Friday, November 27, 2015

Time to Start Acting Like a Thirty-Seven Year Old

First - December 1st is Giving Tuesday.  Consider the Center for Latino Progress and their new project, BiCi Co. when you give back.  Hartford has been without a bike shop since 2014.  Our city needs BiCi Co. to support safe, sustainable, and economic transportation for both existing and newly arriving Hartford residents.  BiCi Co. will help transform Hartford into a cycling friendly city, a city where teens can get brakes for their bikes, bike lights, and locks.  Bicycles don't just connect us to destinations, they connect us to new friends and opportunities.  It won't be Heaven, but we'll get closer to it.  Thanks for your support.  Please donate now.

Second - The last Slow Roll of 2015.  Sunday, December 6th.  Meet at 3pm at Majorca (2074 Park Street, near Prospect).  We will ride to BiCi Co., get a short tour, and then back to Majorca for happy hour and appetizers.  If you aren't one for December rides, you can still meet us at Majorca at 4:30pm.  FB event invite - share and invite others.  Did you know that the building that Majorca is in was a Columbia Bicycle factory?  Hartford's bicycle history runs deep.

Third - I had a ridiculous adventure on Friday.  One day after my 37th birthday, Ken K and Brian joined me for an impromptu mixed terrain ride.  Global weirdness put us in the 60's, and it was just too nice to stay indoors.  I lied to Brian and told him we were going to be road riding.  After taking the secret MDC road and jumping the gate that's always closed, we rode toward the Wethersfield meadows.  We may or may not have crossed on the closed Route 3 bridge pedestrian path.  There seem to be gates at both ends with signs saying that, "None shall pass."  

Leaving the secret MDC road.  
Transported to the Glastonbury side of the river, as if by magic, we continued our 'not a road ride' on the dirt roads and double track around Keeney Cove.  Ken K found a large, huge really, slab of Styrofoam and I immediately thought, "That would make a swell raft."  After a test float, I suggested that I would put my bike on the foam raft and see where it would take me.  Ken and Brian thought that was an obvious course of action and helped me shove off.  

This is a great idea!  
Plenty of room for the touring bike and myself. 
Remarkably stable.  Even in the windy chop at the center of the river.

Not the stupidest thing I've ever done.
Closing in on Brainard airfield.  The planes come in low.
The raft was very buoyant, and comfortable to boot.  Plenty of room for both me and the bike.  Rather than floating down river as I had expected, the strong wind pushed me upriver back towards Hartford.  I had a short stick and a longer tree trunk for poling.  The wind took me across the river towards Brainard air field.  I pushed the block up on shore and gathered up a long poly rope that I found tied to a tree.  It seemed like something I might want to have with me on a rafting trip.  I shoved off again.  With my long beard, I didn't want to hazard riding my bike in an airport.  Confusing airport security isn't prudent.  I relaxed on the raft (you can't hurry a raft) and kept going north.  The bend in the river and the wind took me back across towards East Hartford.  A couple of boats zipped by, but neither came over to see what I was up to or if perhaps I needed assistance.  "Oh, just another bike on a Styrofoam block."

The weather was stellar.
I picked up a rope.  Might be useful for a guy on a raft.
 The foam block is now resting on a dock in East Hartford.  I tipped off a couple of artists, as this could be really fun to work with. Imagine carving a sled out of that block.  Or building a giant puppet head.  Or formalizing the raft setup and taking it for a much longer trip next time.  So many possibilities.  If I wasn't neck deep in starting up a community bike shop, I'd be going back tomorrow myself to pick it up.  I consider this a first dibs opportunity to claim the block for a future project.  Not saying exactly where this is, but you can probably figure it out.

That looks like a good place to land.
Another photo for scale.
After landing, I kept riding.  There is a concrete flood wall behind the East Hartford water treatment plant that I only have the guts to ride every tenth time.  This was that time.  I was feeling pretty good about the foam block ride, so I rode the wall.  The Hockanum River Trail was pretty empty, as per usual.  An under used gem of a trail that starts behind East Hartford town hall.  A quick stop at the top of Wickham Park, and one of my favorite fast descents down the sledding hill.  Some coffee and a muffin at the Riverfront rounded out what may have been the best ride of the year.  It's hard to compare rides, but this was by far the most unique.  I feel closer to Mark Twain today.  It's time I start acting like a thirty-seven year old.

A new spot for graffiti.  I hadn't looked under this bridge before.
Riding the wall makes my tummy feel funny.
One of the better views of Hartford, and a nice ride to get here.

Amazing that the weather was so pleasant today.  Soaked up all the Vitamin D.
Nothing to see here.  The article is done, but since you're so thorough, you should go over to the BiCi Co. membership and fundraising page and make a sizable donation.  Wink.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Open Streets Hartford

Hartford, the city proper, has an unreasonable amount of potential.  Situated in the middle of a very wealthy ring of suburbs and corporate titans, the city has beautiful buildings and wide streets.  The riverfront paths offer spectacular views and a sheltered piece of nature right next to the bustle of downtown.  The cultural amenities and restaurants are varied and world class.  Our neighborhoods are diverse and rich in restaurants, retail, and housing.

What's holding Hartford back, is the lack of feet and bikes on the street.  The transit system isn't up to snuff - yet.  The current street system is set up as a sluice and sewer system for cars.  A flood of suburban employees drive in each morning and flood back out each evening.  If this flowed smoothly like water, we would never have a chance to move to a different solution.  Fortunately cars flow like chaotic gravel being shaken through a funnel.  When the number of cars gets too high, the funnel clogs up and the cars stop.  Stop and go.  Stop and fume.  It's frustrating, and these suburban commuters are waiting for a better solution.  The continuing growth of downtown living options and healthy occupancy rates are evidence of the pent up demand for options to the suburban norm.

In order to reach the economic bustle needed to support the city's overall budget, we need to radically change the script.  How can a city expose suburban dwellers to the wonders of urban living?  Can we demonstrate to the transportation planners a radically different streetscape with humans at the center instead of cars?  With the slow moving changes to infrastructure, it is difficult to imagine levels of improvement that leapfrog out of the car-centric paradigm.  How can Hartford make that jump?  How can the city share the vision widely, before the infrastructure has actually changed?

With vision, and buy in, very significant changes have happened before.  In 1973 the Netherlands banned cars on Sundays.  The ban was due to the oil embargo and only lasted a couple of months, but they never looked back.  The alternative mode share in the Netherlands that exceeds 50% leads to a much more pleasant and human scale built environment.  Everyone that visits the Netherlands comes back changed, and asking questions.  Why can't the US (the really sad bar on the far right) move away from single occupancy vehicle travel?  In Hartford we can't change the entire country, but we can effect local change.  The urban centers are leading the way because we have the most to gain economically from moving to a greater share of transit, biking, and walking.

Source: Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, IETT Professional Development Workshop, Istanbul, June 14th, 2015
After cycling through Philadelphia during the recent Pope visit and the resulting unplanned Open Streets day, I can see the leap.  It was a magical experience.  The streets were chock full of pedestrians and cyclists enjoying all that the city had to offer - and spending their money locally.  Transportation advocates are rightly calling on additional Open Streets (AKA Ciclovia) days in Philadelphia.  Cities across the country are incorporating Open Streets events, and inviting humans back into the roadway.  Here is a short list.  The list is not inclusive.  There are over 80 Open Streets events in the US.  There is an Open Streets guide and there was a national training and summit for cities looking to hold events based on this model.
Here's the vision.  I-Quilt and Envisionfest have coordinated an action packed weekend to promote the dense activities on a Saturday in Hartford.  Let's combine Envisionfest, the CT Cycling Festival, and an Open Streets event to take that vision one step further, a leap really.  Close down a significant number of Hartford streets to through traffic on the day of these events and invite our neighbors to experience the city on a human scale.  Coordinate with the businesses and cultural institutions along and near the route to remain open on the weekend day (or days).  Bring all our city's amenities and connections to bear and lets have Open Streets.  It will take some planning and a boatload of publicity.  Target Envisionfest 2017.  Bring in state and regional funding, because we know that many of the attendees would be coming in from the burbs.  NYC Summer Streets is partially funded by the DOT! 

Once Hartford and the region has "flipped the script" by exposing diverse folks to the beauty of a walkable, bike-able, and car-light urban environment, it will be a much easier discussion when we talk about reduced parking requirements for apartment buildings.  Deleting a parking lane and implementing road diets will be championed as progress.  Reducing the cost of development (less parking cost) along with raising the tax rate on surface parking lots will fill in Hartford's vast parking deserts.  Let's do this!

Thursday, Nov 12th - There is a CT Rides Business Forum.  Send this link to your suburban coworkers and corporate human resources directors.  Breakfast is included and you'll learn about the multiple, enjoyable transportation options available for Hartford employees.  The forum was organized by CT Rides.  By spreading the word, you're doing your part to make change in Hartford's mode share.

SAVE THE DATE, Slow Roll, Dec 6th - The last Slow Roll of 2015 is planned for Sunday, December 6th.  Yes.  You can ride a bike in December.  Put gloves on and have a great time!  We'll be rolling to a local establishment after the ride to warm up and socialize.  Put it on your calendar now, and keep an eye on the BiCi Co Facebook page for additional details.

Important side note - As Hartford moves forward with developments, we need to be aware of the negative effects of gentrification.  There are ways that Hartford developments can serve our entire population, not just the new, well-heeled arrivals.  Here's a good article on countering the negative effects of gentrification - 9 Ways Privileged People Can Reduce the Negative Impact of Gentrification.  The article makes some good points, but it doesn't include the requirement (or set asides) for "affordable housing" in new developments.  As we approach gentrification in Hartford, it can happen quickly, new projects should be looked at critically as a system if they create a core downtown where service workers can't live.  If you look at downtown rents, we are already there.  When that exclusive rent level reaches the neighborhoods, it will push thousands into the suburbs where their access to jobs and services will be degraded.  Transit sucks in the suburbs.  Jobs are further apart.  Cars are expensive and not affordable on a minimum wage full time salary.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

BiCi Co. - Your November Event Calendar

There are a lot of bicycle related events coming up, and calendars can be confusing for some of us (including me).  Here's a short list of the events that you need to know about, particularly those that have to do with Bicycles and BiCi Co.  It feels like a wonderful November Bike-nado.

Cleaning up in our community - BiCi Co.
  • Recurring Weekly in November - Demo DIY Bicycle Repair Hours at BiCi Co. (More Info)  Learn to change a tire, adjust a derailleur, or tighten that loose thingy.  We've got you covered, and you will get your hands dirty.
    • 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.
    • This is your opportunity to sample (for free!) what it would be like to be a BiCi Co. member.
  • Local Music and BiCi Co. Social at Hook and Ladder.  Saturday, Nov 7th.  7-10pm at 209 Main Street.   Drink specials.  P.O.S.S.M playing great music, and a hug from Tony C for anyone that walks or bikes there.
  • CT Rides Business Forum.  Thursday, Nov 12th.  8-10am, includes a light breakfast.  Learn about your commute options in Hartford.  A forum with local alternative transportation experts.  Great for employees and employers.  (More Info & Registration)
  • Wetherfield Ave. Has a Bike Lane.  Thursday, Nov 12th @ Noon.  Come over to the Wethersfield Ave entrance to Colt park at Noon for a photo op and "thank you" to the Hartford DPW for working with the neighborhood organizations that requested bike lanes.   For all the griping and complaining, we'd like to offset a little with our hearty thanks.  For maximum effect, show up on bike - duh!  (Facebook Event)
  • BiCi Co. Neighborhood Cleanup! Sunday, November 15th.  10am-1pm.  Meet at 97 Park Street.  Bicicletas and Communidad.  Bicycles and community.  BiCi Co. is reaching out to our friends, neighbors, and fellow bike riders to help clean up Park Street and the South Green neighborhood.  Let's put some shine on before winter hits and covers us up with snow.  Knox Inc. provides the supplies, we supply the human power! (Facebook event)
  • Creative Cocktail Hour at Real Art Ways, Thursday, November 19th.  Join Hartford Prints and BiCi Co. at RAW.  "The best of everything Real Art Ways has to give: innovative art, invigorating music, and hundreds of the most interesting and open-minded people to share the experience." (More Info)
  • Bike Walk CT Annual Dinner, Friday, November 20th at CCSU, 5:30pm.  Silent auction.  Nominate for People's Choice awards.  Featured speaker - the inspiring Colleen Kelly Alexander.  BiCi Co will be there and provided two "BiCi Co. Family Memberships" for the silent auction.  And the silent auction is choice!  Great for holiday shopping.
  • Hartford Cranksgiving, Saturday, November 21st - In its fourth year, this all family friendly event collects food to donate for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Ride fast or slow, but make sure to bring a way to carry the groceries.  (Register Here)
  • Final Slow Roll of 2015 and BiCi Co. Social.  Sunday, December 6th. Save the date.  More info soon.  Stay tuned to the BiCi Co. Facebook Page.
Don't forget to share the BiCi Co. Membership and Fundraising Campaign with all your bicycle loving friends!  We are depending on your invaluable grassroots publicity to get the word out.

Cyclists drink locally!

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why Bike Culture Matters in Hartford

Things start to happen when the voters and organizations in Hartford demonstrate that they are a coordinated group with agreed upon goals.  Transport Hartford is a loosely moderated discussion group on Facebook, less than a year old, but the topics discussed and suggestions made have already influenced transportation projects in Hartford and beyond.  Discussions from Transport Hartford get printed up and handed to state legislators.

If a candidate for mayor or city council doesn't talk intelligently about transportation, do they know how cities actually work?
Day of voter registration is available at Hartford City Hall.
Slow Roll rides start in Parkville and twice a month (1st and 3rd Sundays) wander Hartford streets.  The rides have organically connected existing bicycle riders and introduced newer cyclists to the ease of cycling for transportation (and fun) in our city.  The rides are sometimes rolling meetings where the next infrastructure comment session or new business tumbles about in conversation as riders pair, separate, and pair again. New bike lanes are explored.  Parks and street routes not obvious to a newer rider are shared.  Speed dating and strategizing, all in the same group.

Increased bike parking at Hartford Public Library
The Hartford Public Library gets more bike parking to serve their large percentage of bicycle mounted clients.  Bike parking gets installed in a small park by the court house when jurors complain about no available bike parking.  Wethersfield Avenue deletes a parking lane and adds bike lanes that serve Colt Park, Bulkeley High School, and is an active transportation gateway to the Southend.  Zion Street and Farmington Avenue add bike lanes.  The Sigourney Street redesign pull in local Complete Streets experts and advocates to evaluate options including a protected bikeway.  Draft updated zoning regulations include forward thinking street types that serve pedestrian and bicycle travel modes.  The I-84 redesign public comment sessions and the working groups all include pedestrian and bicycling advocates.  A Complete Streets Challenge Team, formed by the city, is meeting monthly to identify and push actions that improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.  All these incremental, but real changes.  Before long, I predict that Hartford will even have a network of connected (and safer) cross city bicycle routes.  With engaged leadership, a blossoming and inclusive bike culture, and grass roots organizing, very real changes can take place within three to five years.
Bike parking added to a park near the court house
The Center for Latino Progress is starting a community bike space, BiCi Co., with youth programs and DIY bike repair.  In 2016, BiCi Co. will be offering used bicycles, parts, and accessories for sale.  Many months before BiCi Co. started, a group of local cyclists and advocates were discussing how to best bring a bike shop back to Hartford.  That group found a wonderful partner in the Center for Latino Progress, and can't wait to bring this vision of a membership, teaching bike shop to fruition.

BiCi Co. now has Demo Member Hours to introduce folks to Do It Yourself repair.  Learn new bike repair skills.  Get started as a BiCi Co. Volunteer.  Just hang out and talk about bikes.  The Demo Member Hours are very informal.  For those that haven't been here yet, we're at 97 Park Street.  Enter via the alley to the right of the building.  You don't have to be a member to attend these demo hours.

Demo Member Hours!

Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30pm (except Nov 25th)
Saturdays, 1:30-5:30pm (except Nov 28th)

For now, enter BiCi Co. via the alley.
Would this be happening without grass roots organizing?  No.  It wouldn't.  Hartford would be stuck in the car-centric street design rut that has until now held the city back.  Streets that aren't safe enough to ride leave all city residents with limited mobility options.  Supporting and growing the advocacy organizations, discussion groups, informal riding groups, and the BiCi Co. project will carry this momentum forward.  Winter is a time for preparing, planning, and ready-making for the re-explosion of cycling that occurs every early spring.  Don't go into hibernation.  The CT DOT projects don't get shelved when the temperature drops.  Public comment sessions continue year round, just like the cyclists on our city streets that don't have the economic luxury of a personal vehicle.  Stay engaged, and help these efforts root even stronger.
Invitation - Come learn about BiCi Co. while enjoying live, local music on Saturday, November 7th.  Hook and Ladder is just two blocks from the BiCi Co. Park Street location.  Bicycle commuters support our local economy, especially when beer is involved.  We'll see you there.  Show up on foot or bicycle and Tony C will give you a free hug!

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