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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Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Slow Roll Toward a Sustainable Hartford

After gorging on walking and biking this weekend, I'm ready to go to bed early.  Late night dancing my arse off at a birthday party has contributed to the battery drain.  Before I nod off to sleep, I wanted to give the good people of Hartford a heads up on some bikey things not to miss.

Chris Clark jumping off some big stuff next to the Wadsworth at Envisonfest
Slow Roll - On Monday, September 22nd you can meet up with some friendly folks to ride in a leisurely manner (a Slow Roll) around Hartford neighborhoods, finishing up at a local establishment for food and drinks.  They are meeting at 6:00PM at the carousel in Bushnell Park and heading over to Red Rock Tavern after the ride.  You really should bring lights with you, and don't expect to go fast.  The group will also be making a point of riding safely - so aggressive a-holes may find themselves unwelcome.   Although this is a slow ride, informal events like this are making big steps toward building a future sustainable Hartford with more residents living in the city (not suburban commuting), using efficient and city friendly transportation, and frequenting local businesses.

Walk Hartford - Hartford's new and bustling group Transport Hartford is organizing the Slow Roll rides.  Transport Hartford advocates for more complete bicycle, pedestrian, and pedestrian infrastructure.  In addition to the Slow Roll events, there will be "strolling" events with a similar theme.  The first "Walk Hartford" is planned for September 28th.  The group will meet up at 1PM at the Bushnell Park Carousel.

Bike History - Through the month of September there are two bicycle related history exhibits in Hartford.  Running through October 7th, there is a FREE Hartford bike history exhibit at the Hartford Public Library on the 3rd floor - Pedal and the Path.  And last but not least, there are some very old bicycles in a small exhibit at the Butler-McCook House.  The Butler-McCook house is jam packed with Hartford history and housed continuously one family lineage for 4 generations and 200+ years.  I highly recommend all both the library and the museum, and not just for the bicycle exhibits.

Certain to be under publicized Cross Race - 2014 is the year of multiple events for Hartford.  Recurring Slow Roll events.  Several bicycle history exhibits.  And now two cyclocross races.  Just last weekend there was a cyclocross race at Riverside Park, and coming up in November (the 8th), there is a race right next door to my house in Colt Park - the Veterans Memorial CX Race.  I doubt the navel gazing cyclocross race organizers will bother to invite the general public.  If you haven't seen cyclocross racing it's rather fun to spectate and / or volunteer.  The course in Colt Park is stacked up on the hill such that you can see the entire course from one spot.  If one cross race makes Hartford more bikey than New Haven, then we're leaving them in the sand pit with two cross races in the same year.  Now if they could just figure out how to get some spectators (and potential future club racers) off their couches and out to the park.  Save the date!

Nightfall - Another plug for this great event coming up on October 11th in Colt Park.  Starts at 5:30PM.  FREE.  And there will be a designated bike parking valet.  BYO food and beverages.  There will be surreal puppetry, music, dance, and spoken word.   Nightfall Hartford.  I'll be organizing a neighborhood cleanup that morning on October 11th to put some shine on before we have a park full of visitors.  Meet at the Sam Colt statue near Wethersfield Avenue at 9AM.  Bring trashbags and gloves, as I'm not going to bother with getting the city or sponsors involved.


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Source to sea river cleanup vol 5 (or 6)



I can't remember how long I've been doing this. I think the first time was 2008, but I skipped it in 2012. So, it might be the fifth or sixth installment of the beat bike blog's annual river cleanup (as part of the Source to Sea event) at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut Rivers in Hartford. Saturday, September 27 10am-1pm. If you drive there's parking at the intersection of Van Dyke and Charter Oak Aves. Otherwise, ride your bike up to the top of the levee and start cleaning. I think we're going to be join by Hartford Steam Boiler, Trinity College (as per usual (they do a great job)) and students from the nearby CREC school. It should be fun. Wear long pants.

Regarding the 'cross race at Riverside Park this weekend, I'm a little confused as to why they're calling it Hartford's first 'cross race. Do they mean first this year? We may not have great regularity in our races, but we've had a lot of them. There were the ones back in the mid-aughts, the one I did in 2009 and the one last year that ERACE did (which they're doing again in November). Just because you didn't go to any of those races doesn't mean they did happen. I bring this up only because Hartford, unlike the other cities in our state that claim they're more bike-y places than us (actually, I'm just talking about New Haven) haven't ever had a 'cross race.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cyclocross and a Cycling Festival in Hartford

The next two weekends in Hartford are not to be missed if you are a bicycling enthusiast, or just enjoy sporting events in general.  This Sunday, September 14th the Riverfront Cross Fest will be zipping around the trails and open areas in the parks near the Boathouse.  You can access Riverside Park by car from the North using Leibert Road.  If you're walking or riding in (earning your karma points), Riverside Park can be accessed via the river front path that starts at Charter Oak Park, runs past the Founders Bridge riverfront plaza and on up to Riverside.  There is also a fun ramped flyover (up and over I-91) bike/ped bridge that connects the north end of downtown (via Pequot St) to the park.  Seriously though, if you're less than 5 miles from a bicycle race, why would you drive there?

The very next weekend is fully loaded with the Connecticut Cycling Festival.  Saturday, September 20th cycling options include a Gran Fondo format with 45 and 100 mile route options.  If you're the competitive type, the rides will be timed.  If you're not competitive, I'm certain that they will be more enjoyable at a reasonable pace, soaking up the beautiful early Fall weather and Connecticut countryside.  If for some reason you haven't ridden in the Hartford area, it only takes a couple of miles to get out into awesome territory and country miles.

On Sunday, September 21st, the CT Cycling Festival will be bringing urban criterium races to downtown Hartford.  If you haven't seen criterium style bike racing it's a hoot.  Super fast and right up close.  Hard and fast turns, and the group screams by your spot every couple of minutes.  Last year I camped in front of Bin 228 and watched a couple of races with my parents who were visiting that weekend.   There are going to be many food vendors and other related events.  In addition to the fun for spectators, they are certainly looking for volunteers that can put in a couple of hours to help make the event successful.  


If the bike racing that weekend wasn't enough, Hartford Envisionfest is all day Saturday, September 20th.  Another reason to walk and bike about in Hartford.  I'm not one for group rides that cost money, so you'll find me puttering about downtown on foot or two wheels on Saturday getting more than my share of arts, entertainment, music, and camaraderie.  Check out the full schedule here, if you prefer to have an itinerary.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

How Much Bike Can Connecticut Handle?

A veritable fire storm of bicycle events in September.  Toss some logs on would ya?
I've been off the radar lately, largely due to mandatory Saturdays at my employer.  Depressingly my last post about the death of Paul Hughes graced the Beat Bike Blog pole position for an extended time.  With corporate responsibilities on a three day weekend, I'm able to catch up and provide Hartford with a deluge of upcoming bicycle (and pedestrian) events this Fall.  As a BBB reader and all around good person, it is now incumbent on you to further spread the word - either by voice, Facebook share, email, text, tweet, fart... whatever your preferred methods.

  • Discover Hartford Bicycle Tour.  Sadly.  One event that isn't happening this September is the Discover Hartford Bicycle Tour.   Here's why.  I'm listing the non-occurrence of this event to head off questions about, "When is the Discover Tour this year?"
  • Slow Roll.  Gladly - there are other rides in Hartford that you should know about.  The first is a "Slow Roll" happening on Monday, September 8th (corrected) and organized by Transport Hartford (www.transporthartford.org).  Meet at 6PM at the Bushnell Park Carousel for a short and slow ride around Hartford.  Transport Hartford is filling the active transportation (bike/walk/transit) void in Hartford.  The organization treats bikes like transportation, with a side of recreation.  For years motor vehicles have been the sole design driver of our infrastructure, even in dense cities served poorly by the resulting space hungry (and resource heavy) designs.  It's past time to get organized and push back for Complete Streets and high quality transit service across Hartford.  Sign up for Transport Hartford's email list to stay informed about upcoming events and advocacy opportunities in our transitioning city.  Spread the word via this Facebook invite.
  • Pedal and Path: Hartford & the Bicycle.  From September 3rd through October 7th, the Hartford Public Library "will showcase vintage Connecticut bicycle maps and images from Hartford’s past association with the bicycle, as well as a 1924 velodrome track bike, featuring components manufactured by famous African-American cyclist [] Major Taylor."  Hartford was home to Columbia Bicycles started by Colonel Pope and can claim many significant moments in bicycle history.  Get over to the library to learn more about Hartford's bicycle roots.  The exhibit is up on the 3rd floor.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Counts.  On September 9th through 14th the Hartford metro region planning organization (CRCOG - Capitol Region Council of Governments) is gathering volunteers for bicycle and pedestrian counts at intersections across the region.  I'll be traveling that week for work, so I set up an alternate count day on Sept 28th for an intersection in Hartford.  More data leads to more action, and data driven action is harder to ignore.  It only takes a couple hours of sitting in a lawn chair.  Contact Mike Cipriano  (860-522-2217 x223) with your preferences for count times/locations.  Map of locations here.
  • Riverfront Cross Fest.  Get your bike dirty or yell dirty things at the cross racers on Sunday, September 14th.  Starting at 8:30AM and the pro race starts at 3PM.  The racing starts at the boathouse in Riverside Park, the northern part of the Hartford riverfront.  You can walk or ride there from downtown.  If you drive there, I'll make fun of you.  That's because cross racing includes a healthy dose of heckling ('cross heckling is de rigueur) - and therefore I'll heckle the wankers that drive to a bike race.
  • Connecticut Cycling Festival and Hartford Envisionfest.  A weekend of awesome events with arts, music, and fast bicycles.  All within walking or biking distance of downtown Hartford.  On Saturday there is a "Gran Fondo" with 45 mile and 100 mile distances.  For some reason, they time the riders, and I'm guessing that leads to pretty irresponsible behavior at intersections (if you get creamed blowing intersections it's your own fault).  On Sunday a closed course criterium zips around downtown and is surprisingly fun to watch.  All over Hartford on Saturday there is a rolling festival at your own pace - Envisionfest.  Check out the day full of events and formulate a plan, or just wander around finding fun stuff willy-nilly.
  • Nightfall at Colt Park.  An evening of music, dance, spoken word, and GIANT puppets to mark the seasonal transition.  This event embraces sustainability with valet bicycle parking.  Bring your bike or walk over from the nearby Hartford neighborhoods.  Nightfall has several community outreach arts events leading up to the main performance on Saturday, October 11th.  Nightfall starts at 5:30PM (get there early for a good spot) and seating is on the hill near Wethersfield Avenue.  BYO blankets, chairs, and refreshments.  I'll be organizing an informal neighborhood and park cleanup that same morning, meeting at 9AM at the Sam Colt statue (also near the Wethersfield Ave entrance).  
  • Interstate Multi-use Trail Summit.  From New Haven to Northampton, MA there is a paved trail that is almost all the way complete.  I've ridden all of it and am excited to see this non-motorized trail connection close the gaps.  On Saturday, October 18th there is a summit in Simsbury, CT for this this cross state (and multi-state) trail.  You should register now.
My view this morning.
In other news, I took the opportunity on this extended weekend to do a quick overnight camp - within city limits.  It can be done, and done well.  Rather convenient to camp within a 10 minute ride of your home.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Ghost Bike in Bloomfield

For anyone who knew Paul Hughes or is interested in showing support after this loss to Bloomfield and the cycling community I've added the information below on his funeral service and an associated memorial bicycle ride this Friday.

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Join us this Friday, Aug 1, Valley Cycling will host a ride to the funeral of fellow Cyclist - Paul Hughes at 10:15 out of Starbucks in Granby, CT (10 Hartford Ave). The ride to Paul Hughes Funeral will be slow, everyone will wear a black arm band - if you have one or can make one - bring it (piece of a black trash bag works fine).

Paul's service is at Old Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, 59 Tariffville Road, Bloomfield - about .5 mile from where he was killed. Go past the ghost bike and take the Tariffville Road exit from 189 and go right at the end of the exit onto Tariffville Road. You will go down and then up a hill and see the church, a quaint, beautiful white New England structure, in front of you.  After the service, if anyone wants to visit the ghost bike and lay more flowers, please join Caryn Stedman in doing so.
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A reminder that we've got to look out for each other out there.
Heya folks.  Be careful out there, whether you're driving a car or riding a bike someone's life is on the line.  Looking at your lap for 30 seconds to check that random text message about cute kittens isn't worth someone else's life or livelihood.  A cyclist was killed last week in Bloomfield, and it probably wasn't an accident.  The cyclist was killed on a stretch of road that I've ridden often, and there is a wide shoulder.  I haven't seen the police report (if someone gets a copy I'll post it), but I'm guessing the driver was distracted and drifted into the shoulder striking Paul with the right corner of the car - where you see the damage to his truck in the news story.  Overtaking type crashes such as this are supposed to be very uncommon, but with distracted driving now the norm the trend may be changing.  Put down your fucking phone!  The fellow driving the truck may have been a nice guy, but now he's going to have to live the rest of his life knowing that he's murdered a fellow human being.
Note the huge shoulder!
The following information and photographs were provided by a friend of the cyclist that was killed, Caryn Stedman.

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Ghost Bike Installed for Fallen Cyclist

Friends and fellow cyclists installed a “ghost bike” Tuesday morning, on southbound Route 189 in Bloomfield, near the Tariffville Road exit,  the site of the crash that took the life of Bloomfield resident and Maple Syrup maker Paul M. Hughes.  Paul was an avid cyclist who rode for the joy of riding and for his health. He often rode the Duncaster Road, Tariffville Road, Route 189 circuit, a popular cycling route for recreational, training and fund-raising cyclists.  Paul was killed Friday afternoon, July 18th, at about 5:15 p.m. when he was hit by a pick-up truck along a section of Route 189 with a wide shoulder well-marked for various fundraising bicycle rides.

Ghost Bikes, an international movement, are eerie, haunting memorials to fallen cyclists. They are placed at the site of fatal cycling accidents to remind drivers of the fragility of life, that cyclists have road rights, and to drive carefully.  Ghost Bikes help remember the life and love of the fallen cyclist, provide comfort for the family and friends, and remind other cyclists to ride safely. Hartford cycling activist and blogger Anthony Cherolis donated the bike.

Paul is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as his maple sugar and cycling friends, and his Spaniel, Henry. Hughes Maple Syrup is well-known in the Hartford area for its quality and flavor, a craft he in which he took great pride.  A memorial service will be held August 1 at Old Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Tariffville Road in Bloomfield, just around the corner from where he was killed, on August 1.
For more information on the Ghost Bike movement, go to http://ghostbikes.org/.

Related Articles:

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Monday, July 14, 2014

A Short History Tour of Hartford, Sunday July 20th

This Sunday, I'm organizing a very informal, free, and short bicycle ride in Hartford as part of the Sam Colt 200th birthday festival (www.200colt.com).  I've got some complicated thoughts and opinions on the legacy of Sam Colt and firearms in Hartford.  That said a community festival that gets residents and visitors to think about and debate history (and current events) is a win-win in my book.  Colt Park is also conveniently located only half a block from my house.

Colt 200 History Ride – Sunday, July 20th.  9AM.
Meet at the Sam Colt statue near the Wethersfield Avenue entrance of Colt Park.  There is some parallel parking at the Wethersfield Road entrance, and additional parking in the lot off Warwarme.  That said, if you ride your bike to the ride, parking isn't something you have to worry about.

What kind of ride is this?
This is a very informal ride of friends, old and new.  The ride doesn't cost anything.  We’ll meet up and you may choose to ride along the suggested route below.  At several points on the ride the group will stop to chat about the Hartford history we are passing by.  The ride will be very leisurely in pace.  The distance covered is approximately 7 miles if you follow the route described below.

What you need:

  • Your bike.  A bicycle in safe riding condition.  Brakes, lubricated chain, pumped up tires.  If in doubt, get a tune up at your local bike shop.  Fatter tires will be more comfy on some of the bumpy roads.
  • Helmet. A helmet isn’t required, since you’re simply choosing to ride along in the same direction, but I would highly recommend it.
  • Water.  Although this is a short ride, we will take an hour or more to cover the distance.  You’ll probably appreciate having a water bottle, especially if you’re planning to hang out in the park after the ride.   It’s summer time.  Sometimes it gets hot out.
  • Bicycle Lock.  If you plan to leave your bike and walk around any of the historical sites, stop for breakfast, or explore the park after the ride.
  • A great, or at least tolerable, attitude!  You should bring it with you, as we don’t have many spares on hand.

Turn-by-Turn:

Route Note – This is not a closed course.  You are choosing to follow a suggested route on city streets.   The riders will be obeying the rules of the road and practicing “vehicular cycling”, which is how cyclists are treated the best by motorists.

1) Starting at the Colt Statue head down the hill (East) on the park road.
2) Take a right turn onto the park road before you get to the swimming pool.  Careful.  The park road is a bit rough.
3)     Pass the parking lot, and take a left on Warwarme Ave.  Appreciate the skyline of Hartford looking over Colt Park.
4) Veer right onto Reserve Road.  SAFETY NOTE - Ride slow across the choppy railroad tracks.
5) Quick left into Charter Oak Park. SAFETY NOTE - There are off angle tracks into (and out of) the park – and you should make sure to cross them at a right angle.  We’ll make a quick stop at the gazebo to talk some history.
6) Leaving Charter Oak Park, we’ll take a right on Reserve, and then Left on Warwarme. SAFETY NOTE - Remember to slow down and cross the railroad tracks at a right angle.
7) Right turn onto Huyshope Ave.  Stop in front of Colt CafĂ© and we’ll take a look at the Colt Armory
8) Left on Charter Oak Avenue.  Stop at Church of the Good Shepherd, on the left.
9) Right on Prospect.  Stop at the Amos Bull / Butler-McCook garden on the left.  Then stop at the plaza between City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum
10) Left on Gold
11) Left on Main Street
12) Right on Wells Street and continue around Pulaski Circle (traffic circle).  Turn onto Elm Street, and we’ll stop briefly at Bushnell to talk about the Park River and the history of the park.
13) Continue up Elm.  Turn Left on Trinity Street.
14) Turn Left again on Capitol Avenue.
15) Right on Hudson.
16) Left on Buckingham.  Continue straight on Charter Oak.
17) Right on Charter Oak Place up a short hill.
a. Stop at the top of the hill to learn about the Charter Oak.
18) Left on Wyllys Street
19) Right on Osten Boulevard
20) Left on Luis Ayala
21) Right on Van Block Avenue
22) Right on Masseek Avenue.  Enter Colt Park from the East end.  Stop and chat a bit about the history of baseball in Hartford.
In addition to the ride on Sunday, there is a whole day of festival on Saturday



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heaven in Hartford - Grand Opening Party

This is kind of a big deal.  Heaven, the community graffiti and skate/bike park located just north of downtown Hartford, is throwing a grand opening party this Saturday, July 12th.  In my (not so) humble opinion, Heaven is significantly more interesting than a $60 million AA baseball stadium.  Saturday is also the Riverfest Fireworks (nearby to Heaven) and the Real Ride (biking to the fireworks from Real Art Ways).  The Real Ride will be stopping at Heaven on the way to the riverfront, so if you're chilling there with your bike (or board, or skates) you can hook up with the rolling parade for the final stretch to the park.  More info below on Heaven from Luis Cotto.  

Get there.  Because 'Merica.
Big Shiny Burners
I'm a sucker for sugar skulls
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Hartford's first skatepark to open this Saturday, Celebration noon to 4 pm.

Please join us this Saturday at noon at Heaven (New Ross, County Wexford Park) in downtown Hartford, Connecticut at noon for the ribbon cutting ceremony and opening celebration of the City's first skatepark. After five years of effort by members of skateboard, BMX and hip hop community, the park is reopening again in its entirety with a world-class poured concrete skatepark for Hartfordites and others to enjoy. Of course, the history of the park with respect to skateboarding goes back nearly 20 years; as many know it was featured in several seminal 90's skate videos and established Hartford as the secret skate mecca of the Northeast.

The program will be begin at noon on Saturday with remarks from the Friends of Heaven Skatepark, local elected officials and others involved in the creation of this park. Invited and/or confirmed guests include Mayor Pedro Segarra, the Hartford Court of Common Council, former Councilmember Luis E. Cotto, 860 Custom Skateshop, Underground Coalition, the Tony Hawk Foundation and others. Please stay afterwards for demos, live music, graffiti, breakdancing and to use the park (or spectate). Starting Saturday, the skatepark will be open dawn to dusk everyday.

The Hartford Court of Common Council created the Hartford Skateboard Task Force in 2009 with the purpose of advising the City on the potential location, design and construction of a skatepark. Comprised of representatives of the skating, BMX, business, government and park communities, the Task Force fulfilled those goals and undertook fundraising and grant writing measures to ensure that the park would be built. The design for the park was created with strong community input and a devised process via a series of public meetings. Pulling together a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant through the City of Hartford, a Tony Hawk Foundation Grant (first one in CT, making CT the final state in the country to get one) and individual donors, the park was able to secure funding and grow from a dream into reality. Through a competitive bidding process, the design/build team of Stantec and Who Skates was selected, designing and constructing the skatepark in 2013-2014.

The Friends of Heaven Skatepark is a group born out of the legacy of the Task Force to maintain, promote, program and encourage the free use of the New Ross, County Wexford Park and Heaven Skate Park by providing a space that fosters grassroots arts, recreation and culture for Hartford youth and residents.

More information about the Friends group and the history of the project and the space is available at www.heaveninhartford.org.

In the event of inclement weather, the rain date is Sunday with the same schedule.
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Real Ride Details - BIKE DECORATING BEGINS AT 6:30 PM, RIDE LEAVES AROUND 8:20 PM.  Starts and ends at 56 Arbor Street, Real Art Ways.  Stopping at Heaven on the way to the Riverfront.  Bring your lights, music, loud clothing, and your awesomest self and friends.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rankling



Ranking is beloved by all. This is especially true it seems in Connecticut. Whenever I go to other states, I don't seem to see lists that rank all the towns. We do it here, though. Bike Walk Connecticut just came out with a new one. The methodology seems a little weird. Cyclists satisfaction and municipal engagement are equally weighed, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Simsbury being first and New Haven second was not surprising, but New Britain being number three was pretty surprising. I guess New Britain is only bad if you're trying to ride from Hartford to New Britain. Once you're there, it's not so bad.

Hartford is 15. That's pretty good.

The big surprise is West Hartford. They're number 83. That's pretty damn terrible. I guess those few sharrows didn't do much good. However, this bad rating seems to be because they never returned in the survey. I'm pretty sure that they have some bike commission and they have that dorky Wheel Fun Day, so there is municipal engagement. Not that I'm one usually to defend West Hartford, but crappy surveys do no one any good. I mean, West Hartford is full of those dangerous curb bump outs, but I don't know if that's so bad as to rank them 83rd.

Secret new halfpipe discovered.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eel in a strange place

Studying for the bar exam has cut into the amount of time I allocated to do fun stuff. While writing beat bike blog posts doesn't really count as fun, it has also cut into that. I have some time periodically to ride a bike, but not additional time to write a well thought out and thought provoking blog post about the ride.

However, when doing some practice questions today, I found a great beat bike blog tie-in. While this doesn't seem to be the same eel chronicled on the hallowed pages of this blog, it is a dangerous eel none the less.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Pygmy Village



If you've ever gone passed the DMV in Plainville, you end up in a weird place. I went there one time in high school with my friend Bobby and it was our mutual opinion that it was weird. Later, I learned that it's the site of the Pygmy Village on Rattlesnake Mountain. While some dispute its spookiness, the rest of the internet is convinced of it spookitude. I had never been from the New Britain direction, so I set out that way on Saturday. 

Crossing the I-84 overpass on to west side of the highway, there are these walls made of giant concrete blocks that are about eight feet high on both sides of the road, creating an Escape from New York aesthetic. The blocks end and there's a fenced off area with a lot of no trespassing signs where someone was mowing followed by two rundown occupied houses and one abandoned one. My goal was to ride down North Mountain road back into Plainville, but what appears to be North Mountain road is just a cut for powerlines. Perhaps that's where the Pygmy Village lies, but it did not particularly possible to ride that way. Instead, I continued on what was sort of Long Swamp Rd up Rattlesnake Mountain and eventually came out at the Tilcon quarry. There was some very impressive corduroy.


I'll admit that the spookiness of the area discouraged me from checking out the powerline cut further. Perhaps that's where the Pygmy Village is, but I'll never know for sure. I am interested in exploring more of the ATV trails on Rattlesnake Mountain. I once rode the Metacomet over Rattlesnake, but it was mostly unrideable, hike-a-bike stuff. It looks like it would be possible to do a Tour de Talcott-type ride, but south from the West Hartford Reservoir. I rode once from there to Southington and the Rattlesnake section was the most discouraging. Other than that, it was ok. Discovering these ATV trails and dirt roads make for a pretty good alternative.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Open Letter to Fishers Island Ferry

I was thinking about heading over to Fishers Island for a weekend to visit a friend working in a summer seasonal job.  It looks like the Fishers Island folks don't like poor folks on bicycles crudding up their view.  My attitude about the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill Ferry is exactly the opposite, especially since it was free this past Saturday for CT Open House.  I was so excited about the free ride that I purchased a t-shirt with the ferry on it.

An open letter to the Fishers Island Ferry
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To whom it may concern,

I was planning a bicycle ride to visit a friend on Fishers Island.  Was pretty excited about it as I hadn't yet had the chance to visit New London or that part of Long Island.  Excited until I learned about the steep bicycle fare.

It seems absurd that the rate for bringing a bicycle on the ferry ($55) is more than the rate for an automobile ($51).  Whats the logic there?  A bicycle takes up significantly less space, can be stacked together, and is the environmentally responsible choice.   The bicycle as transportation is also the clear choice if one were to worry about the quality of life in a vacation community, where traffic and parking are irritating issues.

Thought I'd put my two cents in.  Based on my initial judgement of Fishers Island from the ferry rate, I'll skip the trip across the Sound and spend my vacation elsewhere.  Not a big loss I'm sure, but if you've ever been to bicycle and pedestrian friendly towns and cities - you'll notice that life is better where cars aren't taken for granted as the only way to get around.

Have a beautiful smog filled summer, and I wish you short term profit followed by decades of rising sea levels. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Tony Cherolis
Beat Bike Blog
Hartford, Connecticut
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Question to readers.  Am I missing anything by skipping Fishers Island, or is it just a bunch of white, over compensated investment bankers?

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Monday, June 2, 2014

In defense of mowing



Some say that mowing is an activity for lumpen conformist suburbanites who believes in marketing mumbo jumbo. I heartily disagree. I love mowing. I hope to some day own a home so that I can mow, compost and building a pump track in my back yard. The drone of the mower, the verifiable accomplishment of making high grass low, walking around a yard and the beer afterward make mowing a zen activity nearly as fun as going for a bike ride.

This is not to say everything should be mown, but there should be a place for everyone to roll a bocce ball or put a lawn chair. The rest can be woods or tall grass, but a lawn is a great thing-- a rug for the earth.

I had been hearing a lot of mowing denigration lately, but then I read this. Done right, mowing and landscaping can be a form of expression. It isn't cul-de-sac oppression, it's a canvass upon which one makes grass their own. Contrary to the atomization of the suburban existence, it is the means by which one can personalization and beauty to the terrain. The management company for your apartment or condo can't do that. That's where the conformity and submission lies: living under the authoritarian landscaping of a common interest community. There's no individualism in the lawn someone else mowed for you.

Long live the lawn! Express yourself with stripes!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Absence fonder grows heart?



I went to that great state of Vermont this weekend as I enjoy doing. I canoed, I plumbed, I mowed, I walked, I grilled, I attempted to get a marriage license and I made the best tomato sauce that I had made in a long time. I don't know what it was; maybe it had something to do with adding all of the sauce ingredients instead of using a single ingredient for a sauce, but it was awesome. I still have some left, which I am willing to sell for $25/jar (limit one jar).

However, I only went for one small bike ride. This was generally due to a lot of rain, but also due to doing other things. As you can imagine and have probably heard if you've read this blog for more like a few day, I like riding a bike in Vermont with an emphasis on Orleans and Caldonia counties. I don't really mind it, though. I am reminded that I like riding a bike and I want to go do it some more, but I have developed some peace. Read more!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Using the Wrong Tool

This came to me today while I was riding home on Main Street East Hartford.  I noticed a bicycle lying in the back of a full size pickup truck.  The kind of pickup truck that hasn't ever been used for a construction job.  Spotless paint and shiny.  A vanity truck.  17 MPG and obviously the wrong damn tool for the job, unless the job is compensating for something.  How is that truck the right tool for picking up groceries or commuting?  It's insult to injury to see a bicycle in the back of a vehicle like that.  The funny thing is that they were probably driving to a bike path.

The ultimate lean machine
As an engineer, I think a lot about efficiency.  The entire reason that P&W is still in business is the geared turbofan engine, a step change in air travel efficiency.  At work, we're trained in things like Lean Principles and improving a Value Stream.  Being so trained, it always amazes me that folks, especially P&W engineers, don't apply some of those concepts to their day-to-day life.  Not so much that life gets boring and work-like, but just enough to improve your quality of life and save some wasted time.

For example.  So, so many of the engineers I work with have the typical house in the burbs with the sprawling lawn and the long commute.  They complain about cutting the grass, talk about their "new expensive tools" needed cut the grass faster, and bitch about getting stuck in traffic.  If they spent 30 minutes evaluating the things they like to do (consider that their value added activities) and then listed the fluff and suffering (non-value added activity, wasted time, and rework).  Consider the list below for example.  I know some folks enjoy cutting the lawn and their jobs, but let's not get stuck on that.   You can make your own list, it will be different.  The important thing, I think, is to actually make some sort of list like this once in a while.

Value Added (increase these)

  • Spending time with family and / or friends
  • Unstructured time spent relaxing or recreating
  • Going out to a nice dinner
  • Seeing shows or attending cultural events
  • Exercising and staying healthy
  • Improving my community
Non-Value Added, Wasted Time (reduce or eliminate these)
  • Stuck in traffic.  Commuting to work and other things.
  • Time spent at work - assuming that your job is stressful and you'd rather do other things
  • Cutting grass
  • Standing in line
  • And it could go on and on...
With that list in hand, a reasonable person might conclude that their lifestyle is set up to maximize non-value added activity.  The full hour spent commuting per day in a car.  The two nights per week spent cutting grass or pulling weeds in the lawn.  The 400 yard long driveway that requires an industrial snow blower.  How did they get there, in a life overweight with wasted time and busy work?  The opposite of a Lean lifestyle.  Spending their valuable time during the week making money to support expensive after work activities that they don't even enjoy.  Tirelessly chasing the suburban dream until they retire and full time commit themselves to the non-value added list.  If they moved closer to work, down sized the lawn (moved near a park), and changed some structure in their lives the balance of the list could change.  

A side benefit of a value added life is that things get more interesting.  As soon as someone starts talking about mulch, cutting the grass, or highway traffic - it's the most boring thing in the world.

The closed section of Mountain Road over the ridge into Tarrifville
And we'll be hip deep in the "right tool" on Saturday, June 7th.  In the morning, there is a bike swap meet in Wethersfield.  Then Dinner and Bikes that evening in Hartford.  After Dinner and Bikes, there are local bands and DJ's at Arch Street Tavern - come get some Shag Frenzy.  This is what I call maximizing the value added activity.  Huzzah Hartford!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wethersfield Swap Meet (or swamp meet)

Tire pile

Apparently, there's a bike swap meet sponsored by the Wethersfield High Bike Club in June and it comes with free coffee in the "cuppa" form. It's free to browse and $25 if you want to sell your tire, fork, stem, bottom bracket or other type of pile. It may not be Trexlertown, but it's also not in Pennsylvania.

Here's the email I was forwarded about it:
Hi Everyone,
If you like to look at bicycles and bicycle parts with a cuppa coffee in your hand, or you're looking for parts for a project build, or looking to sell a bunch of parts or bicycles you have laying around… The High School Club I run is hosting a Bicycle Show / Swap Meet in Wethersfield.
If you haven't been to a bicycle swap meet, this is your chance to go to a close one. (Usually the closest one's are in Mass.) I love going to the Munson and Dudley Shows. You can check out bikes of all styles from vintage to contemporary. You might see your first "ATB" up for sale. You might pick up that cable stop, or that brake handle for your sister's kids bike. Maybe you can clear out your stable and make some cash for new parts.

Please spread the word! It should be fun and for a good cause.
General Admission is free, and there will be sellers and demos including a flat tire clinic... If you want to sell, it is only $25 a spot.
Flier is attached.

email tbrown@wethersfield.me or call me at 860-944-8436 c
-Tom Brown
Hope to see you there, and out on the trails again in September.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why not every day?

East Hartford Bike to Work. Many of these folks cycled over from West Hartford.
Living in Connecticut and riding a bicycle for 90% of my transportation puts me in the curious position of being an extremely fringe element.  The thing that I do everyday, rain or shine, is something that the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents consider absurd.  There is a small percentage (< 1%) that once a year think, "Hey! Driving to work every day is silly seeing that I'm less than 5 miles away and the weather is beautiful."  These open minded folks come out during Bike to Work Week in May, and try something new.   They have a great time and get their picture taken, but then the bike usually gets put back into it's marginal role of weekend recreational toy.  What is the mental block preventing more commuters from trying something that I've found to be an amazing alternative to single occupancy vehicle transportation?  Why not every day, or at least, why not many days?

Enjoying the camaraderie, food, and schwag
I'm torn between soul crushing frustration and the realization that this is a great opportunity.  The opportunity lies is the fact that only 0.3% of trips to work in Connecticut are by bicycle, that's even lower than the 0.6% national average.  That is a huge opportunity, a gaping hole of opportunity.  I was discussing with Pratt & Whitney's health and wellness coordinator our plant in Poland where 40% of the employees cycle to work.  How much healthier and wealthier would we be if just 10% of work trips were made using cycling, walking, or a combination of that with some public transit?  If anyone is interested in making that transition, or recommending a resource to a friend, they should check out www.ctrides.com.  CT Rides is a comprehensive resource for anyone trying to go "car light" - car pools, van pools, transit, telecommuting, biking, and walking.   Taking a two car family down to one car isn't rocket science, really.
Bikes overloaded the three racks by my office.  
In the interest of maintaining bike month momentum, I am organizing Dinner and Bikes on Saturday, June 7th.  You can get your tickets online, and tickets go up $5 at the door.  The tickets are sliding scale from $10 to $25.  The event is benefiting Bike Walk CT.  In addition to a vegan dinner, bicycle movie shorts, and a chat about Bikenomics, we will be highlighting Hartford Food System and local urban food production.
Because bikes deserve their own cultural events
The photo below has nothing to do with Hartford, expect that I rode my bike there.  This past Sunday I taught a Traffic Skills 101 course in Collinsville at the Canton Town Hall.  The support of cycling in that community was refreshing.  The attendees were sponsored by the local bike shop, Benidorm.  Folks were recreating joyfully on the Farmington Valley Trail.  The nearby coffee shop and deli was over flowing with bicyclists stopping in for a snack.  Bikes were organically taking over car parallel parking spots on the road.  Collinsville is looking to add bike corral parking, something I've suggested as a seasonal solution for Pratt Street in Hartford.  The East Coast Greenway is routed through Hartford, and would have a tourism draw and commuting utility like the Farmington Trail.   Instead of getting frustrated, I'm focusing on the opportunity.  Let's do this every day!

Not in Hartford, near Collinsville along the river.  Graffiti and rusty industry.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

A man and his rocks



Editor's note: I have always been a big fan of Stone Field Sculpture. Some of my earliest memories of Hartford are of me climbing up the rocks. For the 30th anniversary of the piece in 2007, I founded the "Friends of Stone Field Sculpture" and had a picnic there. When iQuilt was planning on turning the rocks into some sort of stupid water feature, I got back in touch with Carl's wife to prevent foutainification of my favorite piece of public art in Hartford. Dario shares an affinity for Stone Field Sculpture and wrote this:

Leaning on my bike in the shade on a beautiful warm spring afternoon, gazing at the rock sculpture on the long isosceles triangle of a lawn in downtown Hartford, I realized actually how beautiful the scene was. Carl Andre's 1977 controversial sculpture of eight rows of boulders (the first at the tip of the triangle has only one; the second, two; the eighth which runs parallel to Main St. has eight, for a total of thirty-six) has aged very well. Rocks do that. The seasons pass and the rocks slightly weathered by time develop a patina. They are of basalt and gneiss, two types of rock easily found in this region. Since its creation, the "Stone Field Sculpture" has been a source of controversy. "It's just a bunch of rocks. That's not art! Anyone can do that!", decried many at the time and over the years. The City of Hartford even tried, unsuccessfully, to recoup the $87K it had paid the artist (not with taxpayer funds, by the way). The rocks have become part of the urban landscape, the sculpture is appropriate to the strip of no-man's land between Main St. and Gold (a short, winding street) and the city's oldest and most historic cemetery. The artist, Carl Andre, now in his mid-70's, is one of the fathers of Minimalist art. He is featured in a NY Times article (May 7, 2014) about the upcoming exhibition, a retrospective of his work, at DIA in Beacon Falls, NY. Andre is known for his use of local, simple, natural, but also industrial, materials and for arranging them in simple and suggestive forms. He is "exacting" in the materials' disposition. 


Prompted by the article and short video about the exhibition, I rode my bike from campus, down Vernon St., across the Learning Corridor, down Retreat Ave., through the Hartford Hospital campus, down Park, left onto Wadsworth St., across Bushnell Park, to the field of stones. And what did I see there besides a bunch of rocks? I saw something magical and quite beautiful. Buses unloaded students on Gold St. who marched up the sidewalk to catch their transfer on Main. Mothers and children cut through the field of stones, following their more direct desire lines. A heap of clothes and personal belongings was behind one of the boulders in the middle of the sculpture, not a late addition, but a temporary locker for one of the urban denizens. A passerby took a break and sat on the rocks. I wasn't sure myself if I could do so, the field of stones being a work of art and all. And then I realized, what Andre's sculpture does to us: It invites us to inhabit it, to view it as part of a landscape. It's next to a cemetery of headstones and it is a gracious, quiet complement to that historic and human artifact. I've ridden by Stone Field Sculpture on my bike hundreds of times and have always known it was there, but I have never really observed it. Why? Because we just don't look at rocks and because the beauty of the installation is not what it is, but how we interact with it. For many, Andre's minimalist work blurs the line between art and non art, but whatever is beautiful is aesthetic and art is the realm of aesthetics and, for me, Andre's field of stones was beautiful yesterday. I expect it to be so today, too.




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