Friday, March 28, 2014

Thaw, floods

You probably don't read the beat bike blog for weather news. I'm starting to doubt there's even a such thing as reliable weather news. Remember the rumored terrible snow storm we got on Wednesday? You probably do read the beat bike blog for poorly composed pictures of the Connecticut River. While taking such a picture the other day, I considered that that river hasn't flooded yet. I guess that means there's still a lot of snow up north. The ground is starting to firm up around here and you can actually take a bike out on limited dirt.

But anyway, the reason I was contemplating this is because I was looking at the river and wondering if there's a flood forecast for the spring floods. It doesn't seem like it'd be that hard to do, but I could find anything besides NOAA (which I couldn't find a 5 day forecast for Hartford), which only gave me two days into the future. Anybody have any suggestions?

Read more!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cyclocross for cars

I like cars. The reason I prefer bikes is that you generally can't drive cars in cool ways on public roads like you can ride bikes. Same goes for the woods. Sometimes, however, people put cones in big parking lots and you get to do this car cyclocross called autocross. I've wanted to try it for a long time, but, well, no one has been offering me use of a smaller car than the giant one I drive.

My dad likes cars and decided to sign himself and me up for the Fairfield County Sports Car Club's rookie autocross thing last weekend. It was awesome. It makes you better at driving. I highly recommend it. And since you can't do a thing with gopro'ing it, here's a video of me driving poorly.

Salem's totally going to say, "Stop copying me!"

Read more!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sprung a What?

Spring is in the air.  Tires are springing leaks, falling victim to the unswept glass shards that are indistinguishable from left over rock salt.  Chris is taking off his winter cap.  The chickens are out and scratching away at exposed earth. People are venturing out in greater numbers on bike and foot.  New graffiti is gracing the train tracks.

Spring tune up for your bike skills.  Sunday, March 30th is a week away, and you are running out of time to register for Traffic Skills 101.  A comprehensive course in bicycle survival skills including parking lot hazard avoidance drills and a road ride.  Once you've seen the stats, it's just plain stupid to ride around without some sort of bike safety education.  At least 50% of the time, it is the bicyclists fault when there is a crash - and if you learn the ropes - you can significantly reduce your exposure to the vehicle caused crashes.  If you live in Hartford, we're offering a couple of significantly discounted community member registrations.   Contact me if you want to attend at the community discount.

You know it's Spring when Tony C starts planning.  I've just created the June 7th Dinner and Bikes event and opened up online ticket sales.  We've started discussions on the next Real Ride, probably Saturday, July 12th to coincide with the fireworks.  Bike to Work (May) is just around the corner.  There is a Simsbury bike safety course (1st half of TS101) on June 1st.

Interstatement loves the Cinabon / Princess Leia knit hat
Spring chickens in Hartford on Franklin Ave
Disrespectful graffiti tagging.  Some people are dicks.
Neat graffiti next to a homeless camp on the tracks.  
Meeting up to get organized.  On bikes no less.
Justin Eichenlaub just moved to Hartford from the westerly coast and is working to organize a Hartford-centric group to advocate for bike, walk, and transit issues.  Due to it's statewide focus Bike Walk CT hasn't been tuned into Hartford specific issues, and there is great opportunity to keep pushing Hartford in a sustainable direction.  If you are interested, stay tuned to the Beat Bike Blog.  I'll put up notice for the next meeting in April.

Read more!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Finally, some excitement

I wish I had more to write about lately, but there hasn't been a lot happening on the bike front. I suppose that may still be true, but some excitement has been happening while riding my bike. Yesterday, I was riding west on Asylum to a thing at the law school to learn how to sign up for the bar. As I crossed Atwood, over by the hospital, I hear what sounded like someone driving on a flat tire. I looked down Atwood and that was happening and they were driving pretty quickly. My first thought was that it was like a car chase in a movie. I guess I have good instinct for that, because a couple seconds after the flat tired Accord made an intense right on to Asylum (though slowing down not to run me over) two cruisers zoomed by. Interestingly, they seemed much less concerned with the guy on the bike or the people getting on and off the bus. Then, lots and lots and lots more police cars, SUVs and motorcycles came by in the general direction of the Accord heading down Gillette. 

It seems that the police sort of thought that the car was involved in a homicide, but it wasn't. I guess the car was stolen, but it seems that the chase was triggered by the car no slowing down enough for a speed trap. Also, apparently, they hit an officer's hand with their car. The story seems pretty weird and it just seemed like those involved wanted to have a car chase with their lunch yesterday.

Today, I had to ride to school a different route because the bomb squad had been deployed. Asylum Hill has been under siege.

Read more!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dinner and Bikes - Hartford, June 7th - UPDATE



After missing out on hosting Dinner and Bikes last year because I was out of town, I'm ecstatic that Elly Blue followed up with a 2014 Northeast Tour.  Elly Blue and  Joshua Ploeg will be bringing vegan dinner, bike movies, and Bikenomics to Hartford on this packed evening of bicycle love.  Doors open at 6PM, and the dinner bell rings at 7PM sharp.  Tickets are available online from $10 to $25, and go up $5 if purchased at the door on Saturday.  Please get your tickets online - so we get a solid headcount for the dinner portion of the event.

In addition to Elly and Co.,  Hartford Food System will be providing the tasty and locally grown greens for the dinner.  You'll have a chance to learn more about local, urban food production, community gardens, and youth gardening programs in Hartford.  Because of Hartford Food System, there are many more community members with access to healthy, fresh vegetables that they have grown and tended.

Tickets are available online and I fully expect all 75 tickets to sell out prior to the event.  If you are interested in committing time to the welcome table and setup / breakdown on the evening of the event, let me know.  There are a couple of volunteer spots available.  

Bonus karma if you show up on your bike, walk, or take the bus.  Let's fill the fence with locked bikes.  If you're driving, there is plenty of off street parking in the church lot on Hungerford.

Your evening wouldn't be complete without connecting multiple Hartford venues.  Within a short walk of Emanuel Lutheran you will find Redrock (friendly local pub) and Firebox (fancier local restaurant and bar).  Post event, I think I'll be heading over to Arch Street Tavern (a bit further, but a short bike ride and free parking) for the bands and DJ's - Shag Frenzy with 1.21 Gigawatts.  Since I'm headed to Arch Street, that is the "official" after party. 

Dinner bell rings at 7PM
The phenomena of event gravity has made Saturday, June 7th amazing for Connecticut bicycle lovers.  As Brendan previously posted, there is a Bike and Parts Swap Meet in Wethersfield that morning from 8:00AM to 12:30PM.  Looking for a commuter, cruiser, beater, or classic?  Got stuff to sell?  Parts to clear out?  Just like looking at bikes.  Check this out.  I will be there with some 60's and 70's Schwinn's I've been accumulating.  Free to attend, $25 to get a vendor spot.

Read more!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pondering Nature vs Nurture and Infrastructure

The question I'm pondering is, "Does car-centric infrastructure drive suburban development patterns and car-centric behavior, or is it the nature of people that drives the shape and design of the infrastructure?"  I'm torn on this one.  I see highway and road design influencing behavior, but also see friends and co-workers making life choices that force car centric living (and the associated infrastructure to support it).  At the end of the day, I'm not sure it's cut and dry.

This past week I was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a business trip.  Prior to the trip I didn't know anything about the city and had even forgotten that it was the state capitol.   I like to get a feel for the cities I'm visiting with a feet on the streets interview of sorts.  Walking around after a day of hokey meetings is also a great way to clear one's head and get the blood flowing.

In case you didn't get the hint from the horrible design.  Walkers unwelcome here.
First mistake, letting my suburban co-workers choose the hotel.  I don't think we could have been more poorly located for an after work walk.  A total cluster fuck of highways with high speed access roads.  Unconnected mall parking lots and piles of icy snow such that I had to walk in the travel lane.  There were occasionally crosswalk buttons and curb cuts, but the curb cuts were mysteriously unconnected to any sidewalks.  The one crosswalk button (no marked crosswalk) I tried to use at a T-shaped intersection, sent turning traffic right at me.  At this intersection of suck there was an apartment complex across from the shopping mall - an obvious pedestrian connection point.  I spent a good hour cursing the PA DOT and the absolute lack of any Complete Streets consideration.  CT DOT is a shining star of progressive thought if the shit I found in Harrisburg is representative.  If anyone wanted to walk or bicycle in this area of Harrisburg, they would be doing so at their peril.

The question is, "Did the road design only account for cars because the DOT only knows how to make highways, or did the mess of highways and shopping malls come from the development patterns that had to be created to support the people doing the driving and shopping?"  In comparison, the Buckland mall in Manchester, CT has a network of sidewalks and walking paths.  It's not my favorite place to walk or bike, but not entirely neglected.  You can walk from the nearby apartment complexes to the mall.  At no point do you see a "No Walking" sign like this gem in Harrisburg.

Just when all hope was lost, I found this snowy trail network.
On a more positive note, I did stumble across a greenway path, the Capital Area Greenbelt, that was a welcome respite from the mess.  Where the greenway crossed the highway access road, the only way to safely cross was to "step lively" as again there wasn't a crosswalk.

The following evening I abandoned any hope of a relaxing walk nearby and headed downtown by car.  Downtown Harrisburg is entirely walkable, and appeared to be reasonably bikeable too.  There is a gridded street pattern and clear sidewalks.  The riverfront had a dedicated pedestrian bridge crossing that was very nice.  The housing stock in and around downtown was beautiful but appeared to be under utilized.  Lots of For Sale signs and dark windows in the town homes.  I didn't pick the best evening to observe the vibrancy of a city being that it was 5F and blustery, but it looked even quieter than Hartford.  I ducked into the old YMCA building and took a tour of the building, that still had dormitory housing - a rarity among modern day Y's.  There was amazing tile work in the swimming pool.  This sort of thing just doesn't exist in the burbs.

The beautiful pool at the Harrisburg YMCA.
During the work meetings I asked folks where they lived relative to the plant.  It seemed that no one thought the lengthy car commutes of their suburban and exurban home choices were any issue at all.  No one that I met at the plant, which itself was placed in a rural industrial park, lived in Harrisburg.  This leads me to give the nature argument some weight.  When people choose to live a car drive away from work, shopping, and recreation, what option is there but to design infrastructure that primarily deals with car traffic?

Your thoughts loyal BBB readership?  Nature, nurture, or both?

A multi-use bridge, car free, across the river.
Majestic capital building in Harrisburg.
Some naked folks freezing their bits off.  Clearly in pain.
A reminder - there is a Traffic Skills 101 course scheduled for Sunday, March 30th.  You can register now online.

Read more!