Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stop leaf blowing trails

Riding on leaves can be difficult. They're slippery and unpredictable. I was riding with Salem the other day and he was cruising through the leaves like a cool guy and I was carefully picking my way down hills.

But just because I can't ride like a cool guy on leaves, doesn't mean I want to get rid of them. In preparation for this cool blog post, I read this. They're talking about erosion control if you rake leaves and I was wondering if they had ever actually been in the woods before. Leaves are the first barrier against rain carrying away your trail's soil. All over the woods where you see leaves, there's minimal erosion. Where leaves are gone and there's bare soil, lots of erosion. People get rid of leaves because riding on them is hard, but apparently have cooked up this trail maintenance theory to lie to themselves. One thing the Reservoir has going for it is that no one has started carrying in leaf blowers. Sadly, I was riding Nassaghegon this week and to my dismay, I found a bunch of leaf blown trails. I always that it was pretty remote out there, but I guess I was wrong.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Exhausting administrative remedies

In case you missed it (ICYMI), Chris Brown has filed a lawsuit against the DOT for shutting Flower Street in contempt of the hearing officer's decision instructing the DOT to keep it open for bicycles and pedestrians. I think it's pretty great and it's not very often that you see people standing up to government agencies when they don't have a financial stake in something or a monied interest group backing them.

Read the article here. Read more!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Giving cranks

Run red lights in support of a good cause this Saturday. I only had this flyer as pdf, so I'm not sure if the screenshot I took of it renders it readable or not. Anyway, it starts at the Trinity College Chapel. Registration is at 9am and it starts at 10am. The idea is that you're riding around gathering food, so you should bring a bag, some money and a lock. There's something called a facebook page for it. I guess you can look at that, too. 

I probably can't go because I have to do a stupid estates exam. I'd much prefer doing this.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

How to make yourself tired

I like to think I'm a tough guy and that I'm a fairly in shape one, too. I'm not so sure.

At the Hartford 'cross race last week, Doug proposed that we ride to the Cheshire race. I love the Cheshire race and try never to miss it. There are trees and rocks and those things make for 'cross course that I like. It's pretty much the only time that I feel like I'm a competent mountain biker.

So, Doug, Tony and I met up in the south end of West Hartford and rode down. I think we must have had a tailwind, because even our speed-capped singlespeeds made it there in just over an hour.

The race went ok, but I've realized that I can't go fast. I can do the bike handling and catch people that way or ride away from them, but when it came to pedaling through the flats, I just couldn't hold on. I don't know if it's these zip-tied folks shifting or being able to better select a gear day-of after riding the course or I just suck. I'm leaning towards the sucking thing. I still had fun, but I think you have more fun when you're not sucking. I even had a good start this time. I was like 7 or 8 coming out of the woods on lap one, but I ended up finishing 16. I mean, I gave up like three spots at the end of the last lap. That is not good.

I also bent my front wheel when this guy in front of me went down and I crashed into him. My fear of taco'ing and brake drag probably didn't help much on the last lap.

I've been having this general feeling of sluggishness lately. I went mountain biking on Thursday and explored the trails around Bolton Notch, some of which are pretty awesome and some of which strand you in people's backyards. I wasn't feeling like I could really get my bike moving too well. I was trying to blame it on the leaves being really slippery, but I think it's just that I suck.

Part of me feels like I still have some of that nasty cold from a few weeks ago in my lungs. My chest has been tight a bit lately and I'm still sort of phlegmy. Maybe I have diminished lung capacity from it. Or, maybe I just suck.

Anyhow, riding to and from the race was actually a lot of fun. We went through the scenic and industrial sections of New Britain. We also avoided that sense of regret from racing on a really nice day wherein you only rode for 45 minutes, but invested the whole nice day in the race. Instead, we got a nice 50 mile ride in plus a 'cross race for good measure. Of course, this makes your 60 miles feel a lot more like a hundred. Today I've got some tired legs.

I only took pictures of the kid's race for some reason.

 This guy doesn't worry about sucking at cyclocross. Also, secret tip: there's a spigot right behind him if you're running low on water during a ride through Cheshire.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Painting with a Broad Brush: New Bike Lanes and Hartford's First Bike Boxes on Broad Street

Broad and Farmington today
 The Broad Street Problem
Broad Street looking northward
Broad Street has a well-earned reputation as a terrifying route for bicyclists and pedestrians alike. The lack of bike lanes and the I-84 on-ramp have made it especially dangerous for northbound bicyclists faced with both an uphill climb and high-risk spot for right-hook crashes at the highway entrance. Late this past summer, some City of Hartford DPW, CT DOT, and neighborhood people met to discuss ways to make this area safer for bicyclists and I came away with cautiously optimistic thoughts. I'll admit I was among those worried about the future of those improvements when then-DPW director Kevin Burnham resigned shortly thereafter, but October saw the first visible sign that progress was continuing as the heavily-damaged pavement at the southwestern entrance to Bushnell Park was patched. With the painting of these new bike lanes, another phase of these improvements goes into service less than three months after they were discussed, and we are reminded that city, state, and citizens can actually communicate efficiently and make good things happen. There are good people at the DOT. They just need more of them.

Broad and Capitol today

First Observations

This Saturday morning was my first chance to walk this length of Broad in daylight. During my 20-minute walkaround, approximately 2/3 of the motorists I observed used the proper lanes and stopped short of the bike boxes. The rest pulled right up to, or into, the crosswalk. The northbound right-turners were the worst, with about 1/3 of them driving up in the straight lane before cutting through the bike lane and a One southbound driver cut their left turn so short that they actually drove across all of the northbound lanes, including the bike lane, as they made their hasty way to the interstate. The sidewalks are improved, but the crosswalk at the I-84 on-ramp still feels like a dicey place to be a pedestrian.



It can get better

These bike lanes and boxes are slated to be painted green-- the first such painted bike zones in Hartford. This is bound to increase visibility when it happens. Something that was discussed with Mr. Burnham was the installation of recessed flush-mount (snowplow compatible) reflectors in the pavement along the borders of the bike lane. I think these and some limited-but-deftly-placed rumble strip milling would make the defined lanes harder to ignore in that crucial northbound stretch of bike lane. Hopefully, some lane-identifying street signs will go up as well. Education and enforcement will be important ways to further motorist awareness, but I've been watching how people drive in this spot for over a decade, and this will never be my first choice for a northbound trip. The hard truth is that this (and any) interstate on-ramp will always be a dangerous spot.

The Glitch: I've seen the lights go out on Broad Street

The dark side of this news, literally, is that the street lights on this stretch of Broad don't work yet. Workers were feeding wires on site Saturday morning, and one of them said that DOT and CL&P people are meeting early this coming week to sort out some unnamed design problem that is apparently to blame. Best guess I got on-site was maybe another week to get the lights working, meaning pedestrian commuters diverted from the now-barricaded Flower Street will have to pick their way through another week of darkness after work.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Second trip up Mount Hartford

I used to be part of the Hartford Landfill Post-Closure Citizens' Advisory Group. Because of that, I rode my bike up the landfill once. Well, I am now part of an elite group of people who have done it twice.

It's sad that only man-made structures offer nice views in Hartford, but what can you do? I don't want all the trees cut down.

It is looking like the site may never be open to recreation or public use, but it's nice to see that they're filling it with solar panels.

Better cell phone camera than last time I went up.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Smiley Face

There in fact was a cyclocross race in Colt Park this past Saturday.  Supposedly there is another cross race in Cheshire this weekend, and Doug is trying to get folks to ride out with him from Hartford.  At the Colt Park race I played a small part by walking the course and tagging hazards.  I get an out-sized amount of fulfillment from spray painting route and hazard markings.  It feels illicit, but at the same time I know I'm not going to get in trouble. Is this my inner Midwesterner getting its kicks - but safely?

A young Sam Colt watching the silly cross racers scrabble up his steps.
For giggles I put a smiley face on this dirt pile in the middle of the course.  No one ran over smiley.  Right next to on both sides but not over. This is an interesting commentary on human nature that I'm still pondering.  Are smiley faces sacred ground?  Did everyone think that smiley was a hazard in disguise?  Perhaps this smiley face made the racers, teetering on the brink of anaerobic crash, smile each time they looped the course.  I can only hope. 

Making you smile despite the blurred vision and lactic acid.
In other news, I taught my first Traffic Skills 101 course as a League Cycling Instructor, co-taught with Chris Brown.  It went well, despite the cold rain that added an extra challenge to the parking lot drills.  Doing quick stop and instant turn drills on wet pavement wasn't in the original plan, but the students will be better for it.  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures.
So many people that I ended up in the cheap seats.
Bike Walk CT held their annual dinner, and besides hustling a table I managed to score a pretty cool bottle opener.  Fortunately for Bike Walk CT the dinner has grown tremendously and has started to pull in active transportation advocates from across the state - not just Hartford metro.  Unfortunately for me, that means that there are no more screaming deals to be had at the silent auction.

This week I started wearing my new winter boots.  They are amazing.  What is your go to gear for cold weather cycling?  Just got an email from the planners of Winter Bike to Work Day and I'm feeling inspired.  There will be a Hartford(ish) event on February 14th, 2014.

PS - Someone should totally hook me up with some good products to review.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Local politics are the best

My favorite kind of politics are the local kind. They're responsive, you seem them a lot and the barrier to entry is very low. Want to get elected in your community? You could probably do it by only raising $2,000-3,000. You have don't have to set up a big operation or hire much or any staff. I suppose this is different if you live in New York, but I don't want to live there.

The other reason is that you can ride your bike to the politics. I vote and poll stood on Tuesday and never had to use a car. In fact, the entire time I've done any political stuff in Hartford, I don't think I've had to use a car more than once or twice. My failed charter revision experience this past year never required a car.

This is in sharp contrast to the time I worked on a statewide race in 2006. I put more miles on my car than any time in more entire life. Just delivering lawn signs would turn into a 100 mile ordeal.

So, all you angry bike people who read this blog (all 3 of you) should definitely start preparing for your run in two years and do the whole thing by bike even though it will totally be a liability because everyone hates bikes. Read more!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cyclocross Race at Colt Park - Really.

Cyclocross race in Colt Park this Saturday, November 9th.  
Only $25.  Race local, save gas, build the sport.

I found the poster.  You should race, or just check it out.  Tell your racing friends the season isn't over and they are wimps for bagging it and riding on their trainers in the living room.   Spread the word.  You can still register online until Thursday.  There is also day of registration, but it will set you back an extra $10.

The race director, Sean, specifically asked if Salem was coming out.  I think that is an invitation.

The Beat Bike Blog does what it can for bike racing in Hartford.

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Once again I'm donning my lucky election day shirt so that I can go do done awesome voting. Municipal government is my favorite and it should be yours, too. Unless you live in one of those weird May election towns, go vote today.

In Hartford, I recommend yes, yes, YES on charter and a vote for Robert Cotto Jr.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Manchester Parks Tour partIII: We did it!

 Kai crosses a bridge

This past Saturday was five hours and fifty minutes of meandering around mostly Manchester's trails, parks, and other back ways that probably looked like about 75% of the earlier posted map.  I did say it was just a ROUGH outline.

The ride included a skate park (can't be outshone by the Eel), really slippery wet wood (I managed to substitute for Dario's normal crashing), erroneous "no bikes" signs, fresh pears, a garden maze, hundreds of spectators (although that might have been for the junior high running event), waterfront dining, waterfalls, and even my yard.  Five started, but Peter departed early because, let's face it, Peter Waite has better things to do than spend all day with us, and then Dario unfortunately had to part ways to meet his wife at V.I.P., although to be fully honest, that probably had something to do with his simultaneous flatting of two tubulars.

Mmm, roadside pears

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hartford's Zoo - Found it.

While wandering around today taking in the last of the leaves and generally exploring areas Northwest of Hartford, I came across a curious "No Parking" sign on an abandoned road in Keney Park.  Then there was the animal enclosure.  Putting the clues together, I'm guessing that I stumbled across the ruins of the Sherwood Forest Zoo that closed in 1976.  Keney Park is always surprising me.  I've got to get out there for some rustic urban camping.  Maybe a weekend overnight soon to try out my new winter bag.

In honor of all the whiny folks complaining about parking woes in Hartford.
Who knows what they kept here?  
And a ride is not complete without some gratuitous graffiti peeping along the train tracks.  There were several new burners near the Hartford and Windsor line.  I'm bummed that I won't be able to make it to the ground breaking for the new skate park at Heaven on Monday (@4PM).  The neat part about Heaven having "legal walls" is that I actually get an opportunity to watch the process of creating graffiti.  Just stop by the park and there is good chance you'll find someone working on a new piece.

Riding the dike behind the dump mountain on the North side of Hartford.  They are capping the mountain with a seam sealed rubber membrane and covering that up with something that looks like AstroTurf.  The fences are down, and I'll bet (but I haven't checked) that the views from the top of the mound are pretty stellar.  I'm excited that the space may be converted to novel uses in the future, but curious where we are sending all our trash in the meantime.  Out of sight, out of mind I guess.

And you shouldn't miss the Bike Walk Connecticut Annual Dinner.  Tuesday, November 12th at Central Connecticut State University.  Get your tickets before the 5th and save $5.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Manchester Parks Tour partII

I figured out some additions to the earlier map.  Hope to see you tomorrow morning.

A teaser from yesterday's walk on tomorrow's route 
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