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High school seniors suspended for biking to school

On Monday, 64 Kenowa Hill High School seniors biked to school in Walker, Mich. Nice, right? Well, the principal didn’t think so. She suspended the kids for the day and threatened to keep them from walking in their graduation ceremony. Somehow, this one story manages to encapsulate everything that is wrong with American attitudes towards biking.

The group ride was conceived as a less-destructive alternative to the traditional vandalize-the-school, get-everyone-out-of-class brand of senior pranks. Skipping lightly over the fact that a few dozen students riding bikes qualifies as a “prank” rather than a “Monday,” these kids actually deserve a lot of praise for organizing a group activity that’s healthy for them, the planet, and the community, instead of just pulling fire alarms.

And indeed, they got some praise -- the mayor even showed up to hand out donuts. But when the “bike parade” arrived at school, the principal had a major freakout and sent the kids back home.

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Inflatable bike helmet is like an airbag for your head

hovding_inflatable_helmet

Like other stuff that is good for your health (not smoking, sobriety, living slow, and dying old), bike helmets are uncool. But you can’t really enjoy your coolness with a giant crack in your skull. How do you protect your noggin without sacrificing your mojo? Swedish company Hovding has the answer: airbag bike helmets.

Unless it’s called upon to perform, this helmet stays safely stowed in a futuristic-looking black collar that you can pretend is a scarf. (Hovding also offers printed shells that go around the collar, to make it even more chic.) But if you get hit, presto, it bursts open like a popcorn kernel:

(Fast-forward to 00:36 for the slow-motion version.)

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Umbra’s second helpings: Riding your bike to work [VIDEO]

This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Ask Umbra advice column, and to celebrate, we’re pulling one particularly poignant question or tidbit of eco-advice out of the archives each week. Today, May 18, is Bike to Work Day. After we hung up our helmets and checked out the news cycle, we took a trip down memory lane with this Umbra video classic on commuting by bike. 

What's that you say? You're already in your cubicle, miles from your trusty single-speed? We have two more weeks of National Bike Month. Even if you missed the chance to ride with all the cool kids today, there's still plenty of time to get your fixie fix.

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The only real way to save on car insurance

Oh sure, you could hang around with lizards and cavemen and pink-haired spy chicks and that irritating "Fran" woman, trying to save a few bucks. Or you could cut to the chase.

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Beautiful people on bikes! (Procrastination, anyone?) [SLIDESHOW]

Trying to get some work done? Banish the thought. It's National Bike Month, it's spring, and these lovely people obviously need company.

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Walk Score is now ranking bikeability

The folks who brought you Walk Score, an online tool that ranks neighborhoods based on whether you can get anywhere on foot, are expanding to appeal to the biking crowd. This tool is a little more limited (only 10 cities have been scored) but it's also more in-depth: Walk Score will assume you can stroll to the grocery store down the shoulder of a four-lane road, but Bike Score also covers bike path availability, terrain, and how many people will be joining you on your two-wheeled commute.

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Mesmerizing data visualization shows a day in the life of a city’s bike usage

This video is probably what Ralph Steadman sees when he takes half a tab of acid and looks at a map of Budapest, but it's also a data visualization of the city's bike usage during a 24-hour period. The size, location, and direction of the bubbles reflect how many people are on bikes at a given time, and where they're going.

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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.

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Romancing the bike: The seduction of pedal-powered transport

Photo by Shannon Donegan.

A version of this story originally appeared on Sightline.

I fell in love with cycling during six months I spent traveling the world’s great bicycle cities. The ease, safety, convenience … (dreamy sigh)

But as my trip came to an end, I began to realize the reason for my infatuation: Residents of cities like those in Denmark and Holland inject cycling with fun, whimsy, and even romance.

Certainly, many Americans love their bikes, but even more of us would if we learned these five lessons on cycling’s soft side from the world’s active-transport capitals.

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