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 -

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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