Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thought You Should Know

If you haven't been paying attention, I'm on a bike tour and not at all in Hartford.  That said, I'm keeping an electronic toe in the water.  There are several things coming up that deserve a long distance shout out.  Bummed that I can't be there in person, but take lots of photos and make me jealous.  Post the photos to Transport Hartford.

  1. Sunday, September 6th - Hartford Slow Roll.  3pm meet up at 1429 Park Street.  7-12 miles at a leisurely pace.  Often followed with beverages at a local establishment.
  2. Sunday, September 13th - Traffic Skills 101 in New Britain, CT.  Hard hittin' New Britain was recently recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community and they are upping their game by bringing this comprehensive bike safety course to the city.  Just in time for the Discover New Britain Ride.  Last day to register is September 9th, but don't wait until then.  These classes sell out.
  3. Meandering Mondays - As recently featured in the Hartford Courant.  Sort of like the Slow Roll, but much shorter, it starts downtown, and there is a lunch stop.  Slow pace.  Work clothes.  Every Monday.  Fair weather only.  Meets at 11:45am (sharp) on Prospect Street where the Travelers flyover walkway is, near the Hartford Club.
  4. Saturday, September 19th - Hartford Family Bike Tour and Envisionfest.  A full day of awesomeness in Hartford wouldn't be complete without a family bike tour.  Pretty darn cheap.  You can also volunteer, and ride marshals are needed / ride for free.  Registration should open soon.  Keep an eye on the CCAP page for registration.
  5. Bike Share? - Saturday, September 18th, 19th, & 20th - Maybe, just maybe there will be a "bike share" demo in Hartford.  It will be a weekend full of bicycles, new folks in Hartford (Envisionfest), and a need to get across town to check things out.  Stay tuned!  Watch Transport Hartford for announcements.
  6. CT Cycling Festival Race Day - Sunday, September 20th - A day full of criterium racing in downtown Hartford.   It's a great race for spectating, there will be an expo area, and we always need more cowbell.  Spread the word and bring a crowd that knows how to holler.  You can also volunteer.
  7. Sunday, September 27th - Discover New Britain Bike Tour.  Check out all the bike lanes and drool. Register here.  You can also volunteer.
As always - You have been hereby deputized to spread the word.  To keep this to yourself would be criminal neglect.  Do the right thing.

And now I'll return to my regularly scheduled cross country bike tour.  Right now I'm taking over a friend's home in Columbus, OH.  They're out recording a record or something.  All my clothes are in the washer and I'm walking around... like I own the place.  Noticed I've lost a bit of weight.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hanging Out

The best part of bike touring is hanging out.  Stopping and spending time.  Taking in the scenery.  Breathing and enjoying the current moment.  Having a couple beers with strangers. 
When I lived in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois (2007-2010) there was a tiny bike cooperative - The Bike Project.  A crew of regular volunteers and members seemed to be there all the time - hanging out.  I'm headed off on this tangent, because I think BiCi Co. will be that destination and connection for our community.  Beyond the nuts and bolts and bike safety training, BiCi Co. will be a welcoming social space.  Conversation may involve bikes but will often veer into politics and the local bands playing this weekend.  The crew will be diverse and reflect both cycling die hards, Park Street neighborhood residents, and the downtown employee recreational cyclists.

My camp spots have been stellar this trip.  On the bank of Black Creek.
Hanging out.  That seems like a shallow goal for a nonprofit social enterprise.  Perhaps, until you step back and realize that most of the jobs folks get nowadays are through connections and networking.  Then hanging out means jobs access.  I could also describe how major projects and social movements are often hatched while simply hanging out.  The more diverse the group, the better.  Some of the best teaching and learning happens during down time and “hanging out”.  That’s when the experts aren’t frazzled and get one-on-one time with those that spend extra time in the space.  So yes, BiCi Co. must be somewhere folks want to hang out.  I think that means we’ll have a coffee maker with an honor box and some places to sit down and chat.  It also means, that we’ll plan unstructured time in the space and social meet ups.

Note - The Bike Project grew from a small room to two large locations with paid staff in three short years.  Urbana, Illinois is now a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community.

This construction company fence makes me pine for Anne Cubberly's creations.
I tasted ALL of those honey wines.  And left with two bottles.
In Salmanaca, NY.  This shrine was amazing and confusing.  The whole front yard.
One of the prettier swamps.
This fellow galloped up to meet me.  Expectant.
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Stop to Smell the Cheese in Cuba

The locks along the Erie Canal have free camping.  This was at Lock 30 in Macedon.
Yesterday I went off script and turned south at Rochester.  It looked like there was a longish canal trail, and I've been spoiled by the shade you get on the narrow trails.  The NY state routes usually have wide shoulders, but the sun and semi-trucks get stressful.  The Genesee Valley Greenway runs along the remains of the oddest transportation project I could imagine.  A canal that climbs 980 feet and at one point hugs a sheer cliff.  At the time, a canal was that much better than rutted roads and horse wagons for moving cargo.

Let's build a canal that goes up 980 feet and through a gorge.
The greenway was relaxing, but physically more strenuous due to the trail surface, sometimes just a grassy path.  The going was slow for my ~75 miles of riding and it was evening before I reached Letchworth State Park.  It was worth the trip.  The Grand Canyon of the East, belied by the tall layered cliffs.   I came into the park via a rough and rocky gravel road, and found water, bathrooms (with showers!), and cabins.  The park office and tent camping was nowhere to be seen, so I cleaned up with a shower and followed the Greenway to it's terminus overlooking a massive waterfall.  One of the best camp spots yet.

I'm a sucker for stencils.

Bridge out.  Scramble!

Cliffs.  This is the canal route.

Small waterfall - View from Camp

Massive waterfall - View from Camp

Cuba, NY is known for cheese.  That’s what the sign at the edge of town said.  I stopped here for lunch and will of course be stopping in at the cheese museum and store on the way out.  No photos or cheese reviews yet, but soon.

And a couple more thoughts about BiCi Co.   These thoughts are about how transportation choices and patterns are set young.  If a youth is bombarded with car commercials and social messaging that the only way to show you’ve made it is to buy a shiny car, and there aren’t any other messages, what do you think the outcome is?  When that young adult follows the “consumer American Dream” and buys a cookie cutter home in the suburbs 20 miles from work, they’ve effectively killed off any alternative, sustainable transportation options.

The program we ran this summer spent time investigating the economics of transportation.  For a low income city, the economics really matter.  We talked about extractive, versus local, industries and economies.  Walking, biking, and transit result in more local shopping, more disposable income, and less money thrown out of state via gasoline and automotive costs.  CT Transit and CT Rides came in for an afternoon session on public transit and transportation options.   BiCi Co. won’t have polished multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, but it will provide the hands on exercises and discussions that question the otherwise assumed transportation answers.  These activities will make a difference, both for these young adults and for our city.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Just to Mix Things Up

I screwed up and posted my latest tour report to my other blog - All Famous Together.  You'll find it there.  And while there you can read other stuff I write that isn't about bikes. Read more!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Got Lost.

First – Did you “Like” the Center for Latino Progress Facebook page?  Please do.  That’s where we’ll make announcements about BiCi Co. and the upcoming

Second – If you missed Day 1, here’s the link.  I’m probably not going to keep this up every day, but it looks like a t-storm is coming so I ducked into a coffee shop.

Morning stop.  This village as where President Van Buren was born.
There isn’t much better than a hot shower while on tour.  I caught one of these gems at Copake Falls and combined it with laundering the prior day clothes.  To minimize weight you only bring a 2-3 changes of clothes and you wash / dry the ones you aren’t wearing, alternating days.  Another secret to bike touring (in developed areas) is to under pack.  I conveniently forgot several things - soap, contact solution, chain lube - and I didn't miss them for the first two hilly days.  I'll grab them today and have them on hand for the flatter days.

Excellent graffiti art under a bridge just outside of Albany.
Minimizing weight is of significant importance for a long distance bike tour, particularly when you take a wrong turn and go up Texas Hill.  The sign was rotated 90 degrees and up I went.  Fortunately it was only a slight, beautiful detour and I was able to hook back up to my cue sheet.   I’m an expert at getting lost.  You can ask Joel Gillespie or Valerie Sivicek.  My internal compass is faulty, particularly when the sun goes away.  Combine that with a love for trails and dirt roads and that’s a recipe for lost.  The secret to being frequently lost is to embrace the adventure and the unexpected experiences that lost brings you.

This is where I should have known things weren't right.
Yesterday I was making good progress on the Hudson River Trail heading north on my way to Schenectady.   It was rough going for a bit.  There was a bridge out and the trail was overgrown and closed in for a half mile.  And then it got better.  I was about to start looking for camp when the trail ended.  After checking the GPS, I realized that I had gone five miles north of my route on another multi-use path.  It was a nice path, but heading to Canada wasn’t the plan.  A couple of major hill climbs and my detour returned me to the Erie Canal path.  Losing light, I chose a wooded hilltop camp just short of a water treatment plant – upwind.

Day Two Synopsis – From the Taconic Valley to somewhere on the Erie Canal Path between Albany and Schenectady.  Not bad.  Another hot day, but most of the massive hills are behind me in Day One.  Just rollers today, and once I’m on the Erie Canal it’s flat until I turn South just short of Buffalo  
Storms are coming!  I heart t-storms!

New York puts these huge shoulders on state routes.  Great for cycling, even on busy roads.
I heart long bridges, and diminishing viewpoints. 
I drank a 1/2 gallon of raw milk today.  Healthy! 
Cute church, now town offices.

Erie Canal Path!
New York is kinda long

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It Begins – Hartford to the Taconic Valley

Update - For those looking to follow BiCi Co., there is a Facebook group to Like and Share.  The Fall Build-a-Bike / Earn-a-Bike program is starting October 6th, and the membership campaign for the teaching bike shop will be unveiled shortly.
Some bulls at one of those angsty CT prep schools.
There is a Cherolis reunion on September 5th in Santa Claus, Indiana.  I haven’t seen the family in a while and I decided to make the trek – by bicycle.  A bit absurd, I know.  Many reasonable persons have asked, “Why?  Wouldn’t flying make more sense?”   Of course flying would be faster, but it wouldn’t fulfill the triangular route bike tour I’d been building in my head.  Here’s the overall outline for those with a short attention span.  It came to me in a dream.
  • Hartford, CT to Albany, and West across New York on the Erie Canal path.  
  • Then down into Ohio and Indiana to visit family.  
  • After the reunion, turn east and follow the Ohio River valley all the way to West Virginia.  
  • North to Pittsburgh and a relaxing 340 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal into Washington DC - no cars!  
  • Turn north and follow the East Coast Greenway all the way back to Hartford.  
The highlight of the first day riding northwest out of Connecticut was stumbling across the John Brown birthplace.  After reading a book on his life, Man on Fire, I have found his approach to injustice admirable.  I you don’t know who he is, you may remember a sidelight from a US history course long ago – Harper’s Ferry.  John Brown’s culminating project was a takeover of the armory and the spark for a massive and growing slave revolution.  Unfortunately, the raid was a bust and the revolution never happened.  But the raid put the South on notice and sparked the debate on abolishing the evil institution.  Unlike many of the established Northern business interests, many directly profiting from the slave fueled agricultural and textile industries, John Brown called it as it was and wasn’t afraid to make a mess getting his point across.  

John Brown's birthplace!
Another thing one finds while traveling, particularly if one likes to hang out along rail tracks and under bridges, is graffiti.  While checking out the Farmington River I noticed some of the worst “angsty” graffiti I’ve ever seen.  Suburban Connecticut graffiti art often leaves much to be desired.  I think it may be that the best art comes from struggle and hardship.  Existential crises don't count as struggle.  Not much struggle in the suburbs, and more than is deserved in our cities.  
Craptastic Suburban Graffiti
It was a hot and hilly day and at one point I collapsed under a tree until my core temperature became manageable.  Ending in the beautiful Taconic Valley was a treat.  The view from my stealth camp at the edge of a field was … well.  You can see for yourself.   If you're familiar with stealth camping, its difficult to combine a view with the stealthiness required to not get rousted
Stealth camp with a view.  
Riding with Purpose – Rather than riding for my lonesome self, this ride is dedicated to the BiCi Co. teaching, bike shop that is starting at the Center for Latino Progress.  If you’re a cyclist, you know the magic of a bicycle.  Bicycles are key in urban areas for cost effective mobility and jobs access.  The youth and teens in Hartford already ride, but they deserve working brakes, helmets, lights, and a place to fix their bicycles.   Hartford’s last bike shop closed last year, and it’s time to bring this resource back to the community.  The shop will have a membership component for those looking to repair their own bicycles.

The BiCi Co. program starts with a youth program.  The teens will be learning about bike safety, handling, and mechanics, and sundry other bicycle and transportation related topics.  It's amazing that our Hartford youth don't realize that the Columbia bicycle was the most common in the world in the 1890's.  The teens will Build-a-Bike for a local charitable cause, and by doing so Earn-a-Bike for themselves.  Stay tuned for the crowd funding and membership campaign.  In the meantime you can check out photos of the Summer Youth BiCi Co. program on the Center’s Facebook page (Like it!).  We built up the 1st floor bike shop for the summer program and want to continue that program in both the Fall and the Spring - but we need financial and volunteer support.

Where Rt 44 crosses over into New York

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes! So much to do!

It raining bicycles with a chance of infrastructure improvements.   Get out and ride.  Get others out riding.  Take a class.  Teach some youth.  Just do something!

1) 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month there is a “Slow Roll” ride in Hartford. Leisurely pace, urban ride, 8-15 miles. Meets at 3pm at 1429 Park Street, near La Casita restaurant.  There is actually a ride today, September 16th.  These rides are being organized by Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner.  Like their FB page to stay in the loop.

2) There is a very active Facebook group (Transport Hartford) for those interested in discussing bicycle, pedestrian, and bus transit issues. This group has made progress on pushing for bike lanes and Complete Streets improvements in Hartford.

3) BiCi Co. - I’m working with the Center for Latino Progress at 95 Park Street to open a teaching, membership bike shop with youth programs. This summer we started up with 30 teens, and plan to hold a Fall Build-a-Bike / Earn-a-Bike Program. RIght now I’m collecting information for teens that are interested. We’ll also send out a crowd funding membership campaign shortly. If you know of teens age 13-18 that would be interested in a Fall program, here’s the LINK TO THE SURVEY.

BiCi Co. will also be looking for adults interested in membership and DIY (teaching) bicycle repair.  Stay tuned for the crowd funding membership campaign.  Any questions, you can hit me up.  Follow the CLP FB Page for the latest announcements.

4) On September 13th Bike Walk Connecticut is hosting a comprehensive Traffic Skills 101 course in New Britain. This will probably be the last course of the year in the region.  These courses do sell out, so register early.

5) On September 19th and 20th, the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) is holding the CT Cycling Festival in Hartford. There will be a Gran Fondo and family ride on Saturday the 19th and a full day of racing on the 20th.  This is the same weekend as Envisionfest in Hartford.  If you have family in the region, this would be a great weekend to get into the city and wander / roll around.

6) On Sunday, September 27th Bike Walk CT is organizing the Discover New Britain ride, part of the Discover Connecticut Series. New Britain was recently recognized as a Bicycle Friendly City, and it’s time to celebrate.

7)  The City of Hartford kicked off the Complete Streets Challenge Team a couple of months ago.  We're making progress with corporate transportation surveys, engagement from the Hartford Police Department, and actions to create a bicycle and pedestrian plan.  In recent years Hartford has made enough progress to start the Bicycle Friendly Community application from the League of American Bicyclists.  If you have questions about the Complete Streets Team, or you would like to join a subcommittee, contact Caitlin Palmer.

Please spread the word!  Share this article.  Invite folks out to fill the streets with bikes.

Note  - I'll be touring (by bike) the next six weeks, but I plan to put stuff up here periodically along the way. Read more!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Traveling Man, Voluntarily Homeless

Starting next week I'm going to kick off an approximately six week bike tour from Hartford, CT to Southern Indiana and back.  It will be a wandering route.  Looks like about 2,500 miles if I don't get lost.  I always get lost.

See below for a list of cities along the way.  Know anyone who can put me up - send me a note?  Or anyone that would like to have a meal with an odd bike tourist.  I'll be doing a lot of camping, but it's nice every couple of days to have a shower and a meal with friends (potentially new ones).  Will also be using for hosts, but friends of friends are best!  Bike tours are fluid and changing, so hosting days move around.  Typically I try to confirm (or reschedule) the day before if someone has offered to host.

  • *Starting - Hartford, CT on August 18th or 19th*
  • Schenectady / Albany, NY - Jumping on the Erie Canal Bike Trail
  • Rome, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Rochester, NY
  • Port Byron, NY
  • Brockport, NY - Leaving the Erie Canal and heading into the mountains
  • Youngstown, OH 
  • Akron, OH
  • Columbus, OH
  • French Lick, IN (really!)
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • All along the OH River in Southern OH
  • Marietta, OH
  • Wheeling, WV (Hills - OUCH!)
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Along the Great Allegheny Passage​ (my favorite segment ever!)
  • Along the C&O Canal
  • Washington DC - Starting East Coast Greenway Route
  • Baltimore, MD - East Coast Greenway
  • Wilmington, DE - East Coast Greenway
  • Philadelphia, PA - East Coast Greenway
  • Newark, NJ - East Coast Greenway
  • Long Island, NY
  • *Ending - Back in Hartford, CT.  Before Oct 4th.*
  • [Or anywhere in between - I'll be passing through a lot of cities.]

So excited!  I've been playfully thinking about this tour for a couple of years, and now the rubber hits the road. You can follow my progress on the Beat Bike BlogRead more!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

It Feels Like Mode Shift

Before - Dead?
Yesterday was a fabulous Summer Saturday in Hartford.  I spent most of the day transforming my crushed touring bike back into an everyday rig.  A little over a month ago the bicycle was underneath a Nissan Maxima on the Park Street sidewalk.  It was 9:00am on a quiet Saturday morning and I was on the second floor preparing for the school year end celebration.  A loud crash gave me time to look out the window and watch a car roll onto my parked bike after slamming into a parked car.  The replacement parts all came in last week, and I've been contacted by the driver (no insurance) who agreed to pay me back in $50 installments for the damage.  I never expected to hear back from the driver, and that makes me feel a little better about humanity.

After - New fork, wheels, handlebar, brake levers, cranks, front rack
Steel is real!  The bike was operational just in time to zip over to the Youth Play Institute production at Hartbeat Ensemble's Carriage House Theater on Farmington Ave.  YPI takes a team of fifteen diverse teens and young adults and starts with a relevant social justice question.  The team researches the issue and interviews local experts.  From that research they create an originally written play, with lighting, set design, and costuming.  The play is performed in three shows to a live audience, and all of this goes down in a short five weeks.  I'm always stunned by the process and product.  What blows my mind the most is that the team operates using consensus decision making, which I've never seen result in quick decision making.  Both of the facilitators, Hannah Simms and Vanessa Butler, must be wizards.  (Side note - Vanessa is Juliet in the outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet at St. Joe's.  This is their last week and it is amazing! Not to be missed.)

Over the last three years, I have seen a noticeable uptick in those using bicycles to commute.  The low 0.8% bike mode share in Hartford never made sense to me, with greater than 35% of households not owning a car.  One of the issues is paltry support.  The only bike shop in the city, Taskar's on Franklin, closed last year due to retirement.  Many note that the shop didn't observe typical business hours.  Absent a legal way to obtain bike parts and quality bicycle service, there is an extra hurdle for those that would like to use a bike in our city.  On top of that, Hartford's transportation planning is non-existent.  The city really doesn't have a traffic planner, ridiculous in a city of our size.  Bike lanes are segmented, and there isn't a network of connected bike routes.  The Department of Public Works Director looked at me like I was speaking French when I asked if they were using Sharrows on the recently repaved Park Street.  Park Street is popular for utility cyclists.  Sharrows would send a positive message to both motorists and the cyclists.
Posting (finally) for a Traffic Engineer in Hartford.
Behind the wave of rising bike use by residents, there is some painfully slow change coming at the government level.  The Department of Development just started a Complete Streets Challenge Team, which is working a list of bike and pedestrian improvements.  The city also has a posting up for a Transportation Designer.  Now all we need are some bike, walk, transit users at the Department of Public Works.  For a department that is focused on road issues and infrastructure, it's telling that there isn't a bicycle rack out front of their offices.
Special delivery to BiCi Co.  Donation from Tom Brown of the Wethersfield Bike Swap.
Since we collectively can't stand the snail pace of government, we're taking a lot into our own hands at the grass roots level.  Center for Latino Progress is kicking off BiCi Co., a teaching bike shop with members and volunteers.  Right now BiCi Co is working with thirty Hartford teens in a Summer program.  The teens are learning about bike safety, Hartford's rich bike history, science and engineering, and bicycle mechanic skills.  The group is tuning up bikes that will be donated to grandchildren in CRT's Generations Program.  Stay tuned for the BiCi Co. membership drive and crowd funding campaign to support the larger project.  It starts with our youth, and it changes the whole community.  A group at Aetna with David Hildebrand just partnered with the Hartford Police and donated 150 bikes to youth and teens.  Those youth will need somewhere to get replacement parts, locks, helmets, and lights.  Cue Bici Co!
Trying to figure out where the noise is coming from.
Proud team finishing their first tuned up donation bicycle.
Hartford Slow Roll is this afternoon, 8/2 at 3pm - 1429 Park Street, (1st and 3rd Sundays of each month) and we'll be stopping at Wethersfield Avenue.  The Wethersfield Ave stop was supposed to mark the recent completion of the bicycle lanes that were added to the paving job at the last minute.  Unfortunately, snails pace government strikes again.  The "No Parking" cones have been up all week, but no lanes.  Leaving "No Parking" signs up all week is particularly dysfunctional.  Rather than postpone again, the show will go on and we'll ride the bike lanes in spirit.  The Slow Roll events are being organized by Breakfast Lunch and Dinner (BL&D), another grass roots effort connecting new friends (and bike lovers) in Hartford.
Future bike lanes - Wethersfield Ave
Winds of change.  The bike lanes coming to Wethersfield Ave were the product of a scramble by multiple neighborhood groups (NRZ's) when they realized the city hadn't planned any Complete Streets improvements on this corridor. When the MDC multi-year sewer separation project was done and the road was finally paved, no thought had gone into this important connection  Hartford needs to capitalize on all the paving happening across the city to pivot towards sustainable transportation and Complete Streets.  Unfortunately, there is dysfunction and car-centric thought among those in leadership positions.  In the meantime, our citizen groups and grass roots efforts will have to do a lot of change making.

Interested in being part of the conversation?  Tune in to and participate in the discussions on Transport Hartford.  

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