ perfectly suited for Amsterdam summers…

WTF? Area secured by DNA spray

06 Feb 2010 | 348 words | amsterdam cycling netherlands security urbanism

Thursday night when cycling home from the north i spotted this sign on a lamp pole at the beginning of Ferdinad Bol straat close to where i live:

Area secured by DNA-SPRAY – the police

I am not even sure how many things are wrong with this sign, but here are a few that went through my head after i had taken this photo:

  1. how the fuck to you secure an area with a (DNA) spray? does it randomly spray something on people that are deemed to be a threat to security? or do they mix something into the air that makes people behave more securely?
  2. who’s DNA is it that is in they use for this spray? isn’t your DNA private? how come the cops have someone’s DNA to spray around with?
  3. if this is where the DNA spray area starts, where does it end? so far i have not seen any signs that mark the end of the secured area. what if i am not interested in their security and their DNA how can i cycle around the area then?
  4. and most importantly, who the fuck has asked for this? i for one do not want no DNA spray on my daily cycle route to work which as far as i can judge was plenty ‘secure’ even before they started messing with this. and why was there no public discussion of some sorts about this?

After a bit of googling it turns out that the signs are a rather blatant lie. apparently the police and the borough have decided to install spray installations in a few stores that can be used to mark robbers with some kind of substance that is encoded with a unique id of the store. apparently this substance is really hard to get of your body and can be made visible with UV light for a long while. Pretending that this scheme somehow secures ‘the area’ is as much bullshit as calling a spray with an embedded ID ‘DNA spray’. Rather pathetic that the cops get away with this kind of bullshit…

The motorized mountain bike(s) of Damascus

Back in december when walking through Damascus I ran into this mountain bike rigged up with small combustion engine:

Mountain bike fitted with a combustion engine on Khalid ibn al-Walid street in central Damascus

If you ask me this is quite a marvel of engineering and although I never spotted a second one during the 3 days that I spend in Damascus I am pretty certain that this is not a unique modification but rather one of many that are produced in some back alley workshop. If anyone has seen more of these or has additional information about these please do let me know…

Update (26 Februari 2017):I ran into the same design in Mexico City today.

I have changed my mind...

About the Noord Zuid Lijn: i really think that instead of finishing of the line and having subway trains running somewhen past 2015 they should just finish the tunnel and then turn it into a super deluxe underground bicycle express-path. The tunnel would dramatically cut down the time needed to get to the center, prevent you from rain and would probably be used by more locals on a daily basis than a subway ever will. The thing needs to have lots of smooth on- and off-ramps that connect it to the cross streets and of course tourists need to be prevented from using it.

North south line tunnel under the sixhaven by Mauritsvink


09 Mar 2009 | 98 words | photos cycling

A while ago i got a flickr request by someone from a polish cycling magazine called bikeboard.pl if they could use my Ōmiya Keirin keirin photo set to illustrate an article about keirin in their upcoming issue. i said yes and they promised to send me a copy. Today i received two copies of the mag which contains a 7 page article about weird cycling cultures (at least that is what i assume since i do not read polish at all). The three pages dealing with keirin are entirely illustrated by pictures taken from my set:

bikeboard magazine

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: