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Andrew Zaleski's Posts


Here comes everybody: Number of bicycle-friendly cities soars

Living the dream in Copenhagen. (Photo by Mikael Colville Andersen.)

Once was that American cities competed to look more like Detroit, with gleaming lanes of highway stretching as far as the eye could see. Any more, it’s a race to imitate Copenhagen, the Danish capital where 36 percent of residents commute to work via bicycle.

So it seems, at least, when looking at today’s announcement by the League of American Bicyclists of the latest -- and largest -- round of official Bicycle Friendly Communities in the U.S. Some of the cities on the list will come as no surprise: Portland, San Francisco, and Chicago are here, as is Missoula, Mont., where 7 percent of residents bike to work, versus the 0.6 percent national average. But so are cities like Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cottonwood, Ariz. Twenty-five more cities applied for bicycle-friendly status, but were denied.

The league hands down its Bicycle Friendly certification with a multi-tier, Olympics-like grading system: Cities can earn bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The awards, which have been around since 1996, recognize cities that both promote cycling as a means of transportation and actively work to make cycling safer. A panel of national experts brought in by the league and local enthusiasts (bike shop owners, advocacy group leaders) assesses applications along five main criteria: engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and planning, and enforcement.

The best cities, League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke says, have action plans in place to ensure that residents have opportunities to ride. They have city-sponsored bike rides, and networks of bike trails, lanes, and sharrows that connect them to where they need to go.

Read more: Biking, Cities


Share and share a bike: A fresh way to find a rental cycle

No guarantee that the bike you rent will be this stylin', unfortunately. (Photo by Velovotee.)

Forget riding your friend’s handlebars as he blindly navigates a crowded city street -- unless you’re into that sort of thing. Thanks to a new peer-to-peer bike-sharing website called Spinlister, you may soon be able to rent a bike almost anywhere.

The brainchild of co-founders Will Dennis and Jeff Noh, a pair of 20-somethings living in New York City, Spinlister is like peer-to-per car-sharing services such as RelayRides, only for bikes. Bike owners snap photos of their two-wheeled trophies and post them to Spinlister’s online marketplace, along with the type of bike, the price per day, and the pick-up location. For those in search of a rental, it’s as simple as punching in their location, selecting the ride they want, making an online payment/reservation via credit card, and coordinating a meet-up time with the bike owner.

Read more: Biking


If a tree falls in the city, does it do anyone any good?

Planting trees in West Philly. (Photo by Danielle Clarke.)

One Saturday in November, a few hundred volunteers descended upon parks and creek banks in and around Philadelphia to plant more than 2,000 trees. That day’s plantings were just a piece of a broader initiative to plant 300,000 trees in the City of Brotherly Love by 2015. And that initiative is but one part of a much larger program spearheaded by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society that aims to plug 1 million trees into the ground across 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The mid-Atlantic is seriously putting the moves on Mother Nature.

As cities around the country jockey to be the King of Green, mayors and community organizations have been eager to claim their place as the next urban Johnny Appleseed. (Upon becoming mayor in 2008, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared the city would become the greenest in America, and established an office of sustainability to show everyone he meant business.) But despite all the work days and feel-good volunteerism, urban forests are losing ground, in part because many, if not most, trees planted in cities die early deaths.


Bouncing off the walls: Can parkour boost urban economies?

Photo by JB London.

Since gaining a foothold in the U.S. in the early 2000s, bolstered by pop culture (think: the opening scene of Casino Royale), parkour’s popularity has grown steadily, if slowly, in this country. Numerous informal organizations promote and teach this art of urban acrobatics, and a proliferation of YouTube videos show traceurs “freerunning” through the cityscape.

Still, many cities view parkour enthusiasts as lawless street ruffians, akin to skateboarders and street artists. In Manhattan’s Battery Park area, a “No Parkour” rule slaps practitioners with a $300 fine. In Hollister, Calif., anyone seen doing parkour is charged with trespassing. In November, the city of Margate, Fla., just north of Miami, banned the sport from all city parks, citing liability concerns. Mayor Pam Donovan said she thinks the sport is “dangerous and I’m never going to change my mind.”

Gradually, however, the sport seems to be gaining some acceptance -- as a tourist spectacle, if nothing else. Parkour competitions featuring professional traceurs have been around for a few years: The Red Bull-sponsored Art of Motion events are big both in Europe and the U.S. But could street parkour, like street art, come out of the shadows and become an economic boon for cities?

Read more: Cities


Fixies to the people! Building a business on no-frills bikes

Photo: Solé BicyclesTwo days before New Year's Eve, Jimmy Standley was in Lake Tahoe getting ready for the inaugural SnowGlobe Music Festival, three days of tunes, parties, after-parties -- oh, and he had to sell some bikes, too. As head of business development for Solé Bicycles, Standley is one part of a five-man team bent on bringing fixed-gear bicycles to the masses. Fixies, as they're affectionately known, are bicycles at their most basic: frame, wheels, pedals, seat, and handlebars. Whereas most bikes have a "freewheel" system that allows the wheels to spin independently of the pedals, on a fixie, if …


Go, fight … green? Can sports teams save the planet?

Photo: IscanWhen the 2011 Major League Baseball season got underway last April, teams rolled out the usual promotions for fanatical fans: giant foam fingers, T-shirt giveaways, beer in unbreakable, aluminum bottles. The Seattle Mariners took a slightly different tack. At two separate Monday night home games, 5,000 fans were given bags of gardening soil, composted down from roughly 900,000 pounds of soggy napkins and half-eaten hot dogs collected at the stadium the season before. The Mariners, along with roughly 50 other sports teams in baseball, the NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA, and several other professional leagues, are members of the Green …


Is there room for the environment at the Occupation?

Photo: thisisbossiIt's 8:30 Thursday morning in McPherson Square, just a few streets up from the north lawn of the White House, and somehow I've been duped into carrying a foldable cot over to a yellow medical tent. Such are the risks of reporting on a movement that depends heavily on people power. "Do you know anything about the solar panels?" I ask a group of about 15 Occupy D.C. protestors who are holding the day's first "general assembly" outside the tent. "I don't know anything about solar panels," replies a woman with muddy pants and a head bandanna. "But if …