Thursday, February 27, 2014

Race, class and bike infrastructure

So, I was at this conference at Yale over the weekend. I had originally wanted to go by bike, because I like the ride down to New Haven. The weather forecast called for horrific thunderstorms, so I drove. I stayed overnight at my friend Marko's and brought my bike because I'm bad at parking and didn't want to worry about my car the next day because I was moderating this panel. Also, you can probably imagine that I like riding my bike.

New Haven has bike infrastructure. Lots of it. It's pretty cool. There are racks everywhere, sharrows and a bike path that'll take you all the way to Cheshire. People use it, too. This includes a person who locked up their Richard Sachs and left it in the rain. I was happy to be able to use it, because Hartford is not as excited about bike infrastructure.

I was thinking and I never think positive things. I saw lots of people on bikes in New Haven, but they generally looked white and middle class. That in and of itself is not upsetting. I fall into those categories. And really, it didn't make me upset with New Haven. Instead, it made me upset with Hartford. People ride bikes in Hartford. Not just people who look like me, indeed mostly people who don't look like me. We've got some racks downtown, but not in very many other places. Although, they're put in a front places where bike riders don't usually go. There was this big master plan to put them in all neighborhoods, but that seems to have stalled. It would seem that not the right people are riding bikes in Hartford, so we aren't going to do anything to help that mode of transportation.

This led to other dark thoughts. The City never clears its sidewalks when it snows and people have to walk in road. Are non-automotive-base transportation modes only invested in or maintained when they're tools of gentrification? It reminded me of the hearing for the destruction of the skatepark/Downtown North. In trying to attract the affluent, we keep hearing about complete streets, walkability and bike lanes. I'm tired of bikes and walking being leverage points for something bigger development project. They're good ways to get around, but please stop co-opting for your luxury condos.

It wasn't always this way either. Ten-twelve years ago, sharrows showed up on Babcock and Lawerence, the bus lane north of Windsor Ave is also a bike lane and Tower Ave has a bike lane. I think this debate went on a long time ago in Brooklyn and it was determined that bike lane marking was a gentrification tagging. Of course, this doesn't explain the bike lane on Maxim Road that goes to the sewage treatment plant. I think that was bike lanes as means to try and stop street racing.

So, anyway, I've decided that I'm against bike lanes now that they're tools of the oppressor.

Ed. note:
This guy did some writing about it and I thought it was worth reading. Read more!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

Here's a question to get you thinking.  How did you learn to cross railroad tracks at a ninety degree angle?  Did you learn about the safer method in gym class at school, during your driver education course, or via a public safety announcement?  Probably not.  If you're like me, you learned the hard way - by having your bicycle abruptly disappear and finding yourself pitched head first into the traffic lane.  I won't forget that lesson, but I would rather have learned it minus the crash.  This is but one example of many dangerous situations that arise for cyclists that haven't taken a course in cycling safety.  Based on the crash data, just knowing what those dangerous situations are and having a basic safe cycling skill set can address a large majority of the risk in using a bicycle - for both transportation and recreation.

There is a dearth (scarcity) of education for cyclists that are looking for information and skills on how to ride safely and competently.  From  grade school through teenage years and into adulthood,  there really isn't embedded education that familiarizes cyclists with the tools needed to ride safely.  Imagine if a fraction of the time and effort spent teaching teens how to drive was dedicated to education on safe cycling, pedestrian safety, and transit.  The focus on one preferred means of transportation, the car, biases those teens toward driving as the socially acceptable option.   It also leaves those that choose to do something other than drive a car pretty clueless.  As captured in the introduction, I initially took the clueless route to earning my stripes as an occasionally bruised, but now much safer, bicycle commuter.

It's clearly not efficient, or safe, to learn how to ride by screwing up a lot and gathering advice in bits and pieces from other more experienced riders.  After a lifetime of going about this the hard way, I took Traffic Skills 101 (TS101) and followed that up with the League Cycling Instructor (LCI) training.  Now I can do my part to spread some very powerful information by teaching Traffic Skills 101 to other riders.  The next course in Hartford is planned for Sunday, March 30th.   You can register online through Bike Walk Connecticut.  If you want to spread the word about the TS101 course, you should invite others to this Facebook Event.

Traffic Skills 101 is a  comprehensive, full-day program for adults and mature teens who want to improve their street riding skills and increase their cycling knowledge. The course includes classroom time, parking lot drills, and a road ride.   Many different types of cyclists will benefit from taking TS101.  It is ideal for cyclists who want to build upon the basics, those returning to cycling from a long hiatus, people who want to be more independent on their bike, and those looking for more confidence cycling in traffic. The class also satisfies the requirements to pursue a League Cycling Instructor certification through the League of American Bicyclists.

Part of the reason for holding this early Spring course is to support the League Cycling Instructor course planned for April 17th through April 20th in Simsbury.  The LCI course is a specialized bicycle boot camp to train the trainers, and it is intense.  Those that pass the weekend course go on to teach courses like TS101 and other critical courses, including school based programs that have started in several CT communities, such as South Windsor and Simsbury.  Educating children and teens about bicycle safety is part of the solution to allow a safe transition toward a less car dependent future.

I'm also excited to be organizing a June 7th event in Hartford, Dinner and Bikes.  There will be a vegan buffet dinner, bicycle short films, and a book talk by Elly Blue on Bikenomics, How Bicycling Can Save the Economy.  More info to follow in a later post, but make sure you leave that Saturday night open.  Put it on your calendars now, as I know June can be a busy month.

Note to Loyal BBB Readers - I would love if all 9 of you would share in the comments something  you "Learned the Hard Way".  It doesn't even have to be about cycling.  I've got so many that I could write a book.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No bikes

Not a lot of bike talk lately. The snow is high and the roads are unpleasant.

So, the hearty have transitioned to skiing for recreation.

I've skied all over the place lately and it's really improved my mid-winter outlook on life.

There was some great snow last night that ameliorated the nasty crust. I went over to Cedar Mountain for a little while and I felt like one of those backcountry skiers who are so cool right now.

Last weekend I skied at Craftsbury Outdoors Center, which is such a cool place.

Johanna liked it, too. 

All the skate skiers zoomed past me, but I quashed my insecurities by reminding myself that I could also ski the snowshoe trails. 

Read more!