New Amsterdam

From 1624 to 1664, New York was known as New Amsterdam. Take a look at the video below for a glimpse of how the modern New York could – given the will and the cash – become as bicycle-friendly as old Amsterdam:

This is an inspiring film on so many levels. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots show what’s possible and how even an auto-centric city can be – partially – transformed when urban politicians and city planners wish it so.

Streetfilms reports that the ‘Budnick Bikeway’ has boosted the number of cyclists using the Manhattan Bridge bridge from 800 to more than 2,600 each day. And no more need for bravery medals.

It. Can. Be. Done.

Eye-opening eye candy: HOME, the full movie

Below, for your clicking pleasure, is HOME, a 1.5 hour movie about Planet Earth. It’s eye-candy, but it’s also eye-opening, even though you already know all the Al Gore/climate change stats.

HOME is bad for cars, Las Vegas, Dubai, Israel, cows. Good for greenies and fans of HD gyroscope cameras. Forget about the ragtrade sponsor, that’s how the movie is going to go viral: it’s free.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Foundation President and photographer of ‘Earth From the Air’, produced the movie and he says:

“We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.

“The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

“For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because HOME is a non-profit film.”

HOME can also be found on YouTube. If you want the movie on your iPod, iPhone or other players which can spew out MP4’s, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Monkeying around on bikes

Tea brand PG Tips no longer uses real chimps in its UK TV advertising, preferring an actor and a glove puppet. Back in the 1970s, use of chimps was fairgame (see ‘disclaimer’ below) and one of the most famous ads was this one of the monkey Tour de France.

It features a cycling chimp crashing behind a car and then saying to a tea-pouring mademoiselle, ‘Can you ride tandem?’

Thanks to the non-pc wonders of Japanese TV and YouTube, there’s a whole load of apes-on-bikes videos. Most feature orangutans showboating with training wheels. Pah! Are there no videos of primates going ape on drop-bar road bikes?

Sure there are. Check out the bikes in this clip, the monkey bikes even have racks. These monkeys could commute to work. My next project? The Bike to Circus Book.

There are some more speedy simians in this video. It’s a race between a bloke on a unicycle and some flat-bar monkeys.

Use of primates in TV advertising or for the amusement of a TV programme’s audience is wrong. Primate experts say it’s cruel to the animals concerned. Experts also say such imagery harms the cause of primates in the wild.

Beautiful, beautiful video

This Cinecycle film is a promo for Hutchinson tyres. It’s truly gorgeous. It features a Masi fixie and a woman riding in red stockings and white heels.

Avert your eyes when the fixie rides through stop lights, and when both cyclists ride where pedestrians hold sway. Oh, and if you think all urban cyclists should wear helmets, you might want to give the video a complete miss.

In fact, it’s amazing Daniel Leeb’s film got through corporate censors.

A film tribute to the father of mountain biking

Film-maker Billy Savage – creator of Klunkerz, the film history of mountain biking – has emailed some news regarding a tribute to J.F. Scott, the cycle-mad professor who made a ‘Woodsie’ bike in 1953, long before the mountain bikes of Marin County in the late 1970s.

Savage writes:

“I made a little tribute film for U.C. Davis Professor J.F. Scott’s induction into the MTB Hall of Fame. He was in KLUNKERZ and was murdered by a crazed madman shortly after I interviewed him. He was the inspiration for most of the guys recognized as the pioneers of the sport like Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard, etc.

“Finley, as he was known to his friends, made the first cool multi-gear off-road bike (The Woodsie Bike) in 1953. He also designed a lightweight ‘Fibre-glass’ cross country bike in that same year. He was also the investor in a little company, cleverly named MountainBikes, run by a kid by the name of Gary Fisher. While working as a Professor at U.C. Davis, he was the Chairman of the Davis Double Century race. He owned one of the coolest bike shops in the S.F. Bay Area: The Cupertino Bike Shop. In the 1970s he even co-drafted legislation in California for bicycles to be recognized as vehicles on public roads (vehicular cycling). This legislation helped set the standard for bicycles as vehicles across the US. We all really owe Professor Scott some thanks for all those bike lanes across America.

“I was very fortunate to have interviewed him for my film, KLUNKERZ.

“I never imagined I’d be using out takes of the footage for a tribute film for a homicide victim. But then again, I never thought I’d be writing a judge letters of ‘sentence recommendation’ in a murder trial, either. I guess we never know where the trail really leads until we get there. Professor Scott’s death had a profound effect on a great many people, including most of the pioneers of our sport, and even people who barely knew him, like myself. I’m very pleased he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. It’s been a long time coming.”

Here are two clips from the tribute:

Le Street View avec Google

My compact flash cards died on me yesterday. Looking on Google for a PC hypermarche near the race HQ in Brest I stumbled on Google Map’s Street View. I thought this was only available for certain cities in the US.

It turns out Google has partnered with the Tour de France to create the whole dang route in super-detailed spy-van mode. Cracking.

Check out the Google/YouTube vid detailing the fly-through potential:

If the voice in that video doesn’t float you boat, there’s a more melodic French version here.

Love the world (it’s the only one we’ve got)

It may no longer go ga-ga after Lance, but the Discovery Channel sure is good at channel idents.

This video is going viral at the moment, and just in time for Earth Day, too. That’s tomorrow, folks.

Credit: 72andsunny agency

Bikes not bombs

Kibbutz Be’eri is a great place to ride a bike. There are bike paths that wind through wheat fields and pass by eucalyptus trees. There’s a bike shop and a cyclists-friendly cafe.

But business is down right now. Is it any wonder? Kibbutz Be’eri is just 8kms from the Gaza Strip.

This tiny sliver of land, home to 1.3m Palestinians, is in the news at the moment. Hamas fighters and Israeli troops are at each other’s throats.

Yesterday an Israeli tank fired a shell that killed a Palestinian cameraman and three other people. Every death is shocking but, being a cyclist, I am somehow hard-wired to sit up and take notice when something bad happens to somebody on two wheels. The TV images of two teenage boys, killed as they were minding their own business, was personalised for me by the fact the lads were riding a bike. One was pedalling, the other getting a backie.

This is a normal thing for teens to be doing. In the UK you’d get a ticking off by a policeman if caught doing it. In the Gaza Strip you could be hit by an air-exploding tank shell. One second riding along with your mate, the next second lying in the road dead.

In the mid-1980s I spent a year in Israel. I did a lot of bike touring in the West Bank, something that would be impossible now. I rode my first mountain bike there, a Specialized Rockhopper specially imported by my bike-mad friend, Gil Bor, author of one of my favourite bedtime reads Bochner formulae for orthogonal G-structures on compact manifolds.

After university, in 1993, I went back to Israel to write the Berlitz Discover Guide to Israel. This was researched from a touring mountain bike.

Today, cycle touring in parts of Israel is tougher than it once was. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that bookings are currently 50 percent down at LaMedavesh (Hebrew for ‘Pedal’) bicycle centre at Kibbutz Be’eri .

LaMedavesh owner Erez Manor said:

“Today most customers are experienced riders who come alone. Families and children prefer to ride elsewhere.”

The forthcoming Passover holiday would normally be peak time for Medavesh. Manor thinks business will be well down but that a few religious people would come.

“They aren’t afraid like the non-religious are.”

Israel is a fantastic country to cycle through. In Quarto Publishing’s ‘Classic Mountain Bike Routes of the World’ (2000) I did a chapter on Israel’s putative long-distance bicycle route, the Israel Bike Trail, a dream of Jon Lipman of the Carmel Mountain Bike Club. Some of it couldn’t be ridden today because of safety fears.

The 850km Israel Bike Trail – modelled on the Israel National Trail, a hiking route created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – runs from Metula in the north of Israel to Eilat in the south.

Last week plans were revealed for lots of local links to the Israel Bike Trail. This new network of joined-up routes is being promoted by the Ministries of Tourism, Environmental Protection, Transportation, Finance, Culture, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the Jewish National Fund.

Getting more people on bikes is a good thing, especially if it helps the political situation. And it can.

US-Israel religious charity Hazon (Hebrew for ‘Vision’) quotes 19th Century politico Theodore Herzl, founder of Zionism, who said “the light bicycle that brings new life.” Light bicycles? Yep, we can all relate to that.

Hazon is the creator of the bi-annual Israel Ride, an organised ride across Israel, mainly attended by Jews, mostly from America, but Arab Israelis and Arabs from other nations also take part.

Hazon is a supporter of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, situated on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Southern Arava valley. This organisation has a logo with its name in English, Hebrew and Arabic. It champions peace, saving the planet and cycling.

David Lehrer, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, said of the Israel Ride:

“It brings together lots of things that the Institute is all about, the environment, getting people to see Israel in a way that they can’t normally see, you see it very differently than from a car seat. It’s bringing diverse people together – from the US, Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians – a chance to learn from each other, a chance to see that we have more in common than separates us.

“It’s the opportunity to come together on an issue that concerns all of us and that affects all of us, the environment, the earth, and this particular part of the earth – only by working together, Jews and Arabs, can we protect our shared environment. Nature knows no boundaries.”

Hazon founder Nigel Savage said:

“This is what happens when the People of the Book become the People of the Bike.”

(People of the Book is an Islamic phrase to describe the Abraham-linked religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

Talking after the Israel Ride of 2005, Danny Ronen of Oakland, California, said:

“Me and Muatassim, a Palestinian, ended up staying in the same room together and spending time getting to know each other, and realizing that we are incredibly similar. Me being Jewish and him being Muslim is a non-issue. But you can’t build relationships without personal connections.”

It’s good to see that cycling isn’t just a sport, a form of transport, a means of keeping fit, it can also bring people together. Amen to that.

Map sourced from Walla, the Israeli equivalent of Google Maps.

BikeBiz stable-mate gets Chopper out

As the executive editor of BikeBiz I get to hand out the Industry Achievement Award at October’s BikeBiz Awards 2008, which will be held alongside the Cycle Show.

BikeBiz is owned by Intent Media of Hertford and this publishing company has a bunch of market-dominating trade mags, including MCV, a weekly trade mag for the gaming industry.

This mag held its awards bash in London last week and kicked off the posh event with a brilliant video, featuring gaming industry bigwigs singing and playing air-guitar. I love the fact there’s a bike reference right at the start of the vid. The Nintendo marketing team dressed up as school kids and one exec puffed and panted on a Raleigh Chopper.

It’s an extremely well-produced video and will be required viewing for industry types. I’m chuffed that I sold BikeBiz to such a top-notch outfit.