Spoke Scopes

See the world from two wheels

Congratulations, Washington State — October 24, 2013

Congratulations, Washington State

Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s Facebook banner

It’s a sunny day for bikers in Washington.

Published today in Outside, Washington is named the nation’s bike friendliest state. Washington is one of four western region states proudly representing the League of American Bicyclist’s top 10 bike havens. Oregon and Colorado are among the predictable rankings, but underdog rankings such as Delaware and Illinois among the top ten shows progress in development. According to Outside, between 2000 and 2011, the number of bike commuters in the U.S. has grown 47 percent. Special recognition goes to active advocacy groups, such as the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, and to formidable strongholds in legislation and enforcement, education and encouragement and policies of programs.

Referring to the League’s top 10 signs of success, how does your state compare?


Pedaling through Cambodia and Vietnam’s Publishing Landscape — October 16, 2013

Pedaling through Cambodia and Vietnam’s Publishing Landscape

Biking in Vietnam and Cambodia is popular. A quick Google search will reveal pages of travel content for bike companies, tours and trips to pedal through Indochina. As a result, both countries’ tourism revenue has spiked. In 2013, Vietnam’s tourism industry is scaled to be worth $9.1 billion, according to companiesandmarkets.com.

Vietnam and Cambodia have an outpour of creative talent. Both countries are quiet epicenters of innovation when it comes to graphic design, illustration and artistry. While volunteering with Room to Read this summer, the nonprofit that builds libraries and schools in ten program countries including Vietnam and Cambodia, I scanned titles into the database and archived ten years worth of published children’s books that illustrated gender equality, education, hygiene, games, science, etc. The designs from Vietnam and Cambodia were some of the most eye catching, creative and beautiful books I worked with. One book outlined a story designed with claymation and photographed. Another book’s scenery was constructed with strips of paper, ribbons like and scanned flat, to make a seamlessly textured illusion. The colors were outstanding. The books from Vietnam were written in Vietnamese. The books from Cambodia were written in Khmer.

Travelers are experiencing Vietnam and Cambodia’s paved and unpaved narrow roads. In noticing the talent exhibited in the children’s books, I imagined on a hypothetical bike tour of both Vietnam and Cambodia’s literary landscape.

Cambodia doesn’t have large education or trade multinational publishers, but there are a handful of small, local commercial and NGO publishers such as SVA and SIPAR. According to the International Institute for Asian Studies, the Cambodia government opened the country to a free market in 1993. One of the publishing houses, Norkorwat Publishing, set out to publish quality books in the Khmer language, an underrepresented language among Cambodia’s publishing presses, especially among children’s publications.

In Vietnam, there are several private companies in the country’s domestic market. In an article with Vietnam News, translator and publisher Nguyen Van Phuoc explained that his devotion to sharing more books with Vietnam sprung from his time abroad where he realized that “books were an intrinsic part of human development.” Eventually, he started a small publishing house.

“I have dreamed of working with books ever since I was a child. Books are miraculous and mystical to me. When I hold an old, battered book, I want to create books which are beautiful in both content and cover, so I am able to share my passion with others,” Phuoc said.

Vietnam and Cambodia both have many untamed roads, figuratively and literally. Vietnam and Cambodia may be an attractive destination for tourists, but the literature road is still waiting to become the region’s next silk road in terms of a personal and literal sojourn. It’s time to bike closer to the countries’ presses and authentic stories. I look forward to one day biking down those roads to experience the stories first hand.

Bike in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Groningen? — October 11, 2013

Bike in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Groningen?

“Every time I look at the bike culture and infrastructure in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, I feel inspired and hope that people around the world will learn from these great examples,” writes Michael Graham Richard from Treehugger.com. That’s the beauty of city planning and bicycle infrastructure. Cultural and urban discussion ensues, debunking dependency on motor vehicle transportation, further piecing together safer communities. Bike heavens such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam lubricate policy and advocacy movements across the world to bring healthy and positive change.

The city of Groningen in the Netherlands deserves similar recognition. In just two days, fans of Groningen created Internet buzz as the “city of bikes” in tangent with Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Also view Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

“We don’t have to live with noisy cities.” Groningen looks like a cyclist’s play land with traffic lights and smooth brick ways American big-city commuters can envy. As a cyclist in San Francisco, the gamble of riding on Market Street, even with clear road markings for bikes, is enough to make me wish for exiled car areas for public transportation and cyclists to ride in peace. Groningen worked to solve that problem without being anti-car. David Hembrow notes that the effort was not anti-carism but a measure to actually make bicycling an option and neighborhoods safer.

“The excellent and very safe climate for cyclists in Groningen is the result of very specific policy decisions made a generation ago, which built on the city’s existing advantages — including a compact street plan that was a legacy of its history as a fortress town,” writes Sarah Goodyear in The City Where Bicycles Rule the Road

In the 1950s and 1960s, the motor vehicle was paving the expansion of urban sprawl and roads accommodated space for more cars on the road. The 1970s brought on a shift in thinking. A leftist government and a traffic circulation plan cut the inner city into four sections. A “ring road” was built encircling the city driving out “negative externalities” like air pollution, noise and car crashes from the city center. Bikers have a superior commute, a direct point A to point B route that takes about 12 minutes versus 30 minutes by car. Only pedestrians, bikers and public transportation can travel through the city center. By law, even parents can’t drive their kids through Groningen to school. That  means more space and roads families can safely commute by walking or biking together.

“A vital threshold has been crossed. Through sheer weight of numbers, the bicycle now makes the rules, slows the traffic and determines the attitudes of drivers. Motorways have been dug up, roads are being narrowed or closed to traffic, miles of bike lanes and special bike overpasses weave through the city and there are tens of thousands of bike parking places.” – Cyclorama 

And the sustainable transportation plans swelled the cycle network. Free bicycle parking  available creates a “garden bicycle park” that holds 5,000 bikes. On the weekends, the numbers can total 10,000.

The numbers:

Regarding bicycle parking, “[i]t’s almost impossible to keep up with the demand for cycle-parking. The main railway station in Groningen featured in Clarence’s video currently has spaces for around 11000 bicycles, up from about 3000 ten years ago. However the cycle-park in not adequate at the weekends so current plans are for the number of spaces to rise to 19000 by 2020.” – A view from the cycle path

Bikes have simple designs, take up little space, and empower people of all ages through efficiency, cost-effectiveness and health. Even after decades of motorization and countless innovations in automobiles, the bicycle’s future is long and bright.