Wednesday, April 30, 2008

bridges and mud. and mud.

Bridges and mud and gin and juice. Well, as my esteemed blogging collogue mentioned; last Tuesday night was all about the bridges. Unknown to us before the ride, it was also gonna be about mud, river mud! We prolly ended up on a dozen bridges, including the nice metal pedestrian bridge over the Hock in East Hartford.

The pedestrian bridge over i91 from the back of a Market Street Parking lot to Riverside Park is like pedaling in prison. The only thing missing was razor wire, but as you can see, Joel doesn’t seem to mind. None of us did, it’s BRIDGE NIGHT! And we were laaaaid back.

We had a nice break on a dike with a great view of the city, but noisy due to the interstate. This was the first spot Josh whipped out his musical camera tripod. I took the above soon afterwards on the next bridge. T’was much more peaceful and quiet there.

We rode another dike in East Hartford and wound our way back to the riverfront to cross on the Bulkley Bridge (i84), which is super loud and hectic due to all the traffic. Not fun. And we realized getting back down to the river to bike along the water to Charter Oak Landing wouldn’t be quick and easy. We pedaled up to Constitution Plaza, crossed a bridge over Columbus Bulevard and then carried our bikes down the stairs to the river, under the Founder’s Bridge. After a rest we decided to head north, just to see the flooding. The river walk dips down under the Bulkley Bridge and the path we were on would soon be under water. We sped up, racing to the edge of the water on the sidewalk…soon realizing…well before hitting the water in the dark…there was slick river mud! Like ice, but oozey. Fun!

Josh ain’t the only blogger with rare shots of a lost sneaker in the mud! (no, it doesn’t belong to us.) (and no, I am not sure how we all managed not to loose a sneaker too.)

We turned around muddier for the visit and headed south along the river, criss-crossing sides of the dike and flood wall and arrived at Charter Oak Landing. Here’s a massive amount of trees and random stuff that floats and is really big; all collected on the lower dock area. Oh yeah, there’s Josh too!

Our next bridge was the Charter Oak Bridge. We all had issues getting to the beginning of the ramp. My short-cut wasn’t shorter. It actually wasn’t a good idea at all. Joel had a chain issue as soon as he hit the path and Josh dropped something...i think. But we all persevered. I still like the view of the city from this bridge, but its super noisy.


Here’s a trilogy of GREAT ideas:

Carry our bikes down the stairs, down lots of stairs
Assume the East Hartford Riverfront is not under water
Assume any leftover mud will be pedalable. (don’t play scrabble with me if you don’t think that’s a word)

All went as well as one might expect. Joel bravely lead the way and took one for the team as the slick mud took him down. Soon we were actually pedaling on slick mud that was under water. It was treacherous and energy draining. Joel wisely (insert juvenile verbal attacks on his manhood here) bailed and fled for higher ground; but Josh and I somehow pushed on through deepening mud on the sidewalk until the path ahead was completely submerged. We didn’t want to leave the river. We talked of a boat, perhaps building a raft, but the upstream paddle didn’t appeal to us. We had to retrace our steps and find a way around, eventually passing through a school parking lot and regaining river access, and Joel, at the boat launch parking area. Mud. We actually pedaled through water!

This is the best photo I have of the three of us. We’re crossing Founder’s Bridge; returning to the Beat; and really wanting to eat chicken tenders and sweet potato fries at kenny’s…and drink beer. The freakin’ barrel of gin and juice was long gone at this point.

The other half of this pair of gloves was also gone at this point. If you find it, holla at me! The only exciting thing I can remember after the last bridge and before Kenny’s was hearing Joel come down the stairs behind me. Then I immediately saw him in front of me and realized Josh just took the stairs on his folding bike. Yeah!

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Last night, Will, Joel and I set out to cross a whole lot of bridges. We succeeded admirably, and managed in the process to (1) fall repeatedly in the mud, (2) drink a large quantity of gin and juice, and (3) take some pictures, which you can see after the jump.

I won't bother to describe our route in great detail, aside from noting that we crossed the Charter Oak Bridge, the Founders Bridge, the Bulkeley Bridge, the railroad bridge north of the Bulkeley Bridge, the pedestrian bridge over I-91, and sundry other overpasses. Will's post on the ride will surely include all the information anyone could hope for about three drunks criss-crossing the Connecticut river on a Tuesday night. (We discussed the relative merits of duelling blog posts and collaborative blog posts. We agreed that when it comes to singing, collaboration is best, when it comes to freestyle rapping, battling is best, and banjos and blog posts are in the middle.) Anyway, here are the pics, which you can click on to see a larger version:

Luckily, I brought a tripod, so tender moments like the one shown above could be recorded for posterity.

The walkway in Riverfront Park had a lot of river mud, which caused some sorry sucker who came before us to lose one sneaker.

I brought along a bottle of gin and juice, which we all enjoyed. In this photo, Joel has his mind on his money and his money on his mind.

This is the lovely view of Hartford from the railroad bridge. If you want to enjoy this view yourself, I recommend getting off your bike and standing still to do so. There are a lot of large holes in the wooden walkway, and it would be foolish to take your eyes off the walkway while riding there.
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Riding to Middletown in the Pouring Rain

You know how sometimes you take the bigger car so you can drop off the kids at school, and your wife takes the smaller car, but then she goes for drinks with coworkers and gets a ride home, leaving the smaller car in Middletown, and you need the smaller car the next day, and you're home in West Hartford and it's 9:30 at night and pouring rain and you can't go together with your wife in one car to get the other car because the kids are already sleeping? Don't you hate that?

Anyway, that's the situation I was in on Monday night, so I was forced by cruel circumstance to ride my bike 22 miles in the rain to Middletown. And it was pretty much awesome.

As I put on my technical wet weather cycling gear (cargo shorts, t-shirt, fleece pullover, raincoat, rain pants, sneakers, galoshes), my wife pointed out that I was crazy. She was right, but what could I do? Besides, it was wet but warm, and excercise helps eradicate that slight paunch I have developed since moving to Connecticut, about which she gently complains from time to time.

The route I took was basically completely un-scenic, but I realized something cool: The best way to make drab, ranch-house-after-ranch-house-after-ranch-house suburbs look alluring is to cover them in rain and darkness. Suddenly, instead of orderly streets with carbon copy lawns and architectural uniformity, you get shadowy alleys, cones of soft yellow light, random construction vehicles that loom up suddenly out of the darkness, and a pleasant rainy blurriness that makes the whole scene look like a slightly grainy exterior shot meant to establish mood before cutting to the drama taking place inside an unassuming house in some sort of artsy movie about suburban ennui. Also, there were lots of noisy frogs, and an opossum that was completely frozen in its tracks by my headlight, which made me consider leaping off the bike and trying to catch it, except what the hell would I do with an opossum?

I didn't take any pictures because it was dark and very rainy, but here is a picture of the paper I wrote my route on, which got very very soaked because I put it in my pocket but didn't zip that pocket up (click for a larger shot, if you care).

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Monday, April 28, 2008

thursday & sunday

There isn't very much photographic evidence of the ride we took on Thursday except for Joel's gigantic steak sandwich. Joel was extremely proud of this sandwich. Joel also had a 30 pack of Miller Lite. At one point, he put the sandwich on top of the case of beer. Johanna really liked that, in that it spoke to some kind of completion or wholeness in the world, or at least marriage of two of the greatest things. I agree and I don't even eat steak.

On Sunday, I participated in a mountain bike race. Since I was much less drunk than I was on Friday, I didn't do as poorly as I did in foot down, slow racing, or track standing. It's surprising how important balance is to riding a bicycle.

Look at me ride on this dirt road! I'm awesome!

It doesn't even count as a fire road, it's just a dirt road. Mountain biking in photos in so boring unless people are flying off of cliffs. Read more!

Critical Mass and Afterparty April 2008


Meet at the Bushnell Park Carousel at 5:30, last Friday of every month.

Brendan and I left the Hook & Ladder happy hour at 6pm and arrived early to the meeting spot. Some time later, about 18ish of us left the park and spun through the traffic circle heading to the south end. Cars weren’t really hatin’ on us too much, but a few groups of people were real assholes. One group of about a dozen latino boys hanging out on a porch at the beginning of Maple went wild talkin’ shit about getting BB guns and shooting at us. They were way too excited and enthusiastic! I think they were trying to scare us, but it was more sad and depressing than anything else. A few other groups just yelled dumb shit, but not much.

On a brighter note, there were the usual cheers and the random round-the-way person joining us for a short bit. Kids waved and pointed, we waved back and woo-haa'd!Other peoople shouted happily and we all had a good, but kinda short ride.

Hopefully the mass will continue to grow and someday become critical! I also wish we rode longer, a bunch of people were ready to continue on. Keney Park woulda been nice. Maybe next month the ride will grow bigger and longer and lots of people will enjoy a great ride!

After the ride, people and groups split up with a bulk of people planning to converge on Evergreen for a post party and Shane’s slow race. A bunch of us headed over to Kenny’s for a few pitchers and some beer to go from the bodega across the street. There was also a stop at my spot for whiskey and greens. Gotta get that roughage! We finally arrived at Evergreen to a small fire that much later would be bigger and have people hopping 180’s over it.

here's a sexy pic of footdown with a fire and holes in the ground. i think this was somehow safer than later in the parking lot next door!

I remember playing footdown pedaling around the fire avoiding holes and soft dirt and later the circle moved to the parking lot. TJ ended up with more dollar bills than a stripper, but I think Shawn out rode him backwards. I think. I dunno; it was late, it was dark, and alcohol is a hell of a drug! The slow race did finally happen. Who won? I don’t freakin’ remember. I know I passed out a bunch chocolate chip cookies though.

TJ isn't riding towards the fire. he riding backwards towards the camera after hopping over the fire and bustin a 180! woo-haa! having a mountain bike, which all the fixies LOVED during footdown, allowed brendan to just ride rightthrough the freakin' fire!
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bike to Work April 2008


Waking up at the butt-crack of dawn wasn’t nearly as much fun as hanging out til 1 am the night before. I needed to brew 42 cups of coffee and arrive at the Old State House before 6:30am to set up food, drink and EMS stuff with Karma and John for hopefully at least a hundred bike commuters.


Ben and David from the CCBA were there first thing helping us with our first Bike to Work event. Soon there was a table for registration, event info, biking info and free water bottles from the CCBA and EMS. Another table had coffee, OJ, bagels, cream cheeses, Cliff Bars, bananas, almonds and the cornerstone of any healthy breakfast, chocolate chip cookies. We actually went through 3 boxes of cookies!


Under the EMS bigtop, John, the Manchester bike tech, wrenched away to many people’s delight. One dude’s eyes bugged out as John started replacing a few of the cables on his bike. Others got quick tune-ups, safety checks, brake adjustments and a ton of other minor repairs.


There were a lot of people there. On a return trip from D+D getting more coffee, it looked like a HAZMAT site with all the bright neon and orange vests and jackets. Weather was great, as it had been all week and I wish I had the day off from work. REI donated a pack for a raffle as well.

My only regret was having to drive because of all the stuff we needed to bring; even a set of panniers and a large messenger bag wouldn’t have been enough. I see a trailer in my future.


Bike to Work is a monthly event at the Old State House from 7am to 9am. It is always the last Friday of the month, except for next month. The May event is on the 16th to coincide with Bike Week. There’s always a simple breakfast spread, a raffle and lots of great people.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008


East Hartford is still flooded.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In Honor of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (and Billy Dawes)

Because I am obsessed with holidays celebrated only in Massachusetts, I went on a nighttime ride on Monday in honor of Patriots Day. Patriots Day celebrates the Battles of Concord and Lexington, the first armed conflicts of the Revolutionary War. These were preceded, of course, by the midnight ride of Paul Revere, and also by a similar ride by Billy Dawes (no one knows why Longfellow's famous poem speaks only of Revere, even though Revere was captured while Dawes, who took the southern route through Boston and Roxbury, actually eluded the redcoats and was able to warn more patriots that the British were coming). Also, conveniently, my wife needed something picked up from the Kinko's on Trumbull Street downtown and we wanted to rent a movie, so I took a ponderous route to the Blockbuster at Bishop's Corner before meandering downtown.

It was a marvelous evening to be on the old velocipede, and I carried my tripod and got a couple pictures of this and that (you can click on them to see the larger versions). Enjoy:

I really like this nighttime view of Hartford, even though it's a little overexposed. You should click on it to see the larger version.

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Progressive Happy Hour @ Kenny's Red Rock

P to the double H was bangin’ Tuesday Night over at Kenny’s Red Rock. Great crew, great crowd, and the Karaoke with the most love. We dined on some sweeeet, sweet, sweeeeet potato fries and many pitchers of beer. mmmm……sweeet potato fries. I won’t even try to remember who sang what except for The Joel’s rendition of The Band’s The Weight. Who freakin’ knew what all the words really were?!?! Fanny?!?! There was even birthday cake tonight! And homemeade kombucha later on.

Lots of bike talk tonight from sharing folding bike commuter experiences to talk of a Hartford Restaurant Bike Tour, nibbling and noshing while pedaling though the city. Ital, bar bites and liters of beer…oh my! The farmers market at Billings Forge will begin soon, hopefully Hanna will comment with some details about this twice a week market on Broad Street near Capitol Avenue. Perhaps a ride to the Beyond Green Show at UHA and on to the Auer Farm in Bloomfield. And hopefully some other rides involving food. And beer. But especially food. There’s a ridiculous amount of good food in Hartford.


Seven bikes locked up outside too! I bet two weeks from now we could have a dozen bikes out there at 9pm, fresh from a night ride through out the city and the riverfront. An hour and a half would be plenty of time to cruise Park Street, check out Keney, Elizabeth and Bushnell, loop around the riverfronts and work up a good thirst. Read more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

4.20 on country roads

4.20 was a great day for an unexpected ride touring around the Collinsville/Nepaug area. Nice indeed! And well celebrated! Corey and I, with the turkey and moose cards guiding us, left town and headed north along River Road (rt. 79) and soon swung left and crossed the great, metal trestle bridge over the Farmington River. I was super stoked as I had only driven across it many times. Sweet bridge. We peeped down at the river. It was packed full of fisherman and the small beach down below lay empty. This would be a great place to include a photo of the bridge if I had taken any pictures.

The road rounded right after the bridge and we took the even steeper left fork in the already steep road and continued on to the Nepaug Reservoir. The steady breeze picked up moisture from the reservoir’s surface and sprinkled us in the warm sun when out on the dam. Again, another great opportunity for a photo! aarrggg!

There was much more noise once we left the trail in Nepaug and headed west on rt. 202 with cars whizzing by us. I think we took the next right and explored a bunch of small, twisty back roads that crossed meadows, farmland, several streams and a banged up guardrail overlooking a steep hillside and stream far below. Very, very beautiful. Dang! no photos! The roads were quite narrow at times with occasional potholes and sometimes enough sand to make a beach; but the ride was great and the few cars encountered were very friendly. We backtracked along 202 and over the dam again, but this time returned to Collinsville down Torrington Ave. Mental note, I need new brake pads.

With no particular place to go, we found ourselves a few miles down rt. 179 and then rt. 4 at the ice cream/putt putt joint on a bench having a sundae and a milkshake with corn chips; think about the tasty combination of a Wendy’s frosty and French fries. yummy! T’was a very European break. We crossed the Farmington River and quickly hairpinned to our left onto New Road and humped back to town. Up and down and up and down with some curves thrown in for fun.

I saw lots of smiles from people on bikes and happy people gardening in their front yards or taking strolls. just over 20 miles, enough to feel like you did something, but not too much that you're beat. Life is good.

“The call of the male Moose is an awesome thing to hear on a musky spring

And I’m a turkey!
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Big Ups to my co-workers!

Last Saturday the entire morning and afternoon crew at EMS arrived on bike or foot. well, except for the management! ha! ok, the manager and asst. manager do live far from the store. Lucas, Kyle and I pedaled in and Eric hoofed it. James of the CCBA was reppin’ a table at the Club Day Event and also biked in. Woo-haaa! well done guys.


And this morning I arrived at the Advocate to see Bulger had also ridden in to work. Niiiice! I liiiike! Read more!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Going to Boston Made Me Realize How Much the Aetna Viaduct Sucks

I was in Boston over the weekend, partaking of the traditional Jewish ceremonial dinner in honor of Patriots Day, and had the opportunity to take a stroll along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The Greenway, for those not in the know, is the stretch of public parks that has taken the place of Boston's old central artery, the elevated portion of I-93 that separated the city's downtown from its waterfront and from the North End. The central artery was recently placed underground as part of Boston's notorious, lethal, and longrunning Big Dig. The Big Dig was tremendously ambitious, took way longer than scheduled, ran way over budget, and resulted in a woman's death. That's not good. However, the end result is a huge endorsement for getting elevated highways out of the middle of cities. The Greenway is really beautiful: where a huge, green hulk of rusting iron and crumbling concrete used to dominate and all you could hear was the constant rumble of fast-moving traffic, now there is a wide-open sky. There's grass underfoot, benches, walkways, and you can actually see where you are: To one side is the bridge to Charlestown, to another the pretty, narrow streets of the North End, and just beyond, Boston Harbor. As someone who lived in Boston when the central artery was intact, I can scarcely describe what a difference it makes to have that beast gone. It's just food for thought, in light of our recent talk about getting rid of the Aetna Viaduct. Read more!


The Aetna Viaduct is boring and lame, so I'm glad that's over.

This weekend that just happened was neither boring, nor lame. In fact, it probably had the nicest weather of the year so far and the trees were starting to bud. I was so strongly moved by this that I had to start my weekend early by leaving work at 1 on Friday.

As you can see, mountain biking made me very happy. I tried to get a picture of my bike smiling, but you can't really tell from that picture. However, the picture does show that I indeed have a bicycle that is in the woods and that it has lame bar ends. I'm supposed to be in a race next Sunday with those bar ends. I'm sure they're one of the reasons that other people I see in the woods ridicule me.

Since the nice weather continued, Johanna and I rode out to Simsbury to figure out how long it would take her to ride to work if she wanted and to see how much more of that Farmington Valley greenway had been completed. It takes about 50 minutes for her to ride to her job. However, she decided that she would be too hungry in the evening to ride her bike home. So, she will not begin riding her bike to work. The greenway had a similar problem. It was nicely paved and connects the Granby part now. Well, "connects" should used used loosely, because there's an incomplete bridge over the Salmon Brook that allows someone in Simsbury to wave to the Granby side, but not actually go there. I read somewhere that the DOT forgot to build it last year, but might do it this year. I hope they do. It would allow a bike path riding person to go all the way from Unionville to Massachusetts. At some point, I heard that in Massachusetts, they'll have something that goes all the way to Northampton.

On Sunday, I went to this thing at Keney Park and a kid tried to steal my helmet. The thing was trying to raise money for blood testing kits to be sent to Africa, but I really wish that kid hadn't tried to steal my helmet. It cast a pall over the whole thing for me.

I didn't take any good pictures of Saturday or Sunday. But here's a picture of what my feet looked like:
I also went to Stew Leonards yesterday!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Aetna Viaduct

I went to a meeting this morning sponsored by the HUB of Hartford about putting I-84 underground, far away, or into non-existence. The keynote speaker was the former Mayor of Milwaukee, John Norquist. I remarked to my Jordan if he was one of the Socialist Mayors mentioned by Alice Cooper in Wayne's World. We laughed, but then I checked his Wikipedia entry and it turned out that he is.

Anyway, Mayor Norquist showed some pictures of crappy cities with highways running through them and then he showed the ones that had fixed their problems with highways and how cool they looked now. They were usual suspects of cities that are cool: Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. One thing he stressed, and this was to a business crowd, was that since these highways are generally blocking water or some other point of interest that can increase real estate values, removing elevated highways can be a boon for the economy because of the increased opportunities for creating new & fancy real estate.

There was some talk about how ridding the country of congestion has led to the destruction of its cities and he did these comparisons of post-war American cities and post-war German & Czech cities -- showing that the loser of WWII had better cities now than the winner. There was a quote from the bible, too.

I'll admit that the talk was encouraging and I think it'd be a cool thing for Hartford to bury I-84 (and maybe even I-91), but there weren't enough specifics or $ amounts to see exactly how this would be executed. HUB of Hartford does have an RFP out to get someone to study the various ways to address the Aetna viaduct and perhaps that'll lead to something good.

Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:

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Call, write or yell about Bill 299

i boosted this from a CCBA email i received today:

Update on Bill 299 - the great news is that it passed through Appropriations Committee very easily with the amendments that we all agreed on - basically, lost the section on requirements for inclusion on highways and kept the 3 foot rule. The Share the Road section was amended to be done "within current appropriations." CCBA could come up with some low cost ideas to help.
So now what? The legislative session ends May 7th and there are a few steps remaining. So ... the message to send at this point is to ask all of our legislators, especially Senate and House leaders, to keep this bill moving quickly and call it for a vote ASAP. Just keep calling and emailing. There was a wonderful editorial in today's Hartford Courant - if you're emailing, it would be great to attach and reference this editorial. The editorial notes some financial concerns and suggests removing a section - let your legislators know that this section has been removed in the amended version.

Here's a link to the editorial,0,916777.story

background info at Read more!

Connecticut Cycling in the News!

The news of June 29, 1896, that is. I came across this story in the New York Times archives (which are free and online, which is just one more reason I can't get any work done if I sit at a desk with internet). I've typed out the text of the article below, and a scan of the original is after the jump. Naturally, it's all copyright New York Times.

Bicyclists in Connecticut Desire to Have Local Ordinances Similar

BRIDGEPORT, Conn., June 28. - There is no general law in this State regarding bicycle riding, but that matter is attracting so much attention just now that it is probable that the next General Assembly will be called upon to pass such a law. In nearly every city and large town in the State the authorities have passed bicycle ordinances governing the speed of bicycles and the use of lanterns and bells. While they all aim at the same object, the provisions in some instances are utterly dissimilar. For that reason it is argued a general law is advisable. The laws relating to bells on bicycles are as follows:

Ansonia - Every bicycle must have a bell ti be rung sufficiently to warn all persons of its approach.

Willimantic - A suitable bell must be attached, to be rung whenever the occasion is such as to require the warning of approach, or whenever there is danger to any person or vehicle by reason of such approach.

Danbury - Must ring or blow a whistle before passing crosswalk.

New-Haven - There must be attached to the wheel [ed. note: 'wheel' in olden days was sued to mean 'bicycle'] a bell of sufficient power to be heard 100 feet, to be rung within 30 feet of crosswalks and cross streets.

In Hartford, a proposed ordinance provides that the bell must be one which can be easily and instantly rung and the rider shall give reasonable warning, by sounding the bell, to any person in danger of collision with the bicycle.

Stamford and New London have no provision as yet, but committees have the matter under advisement.

Bridgeport - The rider must ring a bell or blow a whistle at all crosswalks.

Waterbury - All must have bells, which, when rung, must be heard 100 feet away.

The question of "scorching" has thus far received little consideration from the lawmakers of the cities. Of late, however, there has been a demand for some restrictions on fast riding in the streets. New-Haven, Ansonia, and Bridgeport place no restrictions on speed.

Danbury places the limit at six miles. Waterburt at eight and Middletown at six. Hartford proposes six miles and Willimantic ten on some streets and eight on others.

It is not necessary to carry lanterns in Ansonia, Willimantic, or New-Haven. Hartford has no requirement for lanterns in the proposed ordinance. In Danbury, Stamford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Middletown, cyclists are compelled to carry lanterns after sundown. They must be kept lighted, and in Middletown it is required that the illuminating power of lantern shall be such that it can be plainly seen 100 yards ahead.

In every place where there have been laws passed regarding bicycle riding, it is made unlawful to ride on the sidewalks. The penalties for violation of the ordinances vary in different cities. In Stamford and Putnam there is no penalty provided for violation of the ordinance. In Ansonia the maximum fine is $50 [ed. note: that's $1,230.68 adjusted for inflation!]; Willimantic, $7; New-Haven, $25; Hartford, $15; Bridgeport, $15; Waterbury, $25, and Middletown $10.

Here's the article as it originally appeared:

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bike-Train-Bike Commuting in Connecticut

People often ask me, "You work in Bridgeport and live in Hartford, and you bike to work?!"

Actually, people almost never ask me that, because I don't meet new people very much, and when I do, they usually speak Spanish. But it's true: I live in West Hartford (which is just like Hartford except totally, godawfully different, but geographically close) and I work at least three days a week in Bridgeport and environs. And most times, I do not drive. This makes for an interesting commute, and since this blog is all about the advocacy and pro-biking ideas and what-not, I figure I'll share my pan-Connecticut commute and ruminate on what would make it easier. Because honestly, I'm incredibly tough and undaunted by adversity, so I can handle the tribulations of a 60-mile, multi-modal commute. But if we hope to get mere mortals to do it, we're going to have to make some changes (or, you know, make gasoline impossibly fucking expensive).

So here's how it goes (click on the pictures for a larger version). I leave mi casa at around 5:50 a.m.:

I ride down Sedgwick / Park Road / Park Street, past the good old Quaker Diner:

Eventually, I get to Union Station in downtown Hartford, fold up my bike, and settle in on the 6:26 to New Haven. Here's the bike, folded up on the train, as rosy-fingered dawn comes through the windows somewhere around Wallingford:

Eventually, I get to New Haven, where I grab a cup of coffee and wait for a few minutes:

Then it's onto Metro North:

And soon I'm enjoying the sights of the Park City:

Now, what could make this less of a pain in the ass? Basically, it's all about the train: It's too expensive, it doesn't run frequently, it's hostile to bikes (even my folding bike), and, um, did I mention that it's too expensive?

Seriously: a discounted ten-ride ticket amounts to $12 for a one-way from Hartford to New Haven. That's way more expensive than driving 40 miles. The only reason it's not prohibitive for me is because my work pays part of my travel costs. Come on, Amtrak! That's crazy! I mean, Metro North can carry me an equivalent distance, from Waterbury to Bridgeport, for $2.25. $2.25! And their trains are always on time, unlike yours, which are frequently forty-five minutes late with no explanation.

There are two morning trains to New Haven. One of them leaves at 6:26, the other at 7:45. That sucks. And you can't tell me there isn't demand - I've driven to New Haven during morning rush hour, and there are people commuting from Hartford and everywhere in between. Parking in New Haven is a nightmare and gas costs a fortune, so I'm sure that people would take advantage of train service . . . if it didn't cost a bloody fortune and leave at only two times!.

Bike Accommodations
Amtrak rules basically treat regular bikes as baggage that needs to be boxed and checked an hour before boarding, which wouldn't really work for commuters. The thing is, though, all of the trains have these huge open areas at the end of each car (see the photo above of my bike) that could easily accommodate two or maybe three full-sized bikes. Also, the conductors are really touchy about even my folding bike, which fits neatly into the little utility closet at the end of each car (which is otherwise always empty). It's strange: They see the bike and they're like, "Whoa! This is unusual! Must object!" But when people ignore the luggage racks and just pile their suitcases in the bathroom (I saw this happen), the conductors are totally OK with it. Plus, there's a cafe car, which is nice but, based on the amount of business I've seen it do, neither profitable nor an efficient use of space. It has about eight tables that no one uses because everyone carries their stuff back to their seats. That would be good bike space!

So what's the solution?

Well, one solution is that I could drive to Waterbury and take Metro-North from there, which I sometimes do. That's a lot less driving than going all the way to Bridgeport, and it gives me a chance to ride my bike around Bridgeport, which keeps me looking svelte. But surely, there has to be a way to get Hartford in the game, right? There is, of course, the perennially unrealized Springfield-New Haven Commuter Line, and we should definitely lobby our legislators and wish-granting genies to make that a reality. But in the mean time, what else can be done? Any suggestions, people?
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Monday, April 14, 2008

How to get i84 the hell outta hartford!?!?!?

Hartford Public Library, Tueday, april 15th. 6pm to 8pm. in the X room.

With the Connecticut Department of Transportation currently considering options for the I-84 highway viaduct that stretches through Hartford, come hear about the success that Milwaukee had in removing its highway and how Hartford can learn from this success. Speaker: John O. Norquist, former Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and currently President & CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism.

above copied and pasted from the HPL website.

Can I get a quote?

Yessss you can!

"Come hear about the success that Milwaukee had in removing its highway."

That's freakin' great! Its sounds like it was a tumor or something, prolly cuz it is. i84 twists and turns dangerously as it snakes through the city cutting it in half like a dirty, smoggy knife. I am all for rerouting the interstate through existing highways and removing the tumor that is the Aetna Viaduct. The area would now finally have a much-needed major East-West greenway corridor from East Hartford to Farmington. Ride to EMS or Westfarms from downtown Hartford almost all the way on a car-free greenway. Yes!

Even if I wasn't interested in the possibility of removing car induced tumors, I’d attend solely because I want to see the X room. The X room! Is it experimental? Revolutionary? I will report back. Read more!

Police Encounter

I had a visit from an old friend from Maine this weekend. Our play in the Hartbeat was a full weekend of one green (read: inexperienced) urban bicyclist showing a greener urban bicyclist "how it's done." She motored into town on Friday afternoon, and we pedaled down past Colt, over the Charter Oak Bridge, through floodwaters, and took an upland asphalt route to the Founder's Bridge.

After supper downtown, the fun with police began. It was raining. We bicycled up Asylum St., underneath the Amtrak rail bridge, and stopped at the light at the bottom of the hill. We held the left hand lane at the front of the lineup, waiting for the light to turn green, intending to ride up the hill and bear left onto Farmington Ave. The instant the light turned green, we heard honking behind us. We ignored it, headed up the hill, holding the lane, and with my friend riding out in front of me onto Farmington, I heard yelling behind us:
"You can't ride in the middle of the road like that!"
As I whipped around to deliver, "Yeah we CAN!" I realized it was a large Police SUV with a large Police inside.
"No you can't, I'll give you a ticket," he bellowed.
"Are you pulling me over, then?" I said as I stopped on the left edge of the lane.
"No, GO!" he yelled.
We continued on the short distance to the light at Broad St, and the police made a left while we continued down Farmington Ave.

I thought this was worth sharing since I have never had a police threaten to pull me over when I'm on my bicycle, and I grew up in a small town where a homicide is a once-in-a-decade event and they hand out OUI's to snowmobilers and tickets to senior citizens without governors on their scooters. Read more!

Presidents Day ride

Yeah, Presidents Day was a long time ago, but back then there was no Beat Bike Blog on which to post photos of my Hartford biking exploits. Also, next Monday is Patriots Day, which is another holiday that ends in "Day" and starts with "P," so good enough.

On Presidents Day, 2008, it was unseasonably warm so I went on a nice little jaunt around the Hartford waterfront (also Newington, Wethersfield, and West Hartford, but those locales didn't yield any nice pictures). I took these pictures (upon which you should click to see them in their full-sized glory):

That's Hartford from upriver, at a moment when God considered smiting it for sinfulness. He later reconsidered, noting that Springfield is even more sinful. I took the picture from an old railroad bridge over the Connecticut river. I would have gained access to that bridge via the network of bike trails at the north end of Riverfront Park, except the bike trails were swamped with mud and melting snow. Luckily, you can go around the ballfields there, along the high, manmade hills, and get to the bridge while avoiding the muck. The bridge looks like this:

Here is a panorama of Hartford from downriver, under the Charter Oak Bridge:

Here's the underside of the Charter Oak Bridge:

And, while I'm on the topic of bridges, here's the Bulkeley Bridge:

Lastly, here's a sign I passed in Hartford while riding around that day:

Read more!