Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I stopped writing things on the beat bike blog

I don't know if anyone still reads the beat bike blog, but if they do and read it awhile ago, they may recall that I used to write things here about riding my bike. Then, with little fanfare, I stopped. It's not because I stopped riding my bike, but I moved out of Hartford. My wife and I wanted to buy a house. We looked in Hartford and looked around Hartford, too. There was a nice house on Warrenton, but someone bought it very quickly. Most of the other houses in Hartford that we liked were either falling down or way too expensive. Eventually, we found a little old house in Tariffville right on the gorge. It's very pretty. We could afford it, so here we are.

It was a little weird moving out of Hartford, but we're not so far away that we can't go there as often as we please and I suppose that I still work there, too. It's a 13 mile ride to Hartford, which takes a little more commitment than 2.5 did, but it's not so bad as long it's not inclement weather. Riding recreationally is nice because we're where the nice roads start and we're in between Penwood and Cowles Park. Johanna lives closer to work, so she can start riding her bike there. We're about 3 miles from grocery stores and commerce (though very close to a bar, two restaurants, a barber shop and a liquor store), so errands by bike is no problem. The Geissler's grocery store in Granby even has a bike rack out front. 

Simsbury is supposed to be the most bicycle friendly town in Connecticut. It has sharrows and a bike path, and the drivers are nicer than they are in Avon. Although, since we live on the edge of town, most people driving don't live here and are sort of jerks-- especially the people driving back to Massachusetts. I haven't seen any more people riding their bikes here, but I'm doubtful that very many people ride them for utilitarian purposes around here. I don't think friendliness really contributes to mode share. Connecticut is just not a place where riding a bike is something you do in seriousness if you can help it.  

So, it being called the "beat bike blog" and the "beat" refers to Hartford, I stopped writing because I don't live there anymore. I still live close, though, so come visit me.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

When Biking Became Critically Important

Tired of the snow?  It's almost gone!
First, I'd like to remind folks that Spring is coming, and with Spring I expect that the temperature sensitive cyclists will start peeking out again, finding their cycling gear a bit tight after a winter of hibernation.  To welcome these Spring flowers back onto the road, we'll have another breakfast IceBike to Work to close the season.  Cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, and those car pooling are invited to hang out and chat about how the sunshine is chasing away their blues and the world seems born anew.  This is a great time of year for positive thoughts.

IceBike (and Walk) to Work
Friday, March 20th 
East Hartford at Maddie's from 7:00AM to 8:30AM
Hartford at Ashley's from 7:00AM to 8:30AM
Just show up!

Those that are new, or returning, to cycling should take time to learn about safe riding, and how to operate around car drivers who are feeling careless and randy as the Spring approaches.  I highly recommend taking the Traffic Skills 101 course that will be offered on Sunday, April 12th in Hartford.  Half of bike crashes are "bike alone" - your skills can be improved.  Half of crashes with cars are "cyclist at fault," which can be improved significantly once a cyclist is trained in vehicular cycling.  You have direct control over 75% of crash causes, and you will learn how to indirectly manage the vehicles around you for the remaining 25%.  It is an amazingly powerful course.

Traffic Skills 101
Sunday, April 12th
Hartford, CT @ Thomas W. Raftery

And now for the kicker.  As of March 20th, I'll no longer be working at the engineering company across the river.  For better or worse, I've chosen to chase a dream of doing more community focused work.  As the youth coordinator for the Center for Latino Progress I'll be running their Escalera college prep and leadership program for high school juniors.  This is where my bicycle becomes critical.  Going from an engineering to non-profit pay grade is a significant change.  Not owning a car eliminates a huge expense.    I don't see how folks working for $20,000 or $30,000 a year can manage owning and maintaining a car.  It doesn't make sense.  

I'm excited for the opportunity to make a difference in Hartford.  In addition to the societal benefits of the program, the tighter finances will push me to utilize cooperative resources that are just starting to operate in Hartford.  I recently posted offers and requests to the Hartford Hour Exchange, and just this morning banked three hours of bike maintenance.  In the time bank model, I can trade those three banked hours for three hours of help or service from another member.  Quite a novel and beautiful arrangement.   In addition to the Hour Exchange, I'll be more actively using FreeCycle to continue using goods handed off by others.  I recommend West Hartford FreeCycle, as well off folks give away amazing stuff.  

You have now reached the social and political commentary portion of the blog post.  When I stepped away from my well compensated engineering position and into a life of more fulfillment, I didn't realize that it would be in the same week that United Technologies announced that it is abandoning their Hartford offices, moving 175 employees out to the Farmington suburban campus.  It was also the week that the Hartford Courant reported that UTC's ex-CEO received a $184,000,000 (so many zeros) separation package.  How does one human justify making 1000X times the salary of a full time minimum wage employee in their company?  So much disgust fills my heart.  Not sure what to do with it.  Any suggestions?  I think I need to go ride my bike to re-find my happy place.   
Sometimes one feels like a cranky bear.
You good reader have an impressively long attention span.  I'll close with this opportunity to squeak a little bit into the ear of the CT DOT about the I-84 Redesign.  Take a one question survey, and help solidify a major goal of the I-84 redesign in Hartford as a Complete Streets project.  They are surveying for a reason.  It takes public support to justify one design approach over another.  Let's make this highway work for Hartford's neighborhoods.  A true Complete Streets design approach could repair much damage and dissection caused by the unsafe designs of the many entrance and exit ramps.  While you're at it, start following the associated I-84 project website and Facebook page to stay abreast of public comment opportunities.  Infrastructure projects take a long time.  To affect change, concerned parties have to get engaged early and often.  Thank you for taking the time and caring enough to speak up.

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