Friday, December 30, 2011

I needed a reminder.

Much of my Christmas week was spent in a rented Toyota Corolla driving to Michigan to visit family, including a trip “Up North” to see Gramma.  Car driving is a novelty these days since I haven’t owned a car in over a year, although I do drive a rental once a month or so when I travel for work.  Being car free and spending much of my time on my bicycle commuting around metro Hartford, I gather up a bit of vitriol directed at motorized road users.  Some of that vitriol spills into blog posts and discussions with friends.  With evil, heartless car drivers running over defenseless cyclists, pointed up by the recent deaths on Burnside Avenue, I’ve been spouting some pretty vehement stuff regarding distracted drivers.

Sometimes it takes something scary to bring you back to earth and remind you that crashes and road deaths can happen to even the smug, self-righteous bicycle commuter and supposedly enlightened transportation advocate.  The following episode reminded me, who should know better, that it’s critical while driving to minimize distractions and act in a predictable manner.  The reminder is important enough to me that I decided to capture it in a blog post and subject myself to the public scrutiny of my action and mea maxima culpa - sort of like locking myself into the pillory on the town commons, in electronic perpetuity.

I was heading across northern Ohio, and found myself off route due to missing an exit.  My GPS was on the blink and I was trying to figure out which way I should be heading.  It was a long driving day (~12 hrs) and adding an extra couple hours was not something I was keen on.  I had my Bluetooth earpiece in, and was answering some phone interview questions for of all things an article on the Burnside Avenue ghost bikes and distracted driving - yes the irony is painfully obvious.  This was not an appropriate time for me to be talking on the phone – and it will not happen again.

Upon hanging up, I noticed a rest area exit fast approaching – almost immediately on my right.  There are highway maps at rest stops and I needed to figure out if I was headed in the right direction.  I could just make it, but I was in the left lane of the two lane highway.  A quick glance in the mirror and I swung for the exit, a stupidly rash decision.  The quick glance wasn’t good enough, as there was a car in my blind spot in the right lane.  It was such a close call that the driver behind me had to take the rest area exit with me and rightly stopped and complained, “Are you having a baby or something?”  I couldn’t apologize profusely enough, and staggered with embarrassment into the building.  What an idiot! 

I made a conscious decision to sear this episode into my consciousness, and not bury it with other embarrassments that I have accumulated.  This was a personal "near miss" that fortunately didn't have major repercussions.  By writing it down and sharing it with others I hope to use this as an indelible life lesson that drives my driving decisions for the rest of my life.  One stupid decision or several compounding stupid decisions while driving a 2-ton missile can quickly result in severe injury or death.  Maybe my dirty driving laundry may even help others skip the hard lessons that distracted driving can bring.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011


The world makes little sense to me. But, a nice Christmas Eve (and Hanukkah) bike ride to Berlin Bike and back through Watrous Park (the best place to ride a bike in America), the meadows, etc makes things seem much more positive.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hooker Boots and ATV's - My New Neighborhood

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.

On a bicycling note, I finally timed my commute from P&W in East Hartford to the condo on Alden.  20 minutes with a stiff headwind, on the Huffy.  A bit more than my current 8 minute commute, but totally reasonable.  The Huffy might fall down in the rotation to a backup bike, replaced by something a bit more sprightly - perhaps that SS Schwinn I just built? Read more!

Courant hears us out

Tony & Ken's ghost bikes have received a big response (in a somber way) and the Courant wrote a thoughtful editorial about it. See it here. The Courant has always been pretty supportive of cycling, unlike its commenters.

Happy Hanukkah! Read more!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bike Walk Connecticut's Annual Dinner at CCSU

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.

Imagine a direct route, one that does not involve speeding motorized vehicles with their operators honking for everyone to move out of their way. Imagine not having to constantly weave around smashed bottles, tree limbs, chunks of asphalt, and potholes.

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!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Eat Bike Walk

 Blood sausage will probably not be served at the BikeWalkCT annual dinner, but you can always bring your own.

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.

“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.
More info if you want to enjoy yourself not as a member of the press? See

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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.

During the race, I wasn't sure what that guy in the blue jersey was doing either.

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

Hike a Bike - I fell in a creek.

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.

After the hike-a-bike we grabbed some coffee at Jo-Jo's and then I scooted over to Food Not Bombs to help cook.  Another full day.  Glad I'm moving to downtown Hartford.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trailered a F'ing Couch - Really.

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.

Perhaps it was a bad decision, but I did it anyway and I can say that I trailered a fucking couch.  A sleeper sofa.  I think I'll borrow a truck when I move it to the condo, unless Chris Brown will lend me his big trailer... Read more!