Friday, December 30, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Nothing says welcome to Hartford like a hastily abandoned pair of white hooker boots (size 11!) and an ATV on the sidewalk. This morning I rode down to my soon to be home on Alden Street for the mortgage appraisal (fingers crossed) and found these unexpected bonuses while walking around the block. The boots were right across the street on Alden and the ATV further down on Congress. A call to the Hartford Police Department resulted in a personal call from the South Green community officer and an impounded ATV. My respect for the HPD just ticked up a notch. My respect for the barefoot (possibly trans) hooker is through the roof.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The ride from Hartford to New Britain for the annual Bike Walk Connecticut dinner could have been worse.
But, it could have been much easier.
According to James P. Redeker, the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the route will soon be easier. Part of the oft maligned* New Britain-Hartford Busway will include a bike path, allowing cyclists to make this very trek without wondering when the shoulder is going to suddenly drop off or which driver is going to back out of his driveway without checking his rearview mirror first. Though this will not be completed overnight, having a reduced risk route between these two cities increases job options for many, including myself.
The New Britain-Hartford Busway development was not the only change Redeker mentioned in his keynote address at the Bike Walk Connecticut Annual Dinner. His Powerpoint showed improvements and proposed changes to infrastructure statewide, from closing gaps in bike trails to installing bicycle racks at train stations. He noted how resistant Metro-North has been to bike racks on trains, even when others were willing to foot the bill.
He said that sometimes a bit of public embarrassment is just the ticket to getting others to do the right thing.
For years, the CT DOT has had a reputation for dismissing the needs of cyclists and pedestrians outright. Redeker's speech Tuesday evening intended to assure the public that the DOT has begun to move in a new (or very retro) direction by supporting the need of all residents to safely move from place-to-place.
Professor and author, Mary Collins, in her welcome speech, spoke of the importance of movement and how our youth yearn for it. She is the award-winning author of American Idle: A Journey through our Sedentary Culture.
When she had her own students at Central Connecticut State University consider movement in our culture, it became clear to her that gaming and virtual reality could not replace the need that many have for moving around outdoors, whether that happens on a frozen lake or on a basketball court.
Ray Rauth, the first chair of the CT Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, was the recipient of the President's Award.
Supporters, particularly those who were silent auction winners, left the event in high spirits, maybe energized by Redeker's urging for advocates to remain in touch with him and stay on the DOT to continue making more people- and earth-friendly decisions about our state's infrastructure.
Again, as with last year's fundraiser, very few people rode. Though there was rain last time, the weather was ideal for riding last night: clear and crisp.
One can only speculate the reasons for this-- no time after work? Fair enough. Afraid of riding at night? Be more visible. Uneasy with riding in an area that is not exactly bicycle friendly? Good point. Too far? There were plenty of folk in attendance who live within ten miles.
If bicycle and pedestrian advocates are not willing to ride to their own events, what hope is there for getting others on board?
*I suspect that much of the Busway hate is mainly not because it involves a bus instead of a train, but because of the deep fear off all things urban. What would happen when Hard Hittin' and Hartford are linked up more easily? There goes the neighborhood!
Monday, December 12, 2011
Like to eat? Like to advocate about your feet? Tomorrow evening has both those things happening at the same time in the same place.
CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker to Keynote Bike Walk Connecticut Annual Dinner Event, TUESDAY, December 13.More info if you want to enjoy yourself not as a member of the press? See bikewalkct.org
“I can’t give a complete answer that question because I have to save my fire power for delivery at Bike Walk CT’s Annual Dinner next week,” said the Commissioner at the recent CT League of Conservation Voters Environmental Summit in response to an audience question about CTDOT’s commitment to bicycle and pedestrian transportation. This annual event that includes a dinner, awards, and a silent auction is taking place at Central CT State University, Memorial Hall, Constitution Room. Members of the media are invited to attend the speaking program that gets underway at 7:45 and concludes by 8:30 pm. For more info, please contact Georgette Yaindl at 808-224-0219. Ride On.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
My torts professors, Prof. Chill, had advice for exams, which I have next week. Actually, it's Sunday, so now it's this week. His advice was to get lots of sleep and exercise. I though that was excellent advice and adhered to it closely this weekend.
On Friday, I took the quasi-singlespeed thing out into the woods. At present, it's a fixed/free rear end with one brake. The free is 32:16, to get to the trail slowly, and the fixed is 32:19, as to ride awkwardly and slowly through the woods. Upon arrival in the woods, I ran into Jeff of Central Wheel and another guy I've run into in the past with Jeff whose name I don't know. They rode away when I stopped to change gears, whereupon I realized that I had left my wrench in the basement (very zen). So, I decided to ride my over geared, single braked thing into the woods, which is where I broke my chain on the first climb. I had thought maybe this chain wasn't the best choice, since it had frozen solid with rust since the last time I rode this bike last winter. However, I'd spent considerable time, degreaser, WD-40 and chain lube trying to make it work again. And, when it snapped it was looking quite clean and moved freely. So, I walked back to the bike shop, borrowed a wrench and put the new chain on. Undeterred, I rode around in the woods for awhile overgeared and without my full stopping capabilities. It was fun.
On Saturday, the Silk City Cyclocross salvage edition happened. It was great. It was extra great that after the Halloween snowoctoberolopyse canceled it, the Expo Wheelpersons still put it on. The course was difficult, weird and very economical in its use of space. I can't recommend it highly enough for next year. Lots of off camber stuff, which just makes any race great. I even took some pictures of the 1's. See! Also, for finishing fifth, I get to take three people to a hockey game in Hartford with me. Excellent quid pro quo. That's a lawyer term about eating squid.
This means that I'm assured all F's and I'll have even more time to ride my bike in the Spring. Read more!
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Dario and I headed north along the riverfront trails, when we could find the trails underneath all the felled trees. Lots of opportunities for trying to roll over trees, and some interesting tree piles. Dario was a witness to lots of entertaining tip overs and tangles, the most humorous being a dip in the creek by Loomis-Chafee. More time off bike than on and we did our part to clear some segments. Recommend a group ride with saws to do a bunch more clearing.
Found some excellent graffiti along the train tracks under I-91.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
So, I did two things today. First, I went under contract on a foreclosed condo in downtown Hartford. Second, and more importantly, I trailered a fucking couch. While walking the neighborhood in East Hartford, I spotted what appeared to be a serviceable couch about a mile from home. Having an empty condo in my near future, a couch would be nice. I'll put it next to my lazy boy, and I can have friends sit on it.
Normally couches are light things, mostly air and some cushions. I figured it would be an awkward but reasonable thing to trailer home, so I headed back out with my trusty flatbed topped with a 40 gallon Rubbermaid. My plan nearly ended when I pulled off the cushions and found ----- a sleeper sofa. No! Those suckers are heavy. Even with two folks carrying the ends the sleeper will tend to flop open and cause massive cursing during a move. I put a call in to a nearby friend with a truck. No answer. Time to make a bad decision. Do it anyway.
First load was the cushions and the mattress, which I figured would lighten things up for the Big Show. You can see that even the cushions were a silly sight at 10PM rolling through the suburbs. Loading the heavy, sloppy sleeper was a challenge with just one person. After lifting one end onto the Rubbermaid, I pushed and pulled the couch until it was precariously balanced atop the bin. The couch was perpendicular to the bike, and therefore to the street. To be safe I attached a blinky light on one of the aft bungees, crossed myself, and wobbled down the street.
The couch was perched on the back rack of the Huffy and the Rubbermaid bin, and this resulted in a very light front end that had to be countered with a firm forward lean. The lean on the rack also made for some unpredictable wobbling and a very limited turning radius. Proceeding home at 4-5mph I had a rough start due to the unexpected width and drunken swerves, taking out a couple of brush piles and trash cans. I had to ride right out in the middle of the lane and take up the whole thing to avoid clipping signs and mailboxes. There were many passing cars, and I was surprised to hear not one cat call or "What the hell are you doing?" They were shocked speechless. On the one small downhill I rode the brakes, maybe reaching 10mph. Just as I made it home, the couch was starting to cheat to the right and threatening a catastrophic tilt over.
Monday, November 28, 2011
I still have no idea why I got involved in this, but I'm nearing the final throes of my first semester of law school. The New York Times keeps telling me I'm a moron for going to this kind of school and I tend to agree with them. At the onset, I had the feeling I'd be able to ride my bike more. I was wrong. There are laws about this and laws about that. So many of them. I'm really only interested in laws about mountain biking, so maybe I should have got an LLM in mountain biking law.
There were some 'cross races, in which I did poorly, because I'm getting fat and don't maintain bicycles.
But, the big news lately is that I finally I figured out how to get to King Philip's cave. Only took a boy of the Farmington Valley 22 years.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
As well as being a bicycle commuter William was an accomplished musician and music teacher. Linda and her family are planning a benefit in his memory to support music education, and Linda has invited the bicycling community to additionally utilize the event to raise awareness that drunk driving kills, and is most dangerous for the road's vulnerable users. We'll keep folks up to date on plans as we get them.
Linda visited the ghost bike memorial this morning, adorning the bike with flowers and a bow to "sparkle like angel dust." Previously another unknown person had added flowers to the handlebars. These additions add to the impact and make the memorial a living, dynamic message to passersby. As Linda works through her grief she amplifies and personalizes the ghost bike.
Who would have thought that an afternoon of action could have such an impact on bicycle advocacy and hopeful survivors? I want to thank all those that were able to help create and install these four simple memorials, and encourage others in Hartford and beyond to install their own ghost bike memorials. Remembering our pedestrians lost to cars, 'Ghost Shoes' could serve a similar purpose, albeit the sign would need to be more prominent to be seen by passing drivers.
Deadly Burnside Avenue - http://beatbikeblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/deadly-burnside-avenue-east-hartford.html?m=1
Ghost Riders - http://beatbikeblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/ghost-riders.html?m=1
Monday, November 21, 2011
cyclist was struck and killed at this location by a hit and run driver. Fortunately the driver was found and charged.
While installing the ghost bikes on Burnside, we noticed how many cyclists were out even at 9PM late in November. The economic situation of many residents of the neighborhood makes a bicycle a necessity, and not a decision. Almost all the cyclists out that night were riding without lights and many were riding against traffic, dangerous bike salmon nearly invisible in the dark. Three of the four cyclist deaths occurred at night. As any experienced bicycle commuter knows, riding at night - use your lights (and lots of them). Unfortunately there really isn't bicycle safety education that would have reached this segment of the cycling population, and a $20 light set may seem like a luxury when that is equal to 25% of the cost of your bike. If you're living on the margin, $20 could mean the difference between going hungry or making the rent this month.
Aside from the physical symbol of the ghost bikes, I sent a letter to the CT DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator (Kate Rattan) and Sandy Fry at CRCOG, the regional transportation planning organization. I also cc'd the good folks at Bike Walk CT. After pointing out the growing number of deaths on Burnside Avenue, I recommended a focused (and free) bicycle safety training or free light distribution in this neighborhood. While I was living in Champaign-Urbana, IL a family of organizations put on a yearly "Light the Night" event that made great strides for cyclist safety at night. Within days, the wheels were turning at CT DOT and CRCOG and I think something might actually come from this suggestion. Phone calls are being made and proposals are being made. It would be a fitting memorial to the lost lives to make this happen and use the momentum to prevent future crashes and improve bike safety culture in neighborhoods that are largely missed by bicycle advocacy.
Note: Speaking of momentum, Bike Walk CT is having their Annual Dinner on December 13th out at CCSU in New Britain. I'll be taking this opportunity to talk more with stakeholders about "Light the Night" and keep this moving forward. Hope to see others there. Please help spread the word. If you're on Facebook, here's the link to the event where you can help by inviting your multitudinous friends. Read more!
Friday, November 18, 2011
A year and a half ago or so, a nice person from the Windsor town hall contacted me about a bike path running from the Bissel bridge south to the Hartford line. I wasn't super excited about the idea because it involved paving some woods. Well, they have done much of the work on the path (minus the paving) and it's actually quite nice. It meanders next to the Connecticut River and has an exciting river crossing (of the Meadow Brook, not the Connecticut River). While I'll still hope the leave it as rolled gravel, I think it'll be a nice path.
Also, the City of Hartford made a new path, too, that I hope stays unpaved. While it strangely seems to run next to a path that already exists near the Walmart and the Park River, this new one is better and longer. I guess the first one was practice. It's still unpaved and I approve of it. The mower deck has disappeared, so Salem can't have it.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
There have been three bicycle commuter deaths on Burnside Avenue. This is especially scary as I occasionally ride Burnside. After the November crash, I had friends that had seen the news contacting me to make sure it wasn't me.
- May 2010 - Manuel Herrera, 52 years old, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle. Crash occurred a 11PM. Article states that Herrera turned into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Didn't look like any charges were filed against the driver.
- September 2011 - Local drunk, Paul Bato, with multiple previous DUI's kills 56 year old William Laramie of East Hartford. Crash occurred at 5:21PM. Bato charged with vehicular manslaughter.
- November 2011 - Cyclist, 40 year old Daniel Shultz, riding the wrong way taken is out by a Ford Expedition. Crash occurred just before 6:30PM.
One of the cyclists was riding the wrong way against traffic, at night. All of us know that's a bad practice, but it's still a damn shame that he lost his life. Vehicular cycling is clearly the best way to go. Be visible, and take the lane when it makes sense.
The only one of the three that didn't include a bad or risky practice was the drunk that killed William Laramie. Not much you can do about that situation. Luckily that asshole is going away for a long time, but should have had his license revoked long before that. If you're leaving the bar or a party and you see someone getting into their car to drive home drunk, let them know they're a douche bag.
Anyone who has ridden Burnside Avenue knows that it is a dangerous stretch with two lanes each way, when there really should just be one. The road would benefit significantly from a road diet and bike lanes or at the very least a very wide parking / berm lane with one lane of traffic in each direction. Unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon. I rode a short bit of Burnside tonight on my way home, and although recently repaved there was no hint of a road diet or traffic calming.
Stay safe kiddos. Remember the car always wins. Read more!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Special thanks to Charlie B for the carpool down to New Haven, and props to Carl, a fellow P&W bike commuter, for riding 30 miles, in the dark, from Marlborough to catch a West Hartford carpool. On my way over to Charlie’s I passed another carload of Summiters (Kevin, Georgette, Mike G, and Chris B) on Park Street headed out. I really didn’t expect to see anyone I knew at 7AM on Park Street. With his trademark dayglo yellow, Kevin Sullivan was even visible behind the wheel. Carl and I will be riding back north after the summit, and it looks to be excellent weather.
Nice to see a mixed age crowd at the summit, with many showing up on bike or foot from the New Haven environs. Having Yale, New Haven definitely sees more bike commuting energy.
I was also excited to see a goodly number of females in attendance. Aside from the recreational interest of a freshly divorced male, I see the future of cycling as a movement turning on the involvement of women. Women will drive the movement. Without even trying, one powerful female cyclist will lure a gaggle of men to give it a shot. Mothers will teach children to ride and will play a key role in the Safe Routes to School movement. Instead of male only weekend jaunts, often a cause of friction, riding couples have the opportunity to turn that into a shared experience. The posturing, race oriented, male centric, competitive bike culture will be rounded out into a healthier whole that welcomes all to sustainable transportation. There are so many reasons that bike advocacy should focus on getting more women on bikes. “Fat bottomed girls, get on your bikes and ride.”
Would have liked to see some more ethnic and economic diversity at the event, but most of the attendees looked like me. I often wonder how to reach out to a more diverse crowd on sustainable transportation. Chris Brown asked a related question during the Q&A session on the breakout session on the economic impact of biking and walking. He pointed out that one of the biggest economic carrots is that biking and walking provide stabilization for the segment of population living in poverty or at the margin. The panel members fumbled the criticism / question a bit. Perhaps Chris and I could set up a panel next year that discusses diversity in bicycle advocacy or evaluates the impacts of biking and walking on low income populations.
Way back in 2006, I was in a meeting of the Central CT Bike Alliance, now Bike Walk CT, meeting with Dave Snyder from what was the Thunderhead Alliance, now the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Dave had a very succinct theory related to the bike advocacy demographic and how that related to fundraising. Paraphrased below:
This is the reason that even with embarrassingly small bike mode share (< 1% national average), bicycle advocacy groups are more well funded, organized, and influential than one might expect. The drawback is that bicycle advocacy is dominated by a relatively homogenous crowd. Anyone who has lived in, worked in, or passed through a diverse neighborhood knows that there is often a bigger biking / walking mode share than your typical suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately these riders typically aren’t represented. Many of these riders see cycling or walking through the lens of necessity, and not self righteous advocacy. Additionally there may be economic and cultural issues that lead these riders to focus their valuable time elsewhere.
The ride back to East Hartford was particularly nice. A tailwind made the panniers seem lighter. I passed through Northford and Durham and managed to stay on small side roads until I got to Middletown. The photograph is at the top of Whirlwind Hill, which is just Southeast of Durham.
Monday, November 7, 2011
It seems like there's an election every couple of months in Hartford. I think that's because there is an election every couple of months. Next year, there are even more: town committee, presidential preference, primary and general. Damn! That's a lot of elections. So many "I voted today" (or "he votado hoy") stickers to collect.
Anyway, in the vast majority of Connecticut, the municipal election is tomorrow. The municipal election is arguably the most important because you interact with your city or town most frequently. Also, your vote in a municipal election (state rep & senate, too) is the most powerful. For example, it'll make up like 1/3% of the margin in a victory instead of .000001%. That's a lot of made up orders of magnitude. Besides, mountain biking has ceased to exist in Connecticut, so what else are you going to spend your Tuesday doing? Polls are open 6am to 8pm Read more!
Friday, November 4, 2011
No pictures of fallen trees here. These are all pre-snowmageddon.
I prefer to remember the stellar fall rides, including a chilly overnighter with Valerie around Barkhamsted Reservoir. Valerie is a super fan of gravel roads, but I broadened her palette with some touring on trail. Valerie was visiting from the Illinois flatlands, so it was imperative that we hit every hill in NW CT, especially steep gravelly ones.
Also went on some spectacular hikes, which is like biking except slower. Purist riders should try it some time. Valerie is a botanist, so she was helping me figure out which berries I could eat. One edible berry I don't recommend is the highbush cranberry. It tastes awful raw and when you boil it down to make jam it makes the house stink like zombie feet. The jam (even full of sugar) is almost as bad as the raw berries.
In other news I've started riding on odd stuff while towing a trailer. Like over a mattress or down the stairs by Founders Bridge.
I had this idea that limbs in the woods not would fall down as much as the trees and limbs in yards and along roadways. In the woods, they'd be able to lean against each other and do some kind of tree mutual aid. That's not the case. The woods are a mess and it's going to be a long time before any trails are passable on a bicycle. It's depressing and I guess I should sell my mountain bikes. Also, no eel on Sunday. Maybe we can go for a road ride. Or, canoeing.