Tag Archives: rides

Harvesting sea buckthorn on Vestamager Fælled

Ayako and I went for a bike ride out to Vest Amagerfælled just south of Copenhagen. We had made a list of wild things we wanted to pick which included plums, hazelnuts, elderberries, sea buckthorn, mushrooms, rosehips, and blackberries. We succeeded in getting most of them during the weekend…

The first one we came across was sea buckthorn. We had tried juice made of this when we were in Amsterdam, but haven’t found it in Copenhagen. Apparently, you can also make a nice jam out of it. It is very tart and citrusy and high in Vitamin C. The berries grow in tight little clusters on the stem on a bush about 3 meters tall. There are lots of little thorns and the stalk is quite thick so it’s best to carry good clippers. The berries are hard to get off so the best way is supposedly to cut whole branches off, flash freeze them and then hit the berries off into a bucket.

sea buckthorn harvest with flowers

Near the sea buckthorn bushes, we also found some lovely fall flowers. Throughout the day, Ayako collected lots of pretty fall colors for us to put up in the house.

The elastic strap I got in Holland fits on my bike no problem but doesn’t really work with the saddlebags unless I cut a hole in the top. It  requires an attachment that I had left at home to fit onto Ayako’s bike. We got a bit creative though and wrapped the strap around itself and the package holder on the back of the bike which held up just fine.

Looking out onto the Baltic Sea.

I got a flat tire just at the end of the trip riding on a dirt road, which is what I get for offroading with my city bike! Fortunately, it was  right next to the end of the metro line that runs past our apartment. Lucky for us, there was also a bike pump put up by I Bike CPH (run by the municipality) at the metro station. The pump itself was a bit tricky to use since you had to line up the tire valve at the bottom of the tire and put it right next to the pump or it wouldn’t work, but otherwise it was a saving grace! Since it was just a slow leak, I could put in enough air to hold me to just enough to get me home.  It was nice to get a free ride home instead of having to bike all the way back and I would have really been in trouble if I couldn’t take my bike on the metro 15 km from home with a flat tire!

After we got home, we were quite tired from biking some 30 km with a load of about 6-7 kg of sea buckthorn and another 2-3 kg of elderberries plus a large load of flowers. But thanks to my lovely Dutch saddlebags, and some ingenuity, we managed to pack it all in no problem. Another lovely weekend biking outing!


Lancaster bicycle politics workshop ride

Went to an absolutely lovely bicycle politics workshop at Lancaster University last week. Ended up spending one night with the professor who organized it (Dave Horton) and about 8 of us met up in the morning to bike out to the University from the center of town. We took the meandering route along the canal which was just delightful, passing small sheep folds and victorian row houses. I might add, it happens to be a segregated bike path which got a lot of flack at the workshop, but (in this case) I would argue for it.

Laura and I bike Roskilde Fjord

The first Sunday of each month, the regional S-Trains are free. I just picked the end station I hadn’t been to yet and went there. So last weekend my housemate Laura and I took one to Frederikssund and went for a bike ride around Roskilde Fjord. Not as dramatic as its Norwegian cousins, but still quite nice.

We just looked at google maps on satelite mode and it looked like there might be some good biking. Then I did a google search in Danish about biking in that area and sure enough there is a huge loop ride around the fjord region.

We got a bit confused on the S-train platform about where to stand and almost missed the train since it was a short one and we were standing far away. Later we realized there is a little bike logo where you are supposed to stand and a symbol on the notice board showing how long the train is.

The scenery was largely small fields and forests with water in the background. This is a rye field, the staple crop of Denmark. You can eat it right from the husk. We picked some to take home. Now it’s in a beer bottle on the windowsill in our kitchen.

Someone found a bike helmet and left it for the person who lost it. Not sure how they got it way up there. Maybe had to stand on their bike?

We stopped and had lunch by the Fjord. Lovely view. Had to bike through the grass to get there though.

We crossed a little ferry that reminded me of the one near my home in Connecticut. We were the only people on it. It was $5  (30DKK) for a passenger and another $3 (15 DKK) for the bike.

On the way, we found a woman selling Dahlias. She cut some for us and I threw it in my saddlebag. Next, we found a woman selling honey. We asked her about eggs and she ran inside and got us 10 from fridge from her neighbor’s hens.

We saw a great sunset over the fjord. The only problem was that there was construction on the S-Train we had planned to take back. So we ended up having to wait an hour and a half for the next local train from Hundested and then get off earlier in Kregme, and bike 13 km in the dark back to Frederikssund. There was a bike lane most of the way but for the 4 km or so with no lane it was quite scary.

All in all, biking in the countryside in Denmark is quite nice but not nearly as good as Holland. There are some little signs but no maps so it is easy to get lost. For the most part there are bike lanes but not always. By contrast, there are almost always good quality lanes in Holland, signage everywhere and maps every 5 km or so with numbered intersections so you barely need  a map.

Cycle ride in Ljubljana, Slovenia

That two-lane bicycle track is too narrow! That's why he's biking on the main road.

I had the good fortune to be able to go for a bicycle ride with some cycling advocates and planners in Ljubljana, Slovenia last fall. There is some infrastructure developing, but they still haven’t quite figured it out as you can see from these images. Mainly, they need to make the lanes wider and create a more coherent and connected network rather than a patchwork of lanes that are disconnected and incoherent and too narrow to be terribly useful.

This is quite pleasant, though the gravel may be off-putting for some.

How the heck are two bicycles supposed to pass on this?

Incoherence defined.

This is the definition of incoherence in my mind. How are people supposed to know where the bike lane is if it keeps shifting from the sidewalk to the road? You shouldn’t need to paint a red stripe throughout the whole town just to define the lane, which is what they do in Ljubljana. It should just be continual and coherently in the same place all the time. Save your paint for particularly dangerous intersections where you need to highlight the bicyclist. The road for cars doesn’t sometimes go up on the sidewalk sometimes only to then go through a park and then spit you out on a dirt track in the woods. But that’s basically how people “plan” for bicycles all the time.

Bicycling into Gurgaon (Delhi satellite city)

Working in advertising and being Brahmin makes it incredibly exceptional for Sudip Battacharya to be a regular bicycle rider. I met up with him through my friend Laura Golbuff, another American based in London writing her PhD on bicycling who was in India this spring.

Sudip let me borrow a bicycle and ride in with him on his 8 km “suburban” Delhi bicycle commute. I had to get up at 6:30 am and take an auto rickshaw to the sparkly new metro to Gurgaon that was only 3 weeks old and still not completely open all the way into downtown Delhi.

Cycle rickshaws picking up at the new metro line which you can see just above them

The sidewalk ended straight off the exit steps from the metro. A row of cycle rickshaws waited for fares. Sudip picked me up in a car though and brought me back to his apartment where he set me up with a nice hybrid bicycle (a Trek or Giant?). He took his folding bicycle and wore a helmet and we both brought a bottle of water since it was already 25-30 degrees C by 8 am.

The occasional obstacle

Traffic was pretty busy and most roads on the route were 3-4 lanes each way. But for much of the ride there was nearly a full lane open on the left side that cars didn’t seem to bother with. India drives on the left, so far left is the “slow” lane. It had sand and other debris like rocks in it as usual for shoulders and cars did occasionally come in to turn or pass but much of it was free for most of the time.

Traffic craziness

There was the odd cow here and there too, since cows in Hinduism are holy and roam the streets. However, they mostly stayed off the side of the road. The saying goes, likely true, that cows are treated better than pedestrians and bicyclists and have much lower accident and fatality rates.

Sudip, watch out for the cow!

I was given the option of the faster more dangerous route or the longer, nicer route. Valuing my life, I opted for the nicer, longer option. Given the results, I’m pretty happy I made the choice I did.

This option required making a right turn across 4 lanes of traffic. If you want to cross a few lanes of traffic to make a turn, it’s best (eg, only possible) at a stoplight. However, you can tap the trunks of cars and ask them to move forward to let you through if they are too tightly bunched. If you did that in the US, they would probably yell at you for touching their car but here they very politely got out of your way. Amazing!

At one intersection, a woman in a nearby car (clearly also fairly well off herself) mouthed something like “what [the heck] are you doing?” toward Sudip from behind the window of her air conditioned car. He mouthed back “going to work!” to which she clucked back, “very nice!” with a giant smile, positive head bobble and fingers in a circular A-OK sign.

Sudip riding on what he claims is just a "big road" and not a highway. And this was the "nice" way!

Just after this, we dodged a few cows before heading onto what was apparently “just a big [8 lane, divided] road” and not a highway according to Sudip. Sure looked like a highway to me. But we stuck to our lane and it actually felt pretty ok, aside from the fact that traffic was moving quite fast.

The last couple of km we were on a small “2 lane” road. Lanes are somewhat interpretive however since there are multiple sizes and types of vehicles plying the roads ranging from cars, to 3 wheel auto and bicycle rickshaws, motorscooters, trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians all vying for the same road space. This negotiation is a barter in which basically the smallest vehicle should and largely does always yield to anything larger. Depending on the size of vehicle, there could be 3 or more vehicles sharing the same “2 lane” street.

"2 lane" road

When the space is tight, you often get pushed around more. However, being white and/or high status bicycle riders it was clear that drivers were giving us a wider berth than the majority of lower caste delivery bicyclists. Yet I still felt it was more dangerous on the smaller slower road than I felt riding on the 8 lane “highway”.

When we got into the office, one of Sudip’s co-workers noticed us with our bicycles and commented that it was great that we had ridden in on bicycles and expressed a desire to follow suit. It has been my experience that there is a latent aspiration among middle and upper class professionals in India to ride bicycles, at least recreationally but that the infrastructure and safety angle is a major barrier.

Upon entering the office, we both popped into the bathroom for a makeshift towel shower- wetting a towel and cleaning up the sweaty parts, changing the shirt and switching from sandals to shoes and socks.

Generally, I would rank the ride sketchy but doable if you are a bit brave. Let’s give it a 3 out of 10. Certainly better than bicycling in downtown Delhi, which is sheer madness and very spread out. With some better infrastructure in strategically placed locations, I think you could encourage a few working professionals to start riding. This would elevate the status of bicycling and hopefully begin to create a virtuous cycle.