What is Prohab and Who Are These Ladies in Helmets?

Vancouver based Prohab Helmet Society is a non-profit incorporation that donates helmets to the Vancouver area community. In British Columbia, where helmet use is mandatory, the Prohab Helmet Society is working with partners to provide helmets to those without.

To raise funds for their 2011 campaign the Society has crafted a calendar featuring cycling beauties wearing their helmets.

To show your support and help provide helmets to those without you can purchase the 2011 calendar here: Prohab Society Calendar

Image via The Deadly Nightshades

Mikael Colville-Andersen on Cycling at TEDx Copenhagen

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize

Elsewhere Observed: Cycling in Peru

Machu PicchuOver two spectacular weeks, my girlfriend and I traveled through Peru. From Spanish Colonial churches perched upon Inca ruins to winding dirt roads connecting tour groups and local farmers, Peru is both modern and firmly rooted in history.

While two weeks isn’t long enough to truly capture and understand how Peruvians use bicycles, evidence of their use is around every corner.

Narrow, cobblestone roads, pushy drivers and plenty of hills in Arequipa and Cusco meant that not many locals used a bicycle as primary transportation.

Independent mini bus companies and low-priced taxi services (at least for tourists) carry office workers, school children and anyone in between to and from work and school.

While we did see quite a few personal vehicles, the city streets are dominated by mini taxis, mini buses, massive tour buses, delivery vehicles and motorcycles. Stop signs are almost always optional, street lights are few and far between and the pedestrian never has the right of way. More often than not I’d encounter tourists stranded at intersections, watching on as locals quickly jumped and ducked around whizzing cabs. Young and old, you have to be aware of your surroundings on the streets of Arequipa and Cusco. While this felt exceptionally dangerous, I never did see a collision, but as I said, two weeks isn’t nearly enough time to truly understand how this traffic situation works.

Lima, Peru’s capital and largest city, was our flight hub to and from the country. We spent just a few hours here and it was our first encounter with non-stop rushing Peruvian traffic. Our taxi from the airport took us along a developing portion of Lima’s shoreline. Amidst piles of dirt, soccer fields, a long bicycle and pedestrian path and other public spaces are slowly taking shape.

In the neighbourhood of Miraflores, we encountered one piece of urban cycling infrastructure, a coloured portion of sidewalk for cyclists. This was the first and last time we’d find cycling infrastructure in Peru:

Lima Bike Path

From Lima we flew to Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city:

Taxi Arequipa

The streets here are simply swarming with small taxis like the Daewoo pictured above. However, being Peru’s second largest city and a major tourist hub connecting to nearby volcanoes and the stunning Colca Canyon, there’s also a pedestrian-only street lined with shops and restaurants (don’t let the Scotiabank fool you, this is Arequipa, Peru):

Arequipa Pedestrian Boulevard

The majority of bicycles we saw here were to promote downhill cycling trips down nearby Misti volcano. The few we did see were always mountain bikes. This makes great sense when you see the road conditions here. In a matter of only metres you could travel bouncy dirt roads, washboard cobblestones and a smoothly paved street or two.

Bicycle Parking Arequipa

Other than the mountain bike, there is another bicycle that you’ll find in every market throughout Peru. Three-wheeled cargo bikes, or bakfiets, transport tourist tchotchkes, local produce, children and most anything else you could buy. These two were spotted in the busy market in Chivay:

Cargo Tricycles Chivay

And this one in use in Ollantaytambo:

Unloading Cargo Trike Ollantaytambo

While I was often tempted to take one of these cargo bikes for a spin, we had something else planned. The journey to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu can be made in many ways. You can sit for hours on a bumpy bus and then slow moving train. You can trek along the popular Inca Trail, camping under the stars and follow a path used hundreds of years ago. Or, you can save yourself a little money and take an alternate route through small villages. We joined Lorenzo Expeditions (Inka Jungle Trail with a “K”) for 4 days and 3 nights starting with a bike ride down a winding mountain road.

Mountain Bikes

Buses delivered our groups to the Abra de Malaga Pass, 4317m above sea level.

Abra de Malaga Pass

Our destination, accessible by winding roads, was the village of Santa Maria, 1,430m above sea level.

The Way Down

The ride is disarmingly calm, except when transport trucks and tour buses scream past you in either direction. Safety gear on this trip is required, including helmet, full gloves, shin and elbow pads and neon visibility vest:

Safety Gear and Sunshine

Glaciers nearby and a bit of clouds meant the start of this ride was pretty chilly:

Clouds Glacier Bicycle

Winding Road Down

The end, however, nearly 3 km straight down was in the jungle, which required the immediate shedding of layers:

At Rest in the Jungle

In the end, after you’ve hiked up and down mountains and followed a riverbed before reaching Machu Picchu, you’ll to find a refreshing ice cream treat, delivered by bicycle:

Ice Cream Bicycle Cusco

Do you bike to shop? Let business owners know!


Via Third Wave Cycling Blog:

Bike Helmets on Customers Exposes Unnoticed Business For Retailers

January 11, 2010 by Jack Becker

We received an email earlier last week from the local ratepayers’ group:

There has been a request from VANOC and the Olympic committee asking Citygate and False Creek residents to keep their festive lights up and on throughout the Olympics so the world can see us.

Presumably this request can even include the festive Christmas lights that some boat owners festoon their masts along the waterfront.

What would be an equivalent, visibility tactic for the cycling community to announce the significance of cyclists?

It could be as simple as keeping your helmet on your head when you are shopping.  This action would go a long way towards changing the perception of local business retailers that their customer base and retail sales comes from car drivers.  It may start stopping retailers’ complaints any time that a new bike lane at their store entrance takes away more street car parking.  It may start retailer action to call for more storefront bike parking racks.  It may change perception that cyclists in a store does not contribute to the bottom line of retailer sales and profitability.  A “helmet-on-campaign-while shopping” would remind retailers that cyclists do comprise more of their customer base than retailers might realize.

Cyclists do shop, contribute to local businesses and the economy. Like everyone else, they still consume products and services.  In fact, cyclists, without the burden of paying for car maintenance, may have more money available for shopping.

In downtown Toronto, there has been an ongoing debate on implementation of a bike lane on the busy Bloor Street west of Spadina  Rd., an area  known  as the “Annex”.  For many decades and still now, the Annex is a gentrified neighbourhood with busy cafes, restaurants, independent shops, community centre and services that draw patrons and convivial street life.

A recent study of 61 local merchants, 531 patrons, and parking space use, revealed only 10% of patrons drive to the Bloor-Annex area. Pedestrians and cyclists were spending more money than the drivers.  This is not surprising since the area is served by 3 different subway station exits, feeder bus lines and an established bike lane grid in this Bloor St neighbourhood.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, the Canada Line opened in late August 2009.  Now changes in customer levels have been noted to be modest for businesses along the Canada Line on Cambie St.   Businesses closer to stations have seen an increase in foot traffic.  The full effect of a switch from car-based shopping to people-based shopping takes time.  It takes more than a full year business cycle for commuters to establish changes in their transportation choice, travel and shopping patterns.

Since no one is constantly monitoring where bikes are locked up outside  shops, then the bike helmet is the beacon to signal retailers that another customer that just arrived –in a different way.

Since cycling is on the rise in Toronto, it’s time to make yourself visible to shop owners who apparently don’t believe that cyclists and pedestrians are good for business. Carry your bike helmet, keep your pant leg reflector on and make sure to mention how much you appreciate the bike parking or bike lane you found nearby.

Photo via Flickr user Life in a Lens

How to Get Teenage Girls on Bikes; Focus on Something More Than Beauty

Recently, Scientific American released a much talked about article stating that in order to assess the “bikeability” of a city, you simply count the number of women on bikes. The conclusion is that the safer the city is for cycling, the more women you’ll have on bikes.
In Canada, women make up just 30 percent of cyclists and in Toronto under 2 percent of the population choose bicycles as their main transportation choice. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
To make cycling a more “attractive” option for women in the UK, campaigns are popping up that place emphasis on looking good while cycling. However, is this the only concern keeping young girls off their bikes? Sarah Phillips says, “no.”

What’s stopping teenage girls from riding bikes?

Campaigns to get women cycling seem to focus on how to look good over other concerns. Is this really all girls care about?

Posted by Sarah Phillips

Teenage girls don’t ride bikes. Or so says the Darlington Media Group, who have set about trying to rectify the problem with a campaign to get young women cycling.

Several years ago, the National Children’s Bureau published research that revealed that on average, boys cycle 138 miles a year and girls only 24 miles. This still rings true. Christie Rae, 16, from Newcastle told me: “I do have a bike, but I don’t really use it. Only sometimes in the summer when my friends and I cycle round to see each other. I don’t know many girls that do, actually.”

Darlington’s project began with the production of a documentary called Beauty and the Bike, chronicling a trip made by a group of teenage girls to Bremen in Germany, where they met their cycling-loving peers and found out about the joys of the open road. It all sounds slightly twee, but addresses the important issue that girls tend to get to a certain age and it’s no longer the done thing to get about by bike.

I have every admiration for such attempt to get women enjoying the numerous benefits of cycling, but what is frustrating is the focus on appearance that is often so integral to said schemes. Aside from the title, BATB, which incidentally has been used for a similar scheme in the past, Darlington’s site makes it clear they are keen to address the important issue of remaining fashionable while cycling. But as I recall, it was an overprotective mother that stopped me from spending too much time around the bike sheds in my teenage years, rather than any personal concerns over the way I looked.

Another offender is the site Bike Belles, run by the otherwise excellent charity Sustrans, which encourages women of all ages to take up cycling. One helpful section dedicated to beauty tips provides such gems as: “Use waterproof mascara when it’s raining on your bike, and take a powder compact for a quick refresher on arrival.” Admittedly, I write as someone who occasionally arrives at the office sporting a minor oil slick on my face, but I sincerely doubt that women are so image conscious that this is what is stopping them. As many a female cyclist will confirm, it is more hassle than it’s worth looking attractive while travelling by bike.

Aside from fashion tips, the beauty bikers and belles both voice concerns over the lack of decent cycle lanes and safety issues that make our roads a wholly unappealing prospect. Those two are serious issues that would put inexperienced riders off, and are much more worthy of a campaign to get people, regardless of gender, on their bikes.

Discuss this topic in the BikingToronto Forum

NYC Commuter Helmet – Let’s see a YYZ version

Bicycle helmets can be really ugly. And personally, I think the super-vent, NASCAR colour versions that are saturating the market all sit too high on my head. While I’m using a skate-style helmet now, I’m not too sure how my ears are going to hold up once the temperature drops.

A project commissioned by the City of New York has set out to encourage the average commuter to wear a functional, and in my opinion, pretty good looking helmet.

Designed by fuseproject, cyclists can customize the look and function of their helmets by adding and removing visors and full covers depending on the weather.

NYC Helmet Visor

NYC Helmet Green Cover

This looks like something that could really take off outside of NYC.
What do you think of the NYC Helmet?

Via Greenwala

What’s Your Excuse?

It wasn’t until a close friend was hit by a car that I started to regularly wear my helmet.

Before he ended up in the hospital I didn’t personally know anyone who had been seriously injured on a bicycle. I’d raced throughout high school and had a bike with me during every university move and not a single person I knew had anything more than a few scrapes and bruises after minor falls.

Out of site, out of mind.

However, after witnessing the lengthy recovery my friend went through, although he never suffered a head injury, well, that was enough to get me to start wearing a helmet.

For me, a helmet helps me have “peace of mind” during my commute and day to day errands. I don’t really feel protected, as I never want to test out the effectiveness of my brain bucket. Instead, wearing a helmet has simply become part of my routine. My bike ride feels naked without my two locks and my helmet firmly on my head.

Recently, a “Helmet Patrol Program” was launched in York Region. Cyclists wearing helmets were rewarded with gift certificates and draw entries while those who sported a bare head were given discount coupons towards the purchase of a helmet.

From the article:

Our younger residents are complying, somewhat, but why aren’t the adults protecting themselves from potential harm?

The most prevalent reasons in Stouffville were because they don’t have to and because he/she believed themselves to a good cyclist.

Read you can read the article here and then join the discussion about cycling safety and helmets in the forum.