To brake or not is the raging debate among “fixies” ! Sort of dumb and super hip (read Hollywood), fixed-gear bicycle fever spreads

September 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm

(Source: Washington Post)

Image Courtesy: Flickr via Apture

They don’t make much sense, yet for one more fleeting season at least, they are the rage in certain circles. Sort of dumb and super hip: the twin characteristics of many things in life.

We are talking about a bicycle. A very special kind of road bicycle, called a fixed-gear bike, or fixie for short.

A fixie has one speed, which makes it difficult to pedal uphill. A classic fixie has no brakes, which makes it difficult to slow on the downhill. A fixie has no freewheel, the part that makes coasting possible. Instead, the chain directly drives the rotation of the rear wheel, which means the pedals always turn while the bike moves.

What else do they have going for them?

Well, fixies are impractical, perverse throwbacks to a time more than a century ago, before the invention of the derailleur and the Tour de France, when the bicycle chain and the pneumatic tube were novelties, and the high-wheel penny-farthing “ordinary” bicycle had just been eclipsed by the chain-driven “safety” bike.

And yet despite all that — or is it because of all that? — a fixie manages the neat trick of simultaneously communicating taste and rebellion.

Washington was a little behind the curve in adopting this fixie chic.  Some date the dawn of fixie chic to the 1986 movie “Quicksilver,” starring Kevin Bacon, which glorified fixie-riding messengers in New York.

Countercultural couriers and speed-demon messengers didn’t invent fixies. The inspiration was handed down to them by the obscure yet mighty gods of the velodrome, who race indoors on one-speed brakeless track bikes. Fixies take the track bike concept and relocate it to city streets.

A fixie map of Washington would center on a handful of neighborhoods. Your fixie is what gets you from your futon in Columbia Heights to your computer screen downtown, then on to peruse the produce and fiction in Logan and Dupont circles, finally delivering you to an outdoor table on U Street NW, a rope line on H Street NE or a bike polo match at Eastern Market. Fixies haven’t made it in a big way to the suburbs, and may never, for strictly topographical reasons. They aren’t good over long hilly distances.

Fixie riders also talk about achieving a sense of “flow” as they navigate streams of cars. They describe a kind of “dance” set to the rhythm of traffic lights. You can’t coast through life on a fixie.

The euphoric riding experience is achieved via the discipline of the fixie’s low technology. In zealous self-denial, a fixie rider experiences more with less. The reason you have to be super-aware of your surroundings and think ahead is because stopping can be a challenge. Fixie riders are like sharks, constant motion is an existential requirement.

Fixies are built for speed, but if you must slow down, one way to do it is to resist the pedal momentum with your leg muscles and knees. (Your poor knees.) Toe clips or cleats help you pull back on the pedals. A more dramatic recourse is the skip-stop, which involves leaning forward, hopping the rear wheel and locking one leg to start a skid when the rear wheel comes down. In the unlikely event your chain falls off, you will be a helpless, speeding missile with only a helmet for protection, if you wear one. Some do, some don’t.

To brake or not to brake is a debate within the fixie community to which conventional bikers can listen only with astonishment.

Riding without brakes gives an extra edge to the riding experience.

“It’s definitely more dangerous,” says David Waterman, 27, a high school math teacher locking his brakeless fixie one night outside the Black Cat on 14th Street, where seven of 15 bikes parked before the show are fixies. He prefers muscle power to skidding as a slowing strategy, because skidding wastes tires. But, he allows, “You look really cool when you skid.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Truckers’ ruckus over texting ban; While most of the country supports a texting ban, trucking industry wants exception

September 27, 2009 at 8:58 pm

(Source: New York Times)

Image Courtesy: American Van via Google Images

Crisscrossing the country, hundreds of thousands of long-haultruckers use computers in their cabs to get directions and stay in close contact with dispatchers, saving precious minutes that might otherwise be spent at the side of the road.

The trucking industry says these devices can be used safely, posing less of a distraction than BlackBerrys, iPhones and similar gadgets, and therefore should be exempted from legislation that would ban texting while driving.

“We think that’s overkill,” Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said of a federal bill that would force states to ban texting while driving if they want to keep receiving federal highway money.

The legislation will be discussed at a conference on distracted driving in Washington, starting Wednesday, organized by the Transportation Department.

The issues raised by truckers show the challenges facing advocates for tougher distracted-driving laws, given that so many Americans have grown accustomed to talking and texting behind the wheel.

The trucking industry has invested heavily in technology to wire vehicles. Satellite systems mounted on trucks let companies track drivers, send new orders, distribute companywide messages and transmit training exercises. Drivers can also use them to send and receive e-mail and browse the Internet.

After videotaping truckers behind the wheel, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that those who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use those devices.

That figure is lower than the 23 times greater risk when truckers texted, compared with drivers simply focused on the road, according to the same study. However, the Virginia researchers said that truckers tend to use on-board computers more often than they text.

The study found that truckers using on-board computers take their eyes off the road for an average of four seconds, enough time at highway speeds to cover roughly the length of a football field.

Richard J. Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia institute, said videotape monitoring of 200 truckers driving about three million miles showed many of them using the devices, even bypassing messages on the screen warning them not to use the devices while driving.

In recent years, fatalities caused by large trucks have risen slowly, despite many safety advances like air bags and antilock brakes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2007, large trucks caused 4,808 deaths — or 12 percent of all driving-related fatalities — up from 4,777, or 11 percent, in 1997.

Beyond the dispatch computers, truckers said they relied heavily on an array of technologies to stay productive, entertained and connected on the road. Their cabs become like home offices, wired with CB radios, AM/FM and satellite radios, weather band radios, GPS devices, electrical outlets, laptops and even computer desks. And, of course, cellphones.

Click here to read the entire article.  Also, while you are on the NY Times page, don’t forget to try the awesome interactive graphic (which can be found embedded on the left hand panel of this NY Times article) to gauge  your distraction.  It does that by measuring how your reaction time is affected by external distractions in a nice little game.

Note:  Another New York Times article on this issue of driver distraction notes that the general public overwhelmingly supports the prohibition of text messagingwhile driving, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll finds. Ninety percent of adults say sending a text message while driving should be illegal, and only 8 percent disagree.   More than 80 percent of every demographic group say sending text messages while driving should be illegal, but some are more adamant about such a prohibition than others. Parents, whether or not their children are adults, are more inclined to support a ban than people without children. Women are more in favor of outlawing the practice than men.  Click here to read more details on this interesting poll.

We are small, but we’re not bugs — Norwegian Motorcycle Union’s PSA is a shocker

September 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm

(Source: You Tube)

The Norwegian Motorcycle Union has made this hard-hitting PSA that aims to promote an awareness among car & truck drivers who often don’t look out for motorcyclists on the road.  Starting from the fact that 8 out of 10 collisions are caused by drivers that never see the motorcycle.  The “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures,” was a study conducted by the University of Southern California, with funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researcher Harry Hurt investigated nearly every aspect of 900 motorcycle accidents in the Los Angeles area. Additionally, Hurt and his staff analyzed 3,600 motorcycle traffic accident reports in the same geographic area.  Some of the study findings listed below, among a grand total of 53, are directly attributed to the negligence of motorists:

  • Approximately three-fourths of the motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle, which was most usually a passenger automobile.
  • The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.

    Event Alert: Cycle Chic in Washington – Author of to discuss Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark

    September 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm


    National Capital Planning Commission

    401 9th St NW, 5th Floor

    Washington, DC 20004

    Date: 9/30/2009 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

    Hosted By: Coalition for Smarter Growth

    RSVP by: September 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark

    The cool factor of the bicycle has come a long way in the U.S., but nowhere is it as mainstream to bike in your suit and tie or your fashionable dress as it is in European cities like Copenhagen. Danish bike culture, often called “cycle chic”, is central to the Danes’ approach to sustainable living, and one of the key factors in their ability to remain energy independent.  This supportive culture combines with supportive transportation infrastructure to make biking the mode of choice for nearly one-third of local trips in Denmark, compared to just 1% of local trips in the United States. What have the Danish done to make biking a national habit?

    Join us for a lecture and discussion with Mikael Colville-Andersen with an introduction by Andy Clarke. A film-maker, speaker and writer, Mr. Colville-Andersen has actively branded Copenhagen as the leading bike city in the world. Check out his two blogs:

    Mikael Colville-Andersen,
    Andy Clarke, Executive Director, League of American Bicyclists
    Eric Gilliland, Executive Director, WABA
    Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth

    Event sponsors:
    Coalition for Smarter Growth, WABA, and League of American Bicyclists

    image image image

    Metro-bashing movement gets a little love from Washington Post

    September 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    (Source: Washington Post)

    Forget about getting more money for Metro or whether to fire the general manager. The real issue is poor customer service: mysterious train halts, boarded-up escalators, rude station attendants.

    That, at least, is the view of a bearded, 41-year-old former news reporter who writes the successful gadfly blog with the off-color title Unsuck DC Metro. He doesn’t want his name published, saying he’s received several threats over blog posts that embarrassed Metro employees. On that condition, however, he agreed to meet for lunch for his first full interview and discuss what he thinks ails Metro following the toughest three months in the transit system’s 33-year history.

    The blogger, whose site is, bases his judgment partly on personal experience but mostly on the thousands of e-mails, comments, photographs and Twitter messages he’s received since he started in January. He gets more than 1,000 hits a day and has nearly 1,400 followers on Twitter — very near the approximately 1,650 following Metro’s own Twitter site.

    General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., whose contract was just extended for three years, should pay attention. The bloggers have come to speak for Metro’s core customers and serve as a kind of collective conscience for the system.

    To its credit, Metro responds to bloggers’ queries and, despite some understandable tensions, deals with them professionally. Other bloggers following Metro include Greater Greater Washington, Moving Momentarily, Why I Hate DC, Infosnack and DCist (along with such mainstream media blogs as The Post’s Get There, which features Dr. Gridlock).

    Mr. Unsuck decided to blog after he changed jobs in November and began commuting regularly on the Orange Line. He was surprised when trains stopped regularly mid-trip and when, in his first week, he had to get off and wait three or four times when a train was suddenly taken out of service. Compared with foreign systems he knew, “I just felt there was something wrong with this one,” he said.

    His blogging is part-time and unpaid. On slow days, he works on the blog for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes after work. A lengthy posting might take several hours. The lunch I bought him (his share was $27.50) was the first material benefit he’d received.

    Click here to read the entire article.

    Note: Transportgooru congratulates fellow bloggers Greater Greater Washington, Moving Momentarily, Why I Hate DC, Infosnack and DCist for the great job they have done in getting the Metro to pay attention to the Metro riders’ issues.   If anything, the community is glad to have these platforms to share their agonizing commuter tales & Metro’s woeful performance/behavior.   Hat tip to all these bloggers for their community service!

    Event Alert: Clean Diesel Technology Showcase – September 29, 2009 @ Washington, DC

    September 25, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Washington, DC is known as the power capital of the world. But on September 29 it’s going to be transformed to the CLEAN DIESEL POWER capital of the world.

    Clean Diesel NGO Sign Final
    From clean-construction equipment and the latest farm tractors to the cleanest big-rig trucks and most fuel-efficient diesel cars and pick-ups, come kick the tires, look under the hoods and climb into the seats of the most advanced diesel vehicles and equipment being used to power today’s economy while helping to solve tomorrow’s environmental, energy and climate challenges.
    When: September 29, 2009
    Where: Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Federal Triangle Metro)

    10:00 AM Outdoor Technology Demonstration Opens 

    12:30 PM Policy Briefing and Q&A
    U.S. EPA Asst. Administrator for Air and Radiation – Gina McCarthy (Confirmed)
    Steve Sandherr, CEO, Associated General Contractors of American (Confirmed)

    1:15 PM Guided Technology Tour & Refreshments

    4:00 PM Technology Demonstration Closes

    Participating Companies:

    • Audi
    • BMW
    • BorgWarner
    • BOSCH
    • Caterpillar
    • Cummins
    • Daimler
    • GM
    • Honeywell
    • John Deere
    • Mack Trucks
    • MTU Detroit Diesel
    • Navistar
    • Volkswagen
    • Volvo Trucks

    Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – September 25, 2009

    September 25, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Friday, September 25, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057


    1) Computers Can’t Replace Pilots – Yet, Say Experts

    Link to article in Flight International:


    2) Report Lauds Florida I-95 Toll Express Lanes

    Link to article in The Miami Herald:


    3) Launch of Russian Navigation Satellites Delayed Due to Glitch

    Link to AP article:

    4) iPhone GPS App Market Heating Up

    Link to article in Computerworld:


    5) Norway Not Told About Nuclear Cargo

    Authorities not notified when Russian vessel with nuclear waste passed Norway on its way from Poland to Murmansk.

    Link to article on BarentsObserver:


    6) Insurer to Track Drivers by iPhone and BlackBerry

    Link to Bloomberg News article:

    7) Mark IV Gets Court OK to Emerge from Bankruptcy

    Link to article in The Buffalo News:


    8) US Lawmakers Weigh Next Move on Public Safety Spectrum

    Link to article on CongressDaily:

    9) Advocates Target Texting-While-Driving at Safety Summit

    Link to article in the Dayton Daily News:

    10) Strict Rules from Parents Lead to Safer-Driving Teens

    Link to article in USA Today:


    11) Missile-Tracking Satellites Launched on Demo Flight

    Link to CNET News article:


    12) eCall Creates New Possibilities for Telematics

    Link to article in Integrated Solutions:


    13) Crash Me if You Can

    Link to column in The Sydney Morning Herald:

    News Releases

    1) Volvo Cars on the Move Towards a Future Without Traffic Accidents

    2) New Web Site for Amtrak Travelers in Virginia –

    3) Safety Advocates File Petition to Initiate US Action to Curb Use of Electronic Devices by Truck and Bus Drivers

    4) Innovative Crop of Companies Plus Several New Programs and Awards Round Out DEMOfall 09

    Upcoming Events

    Clean Diesel Technology Showcase – September 29 – Washington, DC

    Friday Bonus

    Alarm or no alarm, how comfortable would you be taking a nap on the subway?

    Today in Transportation History

    1959 **50th anniversary** – The Goodyear blimp, Enterprise, the second Goodyear blimp with that name, made its final flight.


    The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

    To subscribe send an e-mail to:

    TCN archives:

    Questions, comments about the TCN? Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at

    © 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

    Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – September 24, 2009

    September 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057


    1) French Air Controllers Endanger Passengers: Report

    Link to AFP article:

    Link to story in Le Figaro: (in French)

    2) Speaker: Image is Biz Jets’ Challenge

    Link to article in The Wichita Eagle:


    3) Google Maps of the Great Indoors?

    Micello is mapping large indoor public spaces such as airports.

    Link to article in Network World:

    Link to news release from Micello:


    4) US Government Weighs Cell Phone Ban for Bus, Truck Drivers

    Link to AP article:

    5) Automakers Back Texting Ban

    Link to article in The Detroit News:

    6) Terror Probe: Why is the Threat Level Still Yellow?

    Link to article in The Christian Science Monitor:


    7) Los Angeles MTA Fare System Runs Into Roadblocks

    Link to article in the Los Angeles Times:,0,2912313.story

    8) New York City Comptroller: MTA Information ‘Off Track’

    Link to article in The Epoch Times:

    9) MBTA Ad Aims to Reduce Fire Risk

    Link to article in The Boston Globe:

    10) Boston T to Test Red, Orange Lines’ Crash Prevention System

    Link to article in The Boston Globe:

    11) DC Metro’s NextBus Still Working Out Kinks

    Link to article in The Examiner:


    12) Transportation Departments Burn Rubber on Twitter

    Link to article in Government Technology:

    13) The Case for Open New York MTA Data: Transparency, Savings, and Easier Riding

    Link to commentary in Streetsblog:


    14) Vehicles in Philippines Required to Install Microchips Starting in October

    Link to article in BusinessWorld:

    News Releases

    1) Intelligent Vehicles Tested Across European Roads

    2) CN Announces Enhanced Calculator to Estimate Greenhouse Gas-Emissions for Multi-modal Shipments

    3) Interactive Trip Planner Gets Users to Bay Area Park Sites via Public Transportation

    4) Washington State DOT Launches ‘Ask the Traffic Team’ Site

    5) Ford Motor Company Educates Teens on the Dangers of Distracted Driving

    6) The eSafety Awards: Rewarding Excellence in the Deployment of Intelligent Vehicle Safety Systems

    7) State-of-the-Art Digital Communications Network Installed in White Plains, New York

    Upcoming Events

    2009 ITS Forum – October 20 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Today in Transportation History

    1929 **80th anniversary** – Jimmy Doolittle became the first pilot to takeoff, fly and land using only instruments.

    1959 **50th anniversary** – The Atlas C Able rocket exploded on the launch pad during static testing at Cape Canaveral.


    The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

    To subscribe send an e-mail to:

    To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:

    TCN archives:

    Questions, comments about the TCN? Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at

    Source(s) of trouble! A graphical depiction of sources that feed America’s insatiable apetite for foreign oil

    September 24, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Image Source: NG Oil & Gas (via Jalopnik) Click to Enlarge

    The saying goes like this: A picture is worth a thousand words. But this picture shown above is worth all the words you ever want to write about our addiction to foreign oil.  What is striking in this picture is the fact that almost everyone of these top 10 nations where we get our oil from, with the exception of Brazil & Canada, has been battling or contributing to violence in its own soil or in foreign soil through covert (at times overt) funding for terror groups & radical factions.  Hope our Government as well as the citizens start thinking about ways to curb this problem.  A good start would be to look at the type(s) of vehicle sitting in our driveway and ask yourself this question “Do I really need this vehicle?”  If possible, downsize to something that makes sense (a v10 or v8 for a daily commute to work does not make sense).  Just by doing that, you are not only contributing to a greener planet but also towards limiting the funds flowing to gunslingers and bomb makers in these hot spots.

    (Source: Jalopnik & Oil and Gas News via Cool Infographics)

    IntelliDriveSM Working Group Meeting – October 29 & 30, 2009 @ Detroit, MI

    September 24, 2009 at 11:07 am

    IntelliDrive - Safer, Smarter, Greener

    The next *IntelliDriveSM Working Group Meeting will take place October 29-30th at the Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown Hotel.  The purpose of this meeting is for the major partners and stakeholders to present future plans and focus areas of the program and to discuss stakeholder involvement in all focus areas.  On the first day, each of the major partners (the states, auto industry, and USDOT) will discuss their upcoming plans, projects and focus areas. Day one will end with a facilitated discussion of the Working Group structure and stakeholder involvement to accommodate new focus areas including environmental applications, mobility applications based on various communications systems, and inclusion of aftermarket devices and applications.  Day two will include breakout sessions on specific focus areas for the program, including safety, mobility, and environment.

    Who should attend?  The Working Group meeting will be open to members as well as other interested participants.

    Date:  October 29-30, 2009 Oct 29th full day; Oct 30th half day, ending by 11:30 AM.

    Location:  Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown Hotel.

    525 West Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, Michigan, 48226

    Tel: 1-313-963-5600

    Registration:  Registration for this event is free.  However, a registration form must be completed by October 23 and sent to Brei Whitty at in order to attend.

    Click here for a registration form.

    Hotel Info – Link

    Airport to Hotel Transportation Information – Link

    *IntelliDrive is a registered service mark of the US Department of Transportation. IntelliDrive was formerly known as the Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration (VII) program. More information about the program is available at