The First Bike Rides in Kraków – Part II – Lunch Time Mission

The adventure of Tuesday contiues…

Lunch Time Mission

As lunch time drew near I decided I wanted to have some Vietnamese Food, which I thought might be a small challenge in Kraków. I was correct in my assumption with only about 4-5 places I could find via Google. I also looked up based on what the words for vietnamese would be or vietnam would be in Polish. I got the same results. The one location that stood out, and was south of the city where I wanted to explore, was called Mekong. The Google bike directions looked something like this.

The various options for biking out to Mekong.

The various options for biking out to Mekong.

I started out, on my way, and it was interesting riding. South of the downtown region the cycle-tracks and bike lanes quickly dissappear. I could tell that I was no longer in the affluent part of the city. I ended up on alleys and in various unpaved backways. None that I would say are scary, by American standards. In America you get lost down an alleyway in a city like New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, or New York and you may ever come out the other end. But here, even amid what looked like sketchy areas there is nothing to fear.

Some Criminal and Polluted Observations & Research

Speaking of crime and related things. Krakow has a murder rate lower than any US City. It is almost a third of Portland’s, which is a city that has an extremely low murder rate by many US city standards. But on the issue of crime you might experience, you can dramatically decrease chances of being victimized by not being stupid.

Here’s a few thoughts. When you’re in any crowded area, keep your valuables somewhere on your person that cannot be easily removed. A wallet chain becomes very useful, but even better have something you can attach to something not easily ripped off, like your belt or a front strap or something. For those using a purse use one that actually has a strong strap (none of those feeble skinny straps, a theif can yank that right off of you). However, in most places you won’t be in significantly crowded spaces and you won’t really have to worry about these things, however remember you’re in a foreign country (unless of course you’re Polish) and if you lose your passport or other informatoin you’re in deep shit. It could delay crossing borders or returning home. Simply, be smart, keep your things on your person and connected in a way you won’t easily lose them. If you’re an easy target then theives will be eyeing you, albeit there are very few in Kraków.

More on theives in a later entry also, because overall, there are far fewer theives and petty criminals in Kraków than in most cities. It’s kind of pleasant to realize this and not be worried about most things, but like I wrote, more on that later.

The one thing that Kraków does have that is risky is that it has horrible air quality and is regularly polluted by various other elements. It is, by measure the most polluted city in Poland. However, that doesn’t mean it will kill you, just that if you lived here you dramatically increase the possibility of other issues or even birth defects. Even in English it is easy to find information about Krakow’s horrible air quality. One article I dug up has this blurb in the center of the article,

“Two things work against Krakow’s air quality: pollution and geographical factors that prevent the dispersal of pollution. The two major sources of the most harmful pollutants are domestic solid fuel furnaces and motor vehicles, but local industry and air-borne pollutants from other parts of Poland and neighbouring countries also contribute.

Geographically, Krakow sits in a valley, which tends to concentrate pollutants, and experiences a low number of windy days, which means pollutants are not readily dispersed.

Clean air activists are focusing on the problem of domestic solid fuel furnaces as a major source of pollution, and one that could be eliminated relatively easily. Only about 10 percent of Krakow’s households use solid fuel furnaces for heating. Unfortunately, these furnaces are also frequently used to incinerate domestic waste, which is probably the leading cause of the most harmful pollutants. The problem becomes particularly visible during the winter heating season – always the period that sees the most extreme particulate and benzo[a]pyrene levels.”

Ugh, so by the end of reading that one realizes that the number one creator of pollutants is the dumb shit the Krakovians do with their own trash! Fortunately I do know, that this is being tackled quickly and a lot of this along with recycling has been put into place. As most of the city is quickly modernizing, and by proxy, cleaning itself up in this regard. Many of the other issues are going to be much more difficult to tackle, such as pollutants from other countries seeping into the air.

But just after that, because of the valley location of Kraków the second pollution source that causes this horrible air pollution is the automobile! Like most places, the Krakóvians have latched onto the automobile even though here, it is clearly NOT the most efficient way to get around! Even with the city maintaining and extensive and very effective transit system, an excellet bicycle system, still a full 50-60% of idiots decide to travel by single occupant vehicle and increase the pollution level. Albeit that shows greater intellgience among Krakóvians than say the average Portlander or American by a large degree, it still points the the idiotic behavior of people without a direct order or economic incentive to stop using such a detrimental tool (the automobile) so frequently that it actually injures, sickens, and kills so many hundreds and thousands of people. In Kraków alone the rates people get sick from these pollutants is high, and the amount of birth defects I’m finding is also very high – so every jack ass driving around alone in their car or burning solid fuels and waste in their furnace could be blamed for these problems.

One more note. Even with these higher rates of pollution and higher rates of hospitalization and medical needs of people in Kraków the cost per citizen in Kraków for medical needs is dramatically lower, by a LARGE degree than in the United States. So even though I’m pointing out these horrible pollutants that bring horror to this city and its people, the city by all means is being intelligent, yet acting slowly to remedy the problems and has few problems overall.

Anyway, back to the adventure of finding lunch!

Left, Right, But Wait, Where am I?

If you check out my route I took to Mekong, you can see that I didn’t get all of the turns correct.

My Twisted Route to Mekong (Click to see the full Strava report)

My Twisted Route to Mekong (Click to see the full Strava report)

I set out to right on the southern part of the river, but there was no clear way down to the path I knew existed there. In addition, I didn’t even see the path at that point, so I rode up and across the river to the northern shoreline and rode along that trail. It was very easy to do, as with most of my other cycling there was a marked cycle-track to ride on completely seperate from traffic and easy to navigate with cycling lights and other infrastructure.

I rode along and further toward a bridge (read more about the bridge) that would take me across at a location that would allow me to traverse and travel further south toward this Mekong location. However, as I came up from the river along the river wall (kind of like Portland’s river wall to protect from flooding) I came upon a bridge to cross. At first I didn’t realize what kind of bridge I was approaching, however I realized quickly that I was entering a pedestrian and cycling only bridge! Here are a few pictures.

The Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge to Kazimierz Neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge to Kazimierz Neighborhood (Click for full size image)

Same Bridge, Slightly different angle (Click for full size image)

Same Bridge, Slightly different angle (Click for full size image)

Looking north. (click for full size image)

Looking north. (click for full size image)

The southern entrance of the bridge, from the Kazimierz neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The southern entrance of the bridge, from the Kazimierz neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The Bell Bullhorn (Click for full size image)

The Bell Bullhorn (Click for full size image)

The robot advertisement of sorts (Click for full size image)

The robot advertisement of sorts (Click for full size image)

After that I rode into the Kazimierz Neighborhood. I found a few pictures of murals on the wall, one being a kind of advertisement of sorts and one being simply a piece of art. It took me a moment to realize that the big bell, was also a bullhorn speaker with a hand holding it. Kind of the semblence of alarm and activism. Something that has been prevelent in these parts of the world more than one might realize at the modern peaceful nature of Kraków.

I then left from there, after winding down into the streets and returning, find that I needed to travel long the southern shore of the river a little further. I then navigated up onto a small and winding street, ended up having to traverse some city streets. These streets had moderate traffic but with the added tram tracks and the little bit of auto traffic it did seem a little awkward.

However at no point did I feel the drivers were anywhere near as incompetent or dangerous as drivers in America. As with almost every area of Europe I’ve been to the drivers are what I would call “aggressively competent” and “aggressively safe” compared to drivers in America. Even though, first impressions for Americans might be that European drivers are dangerous, this is however an incorrect perception. European drivers are routinely faced with dramatically more movement and objects within their driving realm. They are taught from the first days of driving how to deal with these things. This makes them more aware in almost every way than American drivers. By this training they also drive much closer and into confines that seem to close to Americans. We complain about cars passing us to quickly or to closely where in Europe this is a normal thing, and in many parts of the infrastructure a cyclist is expected to travel directly into traffic that will be traveling directly toward them. As a matter of this, I’ll have video and more of this coming to you, dear readers of Transit Sleuth, in the near future.

The Overpass. (Click for full size image)

The Overpass. (Click for full size image)

Overpass (Click for full size)

Overpass (Click for full size)

From these streets I rode, ironically, up through and around a Ford car dealership. Then down and over a highway on a rather pleasant pedestrian and cycling overpass bridge.

As I crossed I got a good view down onto the rail lines leading into the city from this direction. While crossing one of the local commuter trains passed by. Basically these are like diesal motorized units (DMUs) from what I can tell, except that they’re all electric.

Looking south, away from downtown. (Click for full size image)

Looking south, away from downtown. (Click for full size image)

I continued onward down a small road that climbed uphill about a kilometer. At the top I saw this sign that gave me serious chills. The horror of what the sign stated, and where I was standing at that very moment left me pausing for a long few minutes. I looked around with some shock as I realized how peaceful and pleasant the ride up to this point was.

Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp. (Click for full size image)

Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp. (Click for full size image)

For more on the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp read the horrors on the Wikipedia page. Here’s a small excerpt from this insanity.

Goeth's Balcony. (Click for Wikipedia page)

Goeth’s Balcony. (Click for Wikipedia page)

The balcony of Amon Goeth’s house in Płaszów. Although Goeth was ruthless and would shoot at prisoners, he could not do so from this balcony: the geographical terrain as well as the layout of the camp infrastructure preclude this. He used to step outside to hunt humans, with his Tyrolean hat marking his intentions. It was the signal for seasoned prisoners to attempt to hide.

Needless to say, seriously disturbing. After taking a moment to pause and reflect on this. Also to just have silence in respect to the dead, I then carried onward down a steep decline. There I crossed a major highway again and then into the road complex around this large mall. This mall was where my destination is located, so I was relieved to finally be here. Albeit this was not the end of my jouney to lunch!

The final steps before food that I took were a complete 2 laps around the mall, trying to find the Mekong Restaraunt before I realized that it was just upstairs of where I’d parked my bike! Finally having arrived, and after 17 minutes of 2 laps being confused, I arrived and had a delicious lunch.

Enjoy!

From U-Haul to You-Haul

I’m going, how about anybody else? If so, I’ll see you at…

HOW TO MOVE BY BIKE presented by Steph Routh

Moving to a new home is often considered one of life’s top 10 most stressful events, but it doesn’t have to be! Add bikes, have fun. Bike moves transform a task traditionally filled with untold drudgery into a stuff parade and a housewarming party. In Portland and beyond, moving by bike has become a growing movement.

Steph Routh has participated in 67 bike moves to date and is author of the book “How to Move by Bike.” She is also the Mayor of Hopscotch Town, a consulting and small publishing firm that inspires and celebrates fun, lovable places for everyone. You can find her on the web at hopscotchtown.com and follow her on Twitter @stephrouth.

*Special bonus opportunity – join Steph at “I <Heart> Cargo Bikes” on Thursday, Feb. 13th, hosted by Splendid Cycles, 407 SE Ivon St. Kids activities from 3-5 pm, reception 5-7 pm.*

Bicycle Lunch and Learn
Thursday, February 20th, 12 to 1 pm
City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave, 2nd Floor -Lovejoy Room
(bring your lunch!)

Cuz’ The Northwest is Rocking the Cycling and Seattle is Starting to Lead the Pack!

Recently Seattle stepped up its game even more. Not only is a streetcar line soon to open between King Street Station, First Hill and Capital Hill but also a cycle track is going in on Broadway. I knew all about the streetcar line going in but holy moly I’d no idea they were getting a cycle track too. A trip will be scheduled and I’ll be aiming to bring some of the cycle track and streetcar action to you via Transit Sleuth TV once they’re both open! Here’s a sneak peek via Streetsblog.

The streetcar system is connecting three major points in Seattle, this is going to be a pretty big deal. Here’s a summary of the four places. For more official information about the streetcar service, check out Seattle Streetcar.

King Street Station @ Pioneer Square area to Chinatown then thru First Hill & Capital Hill

King Street Station is the Amtrak Station that has recently been returned to it’s proper magnificent glory of yesteryear. In some ways it is also the northern terminus for Sounder commuter rail service from Tacoma and the southern terminus for Sounder service to Everett. It’s a gorgeous station, worth a trip by itself. There are a number of other things in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle that are worth checking out. This area along with King Street Station is basically the southern terminus of the line. The line then traverses part of the International District (or still commonly referred to as Chinatown in Seattle) and then turns in the First Hill area. It continues through the First Hill area and into Capital Hill, which is one of the dense urban areas of the city where music, art and livability thrive. It also is partly rooted to the future Link Light Rail Station for Capital Hill. This connection point is poised to be one of the busiest areas of the city in the coming years, easily transforming the very vibrancy and life of Seattle.

The Broadway Cycletrack

If there is a sure fire way to avoid streetcar tracks on a bike, it’s to have a cycle track right next to them! Seattle has planned for this and the Broadway Street segment is going to have just that. Here’s a cross cut view of the cycle track next to the streetcar and road traffic on Broadway.

Seattle Transportation Department also has more information about cycletracks going in around Seattle along with some information about ones elsewhere.

Multnomah Street, Illegal Parking and Street Vandelism – Who to Call?

Alright fellow Portlanders, transit riders, bike riders and pedestrians – and hell, motorists too! Who does one call when people are illegally blocking the lane, illegally parked and blocking the cycle track, have vandalized or destroyed the road and amenities around the road to get these things fixed? Can I just volunteer to fix these things?

On NE Multnomah Street the city installed a cycle track from 15th all the way down to the Rose Quarter. Some of it is indeed just a bike lane, but much of it is a wonderfully relaxing cycle track. Except when motorists screw up and park inside and on top of the cycle track itself. How does this happen? Here’s a photo of a recent issue I encountered when riding that forced myself and Kristen @kristenmozian into the road. Which is fine in many ways, I’ve no problem taking the lane. However I tend to prefer not riding in the road with motorists if I don’t have to.

The cycle track with 6+ cars parked in it. (Click for full size! Also, plz excuse the distortion, a Nissan Pathfinder drove by while I was taking the panoramic shot)

The cycle track with 6+ cars parked in it. (Click for full size! Also, plz excuse the distortion, a Nissan Pathfinder drove by while I was taking the panoramic shot)

If you look to the left side and right side of this photo, you’ll notice not a single automobile is parked in the actual parkings spots. All indicating non-locals confused about what they’re doing. Another confusing matter, is all of the little plastic bollards are stripped from the street. Possibly because people have driven over them or what not. We really need some clearly marked METAL bollards. Ya know, kind of like they use when they actually intend to have real parking and divisions that are clearly marked. Here are some great examples of Bollards that actually count.

Here’s a map of where the obstructions were today. Between #1 and #2 was the roadway where the cars were parked in the cycle track. At #4 was were planters where moved from the yellow area into the cycle-track lane. At #3 was were more bollards have been knocked down or vandalized making them either invisible to motorists and cyclists or almost invisible. Which brings me to the next few points on this corridor.

NE Multnomah Street, with the obstruction and vandalism points. Click for full size image.

NE Multnomah Street, with the obstruction and vandalism points. Click for full size image.

The Planters Are Out of Place!!

This is a problem for motorists and cyclists. The planters on Multnomah along the bike way are also knocked out of place in a few places. The planters act as the primary division between the road and the cycle track. If the city wants people to bike who ordinarily wouldn’t come near a bike lane in the regular road, this isn’t going to help if one of the main cycle tracks in the city is treated as some back water country road. So that leaves me with some questions…

Questions!

  1. How does one get these things fixed?
  2. Is there a hotline?
  3. Is the city actually responsible for these things?
  4. Is there a way to start a drive, donate to or otherwise get these bollards upgraded to the point that they’re actually worth something?
  5. Maybe get a volunteer community group together to monitor and make sure the city stays on top of these problems?

I’m open to getting these things fixed, I’m open to volunteering and donating cash to make it happen. But if they aren’t going to get fixed in a serious and legitimate way (re: see the REAL bollards above) then I’d rather just get some critical mass events going to piss off the status quo. It seems Portland really is starting to need a solid re-awakening of its rebel spirit, because it’s become a place that is assumed to be ahead of the curve, but the city has started to just rest on its laurels.

Not good Portland. Let’s get going and kick some ass and get things back into gear. We’ve got progress to make toward a better future. As it is, we’re dumping crap on the next generation and shortchanging the city!

#BBBBBX with Michael Anderson

So what’s #BBBBBX? It was the hash tag for the “Bicycle Brown Bag on Bicycle Blog eXplosion!”

I had mentioned this a multitude of days ago in the Bicycle Brown Bag blog entry notice. Right off I have to start with a kudoes to Michael for being a great presenter. The audience enjoyed the talk very much. So what did Micheal talk about? Here’s some photos and the lowdown on the Bicycle Brown Bag.

Bicycle Brown Bag

The brown bag is a lunch time presentation put on at Portland City Hall, that meets the third Thursday of every month except December. The topics range from media participation, to involvement and social equity issues with cycling in the city. The range is wide, but all focused around bicycling. So far I’ve only seen one presentation, Michael’s that is, but I intend to return to see some of the future presenters. Adonia Lugo is speaking at the next brown bag, an individual that has been heavily and passionately involved in cycling and organizing in Los Angeles among places! She also blogs at http://www.urbanadonia.com. If you’ve not attended before, this would make a great first brown bag, so maybe I’ll see you there!

Bicycling Blog Explosion!

Micheal came in to present on what he’s seen from the journalist perspective of the blog explosion around bicycling. Not just a growth in people actually blogging about bicycling, but an explosive growth in the number of people reading and subscribing to these blogs. Here’s a quick description of what he spoke about, included on the PBOT site, “Portland didn’t just show the country that bike-friendliness was possible in a big U.S. city — it showed the country that bike-friendly media are essential to biking’s growth. Following up on the Green Lane Project’s Sept. 16-18 summit in Portland, Michael Andersen of GreenLaneProject.org and BikePortland.org shared the latest practices from Seattle, San Diego, Saint Louis and other cities where independent journalists are following BikePortland’s lead (and discovering new tricks of their own).  Several local bloggers attended the session, enlivening the conversation in the second half of the hour.

For a live recording of the presentation check out “Bicycle Blogging Explosion” and for the slide deck in PDF download here or view it below via the Slideshare embed.

Proper Portland Brew, Transport & Week Kick Off

Mmmmm

Mmmmm

I Can’t Seem to Stay Away From These Topics!?

Road paving in Portland. There are only a few situations when a road should get paved (or the more likely situation of “re-paved”). Here’s the criteria:

  • It can be (re-)paved with appropriate sidewalks on at least one side of the street minimum.
  • It can be (re-)paved with at least basic bicycle lane amenities and if at all possible, buffered bicycle lane and car parking.
  • It can be (re-)paved with appropriate spaced parking from the corners, with corner protection and drainage to clean the water built in.
  • It can be (re-)paved with appropriate parking for cars, based on short term and long term parking striping.
  • It can be (re-)paved with permission from the community immediately surrounding the street. Do not repave a street like 23rd without the communities permission. There is no need for it to be repaved and the roughness of the road encourages safety through slower speed and decreasing “through” traffic from using a neighborhood street unsafely.
  • It can be (re-)paved if there are amenities for crossing safety added so we don’t have more children die. Already, the cost is too high with just one loss of life attributed to inappropriate road build out in the city. How many have to die to make it a priority for safety amenities? It should be zero, but it’s obviously already higher than that.

Right now Portland is rapidly gaining frustration with the Mayor. The Mayor isn’t informing the public why, how or if it should be paving streets. Instead the city office is just forcing ahead the agenda to pave “100 miles of streets” in spite of and in many cases without any of the above. A pot hole is one thing, a dead child is absolutely something else. A pot hole should not rate above human life. A pot hole shouldn’t even rate above a sidewalk. But alas, these days it seems that the city Government’s priority is around filling the pothole, and pushing people back into cars.

Not sure if anybody else has noticed, but if you have half a brain, Portland has stood out and seen growth over the last 30 years because it DID NOT follow these types of policies. How about we straighten back up and get our heads screwed on right? That’s the spirit!