Tag Archives: bike to work

BTWD Wrap

A little late (or a lot) but here we go… BTWD 2013 was a great time with perfect weather and good riding. The plan was on rails: up early, stretch, quick snack, fill water bottle, and roll out of the driveway a little after 5:00am for a meetup with the Commissioner of DEEP, Dan Esty.

A funny thing happened… My dog got sprayed by a skunk at 4:30am! But, being that I am not new to this skunk-related fire drill, I was able to wash him down and get myself cleaned up in 30 minutes, and depart on time. A little smelly, but on-time.

DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, and Bike-wizard Pete Salamone, downtoen Plantsville, CT @ 5:25am

DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, and Bike-wizard Pete Salamone, downtoen Plantsville, CT @ 5:25am

On-Time was the operative phrase for this day. The Commissioners are intent on arriving at the Blue Back Square, West Hartford, CT meetup at a very reasonable 7:15am, if not earlier. Timing a 26 mile ride is easy if you can keep up a good pace. We averaged 14mph over 26 miles, and were among the first to arrive at the meetup. The ride was uneventful, with good camaraderie and cheer, and nothing unexpected. Since I am mostly a solo rider, it was an interesting change of pace to be in a small group. As with other group activities, I was seeing things like road surface, intersections, and auto traffic in a different light. When alone it is easy to get more of a flow, where in a group it is about keeping together while pacing, and still making sure that you aren’t leaving anyone in a bad spot v-v traffic or traffic control.

Sunrise

Sunrise in Farmington, CT

By staying in the Quinnipiac River valley we were able to cut down on the hills, but we also stayed in the shadows until the sun was really up. This photo was taken in Farmington, CT near the Hill-Stead Museum property. A nice cruise down Farmington Avenue, including that sweet downhill section where you want it the most, and we arrived for bigwig schmoozing and I made the epic mistake of wolfing down a garlic bagel. Rookie move… I smelled like an Olive Garden died in my mouth until the next day…

Commissioners Redeker, Smith and Esty with CT State Sen. Beth Bye

Commissioners Redeker, Smith and Esty with CT State Sen. Beth Bye at Blue Back Square, West Hartford, CT

All was going swimmingly until the ride from West Hartford to State House Square, Hartford. This was not the police-guided ride of 2011, or even a normal group ride of experienced cyclists, but apparently a chance to be yelled at by strangers about obeying traffic signals! I am fine with rules of the road, but it was hard to take them seriously when we were confronted by a school bus running a red light at Boulevard and Sisson. Please: ride safe, ride smart, see and be seen, but believe me… anti-bike people will not convert because bike riders stop at every stopsign. Not a popular opinion with my friends at Bike Walk CT, but it is my opinion. Obeying that traffic light would have gotten me under the wheels of a big yellow school bus. At no time did I see the bus driver being shouted at by fellow motorists or scolded by any self-appointed school bus gestapo. But it was early. Who knows.

We had a little meet up at State House Square, saw some familiar faces, compared some ride notes, took a few photos and then started to make tracks back to our respective jobs… The  morning was wrapping up nicely, and then… on the ride back to the office, THIS happened:

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra (if you don't believe me, read his embroidered bike jacket)

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra (if you don’t believe me, read his embroidered bike jacket)

We were joined by current Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra as we waited for a chance to cross the road. He rode with us across Main Street and down Pearl, toward Trumbull, until realizing that we were not going anywhere near City Hall, and promptly split off on his own. And we were trying so hard to be nice, and not make any caviar jokes (Hartford news thing). But we had been joined by Mr. Mayor and it was a nice sight. However it happens, it is good to see civic leaders out on the streets and not just being limo’d around town. Enough of that kind of activity and maybe they can see how vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians are in their cities.

I made the ride home after work, tweaking my route to attempt to avoid some bad roads and intersections, but it still needs work. Downtown Newington (Main and Cedar) is a very bad place to be on a bike at any time. More so in the drive-time afternoon. As referenced in my previous post, Newington is a bad place to ride a bike, and it will get worse before it gets better because users of the CT Fastrak bike path will be riding to and from Newington Station on these same unimproved road shoulders with no safe way to get to their destination. But I digress (or was this post a digression from grouching about bad roads for bikes?)

All in all, a successful Bike To Work Day 2013, and a great way to kick off the fair-weather bike commuting season!

Bike To Work Day 2013 – Preamble

First off, if you want to see the 15 minute version of Mikael Colville-Andersen’s conceptual focus on Transit Planing and urbanization, Click Here . I highly recommend it.

Friday May 17 is this year’s Bike to Work Day, and my plan is to participate. I ride in to my job about twice a month, and I would like to ramp that up to once a week. It is a 18 mile ride, each way, if I take the most direct route. All of it is on surface streets with no bike lane or other bike/ped facilities. Because of that I have to be up for an early morning departure, and a 40 mile day on the bike, with a work day sandwiched into the middle.

But BTWD is more like Opening Day for fishing season. Even the people who won’t be out on the water at any other time will make it out for the Big Day.

Just like in 2011, my plan is to participate in DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty’s ride from Cheshire to Hartford (about 30 miles, one way). Notice that the distances I am talking about are very different from the target audience for many bicycle advocacy campaigns: people who live within 5 miles of their workplace. In a region with normal urbanization that might be a healthy sampling. In Hartford it is the land of the 30-60 minute car commute. That is 15-30+ miles of roadway, much of it interstate highways. So those people (like me) have a double whammy of swapping a relatively fast and sedentary car commute for a long and sweaty 90 minute grind on the bike. The immediate options are along the lines of move closer to the workplace, or find a new job closer to your home.

Those options are based on minimal if any change in the current situation. You don’t need special lanes or traffic control or traffic calming… you just need to have a commute that doesn’t feel like you are training for an ironman competition. But where someone like Colville-Andersen comes in is completely about the future, and looking to the past as a codex for projecting how the future can be better than today. I have been following bicycle advocacy and its related branches for over a decade, and I have started to realize that I become most aggrivated/critical when I forget to view things through my preferred lens of futurism, and get dragged into the muddy waters of the status quo.

I have bloviated about the CT Fastrak project a few times and am regularly depressed regarding the way its mediocrity is its defining feature. Half of it, and not the useful half, includes bike/pedestrian lane. It crosses within a kilometer of a university campus (CCSU, my alma mater), but does not include a stop for university students/staff. It is considered a boondoggle driven by federal transt infrastructure funding, as opposed to solving an actual public need. And while it will meet/create a transit need, the lack of a distinct focus means that the peoject is easy picking for detractors.

My futurist mind sees a Fastrak system that links downtown New Britain to CCSU, and CCSU to downtown Hartford. That makes the city accessible to both univeristy people and New Britain people, without forcing them to deal with the cost of cars and parking. It makes the university accessible to the people of Hartford. There is a planned East Street station, over half a mile on foot from the CCSU Student Center. That sounds close, but it is a slog, and currently you would be walking on a combination of busy two-lane and off-campus housing streets. Is that the kind of decision you make when accomodating people, or accomodating cars? Maybe the university starts a shuttle service, but with the State University system taking cuts to essential services in each budget, I don’t see a lot of spare change around to run a shuttle service.

I’ll have a nice blog post with photos of BTWD 2013, but my feeling is that it will be a long time and many more BTWDs before the landscape supports alternatives to automobile commuting in any substantial way.