Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ride for Foundry - Why I Cycle

My inspiration for why I ride: Dad with the Trek 730
Why I Cycle - A Brief History
Bicycling to me is a means of transport first and foremost, but it has become a lot bigger part of my life than I ever thought it would. I was taught that first principle by my father's example. I was raised in North Portland, born long before my fair city was known for its cycling culture. My family lived modestly, scraping by financially. While we didn't keep up with the Jones', I considered us wealthy because we lived happily. My father started riding his bike to work shortly after he stopped smoking and about the time my mom's work commute took her and the old Volkswagen Beetle in the opposite direction from where he worked. My father may be the most frugal man on the planet and the second job that he worked didn't always match the hours of the local bus service. Besides, riding his bike was cheaper than the bus and he could get home faster on the bike. All this transpired about the same time that Portland got its first bike lane.

They don't close down Interstate freeway bridges
for biking events in Texas (at least not in 1998!)
I watched his example and grew from that experience, taking the bus during my high school years and getting my first bike when I was headed off to college (It was a black Schwinn Crisscross). I cycled a bit in college, but it wasn't until moving to Texas (for graduate school) that I realized how different Portland was as a community. This realization coincided with my studies in transportation engineering and a realization that a lot of the work that I had done to design transportation facilities were exclusive of considerations for bikes and hardly considering ways to make transit faster. At the same time, there was a lot of talk about getting people on transit and biking more and I found that my message would ring true if I practiced what I "preached".

I have been commuting to work by bike for the past 14 years and now am to the point where I never miss a day. I really enjoy the exercise it affords me and the time to connect with the natural environment. Cycling is great on so many levels and I enjoy sharing my experiences with others. I have become a bit of a bike commuting evangelist encouraging colleagues to give it a try.

Does Peter Work as Hard as he Plays?
No, but I work really hard. Today, I find myself working for the City of Portland as the Traffic Signals engineer, directing the design of transportation facilities and ultimately trying to implement the policies of my hometown.  I am passionate about what bicycles can do for a community, having seen how far Portland has come in the last ten years. I ride my Trek Portland most places throughout the city to meetings and I get odd looks an awful lot. The work that I do is something that I constantly write about on my blog: rEvolving Transportation.

My blog captures my professional interests: traffic signals,
bicycles, technology and other articles of note

I enjoy my work, so it seems like play. I am also competitive and I like to lead the way. One professional goal is to design signals and transportation facilities that not only accommodate bikes (transit, pedestrians, & freight), but also  encourage people to ride because they find them intuitive, safe, and a great way to get exercise with their friends and family. There has been a lot of work done in Portland from which to build off of. Signal timing is another part of my job and I consider it an important detail for how the City works. The signal timing should be set to meet cyclists needs (this link is downtown SW 4th Avenue) and they should be allowed to address cyclist needs. We didn't do this for cyclists actually, it was mainly to make downtown a more livable space (keeping traffic speeds safe and consistent), but it is an example of what I like to consider as conceptually how we should design our cities.

Cyclocross and Cycling Clubs: Making Cycling Social
Beyond work, it is clear that I have unduly influenced my wife (Susan) and kids so much that in doing so, they sometimes surpass my interest in bikes with their own. Susan took up road racing and cyclocross this past year and dragged me into two cyclocross races, getting me addicted to the excitement, camaraderie, culture, and absurdity (at times) of the event. The ridiculously muddy and sloppy conditions make for a perfect challenge for anyone who attempts to race (more on that later). Her cycling club has inspired the development of mine, Sellwood Cycling Club, which has turned into a social group that has over 30 members with jerseys.
The design of the Sellwood Cycling Club came as a result of my
goal to create community around the neighborhood making
social connections that were lacking.

Our local dealer Sellwood Cycle Repair doesn't have Foundry bikes yet, but when I recently thought it may be time to replace my beloved Trek Portland, they said I needed to check out the Auger Cross bike because it just seemed like... "knowing you it is what you would ride". My wife didn't blink an eye and said "it's like your car and you ride it so much it's worth the investment. Besides, you should have something that you'll enjoy". That got me interested enough to find the website and write this application.

A Portland Centric Bike Snob No Longer
Before travelling to Minneapolis almost two years ago for work, I scoffed at the thought of Minneapolis taking the top spot as #1 City for cycling in the U.S. and would have been elitist at the thought of a Minnesotan based bike and not a Portland handmade beauty as my next bike. In retrospect that's a bit odd becuase my family has been loyal to Wisconsin based Trek since my Dad scooped up a Multitrack 730 hybrid in 1995 and the Trek Portland was still made in the U.S (back in 2007). I guess that's before the Hand Built Bike Craze picked up steam and I started streaming BikePortland as our household's primary news source.

We're used to talking about our bikes, there's nothing
that gets people talking quicker than a Dutch Bakfiets!
The Civia Loring is a real eye catcher at the racks
where our kids go to school
The sole exception to the Trek stronghold was broken when my wife added to her fleet of bikes last year, picking up a Civia Loring after I insisted that she spend the extra few bucks for the coolest bike that we'd seen in our shopping efforts.  Civia had me at the bamboo fenders and the beautiful front rack that makes the bike a conversational piece at the grocery store, the school playground, coffee shop, really where ever we go! I get to ride it only so often, but when I do it is fun to tell stories of the bike search and I would be happy to do the same with the Foundry bike. It probably won't get as many looks and comments as the bakfiets we got in 2008, but this contest is a different animal.

Why Select Peter? Shameless Marketing on a Team Kit, Blogging and Social Media, and a Laughable How Not To or Why Not Column for Riding a Foundry
So, just to start the conversation on why me? and to show my commitment for getting the word out about Foundry, I would commit to having the Sellwood Cycling Club complete our kit with shorts that have the Foundry logo on the back (I would organize the club to make arrangements for this since I am the leader of the jersey production). We'd get our local designer to work with your folks on a sweet design that would make a statement in the Cyclocross events and road rides we attend. I think the black motif we've got going would look good with the bike and at the very least we could mix a Foundry logoed cycling cap into the team's kit as well.

I hope you enjoyed my entry and it's worth considering. I am not sure this tells a complete story about what bike I would want and how I would come up with a complete Foundry Tradesman concept, but here's an a few final thoughts based on my experience in the blogosphere, twitterverse, YouTube, and Facebook. I would propose a series of how to videos on cycling infrastructure brought to you by Foundry. It would explain some of the treatments we've used in Portland and could be shared with bike advocates across the country. These would be done on a weekend (don't want to conflict with my day job) at least once a month soft of like what I have done on my blog, although with a little friendly reminder about Foundry (picture of the bike set up as my normal commuter on the infrastructure using creative product placement).

Another option or addition to the previous concept is that since I plan to race cross and I am a beginner, it would be fun to share experiences about this (use a helmet cam) and demonstrate how versatile the bike is (transition from previous concept).

A great example of how not to take a corner in Cyclocross!

Features could be described to me by local shop and cross guru Erik Tonkin of Sellwood Cycle Repair and I think it would be quite comical for me to show how not to do some of things he teaches me as I go.   I might beg local cross videographer and neighbor Dan Kaufman of  for a bit of his time to help with editing and to share the videos on his nightly BikeCheck show.

Lastly, I plan to ride the bike whereever I can. I commuted and toured almost 5,000 miles last year and so I am on the bike a lot. The longer century rides will still be on my Madone most likely, but it would be fun to use this bike and give my old Trek Portland a rest.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to the news!