Urban Arrow Family winter riding

I can’t promise a lot of updates about this, but here are some observations from this morning. 20 degrees F, alleged 7 mph wind (felt like more). Put studded tires on last night, felt super solid with two kids in the box. Trace to drifts of 2″ of snow, drifts were sketchier on return trip without kids.

Kids stayed warm with the classic rain tent, coats, mittens, hat/hood, and big flannel blanket. Still would like more protection from wind in the back where it’s just mesh.

LCD screen seemed okay, although I think battery is discharging faster than usual. I am bringing the battery inside now between rides.

All around, a wonderful ride. Plus we saw turkeys!

photo of the corner of an urban arrow cargo bike and some turkey tracks in snow
Turkey tracks on the preschool commute.


Babboe City Review, Part 2: First Impressions

Previous post: Babboe City Review, Part 1: Ordering and Shipping.

I’ve obviously not gone into as much detail as I had hoped with unboxing and building, but here are first impressions after about 60 miles of commuting without kids.

  • Lights are cheap and plastic
  • Pedals are small and slippery
  • Fenders are great
  • Gearing seems good
  • Takes a bit to get up to speed
  • Upright and fun to ride, easy launch and foot down, even with saddle in right spot
  • Box squeaky until frame bolts tightened
  • Narrow bars, but good so you don’t oversteer
  • Corners well at speed
  • Not great at sharp turns on ice/snow
  • Saddle goes high enough
  • Keys seem flimsy
  • Harness is rudimentary and could be replaced
  • Turns some heads but not all
  • No intersection visibility problems yet
  • Length/width is similar to bike+burly, width similar to snowblower
  • Can’t see front wheel with rain cover on (not a huge deal)
  • Plastic chainguard–will it hold up?
  • All in all, very satisfied so far


Babboe City Review, Part 1: Ordering and Shipping

Since I’ve wanted a cargo bike for some time now (and saved up my pennies), I finally placed an order for a Babboe City and two accessories (rain tent and toddler seat) with myamsterdambike.com (MAB) on Friday, February 9th. This post will summarize the update process on shipping. If you are planning to purchase from a local shop (and you should, if you have one that stocks cargo bikes), you can skip this post.

I plan to write a series of posts about this bike as it arrives, gets unboxed, assembled, and ridden. A more detailed post about “why buy a cargo bike” and “why this cargo bike” is planned as well.

Things got interesting when Package 1 was delivered, because it contained the rain tent for a Babboe Curve, not a Babboe City (which I had ordered). I emailed My Amsterdam Bike and they will be shipping a new rain tent.

The same tracking numbers are used by both DHL and USPS. I didn’t know USPS would be delivering beforehand, I only found out through one of the DHL updates. Your delivery may use different vendors. Only the accessories arrived via USPS; the bicycle arrived in three boxes directly from DHL.

It took 18 and 19 days for accessories to arrive, and 24 days for the bicycle itself.

Here are the data on shipping to East Grand Forks, MN (dates with no news are included so you can see the pace of updates).

  • Day 0 (2018-02-09)
    • Order submitted
  • Day 1
    • Received email confirmation of order, saying “2 to 3 weeks for delivery”
  • Day 2
  • Day 3
    • Email from DHL with two tracking numbers (Package 1 and Package 2), but comment only mentioned toddler seat.
  • Day 4
  • Day 5
  • Day 6
    • Package 1 processed in Dorsten, Germany
    • Package 2 processed in Dorsten, Germany
  • Day 7
    • Package 1 processed in Rodgau, Germany
    • Package 2 processed in Rodgau, Germany
    • Package 1 at the airport IPZ-Ffm, Germany
    • Package 2 at the airport IPZ-Ffm, Germany
  • Day 8
  • Day 9
  • Day 10
  • Day 11
  • Day 12
    • Package 2 processed in ISC CHICAGO IL (USPS)  
  • Day 13
    • Package 2 Inbound Out of Customs 
  • Day 14
    • Package 1 processed in ISC CHICAGO IL (USPS) 
    • Email from MAB: “Next week you will receive your tracking and the  estimated delivery date. I expect your bike to be delivered end of next week, or maybe beginning of the week after.”
  • Day 15
    • Package 1 Inbound Out of Customs 
  • Day 16
    • Package 1 In Transit to Next Facility 
  • Day 17
    • Package 1 In Transit to Next Facility 
    • Package 2 Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility WEST FARGO NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER (note that Package 2 skipped Chicago USPS…)
  • Day 18
    • Package 2 Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility GRAND FORKS ND DISTRIBUTION CENTER 
    • Package 2 Sorting Complete EAST GRAND FORKS, MN 56721
    • Package 1 In Transit to Next Facility (it’s weird how this package has very little detail about where it is, just that it’s moving)
    • Package 2 Out for Delivery EAST GRAND FORKS, MN 56721  
    • Package 2 delivered
  • Day 19
    • Package 1 Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility GRAND FORKS ND DISTRIBUTION CENTER  
    • Package 1 Arrived at Unit GRAND FORKS, ND 58201
    • Package 1 Sorting Complete EAST GRAND FORKS, MN 56721 
    • Package 1 delivered
    • I emailed to ask about the bike tracking number, since both packages I knew about had arrived.
  • Day 20 (2018-03-01)
    • Email from MAB: “The bike will be shipped this week (I think today) and will send you the tracking number as soon as receive it from the shipping company”
  • Day 21
    • DHL shipment created for Package 3 (rain tent for City)
  • Day 22
  • Day 23
  • Day 24
    • With no tracking code ever delivered to me, the bicycle arrives in a DHL van! So it was delivered according to the email way back on Day 14. Of note, DHL delivered during a snowstorm so I was actually home (actually outside shoveling) and able to sign for it. Not sure if they would have left the boxes otherwise.



Bonus: Grand Forks City Council on “Bicycle Craze”

Council Member Sande stated not aware when biking became rage in Grand Forks, that he keeps hearing about bicycling from a variety of people with variety of points of view, none seem cohesive and wondering what it would take to get us on the same page about the bicycle craze. The MPO, the engineering department and Trail Users all seem to have their own agendas and process, because heard tonight that we connected the loop, that we created the dead-end ourselves by approving the 42nd Street bikepath and then the 24th bikepath that went no-where in the first place, so if going to connect the loops, why did we make a non-loop in the first place,; great if could review our current ordinances, apparently there are some regulations where not supposed to ride bikes on sidewalks, an unenforceable ordinance – should look at that and should have a sub-committee, a task force, with regard to bicyclists and come together and get a good plan to see if could get on the same page.

From the April 7th minutes.

Not just about bicycles – explaining Complete Streets

Some visitors to this blog may be wondering what is meant by “complete streets,” when the majority of coverage has been about bicycles.  Part of the cycle-centricity stems from recent events: the idea of bikeshare in Grand Forks is a pretty big deal around here, so it’s interesting to write about.  Another part of the bicycling focus comes from my personal experiences: I’ve been bicycle commuting in Grand Forks for almost six and a half years, and commuting year-round for about five of those years.  My discussions with people so far this spring have been focused on making it easier for people to ride because that’s what I talk to my friends about.

It’s not just about bicycles, however.  We can all recognize that, for many people, bicycle commuting is not an option due to work scheduling, transporting more than a couple kids around at once, needing to move large items, injury or illness, disability, or a combination of these and many other factors.  We have different mode of transportation because they are all good for different things, and this is where the complete streets model comes in.  A good overview comes from the National Complete Streets Coaliton:

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

Creating complete streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads.By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists – making your town a better place to live.

Complete streets supporters aren’t against any particular mode of transportation, but they are anti-bad-design when it comes to public infrastructure.  “Bad design” refers (as shown above) to transportation that is automobile-centric, a condition shared by much of the country but not necessarily most of the world.  We aren’t out to tell you what choices to make, but we’re here to tell you that you can have choices, and those choices should be integrated into the public space.

Some examples of non-complete streets in Grand Forks include

  • The South Washington Street underpass, the deteriorating sidewalks of which make it nigh impassible for the elderly during the summer.  The lack of snow removal on those same sidewalks closes it off completely during the winter.
  • The DeMers overpass, which has no sidewalks at all.  There are only limited opportunities to cross the train tracks in town, and this one, near downtown, excludes anyone not in a motor vehicle.
  • Both ends of the University Avenue bike lane, which dump a rider onto the sidewalk after crossing 42nd Street or Columbia Road.
  • The 42nd Street railroad crossing, which backs up traffic, causing pedestrians and cyclists (also stopped by the train) to breathe the same exhaust that the drivers are stuck in.

There must be a reason for this, of course.  Altruism is not entirely at play here, and many complete streets advocates just want a place for themselves on the road where they won’t feel like they are going to die.  Additionally, however, there are a number of societal benefits from giving people choices when it comes to transportation, including (but not limited to)

  • Congestion reduction: more options means fitting more people in the road.  If it’s sunny, ride your bicycle.  If it’s raining, take the bus.  If you’re helping your grandmother move, drive your truck.
  • Economic growth: the more people you can get to your door, the more money you can make.  Why disregard the part of the community that rides a bicycle or walks?  Pedestrian malls formed by closing streets to vehicles often become commercial hotspots.
  • Healthier society: by allowing people to walk or ride, we’re making it easier for people to get the minimum amount of recommended daily physical activity.  For employers, healthier employees means fewer sick days.
  • Safety: by adding accessibility, drivers are required to pay greater attention, reduce speed, and lower the number of crashes.
  • Fiscal planning: by including complete streets designs early on new projects, money can be saved on making those same improvements later.

If these are ideas you can get behind, for yourself or for someone else, please do some more reading and start thinking about what we can do.  Of cities in North Dakota, only Fargo has at least some degree of policy relating to complete streets; with a little work, Grand Forks could be the first to design and implement a complete streets policy to make sure everyone is able to make the best transportation choices they can.

Fargo Bike Lane News

While Grand Forks discusses bikeshare and closing a section of University Avenue, our neighbors to the south are embroiled in a bitter bike lane battle.  A list of articles and current status of the project is being kept up by the Great Plains Cycling Club on their website.

What do you think of bike lanes?  Does the general lack of bike lanes in Grand Forks affect your choice of whether to travel by a certain route?  Are there any places in town you’d like to see lanes installed?

Grand Forks bikeshare survey results are out

Just a quick post to let people digest these responses.  The results are available as a PDF here, including all responses, not just aggregate data.  An FAQ PDF (which many survey respondents appear not to have read) is available from the Greater Grand Forks Greenway here.

Update: WDAZ had a story on this last night which thankfully details the type of system we might have here.

Roads are paid for by drivers, right?

“Why should we even allow cyclists on the roads?  They aren’t paying for them.”
Variations on this theme come up fairly regularly:  Drivers pay for roads through gas taxes and car registrations  Cyclists don’t need to pay out anything.  Why should we let people who aren’t paying for the roads use the roads?

Unfortunately, this argument rests on a false assumption: that all roads are paid for by user fees (gas taxes and registrations).  In fact, according to an article a few years ago on Streetsblog, “Between 1982 and 2007, the amount of federal highway revenue derived from non-users of the highway system has doubled.”  We are all paying for roads, regardless of whether drive or not, and identifying gas taxes as “user fees” is even under question.  Add to this the fact that many cyclists also own cars (and therefore pay “user fees”), and the argument against them using the roads falls apart even more.

So, as far as cycling infrastructure and complete streets development goes, getting even 1% of transportation funding has been an uphill battle.  By recognizing that this funding isn’t even fully supported by drivers we should be able to utilize it to support cycling- and pedestrian-related endeavors, in Grand Forks and beyond.

More Coverage of Possible Bikesharing System

Is something similar to Capital Bikeshare coming to Grand Forks, North Dakota?
(Photo by Daquella manera under a CC-Attribution license.)

Today’s editorial in the Herald has a few examples of similar systems (not just bikeshares) in place that are run by the government instead of the private sector and is generally supportive of the city considering (or even trying out) the idea.

The original story has already gathered over 80 comments, both for and against, but a number of those comments (as always) have to deal with the same tangential issues that always come up: how much the Alerus center cost, how bad the smell from Crystal Sugar is sometimes, and how people like to argue on the Internet.  I’m not going to count up the number in favor and against because I think the sample isn’t representative; the official survey closes today at five and I’m hoping for results next week.

Interestingly enough, New York City is only slightly ahead of us on the bikesharing front and are choosing where to place stations for a July launch.  They are following Boston, Denver, and Washington, D.C. as another large U.S. city providing this service as a partnership with a private company.  University of California, Irvine (about half the number of students as Grand Forks has people) has their own system.

Wikiposedly (and I have not had time to check), government-run systems do require subsidies in one form or another, typically through advertising on the bikes or sharing stations, however these monetary costs can be made up in other ways that benefit all residents: less automobile congestion, more exposure to the outdoors, more exercise, a stronger sense of community and, most importantly, transportation options.  Add to this the strong support Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood has shown for cyclists and pedestrians, it seems like we may finally be entering an age where non-motorists can claim their space on the street as equal.

I’m not sure that bikesharing in Grand Forks will work, but the fact that we’re even looking into it is good news.  Who knows?  We could get something Fargo doesn’t have.