ISWE Brommie thinking it's a work of art :)
Columbus, Indiana that is.
ISWE recently had the good fortune to stop over for a couple of hours in Indiana's small-town architectural treasure trove located just about an hour south of Indianapolis along I-65. If arts and architecture were boxing, Columbus would be the flyweight, pound-for-pound US champ. In just this little spot (left), one can see I. M. Pei's Bartholomew County Library (brick building in background), Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church (below), English sculptor Henry Moore's "Large Arch" and the Irwin Home and Gardens.
Just a short bike ride from here, we were able to see: Eero Saarinen's (that's Eliel's son and designer of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis) Irwin Union Bank and Trust building; Kevin Roche's vine-covered Cummins Corporate Office Building and Columbus' deconstructivist SOM City Hall. Just a couple miles to the north, one can see Eero's really cool sci-fi-esque North Christian Church, although we didn't get to see it this trip :(
Let it be said that a lot of communities would be well advised to show a bit of the spirit of Columbus. There aren't many cities of this size in Indiana that can boast tourists from places like New York City as an absolutely routine occurrence on a Monday afternoon. Well done little Columbus, well done.
First Christian Church
Of the buildings near the "Large Arch", Eliel's First Christian Church is perhaps the most interesting. Built in 1942, it was one of the first churches in American to use a contemporary design. It's fun to imagine those building committee meetings. One one side, a bunch of conservative Hoosier farmers used to red brick and white clapboard buildings with steeples, on the other perhaps Cummins chief J. Irwin Miller himself, his Swedish Architect Saarinen and modern furniture designer Charles Eames all pitching what must have looked like something from a Robert Heinlein novel. Wow! Were we only church mice in '42, it would have been a heck of a show. Imagine the parishioners' reactions to those initial renderings. There must have been passing out in the aisles and exclamations of, "You want to build what?!"
As amazing as these structures are, something overshadowed them on this particular day; specifically, Zelcova serrata. While that may sound like the name of a radical Russian architect, it's not. It's a Japanese tree. Zelcova serrata line both sides of 5th Street in Columbus adjacent to the Irwin Gardnes... and on this hot, humid day, they were amazing.
The Brompton practically piloted itself down 5th Street probably five or ten times. One source lists Zelcova as excellent street trees, describing them as tolerant of heat, drought, and wind and excellent replacements for American Elm, and they are! On this muggy summer day, the climate in the tunnel beneath the Zelcova was totally cool and breezy. It had to be at least ten degrees cooler beneath them. Well done Zelcova trees, well done.
Brommie ready to go.
Eero, Eliel, ISWE and Zelcova--altogether, a wonderful couple of hours, all made possible by our Brompton in the boot. We would not have loaded a bike on a roof rack that day. We would not have attached one to the rear via a trailer hitch or Rube Goldberg buckle-on bicycle carrier contraption. It simply wouldn't have happened. No need. Brommie's always in the boot. Right there ready to go at a moment's notice... with plenty of room for grocery, shopping or book bags right there by his side. Well done Brommie, well done.
If you don't have a small wheel on hand, get one. Do, and someday while easing by the Eero or zipping under the Zelcova, you'll be very very glad you did.
ISWE had two goals on a recent part-day trip to Chicago 1) visit the Chicago Tesla store to see what's new in the world of gasless transport and 2) enjoy riding around in Chicago loop traffic for a while.Silly Brommie, you can't be a Divvy
1) Tesla was a really interesting stop for ISWE. With the Model S, Tesla seems to really be on it's way to a legitimately practical automobile. The Model S has a whopping 232 mile range, a durable aluminum body, nothing in the boot or bonnet (gobs of storage space) and of course does not spew any yucky black, blue, or otherwise invisible exhaust. ISWE members will certainly appreciate the latter. There's nothing worse than working up some decent cardio activity only to stop at an intersection and take in a full lungful of smog. Yuk. That experience can't end too soon. Add in that electricity is about 20% the cost of gas (like buying gas right now for about .76/gallon) and an even cheaper Tesla on the way and we've got some good news for the US, motorists, and people who like to do things like breathe air. The Tesla staff also seemed interested in the ISWE Brompton and pleased to learn that it (unlike the Tesla for now) generates all of it's own electricity :)
2) Chicago streets are always a treat for ISWE. While Indianapolis is well on its way to becoming a bike-friendly city, it has a long way to go to match Chi-town. While the bike lanes in Indy represent some sort of for-now-indecipherable hieroglyphics for Indy drivers, a lot of Chicago drivers already get them, even when they're not there. In other words, even without bike lanes, most Chicago loop drivers seem to know you're waiting on their left at a light or slipping partially concealed between a bus and some taxi cabs, and they're OK with it. While the presence of a bike on the street in Indy sends some drivers into total freakout mode, a similar presence in Chicago seems to engender a proud, "Yeah, we got bikes, no biggie" from even the most timid-looking drivers. While it's easy for cyclists to quickly pick up how bike lanes (or the lack thereof) work simply by following the bicycling ambassadors (the bike in front of you that knows what it's doing), things are a little more difficult for motorists. They have to learn on their own to look for bikes in pretty much the last places they would expect to see them, that is anywhere but right up against the curb on the right side of the street (a place that will get a cyclist clobbered when a driver looks left to check for oncoming traffic while turning right, right over bike and rider). Hopefully it won't take too long to get Indy drivers up to bike-friendly savvy. Until then, we'll enjoy our trips in Chicago just a little bit more :)
Another interesting transportation finding in Chicago was the City's new Divvy bike sharing program. There were Divvy bikes everywhere! Divvy launched with 75 stations (like that pictured) equipped with 750 bikes. Riders made 4,123 rides on those bikes on just the opening weekend of the program. Soon, Chicago hopes to have 300 stations with 3,000 bikes. Wow! Is it just me, or is that a lot of bikes? That's a lot of bikes!
The stations work on 24-hour or annual passes at $7 and $75 respectively. Sub-30-minute rides are free. Longer rides cost a few dollars. Hmmm? Note to wife: bringing the Brompton in the trunk of the car, saved us $6 to $8 for my ride. I told you the Brompton was a wise investment :)
Seriously, these Divvys were all over the place. It's an amazing program. It will introduce a lot of people to cycling. It will have positive health effects. And, it will give tourists something to do other than snake around in creepy long lines of slow-moving Segways.
Internally geared three-speed hub and mystery brake
Mechanically, these things appear to be built like tanks. They have bulky frames, a front rack that looks like it could support a bag of cement (if you could find some way to get it on the rack) and interestingly, some very folding bike features. Hmmm...
A close look at the rear hub of the Divvy reveals what appears to be an internally geared three-speed hub, a lot like the Sturmey Archer on the Brommie. And, what? That rear brake looks similar to the old-fashioned/strange band brake on the Dahon Stow Away we recently spotted on the IUPUI campus. Both are smart choices for commuter bikes because they keep the elements (and other stuff) away from the important stuff. Like the Brommie, they also have active lighting systems front and rear. Cool.
We'll, thanks to having the folding bike in the trunk during the wife's meeting in the loop, our short stay in Chicago turned into a 20-mile tour of transportation technology for the future--a mini Columbian exposition. Not too bad little Brompton, not too bad at all.