Opinion: Don’t be part of the problem

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By Eric McKeegan

American cities are a wonderful place to live. Really. Regardless of perceptions, the number of violent crimes and automobile deaths have been dropping for decades. But things are suddenly getting worse, apparently. According to streetsblog.org, pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2015 are up 10 and 13 percent, respectively. Many of us that ride the roads regularly started feeling this long before these stats were released.

We all know someone who has been hit by a car while riding. The odds are good you’ve been hit yourself if you’ve been at this long enough. Something is different now. Something different enough to scare some formerly-hardcore riders off the bike on public roads.

It is too early for anyone to determine what is causing it. Read the comment section on any news report related to bicycles and you’ll find a large part of the public thinks we bring this on ourselves. That is a hard argument to support with logic, but it certainly points out a serious problem. The public views cyclists as a crew of daredevils with little regard for our personal safety, traffic laws and automobilists’ (wow, that is a word?) incredibly important time.

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Perceptions don’t cause collisions, but they do create resentment and resistance to creating more and better transportation infrastructure. It’s hard enough convincing people that bikes belong on public thoroughfares in the first place. So maybe, in a not-so-direct way, perception can cause collisions?

It’s something to keep in mind the next time you blow a stop sign, or roll though that red. While it might be ridiculous, each of us represents all cyclists to the non-riding public, as evidenced recently in Pittsburgh. After a cyclist’s death, local riders are being scolded by law enforce- ment, told to obey the law and informed they are being watched. Imagine police doing that to you in a car? Yeah, never going to happen.

Everyone knows that cyclists don’t kill people. Even minor accidents caused by cyclists are exceedingly rare. But it still seems like we are getting away with murder on the streets as we seemingly breeze through traffic with little worry about the rule of law. In reality, the only get-out-of- jail-free card that works with amazing consistency, and only for drivers, is the phrase “I didn’t see him”.

Maybe this is all a nationwide “bikelash” similar to what happened in New York City in the past decade. During her time as commissioner of the city’s department of transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan made sweeping changes to public spaces and the streets. During her tenure in the Bloomberg administration, the city installed almost 400 miles of bike lanes, launched the wildly successful Citi Bike program, and installed more than 60 pedestrian plazas throughout the city, including one that eliminated car traffic on Broadway at Times Square.

These types of success stories give me hope, but they won’t stop people from getting killed tomorrow. Why? I think we all know why. I bet you have one in your pocket or within arms reach as you read this. That little screen that promises to deliver one more social media hit, one more text message, one more dating app match. The siren song of notification. An email from work that needs attention. The latest political news on Twitter. The text from your ex wondering when you are going to pick up the kids. A message on Facebook from a high school classmate you haven’t seen since 2001.

These things aren’t unimportant, but trying to deal with them while piloting a 3,000 pound vehicle on roadways is a recipe for disaster. The allure of the app is strong. They are designed to get our attention and keep us occupied. And they are effective. Probably too effective.

Photo: Leslie Kehmeier

Photo: Leslie Kehmeier

What do we do? I really don’t know. We can install more blinky lights, and put on reflective vests and try to control the lane and do all the right things. But if someone is looking in at a cell phone rather than the road, it won’t really matter.

We can put our cell phones down while we are driving. We can teach our kids not to text and drive. We can talk to our friends and family about putting the phone down. We can work to get laws passed that make distracted driving a very unattractive thing to do.

And maybe next time you roll up to that intersection on your bike, try harder to not be so blatant about just rolling though. Everyone is watching. At least those people not watching their cell phones.

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Feeling Fresh: Delivering hops by bike

By Adam Newman

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a bike ride with a theme, especially when it involves a liberal dose of libations. Last fall I joined a dozen or so like-minded cyclists for a relaxed ramble through the countryside south of Portland. Our mission was to pick up as much hops as we could carry and return them to Base Camp Brewing Company for a special fresh hop brew.

The concept for the Fresh Hop Century was sparked by a conversation between Base Camp’s Ross Putnam and Phillip Ross, who builds Metrofiets cargo bikes in Portland. When the two realized they were close enough to the hop farms to pick up hops by bike, an idea began to ferment.

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One of the four key ingredients in beer—along with the wort, the water and the yeast—hops are used as a balancing and flavoring tool. They were first introduced into the beer brewing process in Germany in the Ninth Century. Soon their use spread through Northern Europe, to Britain and on to the New World. In 1972 the U.S. had its first home-grown hop variety: the Cascade, developed by the USDA in Oregon, and the rise of selective hop cultivating parallelled the burgeoning craft beer scene in the 1980s and ‘90s.

While most hops are dried and used year-round, in the 1990s brewers began experimenting with hops that go straight from the bine (that’s not a typo, these aren’t grapes) to the wort, the liquid that makes up beer before fermentation. For a beer to qualify as a true fresh hop, or “wet hop,” the beer must be brewed with hops that have been picked within the previous 24 hours. This means the brewery needs to be pretty close to the farms where hops are grown but some breweries have gone as far as employing chartered airplanes to deliver the goods. “Time is of the essence,” Putnam said.

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As customers grew to love the hoppy flavor it fueled the rapid proliferation of India Pale Ales in the American craft beer market. Now fresh hop ales have a following of their own, with dozens of varieties available every fall in North America. If you need your fix in the spring, there are beers made with hops harvested in the Southern Hemisphere. Compared to a traditional IPA, fresh hop beers are characterized by their sweet, vibrant flavor with hints of citrus and freshly-cut lawns.

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About 15 riders, including nine or 10 aboard Metrofiets cargo bikes, departed Portland under looming rain clouds. By the time we broke free from the urban gridlock to traverse the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley, the skies had cleared like the head on a pilsner. Our destination was GeerCrest Farm, a working farm and agricultural heritage center that hosts school groups, summer camps and workshops on topics such as soil dynamics, wool working and goat butchering. Our hosts Cayla, Patty and Adam shared with us the history of the property, the second land claim in Oregon (when it was still a territory) in 1848. They followed it with an amazing meal prepared almost entirely with food grown on the land they cultivated. We camped beneath the stars with tired legs and full bellies.

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The morning brought more delicious food and hot coffee from Trailhead Coffee Roasters’ amazing coffee-brewing cargo bike. We loaded up and headed off to our next destination, Goschie Farms. A fixture in the Oregon farming community for more than 130 years, Goschie Farms grows wine grapes, sweet corn, wheat and other crops, but it’s the hops that get the most attention. With more than 500 acres on the bine, representing as many as 10 varieties at a time, Goschie is one of the state’s leading producers, innovators and researchers of hops.

Gayle Goschie took us through the processing barn, where huge hooks carry the bines up from the trucks that deliver them, hang them from a ceiling 50 feet in the air, and strip the hop cones themselves. From there we visited the storage barn, where small forklifts sorted and arranged piles of radiant, glowing green hop cones piled high above our heads. The aroma was intoxicating, especially when they were being bundled into huge bales with tiny flecks floating down like rain from the beer gods.

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Unlike our fresh hops, most of the crop is dried using a special drying rack that’s as big as a tennis court. Warm, dry air is floated through the cones and their moisture content is carefully monitored. What used to be done just by the feel of the hand is now measured with carefully calibrated machines. From here things got a bit silly as we carried a few of the cargo bikes up to the drying area to fill them directly off the conveyor belt and hammed it up for the photos. We couldn’t actually transport them this way, so we filled 30 pound sacks with Cascade hops and loaded up the bikes for our trip home. Back at the brewery they were added to the brewing process just at the right time to create the Bretta Livin’ sour beer.

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The beer we contributed to wouldn’t be available for a few weeks, but out on the Base Camp Brewing patio we raised our glasses to an excellent adventure and new friends. If only every ride could end this way.

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Review: Dahon Jifo Uno folding bike

Tester: Eric McKeegan
Sizes: One size
Price: $799
Weight: 21.5 lbs

The “last mile” problem affects almost anything and anyone that moves via high capacity transport. It is in the “last mile” that the efficiencies of mass transport can be lost in, when moving people and things from the train station or distribution hub to the destination. Meaning, if the bus drops you off a mile away from your office, and you live a mile away from the bus stop, you might end up driving into work because the time needed to walk those distances makes the car a more attractive option.

The Jifo Uno sets out to solve that. It is unapologetically designed for short trips and the smallest possible folded size. It is a simple tool, but it doesn’t skimp on the features needed to make that last mile problem disappear.

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How this bike folds is the star of the show here. Lift and turn the dial on the main tube, open the quick release lever on the seatpost and flip the locking lever on the handlebar extension. Push the bar and seat away from each other and the bike folds right up and locks into position with a magnet. Then fold the bars down, lower the top part of the seatpost and you’ve got a compact package. If you need to get even smaller, the pedals pop out of the cranks with an air-compressor type fitting and click into storage ports above the rear wheel. The handlebar can be rotated to fold the levers in even closer. The basic fold is easy to do in under 30 seconds, and the complete takedown takes less than a minute. Unfolding is even faster.

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Those little 16 inch wheels keep things small, but still have fenders keep your slacks clean. A rust resistant chain keeps maintenance at bay, and a chainring guard provides enough coverage to keep pant legs out of the drivetrain.

The single speed drivetrain is pretty special. It uses a 9 tooth cog matched up with a 39 tooth chainring. Most cassettes stop at 11 teeth; dropping down to a 9 allows for a smaller front chainring, but makes for a big enough gear to travel at a decent clip. The double-pulley chain tensioner is needed to keep the chain snug when the bike is folded, as the rear wheel rotates closer to the crank. As a side benefit that tension keeps the chain perfectly adjusted, even as the chain stretches over time.

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As expected, this little bike is great at little rides. Since the Jifo is very much about being tiny as possible, it comes as no surprise the bike feels small while riding it. But it also feels like a quality ride. Effective brakes, a comfortable saddle and a very low bottom bracket make for an adept little transport device that can slice and dice between slower traffic. It might seem like a small thing, but not having jiggly-feeling folding pedals is a big plus as well.

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The Jifo isn’t a great match for long climbs or rough surfaces. The short wheelbase and small tires make this a nervous ride on dirt or gravel, and the narrow bars and tight cockpit compromise climbing. This isn’t so much a complaint as a reminder about this bike’s intended purpose as a short trip machine.

The Jifo Uno folds into one of the most compact packages on the market today, and does so with a minimum of fuss. For last mile trips or a super-compact travel bike, Dahon has hit the mark.

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Tern’s Roji Line of Non-Folding Bikes Goes Global

Urban transportation specialist Tern announced the distribution of their Roji bike collection—traditional diamond frames with 650c, 700c and 451 wheels—to markets across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Following global demand for the Japan-only product line, select models of the new family of Tern bikes will be available starting Spring 2017 in cities including New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei and Buenos Aires.

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“At Tern, we’re committed to building one of the world’s leading urban cycling brands,” said Joshua Hon, Founder and Team Captain of Tern. “As we develop more product offerings in folding, electric and cargo, it’s a natural progression to bring our design philosophy to classic city bikes as well. The Roji collection has been a runaway success in Japan, and we can’t wait to bring it to the rest of the world.”

The 2017 Roji lineup builds on last year’s 650c and 700c offerings with two new 451 mini velos, the Tern Crest, and the hydroformed Tern Surge. Mini velos, a hybrid design combining traditional road frames and compact wheels, have seen an explosion of popularity across Asia’s megacities, where space is at a premium. The Surge delivers the benefits of 451 wheels, including punchy acceleration and portability, with the rigidity and light weight of a hydro-formed diamond frame. “Our new Surge and Crest bikes are optimized for urban riding,” continued Hon. “What makes them great for Tokyo—size, performance, maneuverability and style—makes them perfect for Paris too.”

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Together with the international launch of Roji, Tern is piloting a new project for 2017—small batch productions of limited Roji designs, sporting radical styling and specs. The Surge LTD, the flagship of the new project, features tri-spoke carbon fiber wheels, custom drop bars, and a global production run of only 50 units. “Every time we post a teaser of the Surge LTD to our Facebook or Instagram accounts, it breaks the internet,” laughed Hon. “The showpiece tri-spoke wheels are a bit of a flourish, but they shave grams off the stock model, and offer a significant improvement in overall aerodynamics. They look pretty good too.”

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