Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ride that Bike Gangsta

Having trouble with a clever title for this post, I reached back a couple of years and shared my favorite "pedestrian shout out.".  There is stiff competition in the top ten, but this is the best.  I was riding through Hartford's Northend on Main Street wearing some non-garish spandex when I passed a pair of 20-something black women walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.  I nearly fell off my bike giggling when one yelled out, "Ride that bike, Gangsta!"  Hartford has some damn entertaining street conversation.  If you're in a car with the windows up, you are missing masterpieces of comedy and snark.  After a couple years of immersion, I've gotten better at responding in kind.

Now that we've had our fun, it is time for more fun. Truthfully, I can't handle all this fun by myself.  In the interest of my personal sanity I'm spreading it around so that we can all carry the terrific burden.   Your responsibility is to further distribute this information.  I see that you're starting to understand the cooperative nature of our relationship.

Thursday, May 21st - East Hartford Bike and Walk to Work. 6:30-9:00am on Main Street right across the street from Pratt & Whitney. Free bike lights, reflective stickers, and of course, breakfast. Open to the public.  Those using CT Transit or car/vanpooling are also invited to come over for breakfast.

Sunday, May 31st - The CT Climate March at Hartford Earth Festival. Starting at noon from the State Capitol, marching (and riding) to the Earth Festival at the Hartford Riverfront.   As cyclists we're a bit more tuned into our Earth and what it's shouting at us.  We also know that one's quality of life can actually improve when one chooses sustainable, human powered transportation.  This is your opportunity to respond to clarion call to address human caused global weirdness.   Spread the word with this Facebook Event.

Sunday, May 31st - Ladies First, All Girls Alleycat.  Meet at Heaven, the skate and graffiti park in downtown Hartford on the I-84 overpass between Trumbull and Main or Market, at 12:00pm, at 12:30pm we RIDE (don't be late)!
Saturday, June 6th - Discover West Hartford Bicycle Tour. The first ride of the Discover Connecticut Series. 10, 25, and 50 mile routes.  Spread the word with this Facebook Event.

Saturday, June 6th - Wethersfield Bike Show and Swap Meet.  8:00am-12:30pm.  You can sign up to show and sell, or come over to check out the bikes and parts.  This is the event's second year, and I'm super stoked to see it return.

And never forget - Ride that bike, Gangsta!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'll Bet on a Casino to Finish the East Coast Greenway

East Hartford will do pretty much anything to lure developers and tax money into town.  There are plans for outlet malls in the old airfield.  Now they are courting a casino development at the shuttered movie theater. A traffic study was completed to determine if the nearby infrastructure could handle the traffic from adding a casino.  Of course there is capacity.  The streets are designed to handle the rush hour traffic from Pratt & Whitney's heyday.  The streets are capable of funneling hordes of UCONN fans home after the seven home games each year at Rentschler Field.  The issue isn't capacity.  The issue is safety for those in the community using these streets everyday.  Silver Lane and the surrounding streets are the opposite of "Complete Streets".

Can East Hartford turn a gamble into sustainable infrastructure?
Is there a silver lining for Silver Lane?  If you've ever bicycled or walked along Silver Lane (AKA State Route 502) you've found it to be a harrowing experience.  The street is designed with the bygone philosophy to maximize speed and flow of cars, with little consideration of how it impacts the non-vehicular road users.  When the road was repaved about a decade ago there was an opportunity to incorporate a road diet and bike lanes, but the CT DOT decided to maintain the full complement of two lanes in each direction to satisfy the peak usage during UCONN games.  Punishing a neighborhood with a a dangerous road design for traffic volumes that only happen on seven days a year shows that there is something wrong with your priorities.  The hilarious part is that the road is marked out with cones during peak game traffic anyway.  Why not stripe the road for everyday use, and put cones up on game days?  Answer - because CT DOT.

The East Coast Greenway through East Hartford needs to be completed.  This parallel East-West route would provide a safe, convenient, and attractive multi-use path for cyclists, walkers, and the disabled.  The East Coast Greenway is a national route, much of it separated from vehicle traffic, and it is making great strides toward completion in Connecticut.  There are two East Hartford CT DOT Projects that could complete segments in the existing gap between Forbes street and Great River Park.  The holdout is Pratt & Whitney.  Despite up to $500,000,000 in state tax benefits lined up for the construction of a new, sustainable, engineering building on Willow Street, United Technologies / Pratt & Whitney does not support the preferred route of the East Coast Greenway on Willow Street.  As a CT taxpayer and former P&W employee, I'm rather confused by the corporate stand on this great project?  There are so many benefits that it isn't worth recounting them here.

A multi-use path parallel to Willow Street is the best route.
Pratt & Whitney has a growing group of bicycle commuters that wish they had safer streets surrounding their large campus.  Main Street and Silver Lane are barriers to increasing sustainable commuting further than grizzled vehicular cyclists.  Pratt & Whitney was awarded a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business recognition in 2014.  In order to take it to the next level, both P&W and the Town of East Hartford need to start addressing Complete Streets design, safety, and connectivity for all road users.

In the interest of promoting bike commuting in Hartford metro, there are a bevy of Bike to Work Breakfast events in the coming weeks.  One of them right across Main Street from Pratt and Whitney.  You can "Pledge" to ride to work in May with Bike Walk Connecticut.

  • Friday, 5/15. Hartford:  Hosted by Bike Walk Connecticut.  7:30AM to 9:00AM.  Old State House.  Open to public.  This one is specific to bike commuters.
  • Thursday, 5/21. East Hartford:  Hosted by Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College. 6:30AM to 9:00AM.  339 Main Street. Open to public.  The East Hartford event is welcoming bike commuters, walkers, transit users, car pool.  Pretty much anyone but single occupancy vehicle travelers.  Try something different -
  • Bike to Work Meetups - Groups riding in together to the breakfast events.
Now what?  Take some action.
  • Contact Mayor Leclerc and the East Hartford Town Council.  Let them know you are interested in Complete Streets and the completion of the East Coast Greenway route.
  • Get involved with the Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club and see what you can do to convince Pratt & Whitney executives that the East Coast Greenway route on Willow Street is an amazing opportunity for the company, the community, and the region.
  • Contact the CT DOT and ask how Silver Lane and Main Street are being redesigned as Complete Streets?  There is a Complete Streets policy on the books now at the DOT, and the next time they repave there is an opportunity to make real improvements for the safety of all road users.
Bonus Material - Got a couple minutes?  Fill out this Transit Oriented Development (TOD) survey and note the lack of bike racks and bike lanes.  Also note the lack of blue collar and manufacturing development.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Hartford rally cat ride/race this Saturday

The weather is going to be perfect for the first hartford rally cat tomorrow. Beginners to experts welcome, ride any bike, there's something for everyone. We've made it manageable even if you don't know Hartford's geography. 

11 am tomorrow, 81 pope park highway (at the amphitheater)

we've got awesome sponsors, a ton of great prizes to give away, an after party at red rock tavern at 369 capitol ave, and fantastic volunteers staffing our checkpoints. there's a food truck fest going on at the same time as the ride/race, so you'll have easy access to good food on the road (Prospect St and Arch St, downtown).

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

post-car connecticut: devil's hopyard, old saybrook, new haven to hartford

Kate and I got out for a small bike and transit tour of Connecticut this past weekend. If you're a visual learner or appreciate big photos of nice places, click here for images from the trip: Connecticut Outdoors photos.

We couldn't have picked a better weekend for it, with perfect summery weather. Thanks to CT Transit's Express bus service, set up to bring people into and out of the city from far flung towns and suburbs, one can get to rural places in CT pretty quickly. We took the express bus to Colchester, CT (bikes rack on the front of the bus) and biked about 8 miles to Devil's Hopyard State Park for the night. The ride on the main road through Devil's Hopyard is gorgeous, and they literally just paved the road, so its quite nice right now. Tearing ourselves away from the siren song of a rummage sale in Lyme, we made it to Old Saybrook in time to catch the Shoreline East train to Branford. Feeling like I was back in Palo Alto, we biked to G-zen for lunch, the veg spot that often has their food truck at Billings Forge in the summer. From there we did some of the most beautiful and fun riding we've done in CT. Riding along the sound in East Haven was a treat for people who miss riding along the ocean. We poked around on the shoreline trail that is in the process of being built between Hammonasset and Lighthouse Point Park, looking for shortcuts and condo klunks. On Sunday we biked home from our friends' house in Eastshore to Hartford, about a 50 mile ride that was our only big day for the weekend. We'll do this exact same trip again, in a heartbeat. For more pics, see Connecticut Outdoors photos.


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