Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living Intersections

A co-worker said to me the other day "I hate driving." He perhaps had a valid point, as the time was nearing 4:00 and rush hour or "Slow Hour" was in the midst of its hellish havoc betrothed to car travelers every day.

The problem with the joy that some people get from cars, is that they never feel that joyful while stuck in traffic. I like to think sometimes about the resting time on the road, that is the time spent waiting to move. In a car in heavy traffic, you can sometimes see the red light at an intersection more then once. Sitting through cycle after cycle of lights is frustrating, even in a Prius despite what this commercial may try and show.

The flow of traffic is dictated by the state, by laws that are seeking to protect drivers from their own bad driving. Imagine a intersection with no lights, no signs, only the names of the roads. A place where you acknowledged the people around you as fellow travelers, like this scene from "Paint your wagons"

If this seems like a old times occurrence that could never work in the world of today, where speed and time are at a high premium. But take a look at "Shared space" , one could argue that the lack of signs and regulations would lead to anarchy. But perhaps anarchy would be better then what we have with stop and go traffic.

Time will tell, but I'm all for shared space, perhaps because it gives preference to bikes, where traffic today treats bicyclists like Rosa Parks.

We have to move over to the right, we have to hope they give us the three feet of space while passing so that we don't shudder as hulks of loud vibrating metal fly past.
People might look at the shared space intersections and say "Won't people just do what they want and have accidents anyways?" Well that may be the case that accidents haven't gone down, but it shows that the fatality of accidents has gone down. Because instead of cars "gunning it" through an intersection, people assume traffic will be there, there is no green light for people to take as a sign that they can move freely, unless the laws are being broken by a jaywalker, or an oblivious driver.
The accidents have become more pedestrian, small fender benders, which are bound to happen, much the same way crowded school hallways will always have people running into each other and dropping their books, but hopefully with more people noticing and looking at each other at intersections, maybe romance might blossom more often. Like dropped books in a crowded hallway.
But I mean if children can move around everyday in the crowded halls, without signs or lights, then perhaps we could too?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Natures Prophecy

In the wake of the storm I have thought quite a lot about the conflicts that humanity has with nature.
I see dead squirrels on the road all the time, I am tempted to take pictures with them, titled with an obituary for the squirrel, "Man V. Nature" the ultimate lawsuit.

This is a picture of nature striking back, in the realm of Koyaanusqatsi

The damage of the storm has an eerie proximity to the hot topographical depression called 35W. The sweltering mess of cars may have provided a energetic push as storms tend to get absorbed in the density of the city, but a large flat open space like an interstate might have an effect on the weather.

Perhaps nature does not want more interstates, and that the ahead in the trees is a signal to our future. Damage will happen if we continue down this path of ongoing consumption.

If the world was incinerated today, as if there were a global Pompeii, the finders of our remains would look at the world we inhabit very curiously. I wonder what they would think when looking a the living quarters of most americans and the orientation of many of the rooms around a strange box-like device... called the television.

In a world where television is the dominant media device we sometimes forget why television exists, yes Edison thought it was a great way to capture a moving image, and movies are great ways to tell stories. Yet primarily television exists to sell you things, they post commercials so that you consume their goods. The television promotes consumption, Wal-Mart promotes itself as a cheap alternitive spouting 'Save Money, Live Better' they surprisingly don't mention that you are spending money, not saving it when you consume their goods.

Cars and Television, the battle with nature begins...

We here at Peterson's Pedicabs are witnessing the front lines, the city streets, the dead squirrels and the downed trees. I'll keep you posted, perhaps there will be an amazing booth at the MN state fair that will hold the answers magically like a Roald Dahl book.

Upwards and Onwards


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Folly, Fatigue

This past weekend I(Nolan) celebrated my 25th birthday, it was a weekend full of learning and new experiences.
First off, I learned that running a business requires vigilance. I made the faulty mistake of not telling those people calling the pedicab phone that I was out of town and we were unable to provide rides this weekend. This was based upon my silly assumption that because of the chilly weather that many people wouldn't care for a ride. Due to my folly I received several agitated messages from a caller who wanted me to provide services for their friend on their wedding.
It was a missed opportunity and I truly regret being negligent of the pedicab phone, on the other hand, every mistake should be seen as a learning opportunity. Therefore I will learn to always post my whereabouts on the voicemail or on the website or perhaps this blog.

What I did experience while I was out of town was a trip to Millville Minnesota, where they hold the only pro motocross races in the state.
While I am a large lover of bicycles, and find them to be pristine and efficient sources of transportation. I also enjoy the motorcycle, the red headed stepchild of the bicycle. It was quite a sight to see the speed and power that two wheels can have, as well as the control and dexterity of the riders. It was loud but in a good way where you feel it in your chest more then your ears, like a dazzling firework on the 4th of July.

Speaking of which, I had the opportunity to provide rides for people on the 4th along St. Anthony Main and was enjoying my time there oh so much more then trolling around uptown or downtown.
It has been noted that the festivals and large events of the city will perhaps turn into the bread and butter of this organization, as Brent related his positive experience at the Basilica Block Party. The good and bad thing about Minnesota, the ability to pedicab in the winter is very minimal, but the good thing is that in the summer there is almost always some sort of celebration and event going on every weekend.

As I turn a year older I have decided to try and dedicate myself to this endeavor, to squeeze in time on the pedicab when not at my other steady paying job. I know that hard work will pay off in the end.
Some Have suggested that the work might be eased by clipless pedals, yet an article in the eco-velo blog that I like to read says that maybe the efficiency isn't worth the hassle of people who want to walk around off their bike. It's a debate I will continue to have with myself as time goes on.
Another new thought I had, somewhat related to the 4th of July where my trusty old phone became helpless after another crash to the ground. The purchase of a new phone could lead to a new possibility for the Pedicab. The GPS ability in many phones today can be hooked up to Google Latitude, a map application that can tell you or your friends where you are.

This would give people the possibility to look on their phone to see if the pedicab is nearby, in downtown versus uptown and what have you.

Learning and loving the experience as you go, the mantra for the birthday weekend.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

They come to you

The other day I watched a movie called "Hell on Wheels", or at least that was the English title, the German title is Hollentour with a accent on the o. The movie follows mostly German riders from the T-mobile team as the go through the 2003 Tour De France. The way they discuss the highs and lows of the tour are enlightening, to hear directly from a rider as he is within the three weeks of racing.
The other interesting and more fascinating part I found was a man retelling different lore of the tour. How it began as a publicity stunt of endurance. I mean 1903 had more carriages then bicycles or cars. The ability at the time to carry yourself across on country upon a bicycle was something to be marveled along with causing publicity.

The Bicycle was the most human powered way to travel, if you look at calories consumed by humans versus horses one could make the argument that bicycles are the most able and efficient way to travel. The importance of this is underestimated in the annals of history as the combustible engine was brought to fame shortly after the first bicycle boom of the 1890's.
If the engine hadn't come along, one could imagine a stretch of bicycles like a trade caravan stretching across the Middle East and China. Perhaps the western world would have had noodles a bit quicker had Marco Polo invented a bicycle for his travels.

The other important thing pointed out by this Tour historian as he argued it as the most famous sporting event. Bicycling races are free to the public, they come to you. You may have to travel a handful of hours to perch yourself ontop of a mountain, but you won't have to plop down a 30 or 40 dollars the way you will for football or basketball tickets. And while they zoom past sometimes so fast you only see them for a second, for that second though they are meters away from you, you could even smell their sweat in the breeze they create. The zero cost to watch a world class sporting event, allows people to spend their money on paint to put on the road to cheer their favorite riders. They also build large statues and place them roadside in fields of France.
Off to see the explosions tonight and hopefully ride people around if the rain holds off.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Specialized-Globe- Active Globally

The bicycle brand Specialized created a different name for their city and street oriented designs. This brand named Globe had a trailer on it's website that shows people biking around Minneapolis with classic images like that of the Grain Belt sign. 'Inspiring everyone to a cycling lifestyle' is the slogan at the end. I wonder what a cycling lifestyle is? does it propose that everyone should have fit enough legs to propel themselves, or that people should wear pants cut at the calf or rolled up?
The benefits I like from cycling is the improved taste of food when you are famished and the way cold water tastes after the sweat has been dripping off your nose for half an hour.

I don't connect those things to a cycling lifestyle, I do connect them to an active lifestyle. And with the new wordage coming out of bicycling activists being 'active transport' I think activity should be the focus of the future. The industrial revolution was full of men women and children packed into factories, mines, and mills working long laborious days. The post industrial world we have created is full of machines, mainly computers which we sit in front of. Building packed with people sitting in boxes in front of their computer, not the most active of worlds. But in my stint as a delivery man for the U-stores on the U of M campus I saw one such chair that turned my head. In the realm of chair sitting this chair was by far the most active, and good for your posture to boot.
Cycling is just one expression of activity, inactive is the world of sitting, which many people engage in near machines like computers and television sets. But it's not politically agreeable to rail against television, for it is the mouthpiece of politics, sports, cars, fashion, and multinational advertising.
The day I see bicycling advertised on television I will run naked through the streets, the only current company with the kind of dough to do it would be Giant, the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world, and one of the only bike companies traded above the penny stock level. The also have a line of lifestyle bikes, and their headquarters is in Taiwan, and the city of Taipei is orientating itself more and more to bicycle travel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

25th Bicycle Corps

In the meanwhile of getting everything set up for the pedicab, the logo is finished but need to get picked up in Shakopee tomorrow. Shakopee which means 'the six'
according to wikipedia is called such because chief Shakopee had a wife who had sextuplets, which back in the day was probably more impressive the octomom.
I also perused a quick search through the American life historical database at the U of M libraries website, and I came across the 25th Bicycle Corps, an all black regiment that used their bicycles to travel through the mountains in Montana and as far as Kansas City. There are photos of them here and there in the record, one guy is retracing their steps and blogging about it on http://followingthelieutenant.blogspot.com/.
It's a pretty good read, for those who wonder about the benefits bicycles gave certain industries that were typically tied to horseback, like the postal worker or the army officer, or policeman.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Day

This pedicab business is about to start, I just put in the permit application at city hall on Friday. ( if you haven't been in Minneapolis City Hall you should check it out just for the amazing father of waters statue)
The rain made me think today about getting the $700 awning with full frontal coverage for the pedicab. I don't mind riding in inclement weather, but I know from driving around my roommates how much chillier it can get back there.
Hopefully the weather will be nice for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. It will be nice to get some business cards done before it to hand out to people there. I just watched the Dauphane Libere on Versus, and it's amazing to see the popularity of bicycle racing on the streets in Europe, maybe someday it will be like that here as well.
I hope that Minneapolis will like a pedicab business on the streets. One of the nights I was out with the roommates a cabbie pulled up next to us and gave us a thumbs up, yelling "I like what your doing". I took that as a good sign.

Bicycling has been getting a lot of push the past couple years. I think the youth of today will help spur the cycling popularity forward, the environment more then Lance Armstrong will give it the popularity it deserves, and might have had continuing the boom of the 1890's. Being a History major I love looking at old pictures of bicycles.
This one is from a bicycle race in Red Wing. circa 1896.
I got it from this article I found on the Minnesota Historical Society Website about the bike boom in the Red River Valley.
The rain is nice, hopefully the food will grow well in the world to feed everyone. Work on the website and logo continues...