Pedal Power

Sales of electric bikes are climbing

Electric bikes for rent in Madrid, Spain

 By Joseph Staruski

His face lit up with curiosity as he watched us pull up, from his seat in the coffee shop. People swarmed us asking about them, wanting to know what sleak new invention we were riding on. It was like we were celebrities. All it took was a couple of e-bikes.

“I get this all the time” said Tim Isle, the sales lead at Trek Bicycles at 47 West Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore, who took me for a ride on an electric bicycle. I got to see the excitement first-hand as electric bicycles are on the rise throughout the world and in the United States.

The typical electric bicycle is has a battery attached to either the middle frame or above the back wheel. It has a small motor that provides extra power to the rider proportional to their effort. Essentially, if you work harder, the motor works harder too. “A lot of commuters think about it as flattening out the road,” said Isle.

The NPD Group, a company that studies trends in consumer products, said last October, “electric bicycle sales have nearly tripled over the last 37 months” in the United States. Also, Google web searches for the topic of electric bikes increased by 45 percent in the United States when comparing July 2015 with July 2017, according to Google. In comparison, the number of searches for the topic of “bicycle” compared at the same time periods did not change.

The trend is expected to continue with projections from statista, a market research company, showing that the market for electric bicycles worldwide will grow from $15.7 to $24.3 billion dollars from 2016 to 2025, an increase of 55 percent.

But despite all of the apparent interest, some people might still have some reservations. Alex Winoski, a manager at Cycles BiKyle at 1046 West Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, has been working at the specialty bike shop for 11 years, since he was 16. He said he had some reservations of his own about electric bicycles before trying one a few years ago at the Philadelphia Bike Expo. “It’s something you don’t think you want until you try one,” he said. His mind was changed. After the expo, he decided to start selling e-bikes at his shop.

Another difficulty for electric bicycles is their price point. At Trek in Ardmore, they can sell for as much as $5,000 and none less than $2,000. Isle said “they’re too expensive to really be a trend right now.”

So who would buy such an expensive bicycle? Anthony Hennessy at Trek in Ardmore said people buy them for all different reasons. He said there are people who use it to compensate for physical ability like older people and someone with advanced asthma. There are couples who want to ride together at the same speed, but have different ability levels.

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Big Screen Revival

College students stream video, but still enjoy the movie theater experience.

By Steve Lehman

In the age of online streaming, college students are going to local movie theaters more than you would expect. In fact, they’re going even more than they used to.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that 61% of young adults use online streaming services as their preferred method of watching TV. When you have access to thousands of movies online for the monthly price of one traditional theater ticket, why go to the theater at all?

Isaac Kahan, a Haverford College junior, has some answers. While he enjoys streaming movies on his phone just like any other college student, Kahan also frequents the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (or BMFI) and other nearby theaters.

“I like the movie theater experience,” he told me in his apartment on Haverford’s campus, about a 10-minute bus ride down Lancaster Avenue from the BMFI. “I like how you can… go into another world for a little bit. And it feels like you’re doing something more productive than just watching a movie in your room.”

Why does he go the BMFI specifically? Because it’s easy. Kahan and other Haverford students can either walk or take the bus to Bryn Mawr, while Bryn Mawr College is around the corner from the theater.

Statistics some local theaters are actually thriving. Philly.com reported that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute “represents a rousing success in the digital age” due to “tapping into the movie-loving community in its backyard.”

The BMFI, an independent and non-profit movie theater, is selling more memberships to students now than in the past few years. Patricia Russo, membership manager for the Bryn Mawr theater, said that they “see a positive trend” in student membership sales.

The increase isn’t accidental: the BMFI is pushing for more student involvement. Possible reasons for the increase in student memberships include local business discounts, an annual College Night, and more community partners such as colleges and secondary schools in the area. “We’re doing as much as we can to bring in students,” Russo said over the phone.

This isn’t unique to the BMFI. Four local movie theaters managed by the parent non-profit Renew Theaters, based in Doylestown, each saw a steady increase in student ticket sales over the past three years, according to Renew Theaters’ Membership Manager Lauren Nonini.

Based on data provided by Nonini, student attendance at the Princeton Garden Theater leapt from 4,318 in 2015 to 10,344 in 2017, while the Ambler Theater, County Theater, and Hiway Theater saw similar — though less dramatic — increases over the same time span.

Streaming is convenient and easy, but Netflix can only go so far. Some college students want more out of their movies, especially if it means a way to relieve stress, get off campus, and not think about school for a while.

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Bringing Them Back Home

A Philadelphia planner is trying to bring people into the city.

By Joseph Staruski

Decades ago, America saw a great decline in urban populations as many people in the middle class moved to the suburbs. Gregory Krykewycz is hoping that that trend will change and that people might move back to urban spaces. In fact, he’s planning on it.

A mild-mannered academic urban planner, Krykewycz loves to talk about city planning. Bicycles, pedestrians, trains: these are the types of things that Krykewycz thinks about on a daily basis as an instructor at Drexel University, a volunteer at the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council, and the Associate Director of Transportation for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Greg Krykewycz

Why does he want to see people move back to the city? Well, mostly because it is good for the environment.

When he was younger, Krykewycz saw himself being an environmental planner. His hope was to buy up land outside of the city and prevent people from developing there. He wanted to directly fight back against the progress of suburban development and save the natural environment around the city.

“But I really quickly learned, once I got into school, that it’s really expensive,” said Krykewycz. So, he took a different approach. His plan now is to make the city so great that people simply do not want to move away. “It is better to make the developed places more attractive so that the development pressure outward is reduced and you get organic preservation of land as opposed to just buying everything up” he said.

Krykewycz likes what he does so much that he volunteers his time with the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council. He has lived in Media, a borough west of Philadelphia near Swarthmore College, for four years and has volunteered there for most of that time.

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The Mysterious Death of Honeybees

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Why are they dying? What is the cause? Haverford researchers are on the case

By Audra DeVoto

Chloe Wang tipped the glass beaker towards me, pointing out a faint impression in the tin foil covering in the shape of an X.

“See, the sharpie disappears,” she said.

The beaker had just come out of a 400º-Celsius oven (that’s 752º Fahrenheit), and any residual carbon molecules on its surfaces—sharpie included—were gone. Combusted. They had all floated away as molecules of carbon dioxide, leaving the glass and tin foil cleaner than the day it was made.

Wang was combusting carbon for a good reason. She was trying to identify chemicals that had been found on and in honeybees, and any contaminants on the glass beakers she used—no matter how small—would interfere with that process.

“I can’t use plastic pipettes because plastic is a hydrocarbon” she said, sitting down in front of a glass window that protected her from the experiments behind it—or rather the experiments from her.

“Here, the gloves are to protect the samples” Wang said.

She was surrounded by a constant buzz of machinery, air filters running, refrigerators humming, and various machines talking softly in the background. Despite the numerous benches and instruments packed into the small lab, each surface was immaculately clean. Carbon, the basic chemical building block of life, is everywhere. So keeping it off of surfaces and away from precious samples is a difficult task. Honeybee

After washing all her tools in three different chemical baths, she was ready to begin work on her sample: a small, innocuous tube consisting of two layers, a brown mush at the bottom, and a yellowish liquid on top.

The “mush” was honeybees. Ground up honeybees, to be exact. In the brightly lit, ultra clean lab deep within Haverford College’s science building, Chloe Wang was examining honeybees trying and determine chemical signatures of bee health.

She is part of a web of people consisting of farmers, beekeepers, researchers and students from two colleges, and even a large multinational corporation, all collaborating to save the bees through a novel approach—by cataloguing the chemicals a bee encounters in its lifetime, and linking those chemicals to disease and health.

And the bees, as many have realized, desperately need saving.

Back in 2006, honeybee hives started dying. Beekeepers would wake up one morning and find half, or more, of their hives gone—simply vanished. They left behind unhatched brood, plenty of honey—even their queen, unattended and alone. Even stranger, the honey left was not robbed by other bees or infested with parasites—something that normally occur within days of a hive being emptied.

In lieu of any known reason for the disappearances, and in an attempt to bring national recognition to the problem, beekeepers and scientists coined a new term for the phenomenon: Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD.

Many environmentalists blamed neonicotinoids (or neonics), a class of insecticides that are coated on seeds before they are planted, then are taken up by the plant as it grows, allowing the pesticide to be incorporated into the plant’s very tissue. That tissue includes pollen, the logic goes, which is collected by the bees and brought back to the hive, exposing not just worker bees but the entire colony.

But neonics are just one of many chemicals bees must contend with—one study found over 118 different pesticides in pollen, beeswax, and on bees themselves—and it turns out that although neonics have not disappeared from commercial agriculture, CCD is no longer killing the bees.

That is not to say that they are safe: in 2015, the national survival rate for hives was around 44%. Rather, it means that what is killing the bees is far less understood and more complicated than neonics—and that might be the scariest thing about it. Continue reading

English House Gazette 2015

Welcome to the English House Gazette, the news blog with content reported and written by students in Bryn Mawr’s ART264W News & Feature Writing class, which draws students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr.. We’ll begin with four stories focused on life at the two colleges.

Chloe Bellamio writes this year’s class project, a look at what Haverford and Bryn Mawr students thinks about their schools’ system of grading. An important part of the culture is not to speak publicly about grades. Does it work?

In the week before finals, Canaday Library opens its doors for 24 hours a day for Bryn Mawr students to study. Alison Robins spent a day and a night at Canaday and emerged with a funny and, at times, surreal story of life inside the library’s walls.

It isn’t easy being a female college in today’s co-ed world.  How does Bryn Mawr do it? The school this year had a record number of freshmen. Aliya Chaudhry explains how the school manages to swim against the tide.

Bryn Mawr has a large contingent of international students.  Being so far away from home — and the culture they grew up in — draws some of these students to religion. Fiona Redmond offers the tales of how four students from around the globe cope.

Even though her topic was procrastination, Phoung Nguyen turned her story in before the deadline. She writes a funny and insightful story on the fine art of waiting until later as practiced by college students.

Grading Our Grading System

Students admit to mixed feelings about how grades are handled 

By Chloé Bellamio 

As the second week of December comes to a close, the students of Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College seem to get busier by the minute. Holed up in the libraries or in their dorm rooms, they are hunched over heavy textbooks and squinting at their computer screens, learning various formulas and writing multiple papers.

Finals week is upon the 2,500 students of Bryn Mawr and Haverford, dragging along its fair share of stress and worry.

GRade AIt would be natural to assume that grades, and their anticipation, play a large role in this stress and worry, even though both colleges they do not emphasize grades and discourage their students against discussing them too much.  This is done in the name of creating a less stressful learning environment.

To test this theory, we conducted dozens of interviews with Bryn Mawr and Haverford students and also conducted an email survey of all students with the goal of getting a clear picture on what students’ think about the present system.

We got replies to the survey from 118 Bryn Mawr students and 332 Haverford students. This sample, representing about 10% of Bryn Mawr’s enrollment and 25% of Haverford’s, offers a good notion of the students’ thoughts on grades.

Here are our major findings:

  • Most Bryn Mawr and Haverford students do not think there is too much emphasis on grades and too much open competition over grades, but they think the competition is mostly internally driven.
  • If most Bryn Mawr and Haverford students come from competitive high schools, their high school experience mostly did not influence their choice to attend Bryn Mawr of Haverford. When it did, it was more because their high school encouraged them to look at top-level colleges than to escape grade competition.
  • While most students agree with the emphasis the colleges put on grades, for some students, the lack of insistence on grades make it more difficult to know where they stand academically compared to others.
  • Students from both colleges strongly dislike the fact that the 4.0 scale does not allow for an intermediate grade between 3.3 and 3.7, and want a 3.5 inserted.
  • While students have a lot of thoughts about the systems in place at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, they are not inclined to make many changes, if any.

The emphasis of both colleges on grades appears to be at the heart of the students’ perspectives on grades.

When asked to quantify the emphasis of their colleges about grades, 68% of Bryn Mawr respondents indicated it is “about right,” against 27% arguing there is too much emphasis on grades and 11% too little.

The results for Haverford indicate a slightly different view: 59% of the respondents believe grades are talked about enough, whereas 41% wish grades were more discussed.

Internal pressure

For Meredith Scheiring, a Bryn Mawr College junior, the perceived emphasis on grades depends on the individual.

“If grades are something that is important to you, you’ll see it influences more, she said.“I think there is a lot of pressure to do well, but I don’t think it equates to grades. I really don’t see people comparing numbers or letters per say… There is a level of competition and high expectation […] but I don’t see it specifically with grades.”GRade B

Bryn Mawr College senior Amy Callahan agrees that the emphasis put on grades by the college instills more of an

“internal competition” rather than setting up people to be “super-competitive with one another.” She added that it “creates a really intense energy, so [students] almost don’t need to be competing against other people”.

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The Making of a Micro-Brewery

How one family went from brewing 5 gallons to 220 gallons of beer

By Ryan Gooding

Micro-breweries often conjure up a certain mental image: dimly lit, barrels disguised as tables, un-recognizable indie music wafting down from the house speakers – an almost hipster aesthetic.

The Crooked Eye Brewery defies those stereotypes.

Set back off of the main drag in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, the Crooked Eye sits quietly tucked adjacent to Silvio’s Deli and behind the Davidian Tattoo Studio.

Above the un-marked, windowless door — that looks more like a back-door than a main entrance, sits a sign: “Crooked Eye Brewery: For What Ales You”.

The brewery is not imposing, nor is it flashy.

Pulling the door open reveals, a large, fluorescently lit, almost colorless space.  Along the wall opposite the entrance, is the bar itself – completely normal save for its bare plywood side walls and white cinderblock backsplash.

“It’s brand new,” says co-owner Paul Hogan, gesturing towards the bar, “we just expanded it a couple weeks ago . . . big improvement over what it used to be.”

Hogan stretches out his arms, as if to demonstrate the size of the previous bar.

“Couldn’t have been much more than six or eight feet long,” he clarifies.  “Only sat three.”

Now, the L-shaped bar runs for nearly 20 feet and seats 13.

Crooked EyeAcross from the bar are four stainless steel tables – the kind of tables that might easily be confused with workbenches – and dozens more matching stools.

A garage door immediately to the left of the entrance serves not only as the bar’s only window during the winter time, but also as a makeshift outdoor bar in the summer months.

The floors are concrete, and dotted with industrial, floor-level drains.  The walls are unpainted, and almost completely devoid of hanging accoutrement.

“We’re going on our third year in the space,” Hogan said one recent Wednesday evening, during a visit to Crooked Eye, “and it’s never not been a work in progress.”

I’m not surprised.  Save for the bar itself, you might easily mistake the place as a workshop.

But, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

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The Last Picture Store

Ardmore’s Viva Video is a blast from the past

By Marcelo Jauregui

Monday: Dec. 7, 2015: 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Mere seconds have passed from the official store-opening time, and a customer has already pulled up in front of the back entrance of Ardmore’s Viva Video: The Last Picture Store.

Following right behind her is a man and child. Both walk briskly. The man’s shoulder-length hair is visible from a distance. He holds his son’s hand, pulling him along towards the store.

The woman hands Miguel Gomez an encased DVD before driving away. Gomez opens up the store and walks inside with his five-and-a-half year old son, Ash. Ash stays at the store with his father Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. when he gets dropped off at Kindergarten.

Ash runs around the store yelling excitedly about the large pile of movies that were

Miguel Gomez of Viva Video

Miguel Gomez of Viva Video

dropped off overnight. Gomez plugs in an auxiliary chord into his 4th generation iPod classic. Rock music immediately erupts from speakers around the store. Gomez helps Ash bring in the returned movies onto the counter.

“Oh, this one looks pretty cool,” says Ash.

“What’s that one?”

“Salamander?”

A huge smile runs over Gomez’s face. “How did you read that? Did you sound that one out? That’s the longest words you’ve ever sounded out, Ash!”

Ash takes me on a tour around the store. The store is somewhat divided into three spaces: one facing the parking lot, one facing the counter (this would be the middle of the store), and one facing Lancaster Avenue. The first space contains the DVDs on sale; the second, new releases; the third, everything else. The movies people ordered are in shelves behind the counter. Movie posters run throughout the store. Behind the counter are rankings written up on white boards and chalkboards: “Best Reviewed New Releases,” “Last Week’s Top Rentals.”

Salsa music is now playing as Ash shows me around. The first place he takes me to is the horror section. “I never watched this one, but my favorite one is probably The Evil Dead because my name is Ash.” Ash is the name of the main character of that film. Ash then leads me to the kids’ section. “I’m here a lot,” says Ash. He pulls out a few of his favorites: Garfield, Charlie Brown, G-Force. Ash points to a Harry Potter movie, questioning why it was in the kids section. We then start to talk about Harry Potter. “I have two of the books, but I didn’t read them because I don’t like books with no pictures,” states Ash.

We walk back to the counter. Before arriving, Ash quickly turns around and says, “Oh, one more thing, there are 14,000 movies here!”

Gomez chuckles. “I didn’t know he knew how many movies we had. He is correct.”

“You told me!”

“I know Ash! You have such a good memory, much better than mine.”

Ash goes to color near the back entrance. Gomez rushes over to the phone and answers. On the other line is a representative from The Ardmore Initiative, a business development bureau that provided Gomez with a job creation grant when he opened Viva Video.

Three years later, and Gomez is still keeping the place running. He is at the store Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 10.p.m. The store is open from 11a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. When Gomez is not working, his two partners in crime, Dan and Bryan, are at the store.

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No more PBR?

Beer consumption is declining on college campuses

By Ryan Gooding       

In many ways, Dan Hopkins, 21, fits neatly into the stereotypical vision of a college-aged male: tall, slender, sandy blonde hair, a snappy sweater to go over his slim-fit khakis.  But in one regard, Hopkins breaks with the mold: he’s not a fan of beer.

“Beer is nasty,” said the senior at Haverford College on Sunday afternoon in his on-campus apartment.  “I think it’s just an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire.”

In the early 1990s, Hopkins would have been something of a standout.  According to data collected by Gallup’s Consumption Habits poll between the years of 1992 and 1994, nearly 71% of 18-29 year olds preferred beer over wine and liquor.

Today, however, Hopkins is far from alone. By 2014, the same annual survey found that preference for beer amongst young people plummeted 30 percentage points, making beer less popular than wine and spirits amongst young people for the first time since Gallup began collecting alcoholic preference data in 1992.

At Haverford, the story is no different.

Beer TapsThough no internal data exists demonstrating a reciprocal decline in the popularity of beer at the elite liberal arts college, talking with Hopkins, his peers, and campus administrators quickly reveals that, for a variety of reasons, the trend is alive and well locally.

Quality Over Quantity?

“It’s easier to lose interest in beer when you’re only exposed to the s—– stuff,” says Hopkins, as he prepares his late-morning Sunday breakfast. “Especially if you’re younger at

Haverford, most of the beer that you’re exposed to is of a very low quality.  That’s going to effect how you think about wanting beer.”

Parties at Haverford exhibit no shortage of beer.  The problem is not supply, says Hopkins, it’s quality.

High-quality, craft beers – despite an wealth of local and affordable craft breweries – are far from abundant on Haverford’s social scene.  Instead low-cost alternatives such as Natural Light, Natural Ice, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the like are vastly over-represented.

“I think that most people’s experience with alcohol at Haverford has at least something to do with Natty Light,” Hopkins explains, referring to Natural Light, one of the cheapest and therefore most readily available beers at Haverford parties.

“Natty Light is like dirty water,” Hopkins continued.  “If I only had natty light for my entire college career, I would hate beer too.”

“In fact,” he checks himself, smiling as he does, “that’s kind of why I do.”

Though, to pin beer’s waning popularity at Haverford solely on a shortage of high quality beer would be misguided.  Quality is merely one piece of a larger, more troubling puzzle.

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The Master of Mead

Bill Ristow’s home brewing has led him to an ancient drink

By Ryan Gooding

“It’s really just a storage unit,” begins Bill Ristow.

He walks down a narrow, brightly lit, but sparsely decorated hallway beneath the Haverford Gable Apartments, just across the train tracks from Haverford College, the school he currently attends.  His stride is long, relaxed, almost bouncy – just what you’d expect from the lanky collegiate cross country and track runner – yet he moves forward with an authoritative presence.

Dangling precariously from his right hand, swaying back and forth as he walks, is a wine tasting glass.

ill Ristow samples some of his mead

Bill Ristow samples some of his mead.

At the far end of the hallway, Ristow pauses in front of a stark-white door, save for a black number “7” neatly painted at eye level.  He asks me to hold the tasting glass as he rifles through his pockets, presumably looking for the key.

“This is part of what I like so much about home brewing,” Ristow continues, finally producing the key from his back pocket.  “At least when it comes to wines and mead, you don’t need crazy infrastructure.”

He pauses again, this time as he struggles to force the key into the lock.  “I mean, you can do it in a kitchen, or a living room, or in our case, a tiny storage unit,” he concludes.

The deadbolt clicks back and the door swings open, revealing a drab, sparsely cluttered storage space that can’t measure much more than five feet across by 12 feet deep.  The right half of the unit is almost completely unoccupied, save for the half-dozen jugs and bottles containing his most recent experiments.  Dominating most of the left half is a stack of white boxes.

“Sorry it’s not visually stunning.”

Ristow steps inside and gestures silently to the boxes.  He approaches the stack; reaches into a box labeled “Orange Clove Mead” in beautiful, handwritten cursive; and from it, produces an unlabeled wine bottle. For a moment he stands motionless, staring proudly down at the bottle in his hands.  Several long seconds pass before Ristow looks up again, smiling.

“Want to try some?”

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