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Team Rwanda Untapped CitiesSource: Team Rwanda

Over the course of one hundred days in 1994, one million people were massacred in the Rwandan Genocide. The bicycle became not only a mode of transit, but a means of survival. In the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” farmers raced barefoot down hillsides on bikes loaded with a hundred pounds of potatoes, taxi drivers peddled across villages with women and children in tow, and in back alleys children played with bent bicycle wheels. But they never cycled competitively until Jonathan “Jock” Boyer, the first American to compete in the Tour de France, came to coach Team Rwanda, the country’s first national cycling team.

Rwandan cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti lost sixty of his family members. He started cycling in 2003 and rode a mountain bike for the first time in 2006, catching up to Jock and a winning a local race. In 2011, Adrien qualified for the Olympics, sending shock waves through the international community.

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A Brooklyn Bike Diary

01/18/2013 at 8:57 am

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Our Brooklyn Bike Diary begins where Java Street meets the East River

There is nothing quite like seeing New York City by bike. While speeding cars, potholes, and texting pedestrians seem to provide an insurmountable obstacle to a two-wheel world, it remains one of the most exhilarating ways to explore the city. As David Byrne explains in his book Bicycle Diaries, ” This point of view [from a bike]- faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person- became my panoramic window on much of the world over the last thirty years- and it still is. It’s a big window and it looks out on a mainly urban landscape.” This is our interpretation of a Brooklyn Bike Diary.

In this photoshoot we sought to capture some of the joie de vivre of exploring Brooklyn by bike, with a touch of vintage nostalgia. We journey from the East River in Greenpoint, down Franklin Avenue, and south to Grand Army Plaza. While cycling might not be the most orthodox of transports, it is certainly the most stylish.

For more photos and musings, visit us at Neon Mamacita

Photographed by Nick Shepard
Styled by Annie Shepard and David Ban
Modeled by David Ban

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An Empire State of Mind

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Brief pause on Franklin Avenue

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Hey guys, look, it’s the Bailey Fountain!

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The Solider’s and Sailor’s Arch at Grand Army Plaza

With New York City’s traffic jams and unpredictable subway trains, it can be a hassle to get around the city. Thankfully, with the new bike-sharing initiative in town, Citi Bike, launching next month, locals might soon find their lives a whole lot easier (although this is hotly debated here in New York–see below). Funded by Citi and Mastercard, and run by NYC Bike Share, a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share,  Citi Bike is a self-service bike share that will enable people to borrow a bike to ride across the city easily, simultaneously creating a sustainable alternative mode of transportation.

When it is launched next month, the ambitious Citi Bike project is going to be the largest bikeshare in the United States, a commendable feat, no doubt. It will consist of 600 stations, and 10,000 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, strategically placed around the city. Plans for this bike share have been underway for a long time, with the  NYCDOT researching on using open source data  to plan the locations of the bike share stations.  The kiosks, the majority which will be wireless and solar powered, will have docks for the bikes, locks and local maps. Steven Romalewski of Spatiality Blog did a great GIS analysis of the proximity of bike kiosks to mass transit options.

Anyone 16 and older will be able to sign up for either the 24-hour, 7-day, or annual access pass. These passes will give members unlimited trips, although charges will apply for trips lasting longer than 30 or 45 minutes, depending on the pass, since the Citi Bike initiative was envisioned for rides less than 3 miles. Members will be provided with an unlocking code or a special key to unlock their bikes at the docks.

To promote the bike share, Citi Bike has been setting up infobooths around New York, with the Department of Transportation  (NYCDOT) booth distributing free helmets. According to Citi Bike’s website, over 50,000 helmets have already been distributed for free since 2007. Citi Bike is still working with the bicycle industry to provide discounted helmets for members of the bike share.

Still, City Hall has been accused of “pedaling past safety measures,” according to Comptroller John Liu who released new safety recommendations just last month. Then there is the question of whether there are enough bike lanes despite the additional 270 miles of bike lanes added since 2006 (700+ miles total), counterbalanced with the backlash against bike lanes. The Bronx and Staten Island won’t have any bike stations at all at launch. And of course there is the ongoing battle between pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers and the police, as evidenced by Casey Neistat’s video that went viral last year:

It will be interesting to see how Citi Bike will change transportation and social culture in New York City. While already firmly in places such as Spain, London and Paris, the bike share trend has still places to go in the United States.

In comparison, Paris’ resurgence in bike-sharing can be attributed to the popularity of 2007′s Velib’, a network of 20,000+ bicycles distributed among 1450 stations throughout Paris. It is now considered the 2nd largest bike-sharing system in the world. While it is considered successful in terms of usage, 80% of the bikes have been damaged or stolen, despite active maintenance efforts by the city and good citizens (turning the seat backwards indicates that a bike is broken). Bikes have been found all over Paris in various states of disrepair, from the Seine, to hanging from lampposts, or even just on the roadside. These bikes have gone international too, with Velib’ bikes having been found as far as Eastern Europe and North Africa. With New York City’s reputation, Citi Bike might have to take extra measures to ensure that the same doesn’t happen with these new bikes, and that safety measures are as pervasive as the bikes themselves.

In the meantime, check out more of Citi’s demonstration events around in New York City, usually posted on their Twitter account. Try the bikes, sign up, or at the very least, get a free helmet! What’s your opinion on the Citi Bike program?

Web Bites – SF, The City of Lights?, Beneath the Eiffel Tower, A Velodrome in China
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The Untapped Web Bites are editor picks of the best online reads of the week from each of our cities and the most Untapped places across the globe.

Pedestrians and cyclists rejoice, New York’s Summer Streets is back! [Treehugger]

New York City, Electroshock Therapy, and Mad Men. [The Bowery Boys]

Thanks to artist Leo Villareal, Paris may have a new contender in the city of lights category. [The Creators Project]

The pressure is on for the Paris city council to expand the crowded area around the Eiffel Tower, and the only way to go is down. [IBN Live]

In Southern China, you’ll soon be able to sip a coffee and rent a bike on the ground floor, then take that bike to the roof and ride it on the velodrome. [Dezeen]

Melbourne: A Network of Cycling Trails

One of the 50 Bike Share stations in Melbourne (Photo: Marcus Wong)

In 2011, Melbourne was voted the most  liveable  city (take that Sydney!) by The Economist. With the high cost of living, cycling can be an affordable alternative to public transport and the  Melbourne Bike Share  program allows you to hire bikes for less than $3/day or $8/week.

Helmets are compulsory so rent one from a vending machines or any 7-11 convenient store (Photo: Marcus Wong).

Melbourne has the wide streets of Los Angeles but flat topography allows for easy cycling. Designated bike lanes have been implemented in order to create a better and safer riding culture. Getting lost is daily routine for new cyclists but Travel Smart Victoria  has maps available for print and download.

As part of this series, I will be exploring a few of the different trails that connect metropolitan Melbourne. These are all shared pedestrian/cycling routes, which allow easy non-stop cycling to Melbourne’s most exciting destinations. Be wary of potential detours that the trail may have as Melbourne is undergoing an extensive roadwork and transportation facelift. The Bicycle Network Victoria offers a very comprehensive guide to detours for each of the trails.

Capital City Trail
The Capital City Trail is a 30 km loop that wraps around the city, allowing you to ride from the Zoo, Abbotsford Convent, Federation Square and Docklands. Not quite ready for 30 km, I decide to do the Zoo to Federation Square portion of the trail totalling 21 km (approximately 1:45 hours).

Capital City Trail map with my stops

The Zoo to Federation Square ride passes through Parkville, Fitzroy North, Clifton Hill, Abbotsford, Collingwood, Richmond and the CBD (Central Business District). As you ride along the Capital City Trail, you can hardly believe it’s Melbourne. The path is pristine and separated from the road, a plus for amateur cyclists. The trail goes through several parks and shopping districts making it easy to have a picnic lunch or grab a coffee along the way. On this adventure, I had four destinations in mind:  the Abbotsford Convent, the Collingwood Children’s Farm, the Burnley Bouldering Wall and Federation Square.

First stop: The Abbotsford Convent

Enjoying the lush grass outside the Abbotsford Convent is a perfect way to spend your Saturday afternoons.

The Abbotsford Convent was first established as the Convent of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic institution, in 1803. Nowadays, the convent hosts a number of arts/culture workshops, several cafes, a slow food market, an art gallery and an open air cinema in the summer. It’s a respite in the bustling city and is open to the public all year round. One of the hidden gems of the convent is Lentils as Anything, an organic-vegan restaurant. It’s motto is ‘pay as you feel’ so you can anonymously donate whatever you’d like for the food that you eat. Surprised? The non-profit group is dedicated to promote generosity, trust, and social inclusion. All of the proceeds go toward training for young migrants and refugees. If Lentils as Anything  is not your cup of tea, there are a few other cafes that serve equally delicious foods and coffee.

Second Stop: The Collingwood Children’s Farm

Community gardens producing local produce

The  Collingwood Children’s Farm  is a great way to introduce city kids to livestock and gardening. It was first established in 1979 and is host to a number of gardens, cafes and several cute animals. It is open everyday from 9am to 5pm for a small entry fee. Enjoy the farm by going to the Saturday market, attending a workshop, or even by milking a cow! This is a great spot to take kids out on a weekend to teach them where their food comes from and to learn more about local produce.

Just look at all those trees, you would almost forget you are in the city!

Onto the next stop, the bouldering wall. With the beautiful scenery, you would never believe you were only about 6km away from the CBD.

Third Stop: The Burnley Bouldering Wall

Quick boulder during my bike ride? Don’t mind if I do!

The bouldering wall is open and free and was first conceived by Chris Shepherd in 1993. The site is managed by Parks Victoria and the Victoria Climbing Club, who also produce a guidebook for all that you need to know before you traverse the wall.

Onto the last destination, Federation Square. On the way, do stop along the riverside and take photos.

Final Destination: Federation Square

Federation Square’s quirky and unique design is enough to lure you into one of its venues!

Federation Square is a great public space and houses the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image  museum, several bars/restaurants and the Tourist Information Centre. It is a great first stop when you arrive in Melbourne as its unusual architecture, open space, and riverside position make it a great spot for photos and a quick coffee.

For more information about bike rentals, tours and trails through Melbourne, visit the Melbourne Bike Share and Bicycle Network Victoria.

Stay tuned for my next entry in my cycling series, when I explore the Merri Creek Trail.

Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook. Get in touch with the author @KristineNga.

Just the Gritty: Golden Gate Park, Winter Edition

A few months ago a friend of mine introduced me to the life of cycling. I pretty much fell immediately in love with it-all of a sudden I was getting up at 5:15 AM just to get a longer ride in before work. Seriously, what? Needless to say I also started going on long weekend rides so that I could be out during the day and really explore the city. I had already been adventuring around SF via motorcycle, but this was a whole new way of seeing my neighborhood, my city, my surroundings.

As a beginner cyclist, I immediately sought out the Wiggle (the easiest way up to Golden Gate Park from the Mission). I was happily surprised to find out that it was indeed a ride that even I, an out-of-shape novice, could handle. This opened up a whole new set of biking options…including Golden Gate Park.

My first ride through the park left me grinning like an idiot, as did my my second, third, fourth…well you get the idea. When I thought about Golden Gate Park before exploring it by bicycle, I only knew about the big ticket items-the Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the de Young Museum. I had no idea how huge the park really is, and how many hidden paths, fields and even animal paddocks there are (take a look at the map). Look above at the miniature boat flying across Spreckles Lake–go here on a Sunday and there will be 5 to 15 people out there with their tiny remote control boats- it’s quite serene.   Then at the end of the line you are rewarded yet again by a view of the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach.

The more time I spend exploring Golden Gate Park, the larger it seems. One cool find leads to another and another. The photos shown here are from a few winter bike rides through the park, a bunch of random turnoffs, and one close encounter with an official police horse.

Follow Untapped Cities on  Twitter  and  Facebook. Get in touch with the author @justthegritty.