From the seat of a bicycle: “There is something about watching the world go by, while getting a workout, that does something to your endorphins,” said photographer Geoffrey Hiller to the BBC after putting 5,000 miles on his e-bike while documenting a tumultuous year in Portland.
More projects, less process: D.C. is moving forward with legislation that would mandate protected bike lanes. Portland should take note.
Black urbanists: Put down Jane Jacobs and pick up these “11 Black urbanists every planner should know”: W. E. B. DuBois; Horace Cayton, Jr.; St. Clair Drake; Gordon Parks; John Hope Franklin; Samuel J. Cullers; Dorothy Richardson; Reverend Doctor Calvin Butts, III; William Wilson; Geoffrey Canada; Mary Pattillo.
Serious e-bike incentives: A bill in the California legislature would create a $10 million Electric Bicycle Rebate Pilot Project. Oregon should take note.
E-bike tax credit: A California Congressman wants to amend IRS law to include an electric bike tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of qualifying bicycles.
New space, new riders: 6 in 10 users of new “pop-up” bike lanes in Paris are new riders — the same group Portland has been trying to attract for many years to no avail.
Cash infusion: The meteoric rise of Rad Power Bikes continues with a massive $150 million investment that will push the company even further into the hearts and minds of bike-curious Americans.
Police reform in NYC: A major move on policing reform in New York City would see a shift in crash investigation duties from the NYPD to the transportation department.
Re-thinking a freeway expansion: The Minnesota DOT and advocates are debating how — or if — to expand a central freeway in light of the climate change crisis of the present and the destruction of Black neighborhoods in the past. Sounds familiar.
Security of bike routes: I’ve spent some time on Capitol Hill in D.C. and was always enthralled to see how many bike riders used the hallowed paths, sidewalks and plazas next to the Capitol building to get around. It’s too bad new security fencing might close some of those routes.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Anyone here have a long-term owner review of Rad Power Bikes? The price points are attractive, but the lack of standard parts gives me pause. 22×3″ tires? What?
I’ve got 3,000+ miles on my RadCity. Unlike some of the other models, it has standard 26 inch tires. I haven’t had any issues yet.
Anything here perhaps… https://www.facebook.com/groups/321889295290210/permalink/350509602428179
I think they’re pretty well-regarded, and usually a lot of value for the money, even if I don’t quite see one that meets my needs. (I’m starting to shop for one this year, and I find the RadCity overpowered, but the RadMission likely to be problematic on hills – even here in MN – with its single-speed pedal drivetrain). But again, even if they don’t quite offer the right bike for me, most of their rigs do seem to be great value proposition.
I really don’t like what they did with the new RadWagon, though, going to 22″ tires. That’s crazy. What they should have done is gone with 24″ (507mm). That’s IMO the sweet spot for shrinking the wheels for cargo but hanging on to roll-over ability.
DIY is the way to go. It avoids all the proprietary nonsense common with almost all the brands and is essentially a gateway drug to becoming a bicycle mechanic. Putting them together is straightforward because you can count the number of things you connect on one hand, you end up riding it A LOT, and all the problems that arise are just the mechanical problems stemming from excessive use of an ordinary bicycle.
Tell me more. Do you modify a non-e bike? I have a friend who has a add-on battery but the battery is very heavy.
I probably wouldn’t modify an ebike. I mainly use sturdy steel frames built and sold before 1990. Ebikes boil down to a motor, battery, controller, and sensor (typically a cadence sensor, torque sensor, and/or a throttle). All of the technology is more than a decade old and quite mature, with the exception of batteries, which are both increasing in energy density and decreasing in cost over time. Batteries are heavy but there is nothing that can be done about it except to try to get the right capacity/size for your application balancing range, top speed (critical), and power output — weight becomes an important tradeoff. You can often get stuck with crappy cells with branded bicycles too, which ends up meaning shorter lifecycle, shorter range, reduced current handling, etc. Obviously, avoid lead acid batteries and stick with Lithium, either Li-ion or Li-Fe-PO.
Did you use a Clean Republic kit, one of the cheapo kits from Amazon, or something else?
Currents setups source ebike parts mostly from em3ev.com and ebikes.ca, with lots of non-ebike specific parts from other vendors including Community Cycle Center, Cat Six Cycles, and Universal Cycles. But starting with a cheap kit is a nice way to get your feet wet.
I have ridden and worked on a friend’s Rad Power Bike. My 0.02: I was disappointed with the build quality. It is a step up from an ’80s Huffy (or other “dime store” bike), but has a similar feel. Meaning, it is probably strong enough, but with cheap materials it is quite heavy, and the softer metals may be prone to stripped threads or rust if you use it year round. I haven’t seen other brands at a similar price point to compare. That said, it’s not horrible, and I know people who have years of enjoyment from “cheap” bikes, or who wore them out and replaced them with a longer-lasting option once they knew they’d use it a lot. For sure you could buy 2 Rad bikes for for the price of one of some others. Super wide tires is probably a good thing for potholes and train tracks, and traction since they go pretty fast. The motor can handle the rolling resistance, so there’s less downside to very wide tires on an e-bike. Dunno about finding replacements for 22×3. Whatever the brand or model, e-bikes are an amazing tool for getting around, and economical once you get past the up front cost. If it were me I’d consider the Rad if I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it or if the next step up is cost prohibitive. If you know you’ll use it a lot and can afford a slightly better-made brand that’s probably better for long term reliability and lifetime cost-per-mile. Clever Cycles had a wide selection and knowledgeable staff (though it’s been awhile since I was over there!)
I’ve had my RAD City since 2019 and use it year-round, even in these Ohio winters. Other than breaking a couple of spokes, the only maintenance has been the usual stuff, brakes and gear adjusting, maintaining the drive train, regular cleaning, . . . you know the usual. I’ve added a better seat, and additional front light, and handlebar mitts for the winter. Mine has 26×2.3″ tires. Loving it for long rides, errands, and commuting to work. I will tomorrow morning when it will be 28F.
I would think it would make sense to have incentives for regular bikes that exceeds incentive for e-bicycles. Virtually any argument that can be made for e-bikes is at least as strong for regular bikes.
Yes, for that reason I’d rather see incentives for driving removed rather than adding them for e-bikes.
Your idea can be expanded…if e-bikes get incentives (and they should since electric cars did) then certainly bikes should. If bikes get them, maybe so should transit passes. But then so should walking to work. But then so should avoiding commuting entirely…it never ends. And what about the person who ditches their bike to ride their incentivized e-bike? Or ditches the e-bike for an even-more-incentivized electric car? Or uses their e-bike for pleasure only, creating more electrical demand with nothing offset? Better to start with ending driving incentives. I realize that won’t be happening any time soon, though.
Philosophically, I totally agree, but in practice we probably need the incentives for a while longer. It is important that we transition the automotive fleet from gas to electric, and quickly, and that still requires a push.
You could view that as an incentive to drive, or, alternatively, an incentive to modernize a vehicle that is going to be used anyway.
You’re probably right. Tesla would be losing money every quarter if it weren’t for carbon credits. The economics just aren’t quite there yet.
As it is today the state of Oregon is actually incentivizing driving gas guzzling vehicles. If you are registering an electric car in Oregon you will pay $187. If you are registering a giant truck it will only cost you $98. This is a small attempt increase taxes because efficient vehicles don’t pay as much gas taxes. Of course I do pay taxes for electricity for my car but that does replace gas taxes.
The registration fee schedule is:
Vehicle year is 1999 or older $98
Vehicle year 2000 or newer, has 0-19 Combined MPG $98
Vehicle year 2000 or newer, has 20-39 Combined MPG $103
Vehicle year 2000 or newer, has 40+ Combined MPG $113
Electric Vehicle $187
Eye opening, thanks!
Can we just make the registration $.10 per pound of curb weight, per year? A Nissan Leaf would be $360, and a Yukon XL would be $600.
I’ve long thought basing it on curb weight is a good idea. Just need to get accurate weights. I have a friend who grew up in NYC, where registration is based on weight, and he had a buddy at DMV who got his Volvo 240 registered as a 700 lb vehicle.
That’s only if you look at that one part of the system in isolation from others. Yes, the registration fee is higher, but you don’t pay gas tax, and there are some nice looking incentives for buying an electric car, including some targeted at low-income drivers.
I don’t find the EV fee to be a strong disincentive. In MN I’m paying a $75 annual surcharge for my 2015 Leaf, but still feel like I’m getting a good deal.
You’re right that there are good incentives for new EVs (although I think Tesla’s federal tax credit is due to expire soon), but the real incentives are in the used market. It is a serious buyers’ market, and will remain so until people finally figure out EVs are more reliable, even long term, than gas cars.
EV depreciation has been staggering so far. I paid $11k – 70% depreciated! -when I bought my 3-year-old Leaf with just 26k miles on it – and then I took advantage of the low-interest financing OnPoint offers on green cars. All in all, cheaper to own than a 12 year old Civic or Prius, even with gas under $3 a gallon, which won’t last forever.
My view is that transitioning to electric vehicles would be happening more quickly if incentives that make gas artificially cheap were removed.
I also think many environment-related incentives have a main impact of making people feeling good about consuming vs. conserving. So a wealthier person gets a tax credit for buying a new e-bike for weekend riding, or a “green” hot tub, or building a well-insulated vacation house, while a less wealthy person goes without those.
But since the world is imperfect, I’m OK with the incentives overall.
I don’t know how you structure an incentive program so everyone, including the destitute, can equally take advantage of a rebate on a Tesla. Would raising the price of gas be any less “unfair”?
On balance I’d rather people’s vacation houses be well insulated than have everything less efficient in the name of some misguided sense of fairness.
I don’t think slippery-slope if-this-then-that arguments are a good reason not to do this, though I do agree we need to get rid of the outright incentives we still have for driving.
That’s my main point. Reducing incentives for driving reduces the need for incentives for other things, so questions like “why incentivize e-bikes but not bikes”, etc. become moot.
16.5 minutes at 20 mph to get from I5 to I205 along I84. Ebikes are flying off the shelves. Can we get an ebike tax that is funneled solely into securing and building a multi-use path “expressway” from A to B?
Reading about attempts to expand I94 through St. Paul gets me wondering why we expect different social justice results from departments of transportation than the police. Is it really something you can weave into any fabric or are we going about this the wrong way?
Well, honestly, its not social justice that would prevent much expansion between Minneapolis & St. Paul. Its the lack of right-of-way. Its very tight through there. Both cities don’t want the freeway to expand and the cost of right-of-way purchase costs would be astronomical. MNDOT would have to fight with 2 cities and who lot of well-monied or big advocacy groups. Not saying they wouldn’t try, MNDOT is half-in-half-out on making better streets/roads right now.
Good question Champs, but in this case I think both cities will block MNDOT’s (and Minnesota’s) usual inclination to crush everything under the wheels of the almighty automobile, simply because they went too far 60 years ago, and unlike the usual MN perspective people actually remember it and recognize the mistake.
I think there is NO WAY St. Paulites would allow a major I-94 expansion through the former Rondo area, because people still widely remember Rondo an example of transpo-socio-racial injustice. And although the corridor is not actually that narrow there – there are frontage roads tight up against the freeway on both sides that could theoretically be removed or rerouted, doing so would still bring charges of doubling down the Rondo debacle. And it’s already 10 lanes wide most of the way and not severely congested, so even the pro-car case for expansion is weak.
In Minneapolis, too, I think there’s finally growing awareness of what a travesty I-35W (which runs with I-94 in a shared “commons” stretch past downtown) was, causing the removal of more than 10% of all the city’s housing stock and wiping out major chunks of neighborhoods. Also an area where expansion would be of questionable benefit: unlike St. Paul it IS severely congested, but the 35W/94 commons is already 13 lanes wide. It would take a huge amount of additional real estate to untangle the mess … and there’s enough density in the Elliott Park, Stevens and Phillips neighborhoods (some of the poorest and densest in the city), and enough justice awareness these days that a serious “reimagining” to expand this stretch would never happen.
Naturally, my perspective on “reimagining” is that we need to focus more on alternatives to cars, like converting lanes to HOV (we don’t have many of those here, though we do have quite a few HOV onramps) and improving connections and crossings of the freeways. On that point, the Rondo stretch of I-94 is better than many bad-freeway projects, with dedicated bike/pedestrian bridges every half-mile or so – and with the freeway below grade, they don’t have stairs or in most cases significant grades to navigate. Some have recently been redone and widened, though some are still terrible. It’s actually one of the best freeway stretches I know of in terms of the ability to get safely across it on a bike (or foot) without having to go too far out of your way. That becomes less true as I-94 enters Minneapolis, though, and there we could use better crossings, especially in the Hiawatha/north 35W section.
I know it all too well. I used to go to school over there. I have friends (and enemies) who live in Midway. Back in the day, my father’s U of M classmates assumed he was from Rondo.
Mercy on the souls of those who would have to pay for that just to come out the other side with relief from nothing more than the self imposed misery of construction.
+1 for acknowledging your enemies.
Champs, you might be interested in streets.mn’s current discussion of bike boulevards in St. Paul: https://streets.mn/2021/02/08/saint-pauls-charles-avenue-bikeway-and-the-unfinished-promise-of-bicycle-boulevards/. They’ve made some progress since you lived there, but as often is the case the bike boulevards been implemented half-assedly: better than what we had before, but not fully delivering on their promise.
St. Paul has delivered major new protected infrastructure since last summer, though. We finally have east-west protected bike lanes across much of downtown (though still lacking critical connections to the west), Ayd Mill Road has a glorious new MUP along its entire length, Energy Park Drive now has bike lanes, Como Avenue got bike lanes past the state fairgrounds, and there’s a new MUP from Plato Boulevard across from downtown, past the airport and connecting with the Mississippi River Trail at Kaposia Landing. HUGE wins here! And all of these things are so new they don’t show up on Google Maps yet. Really a staggering amount of great new infrastructure delivered in such a short time.
Some interesting bike news from the Cedar Mill area.
Three County Commissioners are pushing for better bike facilities on a project to realign NW Thompson Rd. The staff recommendation was stick to a 5ft bike lane, with a 2ft painted buffer with a 5-6ft sidewalk. County Commissioners Harrington, Fai, and Treece pushed back, and asked staff to look at an alternative that would keep the buffered bike lane in addition to a 10ft multi-use path. They highlighted the desire for safe-route to schools (this project runs through a residential area, right by an elementary school, and through a future park), they also highlighted the differing levels of comfort (for context, the road is being designed for 35mph speed).
Additionally, planning is continuing on the THPR Westside Trail bridge over Hwy 26.
The elected government in Washington County is much different than it was as little as 3 years ago. The County commission is now dominated by progressives, there are several progressive new mayors and the two most important non-elected leaders within the county and its main agencies are women.
That is great news. I would love to see a safer Thompson. I often used to ride through that general area on my evening commute, but there are few good routes.
California may have a rebate for e-bikes while Oregon is still adding on an EXTRA tax for any bike purchase over $200. I know the bike tax is supposed to go to bike and pedestrian projects but it feeds the false narrative that cyclists don’t pay “their share” of taxes. How do we get rid of this tax?
I couldn’t agree more. This tax is both malicious AND stupid. It goes against the economic logic of The Bicycle Bill which was enacted in Oregon by REPUBLICANS!!! Every discussion of bicycle incentives should have the elimination of the bicycle tax as the very first topic.
The tax was pushed by anti-bike conservatives. The whole point was to throw some meat at their anti-environmental base and to punish those godless heathens in Portland.
There was never any intention to have it actually accomplish any major bike projects or improve biking in anyway.
Very cool photo essay by Geoffrey Hiller. Thank you.
I’m curious about the photography equipment he used. What’s light and handy enough for biking around with and yet provides the capability and flexibility for professional photos? Did he backpack a whole camera set? What equipment do you use, Jonathan? What about other readers who ride & take pictures with more than a cell phone?
Towards the top of the photo essay it says he just used his phone camera when on bike rides.
Thanks for pointing that out. They certainly have come a long way and the most portable option.
Please add Elijah Anderson (“Streetwise” and “Code of the Street”) to the list of Black urbanists to read – he’s a great writer, and how I learned about code switching and social structure of many black, urban communities. And what about Isabel Wilkerson (“The Warmth of Other Suns”)