Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ride that Bike Gangsta

Having trouble with a clever title for this post, I reached back a couple of years and shared my favorite "pedestrian shout out.".  There is stiff competition in the top ten, but this is the best.  I was riding through Hartford's Northend on Main Street wearing some non-garish spandex when I passed a pair of 20-something black women walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.  I nearly fell off my bike giggling when one yelled out, "Ride that bike, Gangsta!"  Hartford has some damn entertaining street conversation.  If you're in a car with the windows up, you are missing masterpieces of comedy and snark.  After a couple years of immersion, I've gotten better at responding in kind.

Now that we've had our fun, it is time for more fun. Truthfully, I can't handle all this fun by myself.  In the interest of my personal sanity I'm spreading it around so that we can all carry the terrific burden.   Your responsibility is to further distribute this information.  I see that you're starting to understand the cooperative nature of our relationship.

Thursday, May 21st - East Hartford Bike and Walk to Work. 6:30-9:00am on Main Street right across the street from Pratt & Whitney. Free bike lights, reflective stickers, and of course, breakfast. Open to the public.  Those using CT Transit or car/vanpooling are also invited to come over for breakfast.



Sunday, May 31st - The CT Climate March at Hartford Earth Festival. Starting at noon from the State Capitol, marching (and riding) to the Earth Festival at the Hartford Riverfront.   As cyclists we're a bit more tuned into our Earth and what it's shouting at us.  We also know that one's quality of life can actually improve when one chooses sustainable, human powered transportation.  This is your opportunity to respond to clarion call to address human caused global weirdness.   Spread the word with this Facebook Event.

Sunday, May 31st - Ladies First, All Girls Alleycat.  Meet at Heaven, the skate and graffiti park in downtown Hartford on the I-84 overpass between Trumbull and Main or Market, at 12:00pm, at 12:30pm we RIDE (don't be late)!
Saturday, June 6th - Discover West Hartford Bicycle Tour. The first ride of the Discover Connecticut Series. 10, 25, and 50 mile routes.  Spread the word with this Facebook Event.

Saturday, June 6th - Wethersfield Bike Show and Swap Meet.  8:00am-12:30pm.  You can sign up to show and sell, or come over to check out the bikes and parts.  This is the event's second year, and I'm super stoked to see it return.


And never forget - Ride that bike, Gangsta!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'll Bet on a Casino to Finish the East Coast Greenway

East Hartford will do pretty much anything to lure developers and tax money into town.  There are plans for outlet malls in the old airfield.  Now they are courting a casino development at the shuttered movie theater. A traffic study was completed to determine if the nearby infrastructure could handle the traffic from adding a casino.  Of course there is capacity.  The streets are designed to handle the rush hour traffic from Pratt & Whitney's heyday.  The streets are capable of funneling hordes of UCONN fans home after the seven home games each year at Rentschler Field.  The issue isn't capacity.  The issue is safety for those in the community using these streets everyday.  Silver Lane and the surrounding streets are the opposite of "Complete Streets".

Can East Hartford turn a gamble into sustainable infrastructure?
Is there a silver lining for Silver Lane?  If you've ever bicycled or walked along Silver Lane (AKA State Route 502) you've found it to be a harrowing experience.  The street is designed with the bygone philosophy to maximize speed and flow of cars, with little consideration of how it impacts the non-vehicular road users.  When the road was repaved about a decade ago there was an opportunity to incorporate a road diet and bike lanes, but the CT DOT decided to maintain the full complement of two lanes in each direction to satisfy the peak usage during UCONN games.  Punishing a neighborhood with a a dangerous road design for traffic volumes that only happen on seven days a year shows that there is something wrong with your priorities.  The hilarious part is that the road is marked out with cones during peak game traffic anyway.  Why not stripe the road for everyday use, and put cones up on game days?  Answer - because CT DOT.

The East Coast Greenway through East Hartford needs to be completed.  This parallel East-West route would provide a safe, convenient, and attractive multi-use path for cyclists, walkers, and the disabled.  The East Coast Greenway is a national route, much of it separated from vehicle traffic, and it is making great strides toward completion in Connecticut.  There are two East Hartford CT DOT Projects that could complete segments in the existing gap between Forbes street and Great River Park.  The holdout is Pratt & Whitney.  Despite up to $500,000,000 in state tax benefits lined up for the construction of a new, sustainable, engineering building on Willow Street, United Technologies / Pratt & Whitney does not support the preferred route of the East Coast Greenway on Willow Street.  As a CT taxpayer and former P&W employee, I'm rather confused by the corporate stand on this great project?  There are so many benefits that it isn't worth recounting them here.

A multi-use path parallel to Willow Street is the best route.
Pratt & Whitney has a growing group of bicycle commuters that wish they had safer streets surrounding their large campus.  Main Street and Silver Lane are barriers to increasing sustainable commuting further than grizzled vehicular cyclists.  Pratt & Whitney was awarded a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business recognition in 2014.  In order to take it to the next level, both P&W and the Town of East Hartford need to start addressing Complete Streets design, safety, and connectivity for all road users.


In the interest of promoting bike commuting in Hartford metro, there are a bevy of Bike to Work Breakfast events in the coming weeks.  One of them right across Main Street from Pratt and Whitney.  You can "Pledge" to ride to work in May with Bike Walk Connecticut.

  • Friday, 5/15. Hartford:  Hosted by Bike Walk Connecticut.  7:30AM to 9:00AM.  Old State House.  Open to public.  This one is specific to bike commuters.
  • Thursday, 5/21. East Hartford:  Hosted by Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College. 6:30AM to 9:00AM.  339 Main Street. Open to public.  The East Hartford event is welcoming bike commuters, walkers, transit users, car pool.  Pretty much anyone but single occupancy vehicle travelers.  Try something different - www.ctrides.com
  • Bike to Work Meetups - Groups riding in together to the breakfast events.
Now what?  Take some action.
  • Contact Mayor Leclerc and the East Hartford Town Council.  Let them know you are interested in Complete Streets and the completion of the East Coast Greenway route.
  • Get involved with the Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club and see what you can do to convince Pratt & Whitney executives that the East Coast Greenway route on Willow Street is an amazing opportunity for the company, the community, and the region.
  • Contact the CT DOT and ask how Silver Lane and Main Street are being redesigned as Complete Streets?  There is a Complete Streets policy on the books now at the DOT, and the next time they repave there is an opportunity to make real improvements for the safety of all road users.
Bonus Material - Got a couple minutes?  Fill out this Transit Oriented Development (TOD) survey and note the lack of bike racks and bike lanes.  Also note the lack of blue collar and manufacturing development.


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Friday, May 8, 2015

Hartford rally cat ride/race this Saturday


The weather is going to be perfect for the first hartford rally cat tomorrow. Beginners to experts welcome, ride any bike, there's something for everyone. We've made it manageable even if you don't know Hartford's geography. 

11 am tomorrow, 81 pope park highway (at the amphitheater)

we've got awesome sponsors, a ton of great prizes to give away, an after party at red rock tavern at 369 capitol ave, and fantastic volunteers staffing our checkpoints. there's a food truck fest going on at the same time as the ride/race, so you'll have easy access to good food on the road (Prospect St and Arch St, downtown).

hartfordrallycat.tumblr.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/480769288741322/


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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

post-car connecticut: devil's hopyard, old saybrook, new haven to hartford


Kate and I got out for a small bike and transit tour of Connecticut this past weekend. If you're a visual learner or appreciate big photos of nice places, click here for images from the trip: Connecticut Outdoors photos.

We couldn't have picked a better weekend for it, with perfect summery weather. Thanks to CT Transit's Express bus service, set up to bring people into and out of the city from far flung towns and suburbs, one can get to rural places in CT pretty quickly. We took the express bus to Colchester, CT (bikes rack on the front of the bus) and biked about 8 miles to Devil's Hopyard State Park for the night. The ride on the main road through Devil's Hopyard is gorgeous, and they literally just paved the road, so its quite nice right now. Tearing ourselves away from the siren song of a rummage sale in Lyme, we made it to Old Saybrook in time to catch the Shoreline East train to Branford. Feeling like I was back in Palo Alto, we biked to G-zen for lunch, the veg spot that often has their food truck at Billings Forge in the summer. From there we did some of the most beautiful and fun riding we've done in CT. Riding along the sound in East Haven was a treat for people who miss riding along the ocean. We poked around on the shoreline trail that is in the process of being built between Hammonasset and Lighthouse Point Park, looking for shortcuts and condo klunks. On Sunday we biked home from our friends' house in Eastshore to Hartford, about a 50 mile ride that was our only big day for the weekend. We'll do this exact same trip again, in a heartbeat. For more pics, see Connecticut Outdoors photos.

-Justin










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Friday, April 17, 2015

May is alley cat awareness month in Hartford

Next month Hartford will host not just one but two alley cats. Both are special, in their own unique way: the Hartford Rally Cat on May 9 will be a mixed terrain race, and the Ladies First Alley Cat on May 31 will be, well, for ladies only.


  



The Hartford Rally Cat will feature checkpoints that require a little fun dirt and trail riding in cool spots in and just outside the city. Nothing too technical, and any bike will do. We've got some really great sponsors lined up, and there will be great prizes. Most importantly perhaps, there will be coffee at the start (81 Pope Park Highway) from A Happy Life!

Plenty of volunteer opportunities available if you want to be a part of these events but don't want to ride. Email Justin at eichenlaub@gmail.com if you're interested in helping out with the rally cat on May 9. Email Kate at kbergren@gmail.com if you're interested in helping out with the Ladies first alley cat on may 31.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Here they come! Fair weather bikes join the party.

Hey y'all.  Wanted to share the following, since you're starting to think about bikes again.  The Spring Bike Frenzy is a seasonal disorder in CT.  Bikes are assumed by many to be seasonal, unless one happens to be poor.  We do love our fair weather bicycle compatriots, and understand that it's only a matter of time until the seasonal disorder deteriorates into a year round chronic illness.  Once that fabulous day comes, we'll have less S.A.D. and better cycling conditions for all - year round.

NEXT WEEK - The Connecticut Bike Walk Summit.  Thursday (4/23) is for city employees and Friday (4/24) is for advocates and ordinary cyclists.  This year the summit is nearby in Wethersfield.  You have to register online, and it's only $45 for Bike Walk CT members.  The summit includes lunch and an optional afternoon ride.  I've been to past summits, and I always come away on fire to make change.


NEXT WEEK - Bike (and Walk) to Work Breakfasts in Hartford and East Hartford.   On Wednesday (4/22) an informal group will be meeting before work to chat and socialize at friendly local diners.  Both establishments are "cash only" and have an ATM onsite for your convenience.  By the way, this is Earth Day.  What better day to promote healthy and sustainable transportation.

  • 7:00AM-8:30AM at Maddie's in East Hartford.  On Main Street right across from P&W.  Next to Subway.
  • 7:00AM-8:30AM at Ashley's in Hartford.  On Main Street just South of Downtown, adjacent to the Hook and Ladder restaurant.
  • Discussion Topic - Let's keep talking about the East Coast Greenway.  How do we keep this on the front burner? East Hartford projects and the I-84 redesign can make significant progress towards closing the gaps.
Can't wait for the East Coast Greenway to go down Willow Street!
NEXT SATURDAY (4/25) - Detour de Connecticut.  This FREE, informal ride has been happening the last Saturday of the month for several years now.  If you go the whole distance, it's about 118 miles with half the distance on dirt and trails.  More info and cue sheets on the website.  If you like the D2R2 or other gravel grinder type rides, this is for you.  Bring lights, cash, and energy dense food.  The rain date is Sunday, and you can keep an eye on the blog to see if the date shifted.  Personally, I'm hoping for the rain date because I'm otherwise engaged on Saturday.
After finishing my first Detour in 2013.  
For those with a long attention spans, I want you to put this on your calendar now.  Last year was the first year for the Wethersfield Bike Swap, and we're excited to see it return.  Saturday, June 6th.  Save the date.  If you're interested in vending or displaying show bikes, contact Tom Brown.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I stopped writing things on the beat bike blog



I don't know if anyone still reads the beat bike blog, but if they do and read it awhile ago, they may recall that I used to write things here about riding my bike. Then, with little fanfare, I stopped. It's not because I stopped riding my bike, but I moved out of Hartford. My wife and I wanted to buy a house. We looked in Hartford and looked around Hartford, too. There was a nice house on Warrenton, but someone bought it very quickly. Most of the other houses in Hartford that we liked were either falling down or way too expensive. Eventually, we found a little old house in Tariffville right on the gorge. It's very pretty. We could afford it, so here we are.



It was a little weird moving out of Hartford, but we're not so far away that we can't go there as often as we please and I suppose that I still work there, too. It's a 13 mile ride to Hartford, which takes a little more commitment than 2.5 did, but it's not so bad as long it's not inclement weather. Riding recreationally is nice because we're where the nice roads start and we're in between Penwood and Cowles Park. Johanna lives closer to work, so she can start riding her bike there. We're about 3 miles from grocery stores and commerce (though very close to a bar, two restaurants, a barber shop and a liquor store), so errands by bike is no problem. The Geissler's grocery store in Granby even has a bike rack out front. 



Simsbury is supposed to be the most bicycle friendly town in Connecticut. It has sharrows and a bike path, and the drivers are nicer than they are in Avon. Although, since we live on the edge of town, most people driving don't live here and are sort of jerks-- especially the people driving back to Massachusetts. I haven't seen any more people riding their bikes here, but I'm doubtful that very many people ride them for utilitarian purposes around here. I don't think friendliness really contributes to mode share. Connecticut is just not a place where riding a bike is something you do in seriousness if you can help it.  



So, it being called the "beat bike blog" and the "beat" refers to Hartford, I stopped writing because I don't live there anymore. I still live close, though, so come visit me.


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Saturday, March 14, 2015

When Biking Became Critically Important

Tired of the snow?  It's almost gone!
First, I'd like to remind folks that Spring is coming, and with Spring I expect that the temperature sensitive cyclists will start peeking out again, finding their cycling gear a bit tight after a winter of hibernation.  To welcome these Spring flowers back onto the road, we'll have another breakfast IceBike to Work to close the season.  Cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, and those car pooling are invited to hang out and chat about how the sunshine is chasing away their blues and the world seems born anew.  This is a great time of year for positive thoughts.

IceBike (and Walk) to Work
Friday, March 20th 
East Hartford at Maddie's from 7:00AM to 8:30AM
Hartford at Ashley's from 7:00AM to 8:30AM
Just show up!

Those that are new, or returning, to cycling should take time to learn about safe riding, and how to operate around car drivers who are feeling careless and randy as the Spring approaches.  I highly recommend taking the Traffic Skills 101 course that will be offered on Sunday, April 12th in Hartford.  Half of bike crashes are "bike alone" - your skills can be improved.  Half of crashes with cars are "cyclist at fault," which can be improved significantly once a cyclist is trained in vehicular cycling.  You have direct control over 75% of crash causes, and you will learn how to indirectly manage the vehicles around you for the remaining 25%.  It is an amazingly powerful course.

Traffic Skills 101
Sunday, April 12th
Hartford, CT @ Thomas W. Raftery

And now for the kicker.  As of March 20th, I'll no longer be working at the engineering company across the river.  For better or worse, I've chosen to chase a dream of doing more community focused work.  As the youth coordinator for the Center for Latino Progress I'll be running their Escalera college prep and leadership program for high school juniors.  This is where my bicycle becomes critical.  Going from an engineering to non-profit pay grade is a significant change.  Not owning a car eliminates a huge expense.    I don't see how folks working for $20,000 or $30,000 a year can manage owning and maintaining a car.  It doesn't make sense.  

I'm excited for the opportunity to make a difference in Hartford.  In addition to the societal benefits of the program, the tighter finances will push me to utilize cooperative resources that are just starting to operate in Hartford.  I recently posted offers and requests to the Hartford Hour Exchange, and just this morning banked three hours of bike maintenance.  In the time bank model, I can trade those three banked hours for three hours of help or service from another member.  Quite a novel and beautiful arrangement.   In addition to the Hour Exchange, I'll be more actively using FreeCycle to continue using goods handed off by others.  I recommend West Hartford FreeCycle, as well off folks give away amazing stuff.  

You have now reached the social and political commentary portion of the blog post.  When I stepped away from my well compensated engineering position and into a life of more fulfillment, I didn't realize that it would be in the same week that United Technologies announced that it is abandoning their Hartford offices, moving 175 employees out to the Farmington suburban campus.  It was also the week that the Hartford Courant reported that UTC's ex-CEO received a $184,000,000 (so many zeros) separation package.  How does one human justify making 1000X times the salary of a full time minimum wage employee in their company?  So much disgust fills my heart.  Not sure what to do with it.  Any suggestions?  I think I need to go ride my bike to re-find my happy place.   
Sometimes one feels like a cranky bear.
You good reader have an impressively long attention span.  I'll close with this opportunity to squeak a little bit into the ear of the CT DOT about the I-84 Redesign.  Take a one question survey, and help solidify a major goal of the I-84 redesign in Hartford as a Complete Streets project.  They are surveying for a reason.  It takes public support to justify one design approach over another.  Let's make this highway work for Hartford's neighborhoods.  A true Complete Streets design approach could repair much damage and dissection caused by the unsafe designs of the many entrance and exit ramps.  While you're at it, start following the associated I-84 project website and Facebook page to stay abreast of public comment opportunities.  Infrastructure projects take a long time.  To affect change, concerned parties have to get engaged early and often.  Thank you for taking the time and caring enough to speak up.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bike Safety Education in Hartford - Ready for Spring!

Last week I had my bike in the basement to wipe off the salt crust and install much needed fenders.  Despite year round commuting, I'll be welcoming Spring with open arms.  Riding on the ice and snow is an exciting challenge.  My bicycle is as reliable as I need it to be.  Unlike a car, I can pick it up rather and carry it over snow banks.  The extra resistance of knobby, studded tires helps keep off the winter weight while the sunshine (what little there is) keeps my spirits up.  With all the things I enjoy about winter riding, I can't wait for my favorite off road shortcuts to open back up.  I yearn for the days when it is warm enough that I don't have to plan and layer clothing for the trip.  Can I get an amen?

This was a new one.  My first traffic jam / broken down vehicle issue.
As others prepare to get their lonely bicycles out of storage, we are announcing a timely bicycle skills and safety training course in Hartford.  Traffic Skills 101 will be offered on Sunday, April 12th.  The course is partnered with Bike Walk Connecticut and will train 15-20 cyclists in critical skills that will keep them safer on the road.  This is a comprehensive full day course that includes classroom time, Q&A, basic bike mechanics, parking lot drills, and an on-road ride.  The class has sold out every time and we only hold a couple each year.  Register early and save the date.

TRAFFIC SKILLS 101 - Hartford
WHEN:  Sunday, April 12, 2015, 7:45 am to 5 pm
WHERE:   Thomas W Raftery, 1055 Broad Street, Hartford (corner of Broad and Jefferson). 
COST:  Bike Walk CT members:  $50; Nonmembers:  $65
INSTRUCTORS:  Tony Cherolis and Rob O'Connor, both League Certified Instructors (LCIs)

Community Discount for Hartford Residents.  The instructors are offering two spots in this TS101 course (first come, first served) at $20 to Hartford residents, self-declared limited income.  The intent of the discounted registration is to spread bike education beyond those that can afford a $50 or $65 course.  Hartford is a city with a large number of folks getting by working a lot of hours, for not much pay.  A significant number of Hartford residents don't choose their bicycle for transportation.  A bicycle just happens to be one of the most cost effective ways to get around.  For someone on a limited income $20 could be manageable.  We're also open to any companies and organizations that would like to donate funds to sponsor community attendees.  Send me an email @or call (860-204-2704), if you are interested in the Community Member discounted registration.

LEAGUE CYCLING INSTRUCTOR SEMINAR
The TS101 course is a prerequisite for taking a much more intensive multi-day course for League Cycling Instructors.  The Hartford TS101 is your last chance to fulfill the prerequisite requirement before taking the instructor weekend long seminar in Simsbury the following weekend.  The LCI course is very intense and only recommended to serious participants that want to go on and continue teaching.  You can register online for this course, but you'll have to prove that you've completed (or you're registered) for the TS101 course.  You also have to pass both TS101 and the LCI course to become a certified instructor.



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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It Appears that Winter is Here - Let there be Sleds

Winter is Connecticut has arrived.  That said, so what?  It happens every year and doesn't take that much ingenuity and gusto to figure it out, make due, and even enjoy the Hell out of it.  One way 'the royal we' has learned to enjoy winter is bicycle commuting year round.  The frigid temperatures, varied conditions, ice, and snow give us something to push against in this world of depressing ease and leisure.  We highly recommend it.

Bikes work on snow too.  Amazing!
In the interest of spreading camaraderie and cheer during the S.A.D. months we (not just the royal) meet up for breakfast and unbridled smugness.  It's called IceBike to Work, but you don't have to be on the way to work, or even on a bike for that matter.  Try walking, taking the bus, car pooling and come hang out with us.  Those interested in winter cycling that just want tips, they are most welcome too.  Actually, everyone is welcome.  But smugness does require some level of commitment.  The Committee doesn't hand that out for nothing.

Friday, February 13th is actually an international holiday recognizing the smugness of winter bike commuters.  While eating your eggs and toast you can contemplate that in cities like Boston and Chicago the smugness is much harder to find.  Winter bike commuting isn't uncommon there.  Where do they get their smug?

Two IceBike to Work Locations 
Friday, February 13th
  • East Hartford, Maddie's on Main Street, right across from P&W.  6:45am-8:30am.
  • Downtown Hartford, Ashley's on Main Street just south of downtown, next to Hook and Ladder restaurant.  7AM-8:30AM
  • Heads up - Both of these venues are cash only.  Bring your frozen greenbacks.

Give it a try and spread the word.  If you have experience skiing the clothing is very similar.  Get some lights and consider studded tires if you're going to ride on icy days.  The key to overweening smugness is within your reach.  Reach out and grab it!

Art Sled Derby
Saturday, February 14th
Elizabeth Park Hartford Overlook
Lining up at 11AM

The Art Sled Derby is not related to bicycles - although we will be attempting to transport several  unwieldy monster art sleds via bicycle trailer.  Build a sled or just show up to cheer and laugh.  No pre-registration required.  Just show up. There will be fantastic sleds and even more fantastic crashes.  I've included a couple photos of my entries from 2013 (A Lazy Boy) and 2014 (Bouncing Baby Buggy).  Our 2015 sled is a team entry by TEAM TROUBLE including contributions by the veteran Beat Bike Blogger Ken K and his lovely, mischievous wife.  It's f'ing ridiculous!
2013.  Didn't die. (Photo credit - Steven Yau)
2014. Also didn't die.  2015 - TBD. (Photo credit - Steven Yau)
If you're still reading, you really have a problem.  Rather than read my blog, you should put in some thoughtful bike, walk, or transit comments on the Hartford I-84 redesign.  They are looking for public comments, and the opportunity for this design phase ends February 20th.  If you don't make your voice heard early on large infrastructure projects, you'll be dead before they design it again. (COMMENT HERE!)

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

IceBike - Operation Polar Vortex

Hardy cyclists riding through the winter have been socializing monthly in East Hartford for breakfast at Maddie's and this month we're expanding to Downtown Hartford.  It's important that we band together and practice our conversation skills.  Riding through the winter is considered weird enough that others may start giving you a wider berth at work.  Not sure why Hartford metro is so allergic to winter cycling, as it seems that other interesting cities (Boston, Chicago, NYC, Montreal, Minneapolis, Fort Collins, Madison) aren't so fickle.  There is even an official global Winter Bike to Work Day, where you can commit to ride on February 13th.


Ken K on the Bissel Bridge.  It's better now.
This month's IceBike theme is "How Cold Will You Go?"  January is the frigid month and many folks have their lowest temperature limit.  Let's push that limit a little further.  Much to discuss about how to dress and get comfortable at colder temps.  Personally, I've found that my limiting spots are my hands and face.  Fortunately there is a whole industry supplying skiers with gear that handles very similar challenges to winter cycling.   With a good pair of ski mittens and a snowboarding helmet with ear flaps (and even goggles), one can get comfortable at arctic conditions. 

These breakfasts are an informal and flexible meetup to carry bike commuting through the winter and hopefully increase alternative sustainable transportation in the region.  All alternate transport commuters are welcome.  It is entirely reasonable to take bus transit, walk, car/vanpool, or take the train, and having that flexibility in your commute method helps cut down on single occupancy car use.  If you just want to stop by for winter cycling tips we've got you covered.  Bicycle commuters are generally stoked to share the tips they've learned the hard way to save others the trouble.  We'll see you out there!

IceBike to Work
Friday, January 23rd

Maddie's in East Hartford
Right across from Pratt & Whitney on Main Street
6:45AM - 8:15AM 

Jojo's in Downtown Hartford
Pratt Street, just off Main Street
7:00AM - 8:30AM

VERY IMPORTANT - In advocacy news, your attendance and public comment is desperately needed on Wednesday, January 21st.  The informational and public comment meeting is conveniently located at the Hartford Public Library with an open house (general chatting and looking at maps) starting at 3PM.  The presentation starts at 5:30PM.  Want to fill seats with cyclists (bring your helmets inside), walkers, and transit users.  Very important to look at this project as an opportunity to stitch our community and neighborhoods back together.  The CT DOT now has an adopted Complete Streets policy.  Let's make sure the I-84 plans are safe for all road users, particularly where the entrance and exit ramps hit neighborhood streets.  More information at www.I84hartford.com.


PROGRESS - For some reason you're still reading.  Here at the bitter end I'll give our veritable BBB contributor Salem and other bike advocates credit for hassling the CT DOT until they got serious about snow and ice clearing on the bike/ped sidewalks along Connecticut River highway bridges.  In years past the I-91 Bissel Bridge between Windsor and South Windsor was a mess of three foot tall ice piles that would last well into the Spring.  The CT DOT now recognizes that they are legally required (by statute) to clear the bridge.  It took several years of contacts from Bike Walk CT and local bicycle commuters, but progress has been made.  I even saw salt laid down on my daily route across the Charter Oak Bridge.  In previous years the Charter Oak bridge was plowed, but still had a 1/2-1" thick icy layer remaining during snowy weeks.  Not having a large icy patch at the downhill turn on the Hartford side is much appreciated.  Keep up the good work folks.  Thanks to Salem, CT DOT, and the DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.  It feels like the recently adopted Complete Streets policy is actually affecting a welcome cultural shift.
  
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cross Racers Will Descend on Hartford

Cross racing.  Have you seen it?  Not a horde of queens sprinting in heels, although that would be equally awesome.  Cyclocross is a newer format of bicycle racing where masochists on road-like bikes hammer around a snaking route through a field or park.  Consumerism has morphed the road bikes into race specific rigs with carbon wheels and tubeless low pressure tires.  The course is set up to maximize punishment and spectator viewing.  Weather be damned, the event runs in rain, sleet, or snow.  The obstacles and mud/sand pits have cyclists running with the bikes over their shoulders.  The crowd is encouraged to ring bells, holler, and even heckle the racers to eek out their deepest energy stores.  It's a hoot, and "Hartford Has It."

When there is an obstacle, you'll see running.
Just announced!  
Hartford will host the 2017 Cyclocross Nationals.  

We were chosen over many other cities based on an impressive cooperative bid by Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP), the City of Hartford, and the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau.  Hartford is well situated in the Northeast where cyclocross racing is booming and the population density allows for many nearby races, racers, and spectators.  This is a big deal folks.  The influx of bike racers and spectators to Hartford, up to 20,000, for this national event in December will be a great off-season economic boost.  Hartford gets to show off as a destination on the national stage.  Leading up to the Nationals, there will be more regional races in Riverside Park and Colt Park in 2015 and 2016.   With the 2017 race on the horizon, the regional races will have increased exposure.  To get full bang for the buck on a national race, we need to grow and expand the regional races both before and afterward.

This national opportunity didn't materialize out of thin air.  In 2013 and 2014 there were two cyclocross races in Hartford proper and a series of other races across the state.   One of them was right next door to my home in Colt Park.  You may have missed the races in Hartford.  For some reason the larger cycling community in the area didn't mobilize and show up to cheer and spectate.  I'm still trying to understand why.  Connecticut has a bevy of bicycle shops.  Those shops have mailing lists and Facebook pages.  Growing cyclocross as a racing and spectator sport is a clear way for our local bike shops to extend their customer season into the otherwise quiet Fall and Winter.  I'm imploring our cycling community, riding clubs, and bikes shops to do better publicity in 2015.  Let folks know that this is an engaging spectator sport.  There are always beginner races for those that want to try it out for themselves.

There should be a hipster bike category.  Single speed required.
In addition to the racing community the event publicity must tie into the advocacy groups that promote bikes for both recreation and transportation.  A cyclocross racer who enjoys riding a skinny tired bike through cold, semi-frozen mud would be a champion bicycle commuter.  Bike commuters, like myself, often got their start as racers.  Explaining to a cross racer that bike commuting year round results in free and efficient training miles is an easy sell.  Also bike commuters and recreational (non-racing) riders love bikes, and often enjoy watching them being ridden in circles by others that are suffering (schadenfreude or sadism?).  Bikes aren't just toys, although they are really fun all around - for racing and commuting.  I'll do my best to connect Bike Walk Connecticut and Transport Hartford to the 2015 cross races.  Cross promotion and cooperation between racing and advocacy is the next step in Connecticut.

Another item to improve for 2015 - food.  These cross racers are hungry and thirsty.  I didn't make it to the Riverside Park CCAP race, but I noticed a lack of food and drink at the Colt Park Veteran's Memorial Race.  We've got great food trucks in Hartford.  They will show up if you put a call out and let them know there will be hungry customers nearby.  If you need suggestions, here are a few - Whey Station (gourmet grilled cheese), Amor (healthy, vegan), and Lucky Taco.  It's also relatively easy to get a permit for beer sampling or a beer tent at a park event.  Let's get some Hooker, City Steam, or Burnside beer out there for the 2015 races.  For the Colt Park race, there is also a nearby grocery store, C-Town, for racers looking for Gatorade or some hot rice and beans.  Just across Wethersfield Avenue.

Excited for this announcement.  We need to ramp up the events in 2015 and 2016 so Hartford is ready to blow the doors off in 2017.  Let's do this!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Just 1% Please

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Interested in making a formal comment to Planning & Zoning Commission? Email Lynda Crepo at CRESL001@hartford.gov and voice your support for a bike parking requirement 1%, 2% whatever you like. Make sure to include your full name and your address.
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Want to bike from home or work to the new baseball stadium being built just north of Downtown Hartford?  Sorry.  There won't be adequate bike parking.  You can find a light post or some railing.  There was much debate at the Planning and Zoning Commission over requiring a measly 1% of the stadium parking to be bicycle parking, and it looks like they are going to make even that "optional" for the developer. You know what optional means, right?

Unless they hear from Hartford residents that bike parking is key to this development and the future of Hartford, don't expect convenient bike parking at the stadium.  Leaving out bike parking at a fair weather outdoor event venue would be the height of stupidity. Bike and pedestrian improvements were a cornerstone of the Downtown North plan and are important for a city that is trying to double its number of downtown residents. With all the UCONN Hartford campus students coming downtown, they'll be wondering where all the bike parking is.

Important meeting tomorrow night:

  • What: Hartford's Planning and Zoning Commission
  • When: Tuesday, December 9th @ 5:00 p.m.
  • Where: 260 Constitution Plaza, Plaza Level Conference Room
Bike and pedestrian infrastructure brings economic benefit and it is more sustainable and healthy for our residents.  Bike commuters shop and dine locally.  Downtown Hartford is doubling its apartment and condo units in the next couple of years.  We want those units to fill up and demand to be strong for more downtown residents that are excited about biking and walking to nearby urban cultural and sporting events.

Don't forget the social and economic justice issues of designing only for car travel.  This stadium is built for the community, but only if you're ready to pony up for the cost of parking on top of the ticket price.  That could put a family ball game outing beyond the reach for someone living paycheck to paycheck.  And how about the minimum wage earning part time employees at the ball park working the games and the concession stands?  You don't expect them to make enough to own and maintain a personal car on that income.

You can fit a lot of bikes into the footprint of two car parking spots
REMINDER - Don't forget about IceBike to Work on Thursday, December 18th in East Hartford.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ice Bike (or Walk) to Work

Don't put your bikes away yet.  Ride them all year long.  It's just a question of appropriate outerwear and lights.  It blows my mind that folks think I'm daft for riding my bike the short 3 1/2 miles to work through the winter.  The same folks that can't understand winter cycling will drive two hours each way to go skiing in exactly the same (or colder) conditions for hours.  Who's daft now?

A couple years ago I started organizing a monthly informal breakfast meetup for winter bike commuters in East Hartford.  We invite everyone, but usually only get Pratt & Whitney folks.  I can't figure out why no one from Goodwin College rides to work or comes to the Bike to Work events.  Goodwin even has free loaner bikes for faculty and staff to get from one to another campus building without driving.

Bike commuters typically love all the sustainable travel modes. If you walk to work, take the bus, carpool, or vanpool we'd love to see you at Maddie's on Thursday.  Many cyclists that have gone car free or car light use a variety of transportation modes to get around.  You can research your options here - www.ctrides.com.  If you're interested in bus transit options, you can look up routes and times on CT Transit.

East Hartford IceBike to Work - December
Thursday, December 18th from 6:45AM to 8:00AM 
Maddie's Diner at 395 Main Street
Across from P&W near Subway
November IceBike had 8 riders!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

How do you get to Dinner?

Ride to the Bike Walk CT Dinner
Meetup in Hartford - Bike Ride to CCSU
Monday, November 24th
Leaving 4:45PM from DEEP near Bushnell Park
(79 Elm St, Hartford, CT 06106)
Dress warm and bring lights.  It's about 15 miles each way.

Bike Walk Connecticut has an Annual Dinner each November.  It's a wonderful event.  There is an expansive silent auction of donated items.  You won't find a higher concentration of active transportation advocates anywhere else in Connecticut.  It's refreshing since we are still largely a car centric state, even in our urban centers.  You will come away inspired.  This year's speaker is Dan Haar, who walked across CT bit by bit on Route 44, writing about the journey in the Hartford Courant.
8 bikes - on a below freezing morning.  Low impact healthy travel.
Curiously very few actually ride their bikes (or walk) to the dinner.  That's the current state of bicycle commuting in Connecticut.  The percentage of bike trips from point A to B is less than 1%, and that means that many bicycling advocates don't ride their bikes that often for transportation, particularly on a cold and dark winter evening.  While living in Urbana, Illinois, now a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community, the bicycle commuting didn't stop for Winter.  If you've ever traveled to Chicago, NYC, or Boston, they don't stop cycling either.  What's different about Connecticut?  Are CT cyclists wimps?

Well, this isn't okay.  We know that metro Hartford citizens are hearty.  They drive hours to ski in the same weather and temperatures that stop bicycle commuting dead in its tracks.  I think it's basically a cultural stumbling block.  "Of course.  You can't bike in the winter.  That would be crazy."  The outfit required to handle the cold is greeted with disbelief.  "My aerodynamic spandex wouldn't be warm enough and what about my silly plastic racing shoes?"    Its damn easy folks.  Put some flat pedals on, and wear footwear and clothes similar to what you might wear outside walking on a windy day or skiing.  Good gloves are nice and you might need a balaclava to keep the wind off your face and ears.  To demonstrate that winter cycling is in fact possible, even when attending a semi-fancy dinner, we'll be meeting up as a group on Monday night and riding over to the dinner, making room for the calories we are about to consume.

On the topic of promoting year round active transportation, we held our first IceBike to Work of the season this past Friday in East Hartford at the diner across the street from Pratt & Whitney.  Eight folks showed up, and two were women.  That's actually a milestone for IceBike.  The first P&W women I've seen bike commute in the winter.  It's super easy to set up an IceBike breakfast.  Just pick a diner and send out a meeting notice.  You can send it your local cycling club and post it up on the Facebook.  It's a low key event, and you pay your own way.  No pesky sponsors or organizing headaches.  Just a friendly breakfast and coffee while your face-icles melt. I challenge someone from Hartford and West Hartford to do the same.  It's rather embarrassing when East Hartford is leading the way.

PS - A couple of last minute tickets for the dinner may be available.  They added another table of ten.

Notice the WSD frame.  Ladies bike commuting to P&W in the winter!

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Squatting. That's a funny word.

I'm squatting.  On this hashtag - #HartfordCyclocross.  Look.  There it is on Beat Bike Blog.  First.  Nobody can Columbus that.  Except I don't know how to use the Twitter.  Can somebody competent help complete this transaction?

Cyclocross in the dark.  Whiskey assist.
If anyone of consequence (or intelligence) reads the Beat Bike Blog and races bikes - the course is pretty damn soft.  Just sayin'.  You might want to choose your tires accordingly.  Last year was hard and jittery.  Not this time.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cyclocross Racing in Colt Park - This Weekend

First - a big deal announcement.  Hartford is a finalist city for the Cyclocross Nationals in 2017 or 2018.  There are four finalist cities, and two will be selected, one for 2017 and the other for 2018.  It's time to start ringing our cowbells, as this is a competition and Hartford has to WIN it.  The other finalist cities are Bend (OR), Louisville (KY), and Reno (NV).  Hartford (in the city proper) hosted two cyclocross races in 2014, and a downtown criterium race.  There is a growing bike racing scene in the Hartford metro area, and our fair city is an excited and helpful host city.  Stay tuned to the Beat Bike Blog for more info on how you can help secure this national cyclocross race.

Cross racers mounting the stairs at the base of the Sam Colt Statue.
For those that don't know much about cross racing, this weekend is your chance to get a crash course.  On Saturday, November 8th there is a full day of cross racing in Hartford's Colt Park starting at 8:30AM.  There is still time to register (REGISTER HERE) and it's a cheap entry fee (only $30).  There are races for all skill levels, and even a kids race.  If you don't race, you can just stop by and spectate.  Bring a cow bell (marathon left overs) or a kitchen pan and holler at the riders.  They need the aural flogging to reach peak performance levels.  Cyclocross has a tradition of goodhearted heckling. I'll see y'all out there, I'm going to volunteer in some shape or form.  There is more info on the Team ERRACE facebook page.
Heckling is part of the fun.  
In the vein of healthy hecking, I challenge any of the racers or attendees to actually ride their bike to the race. Imagine that.  Using your bike as transportation in addition to a shiny fast toy.

There are obstacles on the course.  And crashes happen.
And now for something not bike related.  It could be bike related though.  You can ride your bike there.  Next week there is a week long series call The Thread.  You can find more info here.  Four consecutive days of story telling right here in Hartford.


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Momentum is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The title of this post is borrowed from David Ringquist, the former President of the Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance.  CCBA was the precursor of Bike Walk Connecticut.  If not mistaken, I'm seeing momentum building in Hartford for change in how we get from point A to B.  The "Powers that Be" are recognizing options aside from single occupancy car trips and promoting those options, sometimes even favoring those options.  The "Powers that Be" aren't doing this without prodding, external and internal.  Bike Walk CT is chasing the statewide policy.  Transport Hartford recently formed to push our urban bike, walk, and bus transit needs.  West Hartford even has a group of commuting and recreational cyclists that are tired of their precarious positions in our lopsided transportation system.

Riding around yesterday doing errands, I came across several signs that Hartford, and our surrounding burbs are starting to do something, anything, for non-car travel modes.  While riding up Capitol Avenue entering Hartford, the road name changes to Boulevard.  Right across the line in West Hartford there is a "3 FEET MINIMUM" sign, literally a sign of the changing times.  This references the three foot law that was passed way back in 2008.  Finally seeing signage and on-the-street education about the law was refreshing.  Not something one would expect to see in West Hartford.  I'm guessing it was the result of their local bicycle advocacy group, Bike West Hartford, that is pushing for safer riding.  As a Hartford resident, I'd like to see this sign repeated on popular bike routes in our city - particularly on streets heavily trafficked by suburban drivers entering and leaving the city.
Jealousy inducing sign.  Just across the line in West Hartford.
 My errand of the afternoon was to pick up a touring bicycle at REI to replace a recently retired rig.  The previous bike had a broken fork after 10 years of hard use.  No need for a car for this trip.  Easier to strap the bike to the top of my trailer than stuff it in a car trunk anyways, and much more respect from neighborhood folks that I rode past.  When you trailer something, it's a social experience with verbal communication and waves at those you pass.  A very different experience from putting something in your car trunk, turning on the radio, and tuning out.  Roll those windows up, and turn on the climate control - community and climate change be damned.
This is how Tony C picks up a new touring bike.  No car needed.
On my trip back home, I had to stop and admire the alien green painted bike lanes on Broad Street.  I was doubtful that this would ever be completed.  I'm curious how cyclists that regularly use Broad Street find these lanes?  Also interested if anyone that didn't previously use Broad, is comfortable using it now.  I like that the painted color carries across intersections.  This project included "Bike Boxes", which I'm not sure anybody in Hartford knows how to use.  If you're curious about the intended use, you could watch a video here.  Other cities accompanied their new bike infrastructure with some publicity and outreach.  I don't recall seeing any publicity and outreach from the City of Hartford.  That said, I'm still a fan of the improving infrastructure that doesn't solely focus on car traffic.
A radiant green bike lane on Broad Street.  I like it.
Let's keep this momentum rolling.  Get involved with Transport Hartford and engaged in bike, walk, and transit discussions.  They chat quite a bit on Facebook.  You should also get on the email list. Read more!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sometimes a clean river is its own reward



But sometimes, you deserve a romantic trip to Old Saybrook! So, please vote for my river clean up picture so that I go on one. http://www.ctriver.org/?contestants=clean-up-by-bike Read more!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cleaning up the River and other Stuff

It was a beautiful morning to stroll along the Connecticut River and pick up the accumulated detritus of our civilized existence.  Brendan kicked it up a notch this year with volunteers from Hartford Steam Boiler, Trinity College, and the Two Rivers magnet school.  With such a large group we cleaned up the riverfront between Charter Oak Park and the Riverfront Plaza in no time.  This stretch of river was chosen specifically because it doesn't get officially cleaned up by the park district or city employees.  Each year there are many organized cleanup events by the Connecticut River Watershed Council, called the Source to Sea cleanup.  Unfortunately the true sources are the assholes that litter, but we're getting the garbage before it further fouls our waterways.


There is a photo contest for the Source to Sea clean up.  I didn't take very good photos, but you should go vote on them anyway so I win a two night stay down in fancy Old Saybrook.  Well.  That is if I figure out how to upload the photos.

Under a pier - not sure what the pier was used for.
For those that are looking for another opportunity to brighten up our city and meet other active community members I'm loosely organizing a  pick up event on Saturday, October 11th.  We'll be picking up trash in Colt Park and the nearby neighborhoods of South Green and Dutch Point.  Meet at the Sam Colt Statue near Wethersfield Avenue.  It's Hartford Marathon day, so pay attention to road closures if you're driving - or just walk or bike over to keep it simple.  I've got a bag of gloves and I'll probably bring a box of trash bags.  Other than that you don't really need anything special to pick up trash.  If we're lucky, I'll be motivated enough to get lunch sponsored.  No promises though.  So I have an idea how many folks are coming, it would be great if you RSVP'd at the FB event.  You can also use the FB event to invite friends and neighbors.

A pile-o-trash that Brendan is proud of.
One reason we're cleaning up Colt Park on October 11th, is that very evening is Nightfall.  Nightfall is a magical evening of music, dance, spoken word, and GIANT puppets.  There is a bike valet.  You should go and bring your friends and family.
Because awesome.  Oct 11th in Colt Park.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Connecticut is Weak on Bicycle Friendly Businesses

First, I'd like to congratulate the six (6) companies in Connecticut that have been recognized as Bicycle Friendly Businesses.  They have started looking past the immediate horizon and realize that active transportation improves the health and attitude of employees, lowers their cost of living, supports locally focused community and businesses, puts less wear and tear on the roads and parking lots, and is goodness for employee retention.

Many Connecticut corporations and small companies pay no mind to how their employees get to work.  That is reflected in our state's marked under representation in the Bicycle Friendly Business listing.   Of the 150 new BFB's in 2014, only two (2) are from Connecticut.  Of the 800+ total BFB's, you'll only find six (6) - listed below.  For comparison to a similarly sized state in our region, Massachusetts has thirty-two (32) BFB's.  For such a swaggering bikey city that New Haven isn't better represented with more Bicycle Friendly Businesses.

What surprises me is that more companies haven't recognized the benefits.  So focused are we on the next quarter profits, or the next month's business expenses, that we're giving away the long game (and future benefits) of workplaces that step away from the 1-to-1 ratio of parking spots to employees.  Not even considering the catastrophic global weirdness that may be creeping out of scientific predilection and into our weather patterns, there are almost immediate benefits for employers that promote alternates to single occupancy vehicle travel.  Bicycles aren't the only option - car pooling, transit, walking, and telecommuting.  There are oodles of ways to reduce our transportation impacts, while improving quality of life.

Enough negativity for now. Here are the 2014 Bicycle Friendly Businesses in CT.  Congratulations!  You stand out in Connecticut for actually making an effort.  It's an easy application to fill out, and in 2014 it was free to apply.  Let's do better next round Connecticut!

2014 Connecticut Bicycle Friendly Businesses 
  • [SILVER] Bicycles East, Glastonbury (new in 2014)
  • [SILVER] REI - West Hartford (since 2012)
  • [BRONZE] Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven (since 2013)
  • [BRONZE] CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Hartford (since 2012)
  • [BRONZE] Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford (new in 2014)
  • [BRONZE] Whitcraft LLC, Eastford (since 2011)
League of American Bicyclists - Bicycle Friendly Business Program, Bicycle Friendly Community Program

Connecticut's website promoting alternate commutes - www.CTrides.com

Simple ways to make your company more Bike Friendly:

  • Visible and convenient bike parking.  If you can put it under an overhang or patio, that's ideal.  Bike parking near the main entry doors, and more convenient than the surface parking lots advertises that your company respects and promotes human powered transportation.
  • Put up some Share the Road signs.  After P&W put up Share the Road signs on the roads looping our campus, my negative vehicle interfaces fell dramatically.  
  • Showers and lockers.  I've got a short commute, so I don't need a shower when I arrive by bike.  Many potential bike commuters with longer commutes or lower fitness levels may feel that a shower is required to polish up before tackling the work day.
  • Bike Commuting, Telecommuting, Transit, and Carpooling Info Sessions.  Schedule and hold lunch and learn sessions that highlight the options and allow your local experts (and outside advocates) to share best practices and safety tips.
  • Hold a Bike to Work Day or breakfast event (bagels and coffee) at your campus or support your local Bike to Work Day.






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