Monthly Archive for January, 2012

The Busycle: Part 2

By Paul Guttenberg

The desperate call from the airport was a last-minute plea for help. Broken-down at the side of the road, the Busycle sat in a parking lot in the East Bay. The support vehicle was out of commission. A storm was coming. It was getting dark. Most likely, locusts would gather next.

There is nothing quite like a disaster in the making to attract the weak of mind. Calls were made, a rental trailer obtained, and yours truly was off to the East Bay in an attempt to rescue the Busycle. Helping hands were promised and all equipment needed would be waiting.

Arriving at the yard, it turned out that the proprietor now demanded compensation for storing the Busycle, or he would sell it. The bill, not surprisingly, was outrageous. All those high hopes were to end with the Busycle held hostage and threatened with an ignominious final journey to the scrap heap.

Many calls ensued, a variety of cycling enthusiasts, human-powered artists and other assorted ne’er-do-wells lent their voices. Soon, a local television station became interested. Busycle held hostage, film at 11. The corporate district office for the franchisee holding the Busycle did not welcome this prospect. They would provide a trailer, but the Busycle had to be gone that afternoon.

Alone in the pouring rain, this reporter rushed to the storage yard, equipped with an underpowered truck, a come-along and a complete lack of judgment. Hooking up the auto transport trailer in the rain was enjoyable enough, crawling underneath to attach wiring and ensuring all the chains were in place. Then it was off to load the Busycle, alone.

It was analogous to watching your crazy uncle at the family picnic starting the barbecue. First he piles on a huge mountain of charcoal until it is spilling off the sides of the barbecue. Then he grabs a 5-gallon can of gasoline and begins emptying it as a starter.

He puts the can down, pulls out a paper matchbook, and starts reaching into the coals. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop yourself from watching. You also do not want get anywhere close to the impending conflagration.

That’s what it was like in the yard. Alone in a thunderstorm, armed with a come-along and a wooden block, I was attempting to raise a 1,500-pound human-powered behemoth onto a flatbed trailer behind a small truck. Everyone watched and no one came forward.

Luckily, intimate knowledge of a few magical phrases that cannot be repeated in a family-oriented publication such as this provided just the edge needed to get the job done. After some time, the Busycle was on Interstate 80 headed toward Davis.

The uncontrollable fishtailing didn’t begin in earnest until 45 mph, so it wasn’t really a problem until the downhill runs. Climbing a hill, school buses would roar past, young faces pressed to the windows in awe. Descending, large semis would put on their emergency flashers and remain hundreds of yards behind as we gracefully remained within two lanes or so, mostly.

Shaken, stirred and pulverized, we finally reached Davis and, with the help of friends, offloaded the Busycle. There is no telling how long it will remain in our community, but when it leaves it will be pulled by another.

Until it leaves our community, it needs care and attention. At this point, it is still parked outside, exposed to the elements. While all the parts are recycled and relatively hardy, the winter rains still take their toll. A local business owner has been kind enough to allow me to store it in his parking area, but something covered would be much more suitable. I remain hopeful that I will discover a spot to help preserve this unique treasure out of the elements.

The ongoing mechanical needs are something I deal with as my schedule allows, and so far I have been able to keep it in running order. Volunteers are always appreciated to assist with upkeep. I hope it will be preserved and cared for sufficiently to allow the Davis community to enjoy it this coming Picnic Day.

Please feel free to contact me at if you care to help.



The Birth of Mountain Biking

Frank Berto, author of “The Birth of Dirt: Origins of Mountain Biking” will be giving a presentation at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. 303 Third St, Davis, on Sunday Feb 5th at 2PM. Mr Berto is a retired engineer and bicycle enthusiast who served as an editor for Bicycling magazine and has written 3 bicycle oriented books: Bicycling Magazine’s Complete Guide to Upgrading Your Bike, The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle, and The Birth of Dirt. He’ll be giving a look at the people and machines that began the biggest revolution in bicycling in 100 years.

“The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast” Book Launch

Davis resident, Matt Biers-Ariel, will be launching his new book, The Bar Mitzvah and The Beast: One Family’s Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike, at the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis on April 21st at 4:00 pm. If you haven’t heard of the book, check out the publisher’s description:

Amateur bike rider, father of three, and everyday public school teacher Matt Biers-Ariel never dreamed of riding a bike across the United States. But then his hard-to-impress teenage son, Yonah, refused to have a Bar Mitzvah as he approached age thirteen. No dancing with grandma or chanting traditional prayers? Something had to be done to celebrate this rite of passage. Continue reading ‘“The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast” Book Launch’

Dave “DK” Kemp selected as Davis’s new bike-ped coordinator

The Coloradoan. Dave 'DK' Kemp, Fort Collins Bicycle Coordinator


City of Davis Hires New Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

January 10, 2012

For More Information: Call (530) 757-5610

Following a nationwide search, the City of Davis welcomes Dave “DK” Kemp, as the new Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. DK is set to begin his new duties on February 6, 2012.

DK spent the last six years developing a comprehensive bicycle program for the City of Fort Collins, Colorado. Under DK’s leadership, the Fort Collins community rose from a silver level designation to a gold level Bicycle Friendly Community and is now poised to attain the platinum level status within the coming year.

DK employs a comprehensive approach to bicycle and pedestrian planning, emphasizing a range of techniques to foster the growth of biking and walking for recreation as well as the foundation of a sustainable transportation system. In addition to the development of the traditional 5 E’s (Encouragement, Education, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation), Economy & Community are parts of his strategic approach. Continue reading ‘Dave “DK” Kemp selected as Davis’s new bike-ped coordinator’

Question: Is It Legal For Delivery Trucks To Block Bicycle Lanes?

This morning on my way to school a UPS truck was blocking the southbound L st bicycle lane while delivering packages to Screaming Squeegee. I found it particularly unsafe practice for the bicyclists’ sake. It forces one into a typically 45 mph roadway (or onto the sidewalk). I stopped and told the driver that I thought it made it unsafe for me and other bicyclists and asked him to park elsewhere. He blew me off saying that he had no other options.
I then saw some police officers in Central park and asked them about the law. They said that delivery trucks are exempt from parking laws when delivering a package, including parking in a bicycle lane. They said that their lobby groups are strong and get the exemptions passed.
I haven’t found any answers with Google yet. Does anyone know what the law is? And if not, where do I look for the law?

An example of a delivery truck in the bicycle lane.

The Busycle Comes to Davis, Part 1

There are many cycling machines wandering our fair burg. We’ve all seen tandems on our roads, and even the occasional triplet. Those interested in historical cycling machines have seen bicycles that even seat up to six or eight people in a line.

Now, a human powered vehicle that seats 15 has been plying the streets of Davis on occasion. The Busycle has come toDavis.

Constructed on the chassis of a 1989 Dodge 15-passenger bus, the Busycle is no lightweight. It was brought to life by a consortium of MIT engineers, students, fabricators and artists. Using recycled, donated and scavenged parts, they created a vehicle to move by human power alone, despite a weight of just over 1,500 pounds. The good news is that the Mack Truck transmission is unlikely to fail, though difficult to operate. There is also no fear of rolling over.

Technically, only 14people can actually pedal. The 15th steers, brakes and shifts after a fashion. Considering the nature of the transmission, this is not a plum job aboard the Busycle. All those pedaling the Busycle face outward, making for a very naturally friendly mode of transport. The low speeds at which it travels allows people to engage in conversation and wonderment.

How it came to Davis is a matter of serendipity. It was one of those bizarre cycling-related stories that can only happen in a tight, off-kilter community of both like-minded and apparently weak-minded aficionados of human-powered vehicles. The plan was to return it to Boston after its five-year stint in the Bay Area. Yours truly had ridden it several times in Palo Alto to various gatherings, celebrations and music venues. It had served a valuable purpose, and was a hit for young and old alike.

Now, it was time for it to return to the place where it was created. A bus to tow the Busycle was procured, along with a trailer upon which to transport the Busycle. Goodbyes were said, preparations completed and a commercial driver for the bus recruited. The Busycle was off across the country once again.

But a desperate call came late one fall week. On Day 1 of the trans-American journey, the bus had overheated severely. The hitch had failed. The trailer had disappeared. The Busycle was left at the side of the road in the EastBay. A journey of nearly 3,000 miles had ended in disaster 43 miles from the start.

At least a rental yard pulled the Buscyle into its fenced in area to keep it from being vandalized. The organizer of the whole affair was headed to the airport to fly back to Ireland. The one remaining originator of the Busycle was in India. Was there anything the Davis cycling community could do to help?