Tuesday, October 20, 2015

No Bike Racks at Hartford High Schools - Say What?

Hartford is a city with entrenched poverty in many neighborhoods and a low car ownership rate.  The city is densely populated.  Schools, housing, activities, and parks are all within easy biking distance. One would think that with these factors, it would make sense to have bicycle racks at the public high schools, right?  Teens definitely ride bikes around our city, but they don't have a secure place to park their bikes at school.  Providing that secure bike parking and encouraging active transportation improves the mobility and health of our city's youth.  Imagine trying to get across the city for an after school program, and having to rely on CT Transit.  Going by bicycle regularly takes half the time, and the student doesn't have to worry about the sparse bus frequency after 6:30pm for getting home from an evening program.  With youth programs at the Center for Latino Progress, mobility and transportation issues are a major challenge for teen program attendance.  Active transportation, such as riding a bicycle, can also improve student performance at school.

Great spot for it, but no bike parking in sight.
There is a lack of bike parking at Hartford schools, but we can change that.  In conjunction with the BiCi Co. kickoff membership and fundraising campaign, there is a donation level that will place a bike corral (parking for 10 bikes) at a Hartford high school.  Specifically we are working with Levey Kardulis, Head Custodian at Bulkeley High School on Wethersfield Avenue.  This school has a very high Latino student population and is a natural connection for Center for Latino Progress and the BiCi Co. project.  Wethersfield Avenue was just repaved with new bicycle lanes reaching from Jefferson (Barnard Park) all the way to the high school.  Bulkeley High School is an ideal placement for these first BiCi Co. bike corrals.  The bike corral will also include five (5) bicycles, upcycled or new, and Bulkeley can use those bicycles as rewards for student attendance or achievement.

New bike lanes on Wethersfield Ave go right by Bulkeley High School!
The next step is for a donor, individual or corporate, to step up at that $7,000 donation level.  BiCi Co. will then work with Bulkeley high school to place and install the bike racks by Spring 2016.  This is a great opportunity, and it starts with our Hartford youth.  Making change starts with Hartford's future leaders.  Help us provide them with sustainable transportation, mobility, and a welcoming bike rack at their high school.  Thanks for your support of the BiCi Co. project.
Seven bicis on a tree.  Summer BiCi Co. participants.
BiCi Co. ordered one of these custom bike corrals  with room for up to 10 bikes for our location at 95 Park Street, and it will be delivered this Fall.  After seeing how many teens rode to the summer youth employment BiCi Co. program, and our own lack of bike parking, we looked into bike parking improvements.  Hartford Hospital generously sponsored the bike corral. The bike parking at 95 Park Street will serve BiCi Co., the Center for Latino Progress, and the Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA).  Bicycle riders visiting other nearby businesses and services on Park Street will also have a secure parking option.

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Reminder - We hope to see a bunch of bike riders out this Saturday at the Hooker Day Parade.  Bring your bikes out on Saturday, 10/24, and join up with BiCi Co. in the Hartford Hooker Day parade. You'll want to get there early to line up. The parade steps off (rolls out) at 1pm. Get there between 11:30am - 12:00pm (at High Street & Allyn Street). You'll go sign a waiver and check in at the tent first. Then come find us.  We'll be the crew on bikes.  Here is the Facebook event for the parade.  Not riding - get out there an enjoy as a spectator.  It's a wonderfully playful parade.

This is what the rack would look like.  

They deserve secure bike racks at Hartford schools
A pretty set of angles on this external stairwell.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Do It Yourself - BiCi Co. Hours Announced!

The membership, teaching bike shop starting up at 95 Park Street has this thing called "Member Hours."  BiCi Co. members have access to the shop during these scheduled hours to attend and use the workstands, tools, and get guidance from experienced mechanics.  Members can come into these hours and use them to pick up new bike maintenance skills - like changing a tire or replacing a worn out chain.  For anyone that rides further than a mile or so from home, knowing how to change a tire is something you should know.  The confidence and mobility one gains from mastering basic maintenance on their bicycle is important to how likely someone is to be a regular bicycle commuter or longer distance recreational cyclist.   Being worried that you'll be stranded for hours for every flat tire really damps the enthusiasm of someone that would otherwise enjoy a 10 or 20 mile bicycle ride.

What do I get with membership?  Why bother with this BiCi Co. concept of empowered and independent cyclists? Good questions.  In addition to access to DIY member hours, you'll get a 25% discount on bicycle parts and accessories.  Members have special pricing for scheduled bike safety and mechanic lessons.  Some might be intimidated by the thought of tuning a bicycle, but consider how much simpler a bicycle is than your standard car.  It's not rocket science.  Almost anyone who wants to learn the basics of bicycle maintenance (including basic repair) can do it.  With hands on lessons and patient experts on hand, you can do this.
Five work stands and a full complement of bike tools.
This fall we are holding a trial version of the BiCi Co. Member Hours for those that want to try before they buy.  BiCi Co is also recruiting volunteers, both for member hours.  If you're interested in volunteers, send me an email.  The shop will have basic repair parts and accessories.  Since we're in the startup phase of the project, we won't have a fully stocked bike shop.   There are multiple full sets of bike tools, work stands, a wheel truing stand, and work benches.  The shop is beginning to accumulate used bike parts, and those are also available to support your bicycle repair.  Being a BiCi Co. member puts resources, experts, and parts at your fingertips.  I know personally that it's expensive and takes a lot of space to set up a bike workstation in your home.   Being a member at BiCi Co. is a great option, with a side benefit of social connections and skill sharing.

BiCi Co. - Demo Member Hours - Weekly!

  • Wednesdays from 5:30-8:30pm.  Starting on October 21st.  No hours on November 25th due to holiday weekend.
  • Saturdays from 1:30-5:30pm.  Starting on November 7th.  No hours on November 28th due to holiday weekend.

Last year's parade - Anne Cubberly's Night Fall crew.
BiCi Co. Special Event - Save the Date - Hooker Day Parade 
Saturday, October 24th for the Hooker Day Parade in Downtown Hartford.  We'll be riding bikes in the parade.  More information soon.  Stay tuned for the BiCi Co. FB Page for the latest info.  Excited to pull in bicycle commuters and riders from Transport Hartford, the Slow Roll, and BiCi Co. to participate in this rollicking annual Hartford parade / party.
Hooker day costume from 2013.  Photo credit Greg Garcia.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hit the Ground Rolling

If you've been following the blog posts while I was bicycle touring the US (list of posts), you'll already know that a community bike space, BiCi Co., is in the works at the Center for Latino Progress.  For those that are just now joining the party, we'll bring you up to speed.   
The BiCi Co. logo was designed by Hartford resident, Kyrima Colon

The City of Hartford does not have a single bike shop.  How can that be?  Large numbers of Hartford youth ride for transportation and recreation, but they don’t have brakes, helmets or lights.  Bicycle safety training is nonexistent in our schools.  How can we address that?  The Center for Latino Progress sees this as an opportunity to improve youth safety, while also increasing our community’s mobility and jobs access.  The Center of Latino Progress has teamed up with Breakfast Lunch & Dinner to launch BiCi Co., a community bike space that is key for a healthy, sustainable, and economically vibrant Hartford.   Bici is shorthand for bicicleta, and Co. represents the community benefits of healthy, active transportation.
The bicycle station in Washington DC.  Why not in Hartford?
Bici Co. will host after-school programs teaching bicycle history, safety and mechanic skills to Hartford area teenagers..  BiCi Co. members will have access to the mechanic space during member hours and receive discounts on repair parts and accessories. Members will learn how to maintain and repair their own bike with the help of experienced mechanics. Bici Co. will offer community bicycle safety and repair classes.  Bicycles build community, connect residents to jobs, increase local spending, and respect the Earth.  And don’t forget, they’re just plain fun.  BiCi Co. can’t wait to be a bustling hub for those excited about bicycle culture in the Hartford area.
A parallel parking spot bike corral in front of a bike shop in DC
This summer, the Center invested in a community, teaching bicycle shop at 95 Park Street for thirty teens completing their Summer Youth Employment service learning project. During the seven-week program, the teens repaired bikes for the CRT Generations Program and confirmed a need for additional bicycle programs year round. BiCi Co. needs funds to open the shop and staff the initial youth and adult programs.  BiCi Co. is raising funds by securing annual memberships and donations to cover the expenses of the continuing programs from October through December 2015.  A successful crowdfunding campaign will keep this big wheel rolling. 

Beautiful urban mural art in Baltimore.  Near the ravens stadium, an otherwise desolate area.
 Hartford has a rich history of bicycle manufacturing and culture. In the 1890's, Colonel Albert Pope and the Columbia Bicycle Company manufactured the most bicycles in the world in Hartford.  BiCi Co. goes back to those roots with social purpose and community focus. You have an opportunity to support the growing wave of sustainable and healthy bicycle commuting in Hartford and its surrounding cities.  Anthony Cherolis, the Center’s Youth Coordinator says, “You can’t imagine the joy on a teen’s face when they fix their own bicycle.  That bicycle opens up their world.”  Be a part of our community - BiCi Co.
Baltimore has a separated bikeway going through downtown
About the Center For Latino Progress: The Center for Latino Progress – CPRF (formerly Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum, Inc.) mission is to advance the socio-economic conditions of the community at large, with emphasis on Hispanics, through education, training, supportive services, leadership development, and advocacy. Since 1978, we provide competent and culturally enriching services and programs that foster individual and community growth, and create economic opportunities for all.  More information is available at http://www.ctprf.org.

 Mural art in Philly
 The two Fall programs that will be supported by the campaign include the teen Build-a-Bike / Earn-a-Bike program and Member DIY Hours.  In the next couple of weeks we'll be opening up Demo Member hours for those that want to see what BiCi Co. is all about.  Like the Facebook page to get the latest announcements about member hours.  Right now, we're looking for feedback on which times work the best for folks.  Please chime in.  It would also be awesome if you invite other Hartford metro bicycle loving (or bike curious) folks to also like the page.  The more the merrier!
We found the largest crawdad ever on trail.  Aggressive fellow.
Elizabeth joined me from Trenton, NJ to New Brunswick, NJ
Multi-modal to Monclair, NJ.  Rolled on board the train.
Of course there's a bike corral in front of the Philly Whole Foods

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Index Shift through the BiCi Co Tour

I put together this list for those looking to catch up on the posts that I wrote while bike touring approximately 2,500 miles from August 18th until September 30th.  It was an amazing six weeks, but I'm excited to be back at the Center for Latino Progress to start up our Fall BiCi Co. programs.  I'm calling it the BiCi Co. Tour because a lot of my thinking and writing was about the formation of the community bike shop.

As regular Beat Bike Blog reader you get the scoop on the BiCi Co. membership campaign.  There are a limited number of "Lead Pack" memberships available - and you've now got the link.  Check it out.  We can also use your help to SHARE the campaign starting on Monday, October 12th when we officially roll it out.  Your grass roots publicity of this new program is invaluable!

Side Note - While on my bicycle tour, a knit hat and I gained a very odd bit of national fame in the My Mountain Man competition.  Margo snapped this photo of me on the morning I left for my bike tour.  A viral social media campaign resulted in enough votes to put this hat and me at the top of some stiff competition.  The prize ($500) is going directly to the BiCi Co. shop supplies.  Thanks for voting!  As I understand it, I'll be in their My Mountain calendar and the pattern for the knit hat I'm wearing, with binary code knit into it, will be published.  This wouldn't have been possible without grassroots folks taking a big role in the social media publicity.   I consider this a great warm up for the BiCi Co. campaign.
The semi-famous photo.  Photo credit to Margo Lynn.

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