Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Manila Street Art

I have posted a bit about street art lately, and was pleased to see some in Manila. I came across some paintings market - MMDA art, and luckily I was able to find some information on it. At Wikipedia  it says MMDA Art is official artwork commissioned by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority  and it is painted over graffiti on the perimeter or building walls that are readily visible along the streets of Metro Manila. Mostly the works are composed of combinations of squares and circles in different colours, as were the works I saw. Below is a compilation of some of the work I saw.

Whilst taking photo's some kids came up to observe me, and then they started to pose for the camera. They were pretty cool, but off course they wanted payment for their efforts. I figured 50 pesos was sufficient, they were happy.

It seems that the MMDA Art had become more than just a means of covering up graffiti, and is now a general beautification program for metropolitan Manila.

Cycling Manila

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Manila, so decided to take a bike (Cinco5) and explore the city a bit. To be honest I was a bit hesitant to ride in Manila, due to the amount of traffic, but perhaps more by the fact that I could not see many cyclists on the roads. Anyway I headed out, with a rough plan to ride out to Manila Bay from the hotel, and back, and just see what I would find upon the way.

I knew from previous trips to the Philippines that I would have to be pretty flexible with my street selection, and just focus on roughly heading in the right direction. The first thing I noticed upon hitting the road was that the cars, and jeepnies don't move very fast. Making it sort of cyclist friendly. But the large number of vehicles on the road mean you can't really travel very fast by bike.

After a while on the roads I realised that I had been wrong. I felt quite safe on the roads, perhaps because of the fact, like most Asian cities, the drivers are used to all sorts of vehicles being on the roads. Cycling is also very common on the streets, there are lots of people getting around their suburb by bike, but also many pedi-cabs, and bicycles fit with a side cart for cargo, so many in fact that Manila could be the cargo bike capital of the world. Over the next few days I'll write more about my Manila cycling experience, and share some more photos.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reduce traffic in Los Angeles.

Video infographic from "" about how we can reduce traffic in Los Angeles  makes a pretty simple claim, "if just 3% of drivers switched to using public transport or cycling to work then traffic could move up to 15% faster." I am sure that's pretty true. The statistic that is worrying though is 87% of Angeleno's drive to work, meaning there not only a need for a lot of road, but a lot of car parks too.

Thinking about car parks its pretty scary, some people think there are maybe 8 car parks for every single car in The United States, much more conservative estimates say about 500 million, and I assume that does not include the garage at home. Given there are 136 million cars, 110 million trucks, about 1 million buses for a total of 247 million vehicles, its no wonder that there is a fair bit of traffic on the roads.

I cant find any good statistics on the number of bicycles in the US, one wiki source suggests only 70 million. If I assumed that there was 1 bike for every person, approximately 300 million bikes, there would still be more car parks in America than bicycles. It juts goes to show, that not only are cars a burden on the environment with regards to pollution, but their demands on our land for parking space must be having a bad impact too.

Saigon Cycling

This morning I went for a short ride in Saigon, on the Cinco5. I left at about 6am, plan was to do a bit of exploring, get some fruit, and soak up the local atmosphere. Early morning is a great time of day to see people out and about in Vietnam. The people here are definitely not sleepy heads (well at least not till mid-day), everyone seems to be up in the morning, exercising, having the first of many coffee's for the day, or just going somewhere (people always seem to be on the move here).

I put together the image above, its a bit of a compilation of people I saw riding their bikes over a bridge. Whilst the motorbike is definitely the king of transport in Vietnam, cycling is still a pretty major form of transport, and definitely less noisy. Lots of people also seem to use bikes early morning for exercise. I love the girl wearing a "hoodie", most people from the western world would have thought its weather for a singlet, but not here.

Above are some photos of other people I saw riding. Its great that people still use bikes as their work vehicle. If you look in the pictures, there is one woman who has a set of scales mounted on her bike, on a false wooden top tube, for weighing the vegetables she has for sale. The woman on the bottom right had so many plastic bags of "stuff" tied her bike it was amazing. I took inspiration from this, when I grabbed some fruit, I tied the bags to the cargo basket on my bike (bottom left).

If you are ever in Ho Chi Minh City, the road running next to the river, Tran Xuan Soan, is a good one to wonder down to see some real local activity. Many boats turn up here from the Mekong with fresh produce. Its also a great place to see old world Saigon mixing with the new world Ho Chi Minh City.

Monday, July 16, 2012

ORTRE Bamboo Bike Project

Bamboo is a pretty amazing material, it's actually a grass, and one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. Some varieties can grow one metre in 24 hours. There is not much that cant be done with bamboo, build a house,  boat, make cloth, paper, even eat it. And of course, you can make bikes with it,  and there are quite a few high end bicycle manufactures doing so.

Almost by chance I found a group of people in Vietnam with the skills to create bikes out of bamboo. So I decided to try and make a version of the Cinco5, using the material. Additionally I wanted to see if I could make a bike that was reproducible, low cost, and at the same time provide valuable work for those who may not otherwise have work.

I must say, I was pretty excited to see the first bike, and have a ride.  Expecting a stiff feeling frame, I was not disappointed. And not only is it stiff, it has excellent shock absorbing qualities. In my mind it does sort of feel like a natural "carbon fibre" bike.  Interestingly it takes about 18 times the energy to produce carbon fibre than it does to grow bamboo.

Weight wise the frame is about 1.5 kilograms heavier than the Cinco5 aluminium frame, which is pretty surprising. I expected it to be much heavier. The overall weight of the bike is 14.5kg.

Many manufacturers join bamboo using fibreglass or carbon fibre, or even lugs made of steel or aluminium. I wanted to keep it natural, so the joints were wrapped with flax. The downside of this though is the use of epoxy resin, which is not the most environmentally friendly material, and most likely was a major contributor to the weight of the finished frame.

The first prototype, had 1 major flaw, the chain stays were made 10cm longer than the normal specified on the Cinco5. This makes turning at high speeds a bit difficult but at low speeds the stability of the bike is great. It was good to try a 20" wheeled frame with such a long chain stay, and I would say its not a bad combination, especially for a utilitarian bike,

Anyway, we're going to keep pushing on with this project, so we'll keep you up to date with it. And we'd love to hear from you what you'd like to see from a bamboo bike.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Work Cycle

Today I want to showcase a website both beautiful in design, and in motivation. The Work Cycle  in their pown words is: 

"A celebration of the Cycle to Work culture. There’s a different kind of relationship developing at work with people falling in love with riding their bikes all over again. We explore how the bicycle is beginning to shape the work spaces we journey to."

Simply this is a location where people can showcase  how their bikes become an element of their workspace. Anyone can be a part of this, just take some snaps of bikes in your workplace and send them in. I must say though, that the quality of the photos on the site are very high, I guess stemming from the creative nature of most of the companies who are all ready showcased. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bicycle Lanes

I've just had the please of visiting Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. And I did a bit of riding in each city, utilizing the many bike lanes that have sprung up over the last few years. It is great to see Australia's cities putting in an effort to become more bike friendly. Between the cities I did noticed different types, or styles of cycle lane being implemented.

Firstly in Adelaide, nearly all the lanes seemed to be marked by white lines only. This is great, I guess, because its pretty easy to implement. Just paint the line. But I found it had a big draw back, after a while it didn't seem to be obvious enough which white lines indicated a cycling lane. The white lines for the bicycle lanes just seemed to become incoherent amongst all the other white lines on the road. Especially when a row of parked cars obscure one of the lane markings, making one think the other line is just indicating the parking zone.

I don't have a good picture of this, but just imagine if all the cars are parked similarly to the first 2 cars, in the picture on the right, obscuring the dashed parking line. Then you really cannot tell if there is a cycle way. This happened to me a few times, especially at night time, and in the wet.

The solution for this problem is pretty simple, and has been adopted in many areas. Paint the whole cycle lane a different colour. This works great, and at least by my limited survey seemed to be a more popular method of road marking in Sydney and Brisbane.

I'm sure this costs more, but it does make it plainly clear, in more situations where the cycle way is.

Sydney seems to be in favor of trying to create fully segregated cycleways, often called a Copenhagen Style Lane. This is where median strips, parked cars, or other sorts of barriers, to completely remove bicycles from the roadway. This is most probably the safest type of cycleway, but of course it is the most expensive to implement and requires a lot of space.

This sort of cycleway is great, but I also think it detracts from some of the freedom you can experience when riding. When you are on a segregated cycleway you cant zipp over to the other side of the road, or U-turn quickly. If you ride past something interesting and want to stop, its just not as easy, you have to look for an exit from the cycleway.

As a long term solution to increasing the number of people using bikes for transport, I don't think segregation of bikes and the best idea. I think cars and bikes can share a common roadway with a combination of adequate road markings and sensible speed limits.

At the moment, I am undecided about cycleways as shown below, where a single cycleway is divided into two lanes, rather than having a cycleway on each side of the road. To me this type of cycleway creates problems when you come to intersections, and want to turn, but your on the wrong side of the road to make a normal turn. 

I guess in the end its good to be aware of the different type of cycleways, and road authorities should use the best type of cycleway for the given situation.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Building a Better Bike

In the New York Times, there was an article in the Global edition Magazine named "32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow." Three of the innovations related to bicycle design.

Anti Theft Handlebars, bars that have some sort of locking mechanism that don't allow one to steer the bike all ready exist,  like ones from Speedlifter. And so do options for a less greasy chain, like the belt drives from Gates.

There are lots of carbon fiber frames, but as far as I know it there are not any plastic bicycle frames on the market. And its definitely something we may see in two to five years. There are kids bikes like the ones from Firstbike, and I think the same technology could be used for adult bikes.

But importantly I think whilst the bike will evolve, to be sure the bicycle has a huge to play in our lives in the future no matter what form it is in.

Street Art

Over at Street Art Utopia I found some images of pedestrian crossings and other road markings that had been cleverly modified into works of art. It would be great if such artwork and design could be applied to road markings in general, there is no reason why this element of out life cannot be a bit more fun.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fantastic Images from Lifecycle

My last post was about some fabulous art, and so is this.  Lifecycle in Singapore commissioned some great artwork/advertising for an outdoor print campaign, fulfilled by DDB Singapore. Its amazing to see a small shop have this quality of advertising, normally something I would expect to see from one of the big industry players.

The three images are so simple, and beautifully executed, and perfectly depict, "Cityscape, Roadmap, and Terrain." Below the images I have included the text that accompanies the images.

You live in a little box.
You get into a little box that drives you to another little box.
And you spend your day thinking little boxed thoughts in your little box.
Till it’s time to leave for the other little box.
Unbox yourself. Get a life. Get a cycle.

Look out the window. What do you see?
Wait, there’s no window.
Only a wall. And fake plastic flowers.
And a fake parquet floor.
A plastic coffee cup on a formica table.
Artificial lighting, on all day.
Get out. Get a life. Get a cycle. 

Intrepid explorer
journeying to the Elevator,
bravely navigating past Office Politics,
catching your breath at Cape Watercooler before
you venture to the unknown land they call the Pantry.
Step out. Get a life. Get a cycle.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Penang Cycling Art

Some street art in Malaysia, specifically Penang (keeps popping up on websites I visit). It seems the paintings by Ernest Zacharevic have been created not just as works in their own rite, but works to be enhanced with our own imagination. Zacharevic’s on his Facebook page seems to have called out for people to take photos of themselves interacting with the paintings. Its a pretty cool concept. And indeed, the results are fabulous. I'm not sure if the bike is a permanent fixture, but it would be cool if it was.

I have never been to Penang, but if I get there I'll be sure to get to these works of art.