Sunday, December 14, 2014

Philadelphia Story: Zagster

The launch of Paris' pioneering Vélib' bicycle sharing system in 2007 made an impression 
on two visiting Drexel University students. Timothy Ericson '07 and Jason Meinzer '09 were 
studying abroad as part of the Drexel in London program and witnessed the rollout of Europe's
biggest bike-sharing system on a serendipitous weekend trip to France. Seeing bikes
as such mainstream, ubiquitous elements in the urban landscape sparked a vision they'd
bring back to Philadelphia. Read the story here or watch How to Start a Bike Sharing Company,
a video interview with Jason Meinzer. Tim Ericson, CEO and co-founder, is interviewed here:

    "The twenty to forty year-olds are really shifting into the sharing economy. I, for one, don't 
      want to own anything. I think that people are moving away from buying expensive things. 
      We're seeing it in a lot of different industries. In transportation, I see bike sharing being 
      a key part of the overall trend of people moving back into the urban core, not owning a car, 
      and utilizing public transit."

In starting the company, initially named CityRyde, Ericson and Meinzer were able to leverage
Drexel's Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. Two years ago, the company took part in the 
TechStars Boston and MassChallenge startup accelerators, and scored a $1 million funding
round led by LaunchCapital of Cambridge. The funding also included participation from 
Detroit-based Fontinalis Partners, whose founder is Princeton alumnus Bill Ford '79, and
Jean Hammond, prolific angel investor notably of Zipcar. Cambridge became HQ for Zagster.
whose "elevator pitch" goes like this:

       71% of Americans say they'd like to bicycle more yet list access to a bike as the number 
       one barrier to doing so. Zagster provides bikes where people live, work and visit; giving them 
       access using their mobile phone. We've found property managers (e.g. Related Management), 
       universities (Yale, Princeton), businesses (Cisco) and hotels are willing to cover the costs of 
       providing bike fleets as an amenity.

Meanwhile back in Philly, Mayor Michael Nutter was raising awareness by subtle fashion statements.

Through a partnership announced in 2013, Advanced Sports International, a 15-year-old bicycle distributor 
in Northeast Philadelphia, began supplying Zagster with Breezer brand bikes, and provided space in ASI's
warehouse to add its electronic system and other touches to the bikes. 

When Mayor Nutter made a surprise trip to France last July, conveniently timed to watch the concluding
stages of the Tour de France and of La Course, he was accompanied by ASI's chief executive officer, Patrick 
Cunnane, and by state rep Madeleine Dean, who is Cunnane's wife. This bike-oriented trade mission
also involved a visit to Brian Cookson, new president of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). As a result,
the Parx Casino Philly Classic next June has become a UCI-sanctioned women's World Cup event.

Mayor Nutter's wife Lisa is an avid and ASI-sponsored track cyclist. She is no doubt enthusiastic
about Project 250, a plan to convert 4 acres of the Olmstead-designed FDR Park to an Olympic-class
velodrome. In September, she accepted the inaugural Advocacy Leadership award on behalf of
Mayor Nutter at the huge Interbike Expo in Las Vegas.

The Project 250 velodrome is described, per this 68-page "Alternatives Analysis", as a "MULTI-SPORT,
is hugely interesting, but also an 8MB download. And by the way, Philly might bid on the 2024 Olympics.

   "During the last three years there has been an upwelling of enthusiasm for cycling and cycling in sport 
   as a path to healthy living and as an inexpensive out of school opportunity for boys and girls to develop
   character and find fulfillment throughout the City of Philadelphia, otherwise likely unrealizable. The City's 
   recognition of its inherent potential, combined with the diligent efforts and analysis by the Mayor's office, 
   local business professionals, and cycling enthusiasts, have reached a logical conclusion, plan, and vision
   for the City of Philadelphia. On October 2nd with the Honorable Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia, 
   we will unveil the Vision – a multisport/use facility, focused and centered on a 250 meter, Velodrome meeting 
   Olympic Standards, housed in a World Class, Iconic Green Building, which we believe will become known 
   internationally as a symbol of cycling sport and youth development, and as a symbol of green power, with 
   its design adding another graceful icon to Philadelphia's beautiful skyline."

Last month, Mayor Nutter signed an Executive Order to create the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board,
whose chair is Karen Bliss, Vice President of Marketing for ASI. The other fourteen appointed members 
include: Philip Senechal, Velodrome Planning Team; Patrick Cunnane; Lisa Nutter; Marty Nothstein, Olympic
gold medalist for track cycling; Matt Diefenbach, track racer and Motorola account manager, and
Kristin Gavin, executive director of Gearing Up. 

The latter is a unique bicycling program to help women in transition find new lives by giving them a chance
to get outside, build self-esteem and bond with one another. It originated as a business plan when Kristen
Gavin was a graduate student at Temple University.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sourland Cycles set to open tomorrow, in Hopewell !

The address is 53 East Broad Street, in Hopewell.

Bonus trivia, from the annals of cycling numerology:

      In the Tour de France, the race number 51 is considered
      lucky. The number has been worn by several winners of the race:
      Eddy Merckx in 1969, Luis Ocana in 1973, Bernard Thevenet in 1975
      and Bernard Hinault in 1978. All four men won their first Tour while
      wearing Dossard 51.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Millionaire Who Goes To Bed Hungry

Confronted by a fairly long daily commute, over the years I've devolved
into a state of audio book addiction. Having recently listened to the thought-
provoking "Zero to One" by the fountain of ideas known as Peter Thiel, I noted
this profile of Thiel's Paypal co-founder, tech star and serious roadie Max Levchin,
who rhapsodizes about Strava, etc.    Click here to view article at Business Insider

PS how to promote a book entitled "Beginning Italian" ? Click here to see its cover.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Halter's Cycles is now much closer to Princeton - near the corner of 206 / 518

The article in Town Topics is at

Unrelated to the above, I was chatting with an elderly fellow (even older than me!) at the
Sustainable Princeton Great Ideas Breakfast a few weeks ago. He mentioned "I used to
bike when I was younger, but now am too slow and suffer from balance problems". I asked
why he didn't consider an adult tricycle. "I wasn't even aware of these" he replied. Right on
cue, an item appeared in the NY Times "T" magazine, which can be found at the link below.

           The Third Way: Tricycles             Culture By EMILY STOKES 

Long a favorite of toddlers, three-wheelers have also attracted the attention of British lords, Indian
maharajahs — and now, one writer hopes, a bold new generation.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Should Be Princeton's Biking And Walking Goals for 2015?

What can we do to make Princeton friendlier to cyclists and walkers? That was a key question addressed by PBAC at our meeting at Princeton town hall on October 23 (read the minutes here). 
Which of the many, many things that we could do ought to be priorities? Our volunteer committee members drew up individual 'wish lists' on the board, which we consolidated into a number of key action areas, which fit within our overall framework of advancing the 'Six Es'. These are:
  • Improving the Built Environment,
  • Education efforts,
  • Encouraging and organizing the cycling community in Princeton,
  • Building ties to local and regional bike/walk planning groups.
You can read our current list of planned 'key results' for 2015 as part of the minutes from our meeting. Our action items take account of input from various members of the public who have attended our meetings or emailed us feedback throughout the year. We are always interested in this feedback, so if you have some suggestions, please get in touch at

At our next PBAC meeting, which is happening this Thursday, November 20, at 400 Witherspoon Street Meeting Room A at 7.30 p.m., part of our agenda will be to revise and approve our goals. Hopefully this will set us on the way for a successful and productive 2015!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Orange is the new tawny

How can one predict what will be trendy ? Could "Meme, Myself, and Irene" ever go viral as a T-shirt slogan ?

IBM's "Birth of a Trend" project studies the science behind predicting online trends that can revolutionize an
industry. Researchers analyzed six years of social media data to study "Cycle Chic," the fashion/transportation
movement dedicated to cycling in stylish street clothes, often atop classic bicycles. Read more about this.

A biking movement called Slow Roll aims to revitalize neighborhoods within bigger cities. It was founded in Detroit
by Jason Hall, who stars in a cool iPad commercial. If inspired to roll your own Slow Roll someday, get approval

In recent years the Gravel Grinder movement - events featuring unpaved roads - has sprouted in the US. Learn
more about this hot new trend in cycling here or here. Or start training for a local event to be held next March 21.
In the Chianti area of Tuscany, preserving the heritage of the white gravel roads has inspired a vintage-bicycle
race that has grown to more than 5,000 participants. L'Eroica, which means "the heroic" in Italian, takes place 
each October. The race was conceived to help prevent the gravel roads from being resurfaced with asphalt. Since 
its 1997 debut, the event has evolved into a model for environmental sustainability.  NYT article: A Race Against Time

As of 2013 there is a sister L'Eroica event in Japan, located near Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. Video clip.

      "The theme of the event is to preserve the slow lifestyle of the past and enjoying nature, 
      community and sports within this lifestyle; and to promote sustainable tourism and international
      cooperation and exchange."            

More recently, there has been expansion to the UK with L'Eroica Britannia last June, branded as 
"the most handsome bike race in the world".  Getting right into the spirit of it, the official video, or
read a nice article about the UK's vintage cycling movement. 

Whereas the ethos of the UK-based Eroica references "sustainability" only once, the philosophy of the
Tuscan prototype mentions it 3 times. I'm not sure whether this imbalance is due to macadam pavement
having been invented in the UK, or the Slow Food movement having originated in Italy. There also appears
to be some amount of fast food wordplay going on, with reference to "hero" sandwiches rather than "grinders".

The Slow Food movement has as its logo an orange snail, as used by this restaurant in Belgrade. An orange
item is an important prop in the wonderful 2-minute video "Rolling" by NYC's Transportation Alternatives. But
as explained by this SF-based color consultant, the color of sustainability is not just orange, or even green. In
any case, the movement continues to grow in the central part of the Garden State.
Brian Eno, co-composer of the music used in "Rolling", coined the phrase "The Long Now" two decades ago.
It "refers to the idea that in some cultures the word 'now' refers not to the immediate moment, as it does in 
our culture, but to a day, a year, or even 10 generations backward and forward. A project, The Clock of the Long
Now, aims to build a monumental, super-slow astronomical clock - to embody the idea that "sustainability begins with 
taking a long view of our past and our future and adjusting current activities in accordance". Princeton alumnus
Jeff Bezos is funding the project. Details on how the ingenious movement within the 10,000 Year Clock is synchronized
to the sun can be found here.

Meanwhile, around here there's no stupendous techno-marvel, only an iconic sundial. Downtown restaurants dedicated
to Slow Food include the newly-opened and vibrant Jammin' Crêpes at 20 Nassau. There remain several nice unpaved 
stretches of road nearby. Plus you can literally take the long view by biking along Longview Drive ! For sustenance, there
are no heroes or grinders, only hoagies. 

But we can be heroes: a map showing a slow, loopy 8-mile bike ride in search of local colors and such is online here.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Welcome New Friends Of Princeton Walking And Cycling!

Last Thursday, October 30, 'Sustainable Princeton' held a breakfast session at the Princeton Public Library focusing on 'Creating A Bike-Friendly Princeton'. The turnout was great, and many of the participants signed up for our Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee mailing list. I'd like to say 'thank you' to everyone on our mailing list for their ongoing support, and also welcome our new friends! There are over 200 of us now! 

Princeton Pedestrian and Bicyling Advisory Committee (PBAC) is part of Princeton's municipal government, with a mission to advise Council on policy relating to walking and cycling. We don't get to set policy, but we try to make sure that our local government is doing what is best to support everybody who likes to get around on foot or on two wheels. To make that happen, we rely on the community for support, and the time of our committee members, who are local residents and volunteers.

If you have any suggestions for what PBAC ought to be working on, or if you are particularly keen to help, let us know by emailing We also have a website at and a Facebook page at If you're on Facebook, why not give us a 'like'?!

Special thanks must also go to Sustainable Princeton for putting on this terrific event! Look out for other events in their ongoing 'Great Ideas Breakfasts' series.