Monday, May 24, 2010

Memphis' First Bike to Work Day a Success!

Even the NBA was talking about Memphis' Bike to Work week, as two Memphis favorites pedaled around the city this past Friday: "(Memphis) Grizzlies Team Mascot (The) Grizz will escort Mayor AC Wharton by bike from City Hall down Main Street to Court Square for the National Bike to Work Day Rally at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 21."

At Court Square, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. addressed a crowd with enthusiastic support for increased biking in Memphis.  Later, he tweeted: "Great Bike-To-Work celebration in Court Sq! Memphis will have many more miles of bike lanes in the next year."

A commitment from the Mayor to improve the city for bikes on Bike to Work Day after he rode his bike from City Hall.  Not too bad, Memphis.  

The Commercial appeal noted that Bike to Work Day was a "pedal stroke in the right direction" for the city: "What these events could demonstrate is that the future of cycling in Memphis looks good."
 (Picture care of Michael McMullan, Memphis Commercial Appeal)

On Friday, May 21 the CA shared the story of Tim Flack, a City Prosecutor who uses MATA buses--along with his bike--to commute each day.  "Thanks to a newly completed program by the Memphis Area Transit Authority, almost every day for Flack is "Bike-To-Work Day" — as today is being observed nationally. MATA now has bike racks on all 150 of its fixed-route buses."

The Memphis Flyer published an article on its "In the Bluff" blog about the city's support support for Bike To Work Day.  "We'd just like for people to get on their bikes," (Dawn) Vinson (of the Center City Commission) said. "You don't have to be on it every single day or give up your car in all kinds of weather. But if you just did it when it was convenient — errands in a two-mile radius — that would have such a significant impact. I'm not just talking on the environment, but on health and temperament, as well."

Memphis, it seems, is on the move.  Will the River City, in the past called "the city of good abode," soon become a city of choice by including bikes and pedestrians in every aspect of its development? 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where it all Started

It was London, actually.  And this tournament in particular:  

Well, more than just the tournament, it was the community and the people and the films and the city all combined into one that led me to love bicycle polo.  The Bike Polo Tournament at the London Bicycle Film Festival in September 2009 was the beginning of my addiction to bicycle polo because the community was so strong and the people were kind.  Plus the polo was amazing.  People slaying and people playing some of their first games for hours and hours and hours at the Downham courts.  The day before the tournament, we played all day.  The day after, too.  

Go London.  Keep up the good work.  I'll see you at the Worlds.   

Bike Polo, Sacramento CA

A nice film on Bike Polo in Sacramento, CA.  It hits most of the high points about the culture: being with your friends, making new friends, playing across the world, enjoying the bicycle, having a drink (or two).  Good stuff.  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Bicimaquinas (Bike Machines)

...And we're back. 

Though I left Guatemala more than 3 weeks ago, I want to offer you one last post about Maya Pedal.  In particular, my experience with the machines.  
This picture kinda nails my experience with the machines at Maya Pedal (though its actually Nick in the picture).  Because I was a new volunteer at MayaPedal, I spent my time working on the basic bits for the machines, or in this case, preparing the concrete foundation for a bicibomba.  

But actually, gathering the materials to mix the cement may have been the most entertaining part of the process.  Walking first to a small hardware store just a block or so from MayaPedal, we were told there was no cement mix in stock.  En route to hardware store number 2 it became clear that we were leaving the neighborhood. Fortunately, HW Store number 2 had the cement.  Unfortunately, we had to carry it back to the shop.  Straining under the load Victor, Nick and I shared the bag for a good minute and a half.  That was plenty of time for for us each to realize we weren't carrying a 50 kilo bag of concrete back up the hill to MayaPedal.  

A white pick up was passing just as we had this collective revelation.  We kinda hailed the truck (or more precisely the group in the truck offered us a ride when they saw our unfortunate situation), and we hitched a ride back to the shop.  The mixing you saw above soon ensued.  
We built these two frames to hold our cement soup.  The bicycle is held in place by marco number one (featuring Victor) while marco number two sits atop the well opening and draws the water up through the plastic PVC pipe seen in the background (featuring the fabulous wool stuff maker, Don).  
After preparing the bicibomba, we took a trip into the highlands around San Andres Itzapa, twisting and turning along the sides of major ridges in the countryside on our way to a small farm.  

We unpacked, carried the two very heavy, very much solid concrete slabs to the well dug and prepared for installation.    

Here, Victor checks the depth of the well.  

Unfortunately, though, on this day, no bicycle water pump was installed in the Guatemalan countryside.   The well was too dirty, which we found after sending our host into the depths in an effort to clean it out. 

But if we had installed the well, it would have looked something like this: 
The water pumps are a great idea, and they save heaps of time and effort on the part of Guatemalan farmers.  The tough part is they're quite labor intensive to build...which means they're pricey to own.  The rope seen in the front of the pump, for example, has nudos--or knots--that should all be tied by hand.  Not to mention the welding of the frames, the construction of the bases and installation. 

On a simpler note, one of the coolest machines around the shop was the bicimolino, or corn grinder. 
This is receptacle for the unknowing corn, the place where said corn is ground to a hull while the useful corn drains off into a basket.  The bicimolinos and the biciliquadora, seen below, are among the less expensive and more popular bicimaqunas
Things became particularly exciting when the bicilavadora rolled into production in my third week at MayaPedal.  Now we're talking: an incentive to wash clothes!  For me, washing clothes is among the least fun things in the world.  You've got to wait for the clothes to finish in the wash, then transfer them to the line or dryer, then fold them when after they're dry and finally put them away.  Blaahhhh.  I can't be bothered to do all that.  

But I am keen to use a bicilavadroa to wash my clothes!  Below you'll see the red metal barrel with a smaller blue plastic barrel on the inside.  The blue barrel, driven by the bike, contains your clothes, and within it turns the red barrel.  Pretty keen design!  
While these machines are a fair representation of MayaPedal's production, the workshop is always near bursting with innovation.  The small, electric powered welder is almost always fusing metal while the angle grinder is constantly grinding parts into ingenious and useful shapes. 

I'll be giving a Pecha Kucha presentation on bike machines at this year's Velo City Global Conference, which I'll certainly post to this blog after it's completion.  But in the meantime, have a stroll over to to have a read or look at some blueprints for bicimaqunias.