Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Throw-In, Throw Down Results

The downside of hosting a bicycle polo tournament is that instead of focusing on playing, or in my case playing at all, one has to focus their energy on doing stuff.  Like making sure Vive doesn't drink all the beer.  Or making sure Sam has first aid for his boo boo.  Or telling people to stop acting like monkeys with mallets.   

Or making hats for the MVPs.  

Now sure, this hat-making nonsense happened the day before the tourney.  But I bring it up, in the context of potential burdens for  a tourney organizer, mostly because it's the only bit of the whole ordeal I managed to photograph.  


This was the fabric, in a lump sum, that I picked up in op-shops early Monday morning.   Old shirts, suits and dresses mostly. 

This is Scott and Caff, my fearless colleagues in bike hat-manufacturing.  You can see how the dynamic of this team goes... 

Things did become a bit sweat-shoppy, as evidenced by this photograph of Scott feverishly at work.  We labored the whole day through, 11 til 11.  
Again, hard at work.  This was our prototype, produced early in the day.  I think it brings out my eyes.    

In the end, I brought the hats from Scott's house back to my place to finish the work.  My roommate Emily had a bit of expertise for finishing the hats and by 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, they were ready for action. 

Though I completely failed at taking shots of the tournament itself, I did manage to snap a quick photo of the players warming up on the court.   Damon and a few others have some photos so stay tuned for the latest.  I'll post them here as they become available.  

Below are the tournament highlights along with a list of the rules (Adapted from our North American friends) which guided the tournament's structure.  

Thanks to everyone who came out and played, barbecued, and shared a laugh! 

These are the teams from yesterday’s tournament:
Team 1:
Scott, Melbourne, Captain
Leigh, Melbourne
Sam, Melbourne (Voted MVP)
Benny, Brisbane by way of Melbourne
Liam, Seaford OZ
Daryl, Seaford OZ
Bart, Melbourne
Simon, Seaford OZ

Team 2:
Damon, Melbourne, Captain
Niki, Belgium
Kez, Melbourne
Vive, Melbourne (Voted MVP)
Dan, U.K. by way of Melbourne
James, Seaford OZ
Caff, Melbourne
Thorin, Melbourne

Team 3:
Rob B., Melbourne, Captain
AJ, Melbourne
Rae, Melbourne (Voted MVP)
Tom, Belgium
Chris, Belgium
Maija, Toronto
Wade, Seaford
Will, Brisbane by way of Melbourne

The Day’s Highlights

The first game pitted team 1 against team 2 in a sixty minute bout of pure polo fury. After a fairly even first period, ending with team 2 leading by only two goals, team 2 quickly widened the gap and never looked back. At the end of game one, team 2 was victorious, winning 24 to 13. I would credit team 2’s victory to effective team play; namely, fluid substitutions and the ability to identify which players from their team were well suited to play specific players from team 1.

Game two saw the losing party from game one (team 1) taking on team 3. Again, the game stayed fairly close throughout the first period and a half, but then a lack of morale appeared to hinder team 1’s efforts. Having played polo for almost two straight hours, team 1 was undoubtedlyfatigued. But again, great team combinations from team 3’s bench led them to a 23 to 15 victory over team 1.

The final game saw team 2 and team 3, both victorious over team 1, squaring off in a very close, very exciting 60 minute polo match. The team play was quite good for both sides, and neither had a lead for very long at any point in the game. Defense was especially good, with heart-breaker shots being deflected or blocked at the last minute. The final minutes of the last (third) period were ferocious, with both teams putting forth their best efforts. Fast and carefully close physical play defined the closing minutes of the final match. With Team 2 behind by one goal in the final seconds of the game, a scuffle on Team 3’s end of the court led to a number of dabs and eventually a goal from Team 2. In the final seconds of the final match, Team 2 tied the game: 14 to 14. After a 5 minute break, the sudden death overtime match began: two on two, first goal wins.
Team 3 won the sudden death joust and immediately attacked. A fast and hard shot from team 3 was quickly deflected by team 2’s captain, Damon. After a bit of mid-court scuffling, team 2 took a shot and scored. Within 2 minutes of the start of sudden death, team 2 emerged victorious over team 3: 15 to 14.

Below you’ll find an adapted version of the rules for a Bench Tournament, adapted from the North American fellows preparing for a bench tourney in New York City.  

If you have any photos from the day, please post a link in the comments section.

Rules and Regs

Teams will consist of between 6 and 8 players. Teams can switch players in and out on the fly as long as there are only 3 active on the court at any time.

Game format
There will be three periods of 20 minutes per game. There will be a 2 min break in between periods, during which time each team will change to defend the opposite goal. The clock will stop only when the referee calls a penalty and after goals are scored.

A tie will result in a game restart with standard
“joust,” but teams play 2 on 2 in sudden death. Whichever team scores first gets 2 points, losers get 1 point.

Mallets and bikes must not have dangerous protrusions (bolts sticking out, jagged edges, etc), and must be capped on the handle/handlebars.

Helmets are required. There’s also plenty of other safety equipment out there. So don’t complain about your little fingers getting booboos when you could be wearing

Shots must come off the business end of the mallet, unless a defensive player shuffles (or deflects off their mallet) into their own goal. They can deflect off any number of wheels, bikes or walls. Shots that deflect off a teammate’s body are considered shuffles.

Shuffles do not count unless you are shuffling into your own net. That is an own-goal, and for this tournament you’ll have at least 5 other people pissed at you for doing this, instead of the standard 2.
After a goal is scored, both teams will have a chance to switch players. The referee will whistle to begin play.

Half court will be given to scored-on team: play starts when ball or scored-on player crosses half court.

If goal gets accidentally moved a referee will fix it. Play does not stop.

Rules and Penalties
The following section is set up to first present the rule, immediately followed by the penalty (along with a description of the penalty where necessary).

Rule: Footdown
Do not put your stupid foot on the ground. Also, touching the ball or your mallet with your foot while it’s not on your pedal is considered a footdown.

Penalty: Tapout
Hit your mallet on the cone at either midcourt location. If you miss it, you need to circle back and hit it right, or you will still be out. If you go back to bench instead of tapping out, you will not be required to tap in when re-entering game.

Rule: Delay of game
Remaining active after a foot down results in a delay of game penalty. Having too many active players on the court is also a delay of game.

Penalty: Ball turnover
For delay of game penalties, the ball is given to the non-offending team exactly the way possession is granted after a goal is scored. Both teams are allowed to switch players during this time. After the referee blows the whistle to signal
start of play, the penalized team will wait until the other team either crosses mid-court with a player or the ball.

Important: some penalties will result in either a one or two minute Power Play. A Power Play requires the offending team to play with only two players for either one or two minutes while the offended team can continue playing with three players. If the offending team within the current power play incurs a second penalty resulting in a second power play, the offending team will be required to play with only one player throughout the duration of the initial offense.

Power Play Penalties
The One Minute Power Play
This is for when players are intentionally breaking rules (slashing, roughing, interference) or accidentally being reckless (most hooking and high sticking). When the referee sees one of these rules broken and the offending team has possession of the ball, (s)he will whistle to stop play and call it immediately. Play will stop while that player exits to the bench (the penalized player cannot play for the entire minute, while the rest of the team can switch out players as necessary as long as they only have two players on the court). If the innocent team has the ball when the penalty occurs, the ref will raise his arm for a delayed call. He will wait until the rule-breaking team gets possession to blow the whistle and make the call (this is called a delayed penalty, it’s so the innocent team doesn’t have to slow their roll.

The only time the call will be waived off is if the innocent team has the ball while being say, slashed or roughed or whatever, and ends up scoring before the other team possesses the ball. After the call is made, the teams will be playing 3 on 2 for that whole minute unless the innocent team scores during the power play, at which time the rule-breaking team can go back to using 3 players (including the original rule-breaker).

Typically, a warning will precede a power play penalty call. Warnings will be issued only once.

Rule: Hooking or holding
This includes hooking an opponents bike or person with your mallet, or holding something you shouldn’t with your hand (handlebar, elbow, mallet etc.). “Chicken winging,”
or holding someone back with your elbow is a penalty. Hooking the crook of an opponents’ elbow with your own elbow while they are holding the handlebars may cause your opponent to crash. This will earn you a one-minute penalty.

Penalty: One Minute Power Play

Rule: Roughing
Hitting someone in the back, hitting someone above the shoulders, or punching or kicking someone pretty much anywhere is considered roughing. T-boning and just riding right into someone regardless of whether they have the ball is roughing. You big goon.

Penalty: One minute Power Play

Rule: Slashing
Please don’t hit anyone anywhere at anytime with your mallet. If it bumps into their legs or bike it’s fine, but if you take a swipe at the ball and it ends up on someone’s spokes or fingers, it will be called. Chopping mallets is allowed, however if you accidentally hit someone’s finger or bicycle a penalty will be called. You can defensively hook an opponent’s mallet, lift it, or hold their mallet down with your own mallet.

Penalty: One minute power play

Rule: Unsportsmanlike conduct
Throwing your mallet (or dropping it in a conveniently bad place), being an asshole to the referee, etc…
Penalty: One minute Power Play

Note: “The Two Minute Power Play Penalty” is saved for slashing that draws blood, roughing that causes substantial injury, or malleting that causes a lot of bike damage. Pretty much any call can be extended to 2 minutess if considered severe enough.

This is reserved for slashing or roughing calls that draw blood or otherwise serious injuries (up to the refs discretion- if you get little cuts on your leg or hand from random shit and you’re not wearing appropriate gloves or padding, you will be mocked for being a big baby). This will be served just like the one min penalty, but that player will have to be out for 2 minutes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Location of the Throw in, Throw Down Tourney

View Fishmarket Arena in a larger map

A bridge has been built on Footscray Rd. just in front of the Fishmarket.  We will play under this bridge. 

New Pedal Power posts will appear beneath this post until after the tournament.  Scroll down a bit for more bicycle musings. 

Drop me a line for more info. 

Monday, January 18, 2010


I've spoken with a few people from Toronto in the past couple months and almost all of them know Igor Kenk.  Some actually found a bike (at one time, their own) in the stacks of Kenk's pantheon of stolen rides. 

What a strange combination of enthusiasm for the bike, twisted bike theft nightmare, and serious doco formality.  

The video tells a compelling story about the love amongst people in North America for their bicycles, and the vision these bike freaks maintain in the face of increasing environmental concern.  Oh, and it also describes a maniacal bike theft magnate who often employed the mentally ill to do his dirty work.  

Perhaps a problem with the approach to the bicycle in North America, as seen here in this Canadian documentary, is that it's an approach laced with evident passion.  The average person does not and probably will not feel as passionate about riding a bicycle as the average North American bike nut.   But that does not mean said average person is passionless about neighborhoods and cities that boast a hospitable bicycle culture.

So I'm not sure the last bit, about how, "the outburst over lost bikes (Igor Kenk stole them!) revealed just how passionate cyclists are about their rides.  That passion is now fueling a global grassroots bike revolution, that's threatening a car, and will transform the future of transportation."

This "passion for our rides" may in fact be the sort of "fetishism" (to alter a phrase borrowed from Mikael Colville Andersen) with personal transport to which the average person is unlikely to relate.  

For example, bike theft in Copenhagen or Amsterdam is a familiar part of life.  In-convenient but often un-avoidable, bike theft plagues these bike culture capitals.  But because bicycles are so common, it's easy to find another one...and few are deeply upset about losing their city bike.  Because if the Danes and Dutch have a nice bike (and heaps of them do!), it lives inside and gets the double lock treatment when it ventures out.

A passion for bicycles will take us a long way.  But can it in fact "fuel a grassroots bike revolution?"  

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Among the many things my travels have shown me, I have seen that a goodly number of my American bike friends simply don't believe the United States can create world class bicycle cultures. 


Now, my friends and family have remained steadfast in reminding me why the City of Memphis is so far behind for bikes, so I've become well-versed in the arguments about why we'll never be a world class bike city.   

Bike lanes are expensive.  Our cities are already strapped for cash, and in the current fiscal crisis why should we expect our political leaders to designate money for bicycle infrastructure?  It simply costs too much.   

Fortunately, this is a myth.  Bicycles are always the winner in a cost benefit analysis, as our friends at Bicycle Victoria show us here. 

Even the Copenhagen style lanes recently installed on Swanston St. in Melbourne, at a cost of $550,000 AUD for approximately 2 kilometers, is still a fraction of the cost required to create a similar stretch of car lane (see above link).  Given that bicycle lanes have the capacity to accommodate up to 8 times more users per unit of land used than do car lanes, a simple cost/benefit analysis shows that bicycle infrastructure is the more fiscally prudent expenditure per person.  And I didn't even mention the revenue generated by savings on public health costs. 

But maybe you've heard this one: the distances are too great in the United States.  We'll never be able to get where we need to go on a bike because we simply have too far to go.  Actually, 40% of trips made in America are less than 2 miles, and 80% of these trips are done in a personal motor vehicle.  Think about our Western world bicycle models, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  Approximately 37% of all trips made in these cities each day are done on a bicycle.  If Americans focused on taking the bike for the short trips--the trips of 2 miles or less--our cities might boast bicycle commuting numbers similar to those of Western Europe's bike culture crown jewels. 

Now I know you've heard this one: it's the weather.  It's too hot, or too cold, or too rainy to expect people will ever use the bicycle for a commute.  I mean, you people in Memphis are freezing right now, right?  17 degrees Fahrenheit a couple days ago (-8 Celsius)?   While it would be foolish to argue that the average person enjoys riding a bicycle in freeing rain, many studies conclude that weather has less of an impact on ridership than is speculated.  None of the studies go so far as to say weather is not important.  In fact, 33% of Copenhageners report that rainy days are the most influential factor in their decision to take the bus (see page 12).  Still, weather is not an impenetrable barrier to the creation of bicycle cultures. 

But's dangerous to ride a bike in traffic.  Those drivers out there--they're just out of control.  And the drivers in (insert your city name here) are the absolute worst!  How can I be expected to jeopardize life and limb just so I can ride a bike...and for God's sake it's 17 degrees Fahrenheit?!    

Unfortunately, a large part of the problem in America is traffic safety.  The average person does not feel safe riding their bicycle on an American roadway...even over a distance of 2 miles.  As scholars John Pucher and Lewis Dijkstra report, "the neglect of pedestrian and bicycling safety in the United States has made these modes dangerous ways of getting around.  Pedestrian fatalities are 36 times higher than car occupant fatalities per km traveled, and bicycling fatalities are 11 times higher than car occupant fatalities per km."     

Perhaps at this point, we can call upon on an old Danish fisherman's adage to frame the way we might deal with this substantial barrier to bicycle riding: "there's no such thing as bad weather," the saying goes, "just bad clothes." 

More than a cheeky, "suck-it up" catch phrase from some smarty-pants Dane, the phrase reflects a commitment and determination to find solutions to seemingly built-in barriers and contextual limitations.   

The problem of safety, as with many of the other barriers listed above, is not a permanent feature of urbanized human civilization.  It can, in fact, be overcome through a commitment to creating safe bicycle cities.  In a paper released this past year, Pucher and his co-authors Jennifer Dill and Susan Handy report "Berlin, for example, almost quadrupled the number of bicycle trips between 1970 and 2001 and doubled the bicycle share of trips from 5% in 1990 to 10% in 2007. In spite of the sharp rise in bicycling, serious injuries in Berlin fell by 38% from 1992 to 2006. In only six years, the bicycle share of trips within the City of Paris more than doubled from 1% in 2001 to 2.5% in 2007. The bicycle share of trips in Bogota (Colombia) quadrupled from 0.8% in 1995 to 3.2% in 2006. The total number of bicycle trips in London doubled between 2000 and 2008, while bicyclist injuries fell by 12% over the same period. Amsterdam raised the bicycle share of trips from 25% in 1970 to 37% in 2005; serious bicyclist injuries fell by 40% between 1985 and 2005. From 1995 to 2003, the bicycle share of trips in Copenhagen rose from 25% to 38% among those aged 40 years and older. Yet, there was a 60% decline in serious injuries."  

In short, not only is it possible to get more people on bicycles more often, but making bicycle travel a tenable possibility for the average person creates safer road conditions in urban areas.  As for domestic numbers, this site shows us that Minneapolis, one of the coldest urban areas in the U.S., almost doubled it's mode share from 2007-2008. 

So how did they do it?  How did these cities across the globe, from a variety of cultures and over a slew of geographical landscapes, make bicycle use a tangible possibility for their populace?  

Pucher's paper attempts to answer this question.  He points to dozens of strategies from around the globe that have been used to increase bicycle travel.  Have a look...I found it quite refreshing to see so many different kinds of strategies all presented together, explained in detail and evaluated empirically for their effectiveness.  

His conclusions?  It wasn't infrastructure, education, or marketing that made the difference.  It was, in fact, all of these and none of these factors concurrently. 

There can be no silver bullet for creating bicycle cultures, and Pucher warns us against blindly applying the same policy prescriptions in Copenhagen that you would use in Memphis: "the very same infrastructure provision, program, or policy might have different impacts on bicycling in different contexts, making it risky to generalize about the effectiveness of any individual measure."  

Pucher confirms what most of us know on a gut level: it's neither bike lanes nor bike tracks nor ride to school programs alone that promise to increase the overall level of bicycling in a city.  Rather, it's a commitment to pursuing a variety of context sensitive strategies aimed at making bicycling a possibility for the average person.  

It's commitment.  And commitment means finding the opportunities within each barrier rather than simply focusing on the barrier itself.  Weather, for example, changes.  Some days are beautiful for riding a bike while others are abysmal.  In Melbourne two days ago it was 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).  Today, it's 19 (66.2). 

The point then, and ironically this is perhaps why my American friends have felt challenged by models around the world, is that a commitment to identifying barriers to bike culture growth is perhaps the most important step in sparking that growth.  

Educating ourselves about how cities across the globe have used bike tracks, environmental concerns, sharrows, cycling education and bike design manuals to effectively overcome weather patterns, geography, lethargic lifestyles and cultural intolerance to bicycle travel holds the key to the future of bicycle cultures in America.     

So while it's important to debate which kinds of interventions work best, I'm contending that it is un-helpful to argue that *some* kind of intervention can create the same kinds of world class bicycle cultures in America found in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.  

This differentiation, this distinction between innovation and stagnation, is the difference between cities that have and have not committed to moving by bike.

Milwaukee Bike Polo--Arrested!

The culprits....

I've really got very little commentary to add to this...just read the stories and enjoy the sheer ridiculous nature of the whole ordeal.  

A local Fox news story about the arrests:


 A fantastic video illustrating the beautiful tragedy of the whole thing:


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Throw in, Throw Down

Get ready, Melbourne.

Dedicated to Hurting Cyclists

We still have a long way to go, folks.  

It's disturbing that this page exists in the first place, but it's more disturbing that more than 20,000 people have become fans.  Take a second and report the page to the Facebook authorities. 

This, for me, reinforces the need for good bicycle infrastructure.  When space is designated for bicycles in the roadway, both bikes and cars are encouraged to stay in their place--which means it's less fashionable to tell them to get on the sidewalk or on a shared-use path.  And as the bike lanes pile up, drivers become increasingly aware of both the need to drive safely around bicycles and the strategies required to maintain road safety.  Still, an increase in bicycle facilities doesn't necessarily mean motorists become more tolerant...In Amsterdam, there were heaps of drivers publicly hating on the bicycle riders.   

Another thing also becomes a bit more clear when bicycle infrastructure is created: who is at fault in bike/car collisions.  Unless of course you're riding through an intersection in Portland which doesn't have a dashed line that signifies the continuation of a bike lane.

Keep those wheels turning...and don't forget to shake them haters off.