Sunday, May 22, 2016

An Open Letter to Mayor Bronin and City Council: Isn't it time for 20mph streets and Vision Zero in Hartford?

The amount of shattered glass and car wreckage on the streets of the City of Hartford is back up again. It seems to happen every year at this time. 'Tis the season for raging through the city, a practice seemingly shared by everyone in Hartford, including suburbanites driving the streets. Speed is always a factor on Hartford streets, as anyone who lives here can attest.

The aftermath of a Christmas Day 2015 fatal crash near Pope Park West on Hamilton Street.

Car crashes happen all the time, we read about them in the paper or hear about them on the news, but usually we fail to link them and recognize a trend. In fact, we're trained to think about them as unfortunate, disconnected "accidents." If a person is involved in a crash crash or killed in one, it's merely bad luck and we're quite slow to place blame. The penalties for injuring or killing someone with a car are notoriously light.

This spring has been a bloody one on Hartford's roads and in its cars. Here are just a few of the lowlights from this year:

On March 25th of this year multiple people were killed in two separate crashes on the same night. This past Christmas Day, 2015, Luis Fajardo was killed in a grisly multi-car crash on Hamilton Street near Pope Park West.

On May 8th, Luis A. Maldonado was struck and killed by a car at the quiet intersection of Preston and Campfield Streets in the South End. Apparently he was changing a tire on his car in the early AM. The motorist that hit him ran and left him to die in the street.

Driving home from work this afternoon (5/22/16), I saw the aftermath of a daytime crash that sent at least one person to the hospital at Hillside and Flatbush in the Behind the Rocks neighborhood. In 2011, a 10-year old girl was killed after being struck on her bike near this area of Flatbush.

Other cities around the country are starting to wake up to the carnage and treat road violence and the injuries and deaths it causes like the public health issue that it is.

These cities, which include NYC, are starting to question the supposition that road injuries and deaths are a fact of life and something we cannot avoid. The goal of the Vision Zero programs these cities are implementing is the elimination of all traffic injuries and fatalities. This may seem like an impossible goal, but how can doing nothing continue to be possible? They seek to achieve this through new infrastructure, education, and in many cases lowering city street speed limits to 20mph. Cars traveling more than 20mph are much more likely to kill a person that they strike than if they are traveling 20mph or less.

In Hartford our streets are populated, social, and exciting. Why should we default to treating dense, narrow pathways for all people--whether in cars, on bikes, or on foot or wheelchair--as speedways for cars alone? At any public meeting in Hartford the conversation is often dominated by the risks posed by illegal ATVs and dirt bikes. These vehicles are a nuisance and are dangerous. However, it is peculiar that we ignore the risks and very real carnage caused by the much more ubiquitous operation of standard cars and trucks on our streets.

Gun violence is a big problem in our city. Drug overdoses and drug-related violence are big problems too. But so is road violence, and we need to stop thinking of it as just part of the cost of doing business and living our everyday lives. If we can have a shot spotter system, why can't we step up speed traps and move toward enforced, lower speed limits on all of our roadways?

This summer would be a perfect time for Mayor Bronin and the City Council to get serious about a Vision Zero program to reduce the destruction and violence on our roads.

As we continue to improve our roads and make them safer with better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists (along Bushnell Park, on Zion Street, on Albany Ave to name just a few) we have to make sure we address the bigger cultural hurdles as well--driver behavior and driving culture. As long as Hartford's streets continue to feel unsafe and lawless our city's growth and reputation will continue to be held back.

The Mayor's Office and the Council should work with our police department, with DPW, and with nonprofits in the City and State that work to improve the health and safety of residents to implement a program to reduce the carnage on our streets now. We shouldn't have to wait any longer for something so basic.

- Justin Eichenlaub, South West

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hartford to Portland in four photos

Le Grand Depart.
The farm roads out to Ellington were gorgeous this early in the AM.

People at this Whole Foods in NH were really interested in & supportive of what we were doing. This does not happen in CT...I wish our culture was more like NH's or VT's...

On the bridge into Portland. 236 miles in 24 hours. No sleep, lots of food.

You should check out randonneuring. It's pretty rad.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Returning to randonneuring in New England

This weekend will mark my official return to randonneuring, the relatively non-competitive style of long distance cycling that has been around since the end of the nineteenth century, tracing its origins to Italy and France.

I got interested in randonneuring events early in graduate school when my girlfriend at the time had a very odd roommate named Mike who had a passion for the sport and had completed the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris a few years before. Mike was into safety meetings and riding the Marin Headlands on week days. I had way too flexible of a schedule and was often up for ticking off the miles along the Pacific coastline with him while everyone else was at work.

The San Francisco Randonneurs were a wonderful group to ride with and begin to explore California by riding longer and longer distances. I got up to a 300K, about 190 miles. It was a great ride, but also made me question why I wanted to ride such long distances. Why end with sore ankles and a desperate need to get in a hot tub to ease the muscles when we could just stop at 60 miles and have a beer?

I'm a much better cyclist now and ride a more appropriate bike for the work, so I'm looking forward to getting back at it with The New England Randonneurs, a very well-run group based in Boston and Vermont that hosts a variety of rides in both Massachusetts and Vermont, dipping into NY, CT, and NH at various points.

Brevet card. Sometimes it seems that half the fun of randonneuring is receiving actual pieces of paper in the mail that are not a result of failing to turn on e-delivery at my bank.

This Saturday my teammates Hans, Sam, and I will depart Hartford at 6am and aim to make it to downtown Portland, Maine at 6am on Sunday morning--about 226 miles in 24 hours. That's plenty of time to do the ride, but the rules of this event--what randonneurs call a Fleche, modeled after an original, social, Easter ride organized by Velocio in France, requires that you complete the last 20km after hour 22 to discourage rushing to the end and encouraging (requiring really) longer breaks. I really like the idea of riding from the city in which I live to another city, albeit a much hipper one, over the course of a day. I'm lucky that teammates were also up for a Hartford start.

2/3 of our team.

I attempted a Fleche (minimum 360km, must ride it over 24 hrs) in California with three friends, several years ago; we tried to ride from the foothills of the Sierras, through Napa and Sonoma counties, out to the ocean, and home to San Francisco. We didn't make it when one of our team members started to have some knee issues and we were tempted by the prospect of abandoning at Calistoga Hot Springs.

My California Fleche team: Jill, Jade, Kelly, Justin, plus large gold miner (in Auburn, CA)

There are no hot springs between Hartford and Portland, but there are a lot of good places to stop for food and drink. Our first stop will be Chickpea Diner in Worcester for brunch, about 70 miles in, just the first segment of a very big day on the bike. There are five other teams riding different routes to Portland and we'll all get together for some food and a beer on Sunday morning.

Team 'Bash Bish Brothers' will be leaving from the Maple Ave Dunkin' Donuts in the South End this Saturday if you want to come wish us luck and grab a very early donut.

- Justin

I'm riding this VO Pass Hunter I built up this winter. It has been a great bike.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Opposite lock

I went to a bike commute panel last night at the Simsbury public library. It was nice to meet some fellow Simsbury and greater Simsbury bike people. I talked about riding my bike and my bike and other bikes and Justin riding a bike and bike developments in Simsbury. Looks like Tariffville will finally get connected to the rest of the world. A rear some inexplicably popped while my bike was leaning against the wall. Nice group of people. Simsbury really is as into bikes as it claims to be.

Some people were talking about how great the league of American wheelmen's traffic skills class is. I had to bite my tongue because all the literature and descriptions I've heard about it makes me think it isn't too great. The big thing is the counter steer they're always talking about: turn left to go right. I hear that and think, "This is not a real thing."

But before I hit publish on this silly little screed, I figured I google "counter steer bike" to see what came up. It's all about motorcycles and there are like three bike people talking about it whom I've never heard of. One guy on pinkbike made this whole video about it, but then when he starts riding around cones, he leans the bike but I don't see any of this counter steer he described when stationary. All the counter steer experts are super exaggerated about how to do it and all I'm thinking is that nobody in their right mind would corner this way. In fact, I tried doing it on my way home around stuff in the rode and it totally slows down your ability to corner. Turning your wheel ~10 degrees the wrong way before corning helps nothing. Then I cornered naturally and thought, "There's ever so slightest shift in weight and bike orientation before you corner, but it's so de minimis and subtle that there's no reason to tell anyone to do it." (I have a lot of inner dialog when riding). There are definitely things about cornering that can be taught, like lean the bike not the you and lead with you shoulder, but the physics of the turn happen on their own.

Then I checked with Jobst Brandt (RIP) and he agreed with me. A bike is not a motorcycle and requires minimal input from you to change directions, so none of the motorcycle stuff applies. Countersteer happens naturally. Turn while you're riding with no hands and it just works. No input to the bars required.

Salem and I have discussed this at times, too, when we're not ragging on fat bikes. His theory is what they're really talking about setting up your line through the corner. So, you come out slightly (or maybe not so slightly) to increase the apex of the corner so that you can take corner quicker or without as heavy of braking. However, if you're riding so close to the side of the road that you need to swing out like a tractor trail to make your corner, you're way too far over. And, swinging out into the lane suddenly before an intersection or obstacle is gonna get you hit by a car. I tend to agree with him. So, don't ride so close to the curb and if you can't set up a corner with the ideal line, brake harder first.

In sum, I am highly suspicious of Traffic Skills 101. Read more!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Submit to Hartford alley cat recap

Find a recap, results and photos of last weekend's Submit to Hartford alley cat here:

I won't post more photos here because the software only accepts 15kb, grainy photos. Read more!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ally's cat

Alley cats are still a possibility in the cultural backwater that is Hartford! While people in California are bro'ing out bikepacking in the state of Jefferson, our gears are fixed and our spoke cards are sharp.

I mean no disrespect. Alley cats are fun and I'm happy they're still happening. I'm going to my grandpa's 80th birthday party, so I'm resentful of everyone else who will be having a good time on Saturday. Below is an email that Justin sent me about the race entitled SUBMIT TO HARTFORD:

We're having an alley cat bike race (ride) this Saturday, April 23 starting at 2:00 PM at Charter Oak Landing. The weather looks perfect.
An alley cat is a bike scavenger hunt. This one is a very lo-fi, simple event that isn't connected with any organization or cause. It just is. Which is kind of nice we think, at least once in a while. :)
Please share with friends and folks you know that might be interested. On twitter, facebook, etc.
All riders, all bikes welcome. No one turned away for lack of funds.
See also:  Read more!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Back pain speed

I ride a bike quite a bit and usually pretty slowly. Sometimes for long periods and while it may tire me out, it doesn't really hurt. However, if I decide to pedal hard, after like a half an hour, my lower back starts killing me. Why does this happen? I don't think it's a bike fitting thing. I feel like some how I'm unconsciously tensing it up, but how do I stop doing this? Hypnotism? Read more!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Big commute

I spend a lot of time in Bloomfield now. My former 5 1/2 mile commute is now 28 miles. The bulk of the ride is the longest possible way through Bloomfield. I like Bloomfield. I strongly considered living there. I really took this series to heart. I'm trying to continue to like Bloomfield by not just riding in and out on 189 to Granby Street everyday. I'm sort of at the point after a year that I can ride for like 7 miles on 189 and not recall a single thing about what happened.

So, I'm trying to mix it up and get my pants dirty. Today, I very much did that by exploring the newly acquired farm sort of in the middle of town. You can connect Mountain Road to Duncaster Road, which are nice road in and of themselves, in a bomb through hay fields a la Vermont way. At the end you get to meet these guys.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I was riding to work this morning and thinking that maybe there's more to the internet than Instagram and remembered that there was this time when I wrote on a fascinating blog about riding bikes in Hartford. Or maybe more accurately, my memory was jogged about it because someone from the Courant called me about bike lanes and speed bumps on Brookfield Street because they sent an email to the blog email address. After pacing around on my front porch on the phone for awhile and gesticulating, I reminisced with myself (is that possible) and realized my days of pontificating about stupid bike stuff shouldn't be over just because I don't live in the 06114 anymore. My commute is even longer, so I have even more dumb things to stew about and vent than I used to.

Or maybe, I'll be positive and post narratives about the pretty hills and dales of near western Connecticut! Read more!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Next Hartford Alley Cat, Saturday April 23 5:00 PM

An alley cat
Saturday, April 23
Meet at 2:00 PM. Ride at 2:30 PM
Start is at Charter Oak Landing
​After party at Red Rock Tavern
$5. No riders turned away for lack of funds. Everyone rides.
Read more!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Can't Stop, Won't Stop in Hartford

This is the most momentum for active and sustainable transportation that Hartford has ever seen during the Winter.  Well the most momentum since Colonel Albert Pope was on the scene in the 1890's and saturating Hartford with Columbia bicycles.  A season of abnormally warm weather brought to us by global weirdness has even kept the fair weather riders on the road.  The City of Hartford is waking up to the need for safe and sustainable human powered transportation with new zoning regulations that include an entire chapter on Complete Streets design - just approved in January.

College prep students at Center for Latino Progress just signed up for Earn-a-Bike!
  • Weekly DIY Member Hours at BiCi Co. - We are holding these twice a week at 97 Park Street.  Wednesdays from 5:30-8:30pm and Saturdays from 1:30-5:30pm.  You can still become a member by buying in or earn your membership by volunteering 10 hours.  More info here.  Fix your own bike, shadow a mechanic and learn new skills, work on bikes to support BiCi Co. projects, or just hang out and talk about bikes!  Right now BiCi Co. Volunteers are working on a group of bikes for a developing Spring Break week project that we're calling BIKE LIFE - HARTFORD!  Stay tuned for more announcements on that soon.    Volunteers can just show up, but it's helpful if you let us know using this survey what days you are planning to attend.
Kevin learning how to straighten a woefully bent derailleur hanger
  • BiCi Co. Women's Committee - Sunday, February 14th, 2pm-3:30pm at 95 Park Street, 2nd Floor - Third meeting of the BiCi Co. Women's Committee.  This committee was formed right up front to address known under representation of women riding bikes.  This is a national issue and by looking around Hartford even worse in our city.  Interested in joining the committee or getting into the loop for meeting notes?  Send your contact info to Tony Cherolis.
The Women's Committee is cranking!
  • Friday, February 26th - IceBike (and Walk) to Work.  We're doing this every month in Hartford and East Hartford.  7am-8:30am.  Maddie's in East Hartford, right across from P&W on Main Street.  Ashley's in Hartford on Main Street, just south of Downtown.  Topic for discussion - The snow finally arrived.  Are you running studded tires?  Which kind?  Are they really that magical?  Share the event with your friends with this Facebook Event.
Time to put the studded tires on the cross bike.
  • BiCi Co. Earn-a-Bike - Starting end of February.  We're recruiting teens and young adults from age 13 to 19.  This program will run for eight weeks and the teen will leave with a bike they tuned up themselves, a helmet, bike lock, and lights.  The teens will also leave with bicycle maintenance and safety skills and a bit of knowledge about Hartford bicycle history and bicycle science.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30-7:30pm at BiCi Co.  Send contact information for the teen and parent / guardian to Tony Cherolis.
  • <<SAVE THE DATE>> Bikes vs Cars, Monday, April 4th - After a sellout Bikes vs Cars movie in January Real Art Ways is bringing it back for a second showing on Monday April 4th.  In addition to the movie, there will be a passel of bicycle advocacy organizations and cycling clubs tabling in the galleries before the movie begins.  Let's sell it out again and park even more bikes on the railing.  Even if you're not seeing the movie, stop by for the expo and chat up your favorite (and new) bike organizations.  RAW is highlighting Earth Day in April at their monthly Creative Cocktail Hour on April 21st.  Check that out too.
Lets keep rolling!  Momentum is a terrible thing to waste.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016


2016 is going to be a banner year for sustainable transportation in Hartford.  To kick off the year I am rolling out BiCi Co. news and programs along with some other bicycle news and opportunities.  Walking and biking (and buses) work just fine through the winter.  The short days and cold months are also perfect for tuning up your rig, learning new skills, and contributing as a volunteer for a BiCi Co. youth program.

Momentum - A Short List for January 2016

  • DIY Member Repair Hours at BiCi Co. - These were great in 2015, of course this is going to start right back up in 2016.  Work on your rig, fix up something we've got in the shop, or help someone else out.  Wednesdays 5:30-8:30pm and Saturdays 1:30-5:30pm.  Starting on January 6th.
  • BiCi Co. T-Shirts - We just put in the order for our 1st Edition BiCi Co. t-shirts.  These go to our kickoff campaign donors who chose this as a "perk."  We'll have a limited number of extras available for $20 each.  Will let you know when we get them in the shop.
  • Earn-a-Bike Teen Program -  Recruiting right now!  13-18 years old.  Starts late in February.  Two meetings a week for 8 weeks.  Bike maintenance skills, safety training, a bit of engineering, safety accessories, and a bike for each participant.  Interested or know a teen that is?  Contact Tony C and you'll be included on the invitation to the EAB orientation.
  • Bikes vs Cars - January 11th.  7pm movie at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street.  Followed with brief panel discussion with P&Z Chair, Sara Bronin and others.  Get your tickets at the door.  More info.
  • Hartford Zoning Update and Complete Streets Chapter - This is important!  Now you know.  This is the most important 2016 happening in Hartford relative to a step change in how the city works towards sustainable transportation.  Your input and support needed.  Hartford's P&Z Commission has drafted a complete rewrite of zoning regulations.  The draft significantly reduces car parking minimums for new developments, requires bike parking minimums, and gives credit to further reduce car parking with inclusion of bike parking.  There is an entire chapter that captures best practices in Complete Streets and a connected bike route map is included.  Public Comment Session on Tuesday, January 12th at 6pm, 260 Constitution Plaza, Plaza Level Conference Room.  Email P&Z with your comments here if you can't make the session in person.  Or do both!
  • IceBike (and Walk) to Work - Friday, January 22nd.  7:00-8:30am.  East Hartford at Maddie's on Main Street.  Hartford at Ashley's on Main Street.  All weather, year round human powered commuters need breakfast.  We meet up and chat during winter months.  January's conversation topic - Skiing vs Winter Riding.  Why do the same folks that drive hours to ski put away their bikes for four months of the year?
  • BiCi Co. Volunteers - We need you!  All sorts of volunteer roles and levels of commitment.  Send an email to Tony C to get on the volunteer email list.  Fill out a survey to sign up for January DIY repair hours as a volunteer.  The volunteer support and diversity of skill sharing is what makes BiCi Co. so special.  
  • BiCi Co. Job Posting - Coming soon. Stay tuned.  The programs and hours at BiCi Co. are growing in 2016 and we'll be hiring to support that growth.  This is an outgrowth of our 2015 programs, the crowd funding campaign, and grant funding for 2016.  You helped make this happen.
  • Inspired to Ride - Thursday, January 21st.  7:30pm at Cinestudio, Trinity College.  Ready for some winter inspiration? Come see a movie with Bike Walk CT. Get tickets online here.  Inspired to Ride, the latest cycling film from the makers of Ride the Divide, follows a handful of cyclists from around the world as they race unsupported in the inaugural year of The Trans Am Bike Race. It's the antithesis to events like Tour de France and Race Across America. There are no teams, no support vehicles, no special jerseys and not a dime in prize money. The event is sponsored by Bike Walk Connecticut. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door the day of the show. Winter bike movies tend to sell out, so we recommend buying tickets online! Spread the word and invite friends with this event page.
Happy New Year!  Keep up the momentum.  Momentum is a terrible thing to waste.

Keep in touch with BiCi Co. via our Facebook page.
Can't wait to see this t-shirt all over Hartford!

Read more!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hartford in a Purple Light

One can ride a bike in Hartford and its surrounding towns. It isn't the greatest bike riding ever, but it is fine. This year I've been fortunate to have a good bit of time to ride. 

It would be nice (will be nice?) if more people start riding bikes here, but it's been good to just focus on riding the bike and to (mostly) forget that the streets are clogged with single occupant vehicular traffic. Rather than having to engage with said motorists on Facebook, I can get all the news I need from the weather report, and from this helpful, quick summary of transportation politics in CT this year: Connecticut 2015, Looking Back on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in transportation news)

I hear a lot about how dangerous cycling is from my suburban colleagues, which makes a certain kind of sense--they're very inexperienced bike riders, they drive everywhere, and they have a normative driving culture to defend and claw back from the juggernaut of transit-oriented development and BRT systems that provide people like me the choice to ride the bus to work with my bike.  

But I haven't really let them get to me too much. This December has been an amazing month to commute by bike in Hartford metro. Here are some shots from my commute this winter.

Broad Street, looking east, on a foggy day.

There are hundreds of ways to get from the South End of Hartford to Simsbury. Going through Elizabeth Park is one of my favorites.

Riverfront ramble.

My favorite road in Hartford County -- the closed-to-cars service road up to Heublein Tower in Taclott Mt. State Park.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Come in Out of the Basement

Bicycle mechanics are an interesting breed.  These mechanically inclined tinkerers spend a lot of time in their workshops and garages.  They may be putting together esoterically interesting bicycles, or salvaging a bicycle hub with cones from a pile of other hubs collected over years of gathering parts.  Unless they lucked into a friendship with a nearby neighbor that also shares their bicycle addiction, much of this time is spent in solitary.  All that time spent alone can be a detriment to health and social well being.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Other cities have community bicycle spaces, and now there is one in Hartford - BiCi Co.!

If you hang out too long in your basement, you'll end up getting reabsorbed.
BiCi Co. is inviting fellow basement mechanics to join us and enjoy the benefits of being a more socialized human.  Last week we hosted our first Tuesday night "Mechanic's Night".  We tuned up bikes, BS'd about bike designs, talked about rides coming up.  It was great!  The volunteer mechanics repaired five used bikes for Hartford shelter residents.  That's the project BiCi Co. is working on in December.  Bicycles are amazing tools for increasing mobility and jobs access for the most vulnerable in our population.   We'll be holding Mechanic's Night on one more Tuesday in December, 5:30-8:30pm - 12/15.  If Mechanic's Night goes well, we'll start it back up in 2016.

Steven getting tips on wheel truing from a voluntary mechanic.
Volunteer mechanics have also been helping at the DIY Member Hours to guide those that are looking to learn more about fixing their own bicycles.  The DIY hours are Wednesday (5:30-8:30pm) and Saturday (1:30-5:30pm).   Pairing up a mechanic with a newbie is a great way to skill share and get more independent and confident bicycle commuters onto the streets in our city.  A quick thank you to the volunteer mechanics that have been very helpful thus far - Dwight Teal, Ryan McMahon, Chris Brown, Javi and Henry, Steve Leonforte, Damien Stewart, David Blatt, Jesse Varrell, Rich Allen, Mike Zager, Alinafe Tengatenga, Michael Barr, Jeremy Gantz, and Tracy and Ethan Frankel.  We couldn't do it without you.  A rock star team for such a new bike space venture and we're thankful that you've jumped in with us. Our social skills are off the charts in the last two months!
Eva Dougherty - Replaces a fork on a touring bike.  First time!  
Perks? - In addition to the feel goods and the socialization, BiCi Co. will recognize volunteer staff (> 10 hrs per month) with a healthy discount on used and new bike parts.  Because we have an addiction to bikes, this is unreasonably important perk.

Holiday Hours Notice - BiCi Co. will have no hours December 20th through December 29th.  We'll hold DIY Member Hours on Wednesday, December 30th.  5:30-8:30pm.
Henry and Javi - Volunteer mechanics.  Learning the ropes.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Time to Start Acting Like a Thirty-Seven Year Old

First - December 1st is Giving Tuesday.  Consider the Center for Latino Progress and their new project, BiCi Co. when you give back.  Hartford has been without a bike shop since 2014.  Our city needs BiCi Co. to support safe, sustainable, and economic transportation for both existing and newly arriving Hartford residents.  BiCi Co. will help transform Hartford into a cycling friendly city, a city where teens can get brakes for their bikes, bike lights, and locks.  Bicycles don't just connect us to destinations, they connect us to new friends and opportunities.  It won't be Heaven, but we'll get closer to it.  Thanks for your support.  Please donate now.

Second - The last Slow Roll of 2015.  Sunday, December 6th.  Meet at 3pm at Majorca (2074 Park Street, near Prospect).  We will ride to BiCi Co., get a short tour, and then back to Majorca for happy hour and appetizers.  If you aren't one for December rides, you can still meet us at Majorca at 4:30pm.  FB event invite - share and invite others.  Did you know that the building that Majorca is in was a Columbia Bicycle factory?  Hartford's bicycle history runs deep.

Third - I had a ridiculous adventure on Friday.  One day after my 37th birthday, Ken K and Brian joined me for an impromptu mixed terrain ride.  Global weirdness put us in the 60's, and it was just too nice to stay indoors.  I lied to Brian and told him we were going to be road riding.  After taking the secret MDC road and jumping the gate that's always closed, we rode toward the Wethersfield meadows.  We may or may not have crossed on the closed Route 3 bridge pedestrian path.  There seem to be gates at both ends with signs saying that, "None shall pass."  

Leaving the secret MDC road.  
Transported to the Glastonbury side of the river, as if by magic, we continued our 'not a road ride' on the dirt roads and double track around Keeney Cove.  Ken K found a large, huge really, slab of Styrofoam and I immediately thought, "That would make a swell raft."  After a test float, I suggested that I would put my bike on the foam raft and see where it would take me.  Ken and Brian thought that was an obvious course of action and helped me shove off.  

This is a great idea!  
Plenty of room for the touring bike and myself. 
Remarkably stable.  Even in the windy chop at the center of the river.

Not the stupidest thing I've ever done.
Closing in on Brainard airfield.  The planes come in low.
The raft was very buoyant, and comfortable to boot.  Plenty of room for both me and the bike.  Rather than floating down river as I had expected, the strong wind pushed me upriver back towards Hartford.  I had a short stick and a longer tree trunk for poling.  The wind took me across the river towards Brainard air field.  I pushed the block up on shore and gathered up a long poly rope that I found tied to a tree.  It seemed like something I might want to have with me on a rafting trip.  I shoved off again.  With my long beard, I didn't want to hazard riding my bike in an airport.  Confusing airport security isn't prudent.  I relaxed on the raft (you can't hurry a raft) and kept going north.  The bend in the river and the wind took me back across towards East Hartford.  A couple of boats zipped by, but neither came over to see what I was up to or if perhaps I needed assistance.  "Oh, just another bike on a Styrofoam block."

The weather was stellar.
I picked up a rope.  Might be useful for a guy on a raft.
 The foam block is now resting on a dock in East Hartford.  I tipped off a couple of artists, as this could be really fun to work with. Imagine carving a sled out of that block.  Or building a giant puppet head.  Or formalizing the raft setup and taking it for a much longer trip next time.  So many possibilities.  If I wasn't neck deep in starting up a community bike shop, I'd be going back tomorrow myself to pick it up.  I consider this a first dibs opportunity to claim the block for a future project.  Not saying exactly where this is, but you can probably figure it out.

That looks like a good place to land.
Another photo for scale.
After landing, I kept riding.  There is a concrete flood wall behind the East Hartford water treatment plant that I only have the guts to ride every tenth time.  This was that time.  I was feeling pretty good about the foam block ride, so I rode the wall.  The Hockanum River Trail was pretty empty, as per usual.  An under used gem of a trail that starts behind East Hartford town hall.  A quick stop at the top of Wickham Park, and one of my favorite fast descents down the sledding hill.  Some coffee and a muffin at the Riverfront rounded out what may have been the best ride of the year.  It's hard to compare rides, but this was by far the most unique.  I feel closer to Mark Twain today.  It's time I start acting like a thirty-seven year old.

A new spot for graffiti.  I hadn't looked under this bridge before.
Riding the wall makes my tummy feel funny.
One of the better views of Hartford, and a nice ride to get here.

Amazing that the weather was so pleasant today.  Soaked up all the Vitamin D.
Nothing to see here.  The article is done, but since you're so thorough, you should go over to the BiCi Co. membership and fundraising page and make a sizable donation.  Wink.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Open Streets Hartford

Hartford, the city proper, has an unreasonable amount of potential.  Situated in the middle of a very wealthy ring of suburbs and corporate titans, the city has beautiful buildings and wide streets.  The riverfront paths offer spectacular views and a sheltered piece of nature right next to the bustle of downtown.  The cultural amenities and restaurants are varied and world class.  Our neighborhoods are diverse and rich in restaurants, retail, and housing.

What's holding Hartford back, is the lack of feet and bikes on the street.  The transit system isn't up to snuff - yet.  The current street system is set up as a sluice and sewer system for cars.  A flood of suburban employees drive in each morning and flood back out each evening.  If this flowed smoothly like water, we would never have a chance to move to a different solution.  Fortunately cars flow like chaotic gravel being shaken through a funnel.  When the number of cars gets too high, the funnel clogs up and the cars stop.  Stop and go.  Stop and fume.  It's frustrating, and these suburban commuters are waiting for a better solution.  The continuing growth of downtown living options and healthy occupancy rates are evidence of the pent up demand for options to the suburban norm.

In order to reach the economic bustle needed to support the city's overall budget, we need to radically change the script.  How can a city expose suburban dwellers to the wonders of urban living?  Can we demonstrate to the transportation planners a radically different streetscape with humans at the center instead of cars?  With the slow moving changes to infrastructure, it is difficult to imagine levels of improvement that leapfrog out of the car-centric paradigm.  How can Hartford make that jump?  How can the city share the vision widely, before the infrastructure has actually changed?

With vision, and buy in, very significant changes have happened before.  In 1973 the Netherlands banned cars on Sundays.  The ban was due to the oil embargo and only lasted a couple of months, but they never looked back.  The alternative mode share in the Netherlands that exceeds 50% leads to a much more pleasant and human scale built environment.  Everyone that visits the Netherlands comes back changed, and asking questions.  Why can't the US (the really sad bar on the far right) move away from single occupancy vehicle travel?  In Hartford we can't change the entire country, but we can effect local change.  The urban centers are leading the way because we have the most to gain economically from moving to a greater share of transit, biking, and walking.

Source: Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, IETT Professional Development Workshop, Istanbul, June 14th, 2015
After cycling through Philadelphia during the recent Pope visit and the resulting unplanned Open Streets day, I can see the leap.  It was a magical experience.  The streets were chock full of pedestrians and cyclists enjoying all that the city had to offer - and spending their money locally.  Transportation advocates are rightly calling on additional Open Streets (AKA Ciclovia) days in Philadelphia.  Cities across the country are incorporating Open Streets events, and inviting humans back into the roadway.  Here is a short list.  The list is not inclusive.  There are over 80 Open Streets events in the US.  There is an Open Streets guide and there was a national training and summit for cities looking to hold events based on this model.
Here's the vision.  I-Quilt and Envisionfest have coordinated an action packed weekend to promote the dense activities on a Saturday in Hartford.  Let's combine Envisionfest, the CT Cycling Festival, and an Open Streets event to take that vision one step further, a leap really.  Close down a significant number of Hartford streets to through traffic on the day of these events and invite our neighbors to experience the city on a human scale.  Coordinate with the businesses and cultural institutions along and near the route to remain open on the weekend day (or days).  Bring all our city's amenities and connections to bear and lets have Open Streets.  It will take some planning and a boatload of publicity.  Target Envisionfest 2017.  Bring in state and regional funding, because we know that many of the attendees would be coming in from the burbs.  NYC Summer Streets is partially funded by the DOT! 

Once Hartford and the region has "flipped the script" by exposing diverse folks to the beauty of a walkable, bike-able, and car-light urban environment, it will be a much easier discussion when we talk about reduced parking requirements for apartment buildings.  Deleting a parking lane and implementing road diets will be championed as progress.  Reducing the cost of development (less parking cost) along with raising the tax rate on surface parking lots will fill in Hartford's vast parking deserts.  Let's do this!

Thursday, Nov 12th - There is a CT Rides Business Forum.  Send this link to your suburban coworkers and corporate human resources directors.  Breakfast is included and you'll learn about the multiple, enjoyable transportation options available for Hartford employees.  The forum was organized by CT Rides.  By spreading the word, you're doing your part to make change in Hartford's mode share.

SAVE THE DATE, Slow Roll, Dec 6th - The last Slow Roll of 2015 is planned for Sunday, December 6th.  Yes.  You can ride a bike in December.  Put gloves on and have a great time!  We'll be rolling to a local establishment after the ride to warm up and socialize.  Put it on your calendar now, and keep an eye on the BiCi Co Facebook page for additional details.

Important side note - As Hartford moves forward with developments, we need to be aware of the negative effects of gentrification.  There are ways that Hartford developments can serve our entire population, not just the new, well-heeled arrivals.  Here's a good article on countering the negative effects of gentrification - 9 Ways Privileged People Can Reduce the Negative Impact of Gentrification.  The article makes some good points, but it doesn't include the requirement (or set asides) for "affordable housing" in new developments.  As we approach gentrification in Hartford, it can happen quickly, new projects should be looked at critically as a system if they create a core downtown where service workers can't live.  If you look at downtown rents, we are already there.  When that exclusive rent level reaches the neighborhoods, it will push thousands into the suburbs where their access to jobs and services will be degraded.  Transit sucks in the suburbs.  Jobs are further apart.  Cars are expensive and not affordable on a minimum wage full time salary.

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