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Wichita Gets Safer Bike Lanes Thanks to Toilet Plungers

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Many cities lack the infrastructure needed to really keep cyclists safe on urban roads, but in Wichita, Kansas, some cyclists are striking back against cars creeping into their dedicated lanes. With toilet plungers.

According to CityLab and KSN, a mystery bicycling activist recently set up toilet plungers with reflective tape along the edge of a bike lane in downtown Wichita in a moment of DIY urban design. The plungers act like the bollards that some cities use to create a physical barrier between bikes and vehicle traffic, giving drivers a visual reminder that they’re not legally allowed to cross over into the bike lane. From a legal standpoint, plunging the roads is technically littering, but it was for a good cause.

Bike lanes can have a major impact on traffic safety in a city. Riders tend to be safest when riding in protected lanes, meaning lanes that have a physical barrier between the bike lane and other traffic. When New York City installed the first protected bike lane in the U.S. in 2009, the city saw a 58 percent decrease in injuries—among pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers—on those streets [PDF]. Intersections tend to be particularly dangerous, because drivers don’t always see cyclists while turning: in 2014, about a third of the bicycle fatalities in the U.S. occurred at an intersection.

While Wichita has been taking some steps to create new bike lanes and make cycling safer for its residents, an anonymous bike lover is just prodding drivers to stay in their lane. This kind of guerrilla bike infrastructure isn’t unheard of; cycling and pedestrian safety activists have previously set up cones, traffic delineators, flower pots, and more to stake their territory on traffic-clogged streets. Occasionally, these makeshifts even become permanent. Wichita's plungers were only a temporary installation—though there were still some left up a week after the intervention—but perhaps the city will notice that cyclists enjoy the extra protection.

[h/t CityLab]

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11 Gifts for the Cyclist
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In some ways, having an avid cyclist in your life makes holiday gift-giving simple. Obviously, they could use something for those four-hour-long Saturday morning rides. But if you aren’t a cyclist yourself, you may not know where to even start when you walk into a bike shop. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are 11 gifts to help the weekend warrior nearest and dearest to your heart hit the road in style.

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1. ROAD RUNNER BURRITO HANDLEBAR BAG; $40

A tattooed cyclist rides a bike equipped with a small blue bag under the handlebars.
Road Runner Bags

This handy bag slips under a bike’s handlebars to provide a little extra storage without getting in the way. It’ll give your beloved cyclist a water-resistant spot to stash their keys, phone, snacks, or extra clothes while they ride.

Find It: Road Runner Bags

2. THE FRIDGE NECK GAITER; $20

A man's face is covered by a light blue striped gaiter.
The Fridge

A neck gaiter is a great way to keep warm, and a great gift, if your cycling aficionado commutes by bike in the winter or loves to ride in chilly weather. The versatile, tube-shaped cloths can be used to keep the neck, the face, the ears, and the head warm, depending on how they’re worn. The Fridge’s stylish gaiters come in a variety of different colors and patterns, so you can find one that matches your cyclist’s personal style. Even if they already have one, it’s one of those accessories that no one can have too many of.

Find It: The Fridge

3. LIZARD SKINS BAR TAPE; $40 AND UP

A roll of black handlebar tape
Amazon

Metal handlebars can be hard on the hands, so most cyclists use some sort of tape to pad their paws and give them a little extra grip. Colorful tapes like the ones offered by Lizard Skin will give a touch of personality to your cyclist’s ride, and protect their hands, too. If you’re not quite sure of their style, though, you can’t go wrong with a classic black.

Find It: Amazon

4. SHIMANO TRANSIT SHORT FINGER CYCLING GLOVES; $18 AND UP

A dark gray fingerless glove
Amazon

These fingerless gloves will make your loved one’s bike commute a little safer, and more comfortable to boot. They not only improve grip, but they’re made to be highly reflective to keep cyclists visible in low light. Plus, they are designed to absorb vibrations, making long periods of time on the road easier on the hands.

Find It: Amazon

5. OOPSMARK BICYCLE WINE CARRIER RACK; $34

A bottle of wine strapped to the frame of a bike
Amazon

A good bike ride doesn’t always have to be a serious, Lycra-clad affair. Give your loved one a great excuse to take a leisurely picnic jaunt on their bike with this rack, which will allow them to safely strap a full bottle to their ride. The handsome leather straps and antique brass fasteners will no doubt make them feel classy while they do it.

Find It: Amazon

6. DRAFT ANIMALS; $12

The cover of a book shows a cyclist riding next to a car.
Amazon

Recently-retired pro cyclist Phil Gaimon’s memoir Draft Animals: Living the Cycling Dream (Once in a While) explores the ups and downs of life at the highest levels of the professional cycling world. In addition to the intrigue of going behind the scenes (including frank discussions of doping), its honest tales of some of the less glamorous aspects of being a professional athlete—the stresses of living on the road, long-distance relationships, and the nightmare that is negotiating contracts with teams—may make your favorite cyclist even more content with staying in the amateur lane.

Find It: Amazon

7. PEDRO'S MINI PIT KIT; $50

A collection of cleaning supplies
Amazon

This miniature cleaning kit packs a powerful punch in one 1.8-gallon bucket, making it perfect for cyclists who live in small apartments and don’t have a ton of space to clean their bikes after a ride. It comes with a bag to separate wet and dry items, and separate brushes for larger parts of the bike like the frame and wheels and for small parts like cogs and chains. It also includes tire levels and other tools, and comes with a cleaning guide full of expert advice on bike maintenance.

Find It: Amazon

8. THE STICK; $42

A blue-and-white muscle-roller stick
Amazon

After a long ride, any cyclist is going to be a bit stiff. The Stick can be used both pre-ride as a way to warm up muscles and afterward to boost muscle recovery. The scientifically-validated muscle roller massages away pain and works out knots, improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. Go ahead, give your favorite biker the gift of pain relief.

Find It: Amazon

9. DONATION TO SCHOOLCYCLE

Give your dearest bike lover the chance to help someone else get behind the handlebars. In 2014, the UN Foundation’s GirlUp charity launched SchoolCycle, a project to help more girls stay in school by giving them the means to get there. A $125 donation gives a girl in Malawi—where some have to walk up to 10 miles to get to school—a bike, spare parts, and maintenance training so that they can get to class easier.

Find It: SchoolCycle

10. BAMBOO BIKE WALL CLOCK; $64

A clock made of a bike gear and bamboo
Uncommon Goods

This handsome bamboo clock is made with reclaimed bike parts, making it the perfect addition to any cyclist’s living room. What better way to remind them it’s time for a ride than with a bike-chain pendulum?

Find It: Uncommon Goods

11. GARMIN VÍVOACTIVE 3 GPS SMART WATCH; $250

The screen of a Garmin smartwatch shows a clock and activity statistics.
Amazon

Garmin’s latest GPS smart watch makes a great gift for any athlete that loves to quantify their hard work. The vívoactive activity tracker uses GPS, an accelerometer, and a wrist-based heart rate monitor to automatically track activities like biking, detailing the distance, time, and speed of a ride along with updates on cardio levels. The full-color touchscreen device (easy to read in direct sunlight) is water resistant enough for swimming, so it can definitely withstand the sweat of a bike ride. It also features smart notifications, so they can see when you’ve texted them, even if they’re on their bike. (No excuses not to respond now!) And with the new touchless payment system Garmin Pay, they won't have to bring their credit card on their ride if they want to stop for coffee.

Find It: Amazon

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Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
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How a Makeshift Bicycle Saved Curious George From the Nazis
Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

Curious George, the beloved star of children’s literature, might not exist if not for an empty bicycle shop and a handy artist.

As a new video from Great Big Story explains, the cartoon monkey was the brainchild of Hans and Margret Rey, a Jewish-German couple who lived in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. The two pet monkeys that the writer/illustrator duo kept there soon became the inspiration for a character they called Fifi: an impish, inquisitive monkey.

The Reys later moved to Paris, but when the Nazis invaded France, they were forced to flee, taking their manuscripts with them. When they tried to make their escape, though, they discovered that no more trains were leaving the city.

The desperate couple located a bicycle store, only to find no available bikes. Making do with what was available, Hans Rey used spare parts to jerry-rig two makeshift bikes to carry them—and the story of the monkey who would later become Curious George—to Lisbon, Portugal, where a ship to New York awaited them.

Hear the amazing true story of the Reys' journey (and learn how Fifi evolved into the George we know today) by watching the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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