It’s not about health

First of all there are several useful links that speak for themselves:

http://www.streetfilms.org/the-taming-and-reclaiming-of-prospect-park-west/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-support-bikes-on-Amtrak/116500671738246?ref=ts#

http://www.grist.org/article/2010-08-31-when-guerrilla-art-takes-bike-activism-to-the-streets-slideshow/P1

A while ago someone asked me if I was going to do the work sponsored Zumba program.  I was surprised by the question because I am not A) a good dancer B) into aerobics or C) someone who participates in after work functions.  When I told them no and asked why they thought I would, the response was:

“You’re into all that healthy stuff , riding your bike and sports”

I often get similar questions about my food because I am vegan.  Someone will see me with french fries or a cookie and say “Why are you eating that, you usually eat so healthy?”  And the response to these questions is the same:

It’s not about health.

I guess I should clarify, it not about MY health.  I avoid all animal products for the health of the animals and the planet and ride my bike for many of the same reasons.  Don’t get me wrong,  the health benefits  are great and have been proven scientifically over and over.  Riding keeps my blood pressure down, my weight under control and my lungs working well.  It also gets me a good dose of natural vitamin D from the sunlight and keeps my joints moving.   But I would still ride if none of this were true.

I ride because I don’t want to pollute the air.  I ride because I don’t want to my money to be used to drill in to the ground for oil.  I ride because every time I see wildlife killed by a car it hurts my heart.  I ride because it’s completely unnecessary that thousands of people are killed by reckless driving every year.  I ride because it is the best way I can protect and preserve the world that supports and sustains me.

When people assume that I bike to be healthy I always think they have it backward.  I am fit because I cycle but I do not cycle to be fit.  I cycle because it’s what I want to do, what I need to do and what needs to be done.

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Not all that wander are lost….

I, however, was LOST!
Yesterday I took a long ride.  Longer than I had planned. Longer than I had time for.  Longer than I was prepared for.
It started as Mondays usually do.  I rode my bike to work, expecting to leave a little early so I could ride to my CSA to pick up my weekly vegetables.  I also planned on playing basketball with some friends at 12:00 which meant I had to carry extra cloths and extra sneakers.  I wasn’t too worried about this though because I had found a very roomy messenger bag at our local Goodwill store over the weekend.

Everything was proceeding as expected when I got an email from the semi-local Freecycle email list.  Someone was offering “knitting supplies” and since my wife likes to crochet and knit I thought I would ask if I could pick it up. It turned out to be available so I was sent the address, which turned out to be in Southington not Cheshire as I expected.  While I usually think that Southington is too far away I thought I would give it a try.

Looking up the address, I had trouble deciding where I should go first.  The CSA was in North Haven  which is closer to Wallingford but it was shorter to get to Southington from work.  There was also the problem of timing.  I was supposed to be at the farm by 6:30PM and since I was leaving work with a 12 mile ride to Southington, it would be a close thing to make it back to North Haven, 14 by 6:30.  So when I was printing directions I decided: Farm first, Yarn second.

The problem was when I got out on the road with my pannier and my bag I started thinking about weight. Did I really want to carry tomatoes, apples, a melon and various other vegetables all the way up to Southington?  Besides if I’m a couple minutes late they won’t be too mad right?  So as I got to the turn to go north or south, I decided on north.  Up to Southington I went.  I thought I had remembered the directions pretty well and was riding along thinking I was making good time and maybe I could get there by 6:30.  That was until I got to an intersection I recognized and realized I had just gone in a 5 mile loop!

Not one to be deterred, I simply kept peddling on Route 10, because I had directions from there to where I was going. What I didn’t realize is there are a lot of hills in that direction.  I kept thinking OK, just make over the next hill and you will be close to the turn you need.  That went on for about an hour.  Finally when I got to the TOWN I was looking for , I missed the ROAD I needed to turn on and went about 2 miles the wrong way.  After turning around an finding the road I needed it was another 3 miles to my destination.  By the time I got there it was 6:15 and there was no way I was making the CSA on time.  But I did pick up the yarn and the woman giving it away was nice enough to refill my water bottle.

So for the next leg of my journey, I headed back to Route 10 and went south through Cheshire to get the North Haven near Quinnipiac.  By this time the sun is starting to set, I’m really tired and my legs are starting to protest.  I stopped at the first large grocery store on the way and got a few smoothie drinks( with Potassium) and a granola cookie.  I also switched the dark lenses out of my sunglasses and put the clear ones in.  As I continued I was glad to find I had reached the semi flat portion of Cheshire.  If there were anymore hills, it may have been time to call a friend!

So I arrive at the road that leads to the farm at 7:30, hoping they had left my vegetable share somewhere that I could find it.  This road is called Mt Carmel Ave and it is the kind of road that would lead to the Batcave.  Windy, narrow, rolling hills, no shoulder, lined by trees and full of potholes.  Beautiful in the daytime, kinda scary after dark.  So I head down the road, headlight on, reflector on my back to find the farm.  Now I usually don’t use the smallest chain ring, I mostly don’t need it.  I needed it today.  I had to climb 2 hills that were 1/4 mile each at about a 30 degree incline.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it but I did. And luckily my veggies were waiting for me in a cooler.

I packed them all in my bag, the plastic crate on the bike and my pannier.  With my work stuff, the yarn, and the vegetables I probably had about 20 extra pounds on the bike at this point.  And only 7 miles to get home.  Mercifully most of it was downhill but there are 2 spots between there and home that are really tough.  One is a hill that not only gets steeper the farther you go up it but goes around a corner and stretches for 3/4 of a mile.  The other is the hill I live on.  Now you would think that after living here for 10 years I would be used to it.  Perhaps because I’m always finishing on it or it’s a mental thing but this hill still wears me out every time.

I got home exhausted, sweaty, cold and ravenous.  I left work at 4:30 and got home at 8:30.  After tracing my route I went 37 miles when it should have been 27. .  This is a distance I have done before but not with that amount of climbing.  Do I regret riding that far?  No.  Do I regret not have the directions right?  Yes.  Was it better that sitting in the office? Definitely.

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Tour De Pawn

A couple months ago my bike was stolen.  It was locked to a rack at Yale and someone decided I didn’t deserve it anymore.  OR that it was a quick way to get money.
That was a pretty upsetting experience.  I was very angry. I filed a report with the police, contacted all the people I know in New Haven , and posted on Craigslist in case anyone saw it.  There was no response, of course, so I continued to silently wish ill of the poor excuse for a human being that took it.
On the more productive side, I filed a claim with my homeowner’s insurance.  They sent me a form to fill out the value of the bike and all that I had put on it.  I filled it out and they were very prompt to send me a check for the value less the $500 deductible.  Well done Amica.

I have not replaced this bike yet because I can’t seem to make up my mind whether to get something similar or something more practical.  The stolen bike was a 2005 Jamis Quest:What I like about this bike was that it was a) FAST!  , b) comfortable and c) FAST!  It was a steel frame with carbon components and  aero wheels.  The official Jamis description said something like “You won’t be winning any races  but this bike eats up pavement”.   Truer words could not be said.  Even after adding a rear rack and pannier this bike could move.

While speed made me happy on everyday commutes and long rides,  there were times when I wanted more ability to carry cargo.  Don’t get me wrong I carried many large loads but they were precarious at times.   Also the times I rode just for the sake of riding were few and far between.   So couple that fact with my desire to conserve natural resources  and you see my hesitation to buy a new bike. I could replace it with the latest model but then I think about getting something more suited to carrying stuff.    I looked at an Aurora Elite , also by Jamis ,  because it has improved carry capacity and I like the disc brakes.  With all it’s advantages I still wonder if I might miss the speed of a pure road bike.

In my current state of indecision I decided to check the New Haven pawn shops in hopes of finding my missing friend.  I didn’t hold out much hope but if I could find my bike it was worth a try.  Mapquest listed 10 in the general New Haven area of which it turned out 2 were out of business, 3 only bought and sold gold and jewelry,  2 were closed and although 3 had a few bikes none were mine.  While I expected as much it was still sad.

I have neither resolved my indecision nor brought the person that caused it to justice.  I hope for better luck in the future.

Posted in Bicycle, CT, Society of Cyclists | 2 Comments

Bikes & Government

It has been an interesting day in my little corner of bicycle culture.  I saw 2 cyclists this morning walking the dog , rode to work , as usual,  got an email from League of American Bicyclists and had a discussion with the local government about bike racks.

Lets get to the important stuff first.  LAB sent me an email today with the following text:

Protect vital bicycle funding programs- demand proportionality in rescissions! Take Action!
The Jobs Bill passed by Congress last week contains a $2.2 billion rescission of transportation funds from state Departments of Transportation. In many states, the DOT will likely target bike funding programs for the money to send back to the federal government – unless local advocates speak up and make sure that doesn’t happen.  States must report which program funds are affected by August 25th- so action is needed this week!

Unlike previous rescissions there is no proportionality requirement calling for equal distribution of funding program cuts. Instead, the law gives the States maximum flexibility to choose the unobligated balances of funds to be rescinded.

The amount each state has to rescind is up to $200 million for the largest states.  Many programs that fund bicycle projects are threatened by these rescissions including. These programs are often unfairly targets for cuts or rescissions, and in some cases have been completely gutted.

Take action now! Please contact your Governor and ask that rescissions be done equitably across programs, and that those that traditionally fund bicycling projects not be unfairly targeted.

While this first struck me as being an premature reaction , it occurs to me that by the time they remove funding it’s an uphill battle to get it back.  I think it’s better to let them know early that the citizens want bike infrastructure than to scream when they decide to cut it.  Anyway, I encourage you to follow the link and contact your governor.

On a lighter note, when I left the house at 6:30 AM to walk the dog I saw a biker in a bright orange jacket riding on a cross street up ahead of me.  I wanted to catch up to see where they were going but you don’t move too quickly when your companion wants to smell every tree and pee on most of them.   The next person I saw rolled by wearing either a jersey for a lifeguard or a swede. Either way he looked like a pretty confident rider and again I wanted to have a conversion but when he pulled over and I walked by he was on his phone.

So I brought the dog home and got ready to take my ride to work.  The ride was uneventful but relaxing.  The slightly unusual thing was that I was riding along the same route I take every day and suddenly at beginning of one of the small hills I got this burst of energy and sprinted up the hill.  And where I usually get to the top  a little winded, I came over the crest feeling good.    That lasted until I sat down at my desk and looked at my work for the day.

Lastly, I received word a little while ago that the Wallingford Town Council would be discussing bike racks at a meeting tonight.  I had brought up the idea of installing bike racks at meeting about parking last year as a way to get people out of their cars and free up parking.  It seemed well received by most people but nothing was done about it for the next few months.  Recently the local paper did a story about me trying to get them to install bike racks which apparently got some attention because they put it on the agenda tonight.  Of course I had to attend and I was slightly nervous that they would be trying to ban installing them or something.  As it turned out most of the council was in favor of them.  A few were worried about safety and image but I was glad to see the amount of support that I did.  Now it’s up to me to get them some information on cost, placement and other options but for the moment I’m choosing to be optimistic.

You know that old saying “You can’t fight city hall” ? Well it’s nice to know that sometimes you don’t have to.

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The good, the bad and … well you know

I’m on a lot of email lists.  I get email from MoveOn, NRDC, Earth Justice, Freecycle,  League of American Bicyclists and lots more.  Sifting through my Inbox could be a full-time job.  Unfortunately I have a full-time job.  Some days however my email is overrun with discussions about bikes.    I got a couple of things today that deserve mentioning, each in its own category.

THE GOOD

I don’t remember how I found out but a few months ago I found someone trying to start a business creating highly reflective stickers for bikes.  They were using a site called Kickstarter where you can have multiple people donate money to help a project. Well I was browsing the bi monthly email I get from them and found this:

Post-Car Adventuring Guidebooks

These guys are trying to create car-free travel guides for different cities and looking for some help.  I think this is a great idea.  It much easier to relax when you don’t have to worry about where to park, where to get gas, if someone will break into your car, and you can afford to spend more because you’re not paying for gas or parking.  Plus most places are better seen from the seat of your bike than through the car window.  So skip the Starbucks today and give these guys $5.

The Bad

Another email list I’m on is Elm City Cycling, which for those who aren’t familiar is a bicycle advocacy group in New Haven, CT.  They keep pretty good track of cycling in CT and today someone sent out a link to the state’s online bicycle map.  Now I’m not saying a bike map is bad, I think it’s a great idea. The execution however leaves a bit to be desired.  This is what my town looks like :

Dark Green shows most suitable roads to ride on, Light Green show more suitable roads, Orange is suitable, Yellow is less suitable and Red is least suitable.  Can you find the Dark Green?  It’s tough.  So according to them most of my town is  barely rideable and the same street goes from OK to bad to scary within the space of 2 miles.

My problem here is not only is the design of the web site sub par but the roads they recommend as passable(Rt 5) are much busier and less bike friendly than Main St which 3 blocks east.  Also am I supposed to ride the suitable part of the road and then dismount and walk the bad part?  Sorry, no dice.  Lastly I would argue by labeling roads “least suitable” would discourage people from riding out of fear.

So if you want my advice:  Until they publish a Post-Car guide for your town, don’t trust the state to tell you where to ride.

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Ride your bike!

I’ve been meaning to create this blog for a while.  Unfortunately I also procrastinate a lot.  Anyway the reason I wanted to write this if to hopefully get more people on their bicycles.  The reasons abound on why you should ride:  improve your health, save money, clean the air , and on and on.    I will expand on  these themes in later posts and I’m sure there are many other blogs who talk about it.

However , the main reason I say to get on your bike is IT’S FUN!  I ride to work every day and although I will have a hard time saying going to work is fun, the ride in always is.  I nod to the people walking their dogs, I say hi to the joggers, and during the school year I race the kids to the next stop sign.   I see what’s going on in my town (Wallingford) and I get to work more awake than caffeine will make me.  I’m almost disappointed when I get there because I wish the ride was longer.  My co-workers think I’m crazy but I can’t understand why anyone would choose to sit in a metal box surrounded by other metal boxes so they can get to work and sit in another box.

Unfortunately I am cog in the great corporate machine that I despise.  They tell me what I have to do all day and determine when I have to be there.  But how I get there is up to me.  For that 20 minute ride I’m doing what I want.    For that short time I am a revolutionary.  Every morning and every night I feel good about what I am doing.

SO when I say ride you bike, I am trying to spread that feeling.  I’m trying to get more of us cyclists out there.  Try it. I think you’ll like.

Posted in Alternate Transportation, Bicycle, Commuting | 1 Comment