Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category
When you’ve lived in a place for awhile and move away, the gradual changes become more obvious with each separate visit. But I think all longtime residents of Washington DC would agree that development in the city is accelerating. Neighborhoods like Shaw, Navy Yard, Bloomingdale, and 14th Street (does this stretch of 14th from about Q to U Streets have its own name yet?) have seen significant upheaval in the last year or so since I’ve moved away. And the sheer amount of construction that’s happening even now is staggering.
This past weekend we caught the Crafty Bastards art market (following the trends from Adams Morgan to Union Market), saw the new streetcars on their test runs along the H Street tracks, and happened upon some Art All Night activities in Shaw. Performers scaling the column of a building, a few pieces played for the crowd in the street by the Batala drummers, and masses of people crowding the reimagined Wonder Bread Factory.
And also: lots of new hometown brews.
I wanted to do a quick write-up on what it’s like to volunteer with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SB Bike) since we’ve had a great time working with this organization over the past couple of months. SB Bike is involved with bicycle advocacy work and is an incredible part of the community here. Bici Centro is the leg of SB Bike that operates as a community bike shop, teaching people how to fix up their bikes and refurbishing donated bikes. You can volunteer or work on your own bike during the Bici Centro open shop hours. Volunteers share their know-how and almost every tool you might need is on hand.
There are other ways to volunteer as well: joining in advocacy efforts like working towards new bike lanes; checking bikes at the valet for Santa Barbara Bowl events; educating youth about bike safety; and helping out at various special events listed on the SB Bike calendar.
Last weekend, SB Bike was out at the first (annual?) Santa Barbara Open Streets event, tabling with information about bike resources and advocacy in Santa Barbara. Open Streets is a worldwide project – modeled off of the weekly Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia – to close streets to motorized traffic for a day and take in the pleasure of people-powered movement. Bici Centro was also set up at Open Streets, helping with quick mechanical fixes for riders.
This weekend, SB Bike hosted a volunteer appreciation barbecue in its backyard space. SB Bike loves its volunteers and definitely made us all feel recognized – with live music, great food, bike-related giveaways, and a fire for all to gather ’round. This is a great city for cycling that’s only getting better. If you want to get involved in the cycling community in Santa Barbara, check out the website for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition at www.sbbike.org.
One of my favorite legs of the journey so far was taking Historic Columbia River Highway for sections of our route from The Dalles into Portland. The construction of this scenic highway first started in 1913, but in the 1930s it was beginning to be thought of as too narrow and dangerous. Interstate 84, which runs along at river level, replaced the Columbia River Highway by the 1960s.
More recent efforts to restore and reconnect the old highway are bringing the highway back for a scenic alternative to I-84. Some portions are open to all traffic, but other sections had been converted into trails closed to motorized vehicles. The stretch between Cascade Locks and Troutdale (just outside Portland) was memorable for its lush waterfalls, serpentine wanderings, and sweeping vistas.
Gorgeous, and enormous, Multnomah Falls.
One of the biggest perks of staying with family: being fed huge meals! Korean dinners, waffle breakfasts, and as much fresh fruit as we could eat. It was wonderful spending hours catching up and sharing stories.
Portland’s giving us a taste of Pacific Northwest weather, as it’s been mostly in the 60s and a bit drizzly. We had the chance to walk around downtown and see some cool transit in action, including the Portland streetcar.
Some neat old factories-turned-condos in the downtown, as well.
We browsed around Powell’s Books, had some beer and some coffee, and skipped the enormous line for Voodoo Doughnut (very much reminded me of the perpetual line outside of Georgetown Cupcake).
Next we’re heading to the coast – the other coast! – where we’ll mostly be following the Oregon Coast along Highway 101. Advice, recommendations, comments are always much appreciated.
Our day to Grand Rapids was longer than we had anticipated. We had originally planned to head a little off-route to get to a campground, but halfway through the day we decided to shoot for a different campground that would get us closer to our goal for the next day. We pushed on, taking a snack and stretch break in a park when we thought we only had 10 miles left to our day. When we finally rolled up to the campground with 70 miles under our belts, we found a huge CLOSED sign.
With a sigh, we decided to head into Grand Rapids and look for a host who was willing to let us camp in their yard. We called Nate, a guy who was listed on Warm Showers, and he agreed to have us for the night. After we climbed the big hill to his place, Nate and his wife Susan greeted us and had lots of questions about our trip. They are both originally from Iowa and love living in Grand Rapids, which seems to be a city with a lot of exciting things sprouting up. In Iowa, it’s apparently all cornfields. (And RAGBRAI, which adds to the excitement.) We were fortunate to stay indoors that evening, as it stormed throughout the night – very grateful for the last minute hospitality!
Grand Rapids to Muskegon was basically one long stretch along the Musketawa bike trail. It was nice to get off the roads at first, but after twenty-five or so miles of riding the same trail, we grew weary of the same view.
From Muskegon, we took the Lake Express ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Lake Express is a high-speed automobile and passenger ferry that crosses the lake in about 2.5 hours. Bicycles get to board first – you just roll your bike on and secure it to the wall racks with a strap.
We met a fun group of four cyclists who were headed home from a brewery bike tour of Michigan, and they ended up inviting them to crash at their place in Waukesha for the night and join them at a brewpub on the way home. It added another 25 miles to our trip, but it was a refreshing change to ride with others (into the sunset)! We drank delicious Wisconsin beers and ate flatbread pizzas with our new friends at Bernie’s Tap Room, a bike-friendly bar on the main drag in Waukesha.
Great fun, and we’re now in the great state of Wisconsin! We’re taking time to enjoy Madison before we set off again. Recent milestones: Crossed the 1,000 mile mark of our trip a couple days ago, and entered a new time zone. We’re on Central Time now.
Leaving Pittsburgh was much less straightforward than entering Pittsburgh via the GAP Trail, as we had to navigate a succession of bridges through the fairly well-trafficked surrounding area. We weren’t following the Adventure Cycling maps yet, so for the most part I pieced together routes that other cyclists had shared online. This worked better than looking up directions on Google Maps or drawing lines across state maps because you get an idea of which roads are navigable by bicycle. Google Maps had led us astray several times by trying to put us on dangerous roads (even using their “bicycling directions,” which are very much in beta).
We rode through the quiet industrial area of Neville Island and crossed the Ohio River again into Sewickley. This stretch along the river from Sewickley to Ambridge passed through pleasant suburban towns. Unfortunately, a bridge being closed near Ambridge meant we couldn’t cross over again there and had to find another meandering route to avoid riding on the busy Ohio River Boulevard. Sometimes there were side streets we could take that paralleled the route, but eventually we reached an area where we couldn’t continue north that way and had to detour. It was a hot day combined with stressful navigation – I called for us to stop early that day and make up the miles tomorrow.
Navigation the next two days was better because we decided to follow the BicyclePA route the rest of the way into Erie. Bike Route A is mostly a gently-rolling, two-lane road that runs across north to south (and vice versa) in the western part of the state. It was a fairly monotonous series of rolling hills, but navigation was straightforward – we only had to follow the street signs marking the route. From the little we saw of Erie, it seemed to be your typical beach town. It was nice to camp right on Lake Erie, and though it cooled down fast after sunset, you could sink your feet into the still-warm sand.
From Erie, we picked up the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) Northern Tier route to continue west along the coast of Lake Erie. There were many beautiful picnic areas that overlooked the lake, so we stopped often to take in the sight. Following the ACA map sections was great – worth the cost to not have to deal with mapping the route out ourselves. It also lists amenities along the route, including campsites and places to stock up on groceries.
Ashtabula was one of our favorite stops because it had a superb cafe called Harbor Perk where lots of locals gathered. We took a break to catch up on emails and arrange hosting for the night, and in that time we got to talk to several friendly people who took interest in our trip. Hello and thank you to Karen, who kindly offered us a place to stay if our lodging fell through that night. She’s hosted cyclists who have come through the town on the Northern Tier route before. (An aside: Another random act of kindness came the next day, from Bob in Grand River who gave us soda – or pop – as a midday pick-me-up!)
We stayed with our first Warm Showers host in Geneva, a great guy named Richard who lived next door to his cousin. When we arrived, we got to watch a tree fall – they’re clearing space for a pasture to start keeping cows. Richard was very welcoming and we all chatted well into the night, exchanging stories about our bike tours. It’s easy to stay up past daylight with electric lights! He’s done a bike tour from San Diego to where he lives now, and I hope we inspired him to do the stretch to Washington, DC since it’s a great route.
Before we ever reached Cleveland, we had been warned by people as far east as the Pennsylvania-Ohio border that the filming of the new Captain America movie was causing traffic havoc in downtown Cleveland. We had braced ourselves for the worst by the time we approached Cleveland – to find that there was a bike trail that led us around the congestion. We never had to deal with movie filming traffic, just bypass a high water area near the shore. On our way into downtown Cleveland, we also passed through Bratenahl, an incredibly wealthy area with some of the largest houses we’ve ever seen in person.
In Cleveland, we met up with Rich, a guy we met camping on the C&O, and his great family. His work schedule was flexible enough that we could take a day to see Cleveland, visiting the extensive Cleveland Museum of Art, the famous Sokolowski’s polish cafeteria, and Great Lakes Brewery.
The ride from Cleveland to Toledo took us two days. We camped for a night about midway along the route, then picked up the North Coast Inland Trail from Clyde to Elmore. Elmore had a cute downtown where we took yet another ice cream and coffee break. Stayed with Taylor, an electrical engineering student at the University of Toledo, in Toledo. We cooked dinner and had some fun conversations. It’s funny how such a late sundown causes you to lose track of time. We were exhausted by day’s end, having ridden 66 miles that day.
Always break for ice cream.
We visited New Jersey a couple weekends ago and got the chance to ask Adam’s 94-year-old grandfather, John Dienst, for a few words of wisdom from a unique cross-country trip of his own from his teenage days.
Do you have any advice for us on our bike trip?
I think that a trip years ago was better than a trip today, because now you have high-speed cars and all this stuff. When I went up to Alaska, it was with a Model A Ford – thirty-five miles an hour. I crossed the continent, 4,700 miles or so, in that $20 car. Twenty dollars was the advertised price from the Ford dealer.
So you got it for less?
No, I didn’t ask for less than twenty dollars! But people say, “Gee, that’s cheap.” You gotta stop and think. Somebody said to me, “How much were you making at the time?” And I was working at a gas station pumping gas, 12 hours a night, 7 nights a week, $15 a week. Couldn’t even buy that car for fifteen dollars!
What was the most interesting part of your trip when you were going cross-country?
Ha, there were a lot of interesting parts. See, I converted the car to sleep two people. A fellow I went to school with wanted to come along so I said all right, I’d like the company anyhow. I took the seats that you sleep on, and I converted them so they could go straight back. The only thing is if your feet hung there, you put them on a 5-gallon can or something. Feet didn’t matter – it was comfortable.
We stopped at Springfield, Illinois to go to Lincoln’s house, then there was a fair going on so we stayed a couple days. We were working the shills. You know what a shill is? That’s when somebody’s selling something at a carnival or something, and you buy the first ones to get the crowd to buy. And this guy was from New York, he was selling knife sharpeners or some darn thing, and when he gives the speech you go, “oh, I’ll take one! I’ll take one” and it gets the crowd to buy. I probably got three or four dollars of pay for that, but that was money for gasoline. We didn’t need a lot of money but for gasoline. When I left, it was 10 cents a gallon in New Jersey, then it was 7 cents a gallon in Illinois, so gas wasn’t that much of a problem. And we’d sleep in the car.
I first noticed the addition of this new bike lane on Gallows Road on Bike to Work Day 2012. It’s a great way to connect the area with the W&OD Trail, though there is a long way to go before the casual cyclist feels comfortable here. Formerly I took the sidewalk for the part of my ride that goes along Gallows, but the lane is great if you’re comfortable riding next to high-speed traffic. However, I find this part of Fairfax County a tough situation for anyone riding a bike, as I’ve been yelled at by pedestrians for being on the sidewalk (before there was a lane) and yelled at by drivers for being in the road waiting to turn onto Gallows (to get into the lane). It’s usually a lack of understanding, as legally I’m allowed to be in either.
It looks like there are plans to extend the Gallows Road bike lanes to Old Courthouse Road in phase 3 of the project, to be completed this year.
Thanks to Mary’s Errandonnee challenge for inspiring me to grab a shot of this lane!
The latest book by renowned city planner Jeff Speck is Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time (2012). This is a follow-up to Suburban Nation, his popular work on sprawl in America’s suburbs.
What I really enjoy about Jeff Speck’s writing is that he explains city planning concepts in a way that is universally relatable – to anyone with or without a background in planning, whether a resident of the city or the suburbs. It’s clear his writing is meant to grow mass support for urban living and walkable cities, and though he employs plenty of statistics to make his arguments, he keeps the material from sounding dry or inaccessible.
Speck moved to Washington, DC after leaving his home in South Beach, Miami, and has also lived in the various towns and cities he has helped plan. This means he can draw upon plenty of firsthand experience of what makes a city livable and capable of drawing new residents. (If you live in DC, you’ve likely seen his flatiron-style home at 10th and Florida Avenue NW.) His city planning experience also lends itself to his writing, and he pulls many real-world examples of the advantages of walkability and what makes certain cities so magnetic.
Speck centers the text on his “General Theory of Walkability” which centers on four conditions of what makes a good walk. It must be (1) useful, (2) safe, (3) comfortable, and (4) interesting. From this theory, he then presents ten steps for creating a more walkable city. As a self-proclaimed generalist, he recognizes that to design a city one cannot disregard cars, bicycles, transit, or the other elements at work. Speck makes sure to touch on these points in turn. The result is a book that is tuned into the physical and cultural landscape of cities today, as well as the demographic and geographic shifts currently at play in America. Jeff Speck didn’t write Walkable City for the planners, but for the people who live in these communities.
Jeff Speck’s Twitter feed is @JeffSpeckAICP.
When I first moved to DC, I bought a used Trek mountain bike from a seller on Craigslist for $140. I used it to get from home to school and work and back, riding down from Columbia Heights in the morning and back up through Adams Morgan in the evenings. And knowing nothing of bicycle maintenance at the time, I once let a wheel get so badly out of true that I eventually had to alternate between carrying it and half-lifting, half-rolling it the six blocks to the nearest bike shop.
My housemates and many of my friends also rode to get around – it’s just the most practical mode of transportation within the city – but I can’t recall riding for the pure pleasure of it. Cycling was simply a more reliable option than taking the bus: my commute always took the same time and I didn’t have to wait 40 minutes at night for a bus that never came. (That used to happen pretty often when I worked late shifts at work.) On my mountain bike I was slow, but faster than when I was on foot.
2012 was the first year I rode for more than pure transportation purposes. I bought my first new road bike with a recommendation from my friend, who’s an avid road cyclist. I led a team of a six to ride in the Bike MS charity ride in June, which meant I had to train for distances I had never even imagined riding before: a total of 100 miles over two days. Besides getting food poisoning a couple weeks before the ride and losing a lot of fitness there, the ride went well and everyone on my team finished the ride happy and exhausted. We polished off a couple pizzas and about half a chocolate cake afterwards. By then I also knew to keep my chain clean and lubed and how to change a flat tire, and the function of most bike parts.
I’ll pull just a few numbers about my first year of getting more into cycling. Most of these stats come from Strava, where I’ve recorded maybe 80-90% of my rides this year.
Most Elevation Gain in One Month: 9,910 feet in August. I did some riding in Maryland, rode the Reston Bike Club (Metric) Century, and part of John’s Hoppy 100 ride, which I hope he makes into an annual event. I know people that climb more than this in a single ride, but I’m happy with my progress.
Most Mileage in One Month: 391.2 miles in October. This includes a weekend ride to Harpers Ferry and back, the Seagull Century, and several commutes. It’s also the month I got my Surly, which replaced my road bike and became my do-everything, pleasure-to-ride bike.
Longest Single Ride: 127.1 miles. This was my first brevet, the Flatbread 200k.
Mileage on Capital Bikeshare: Over 150 miles. This number may even be closer to 200 miles, considering I usually don’t record my short Bikeshare trips. It’s a great service to get around town, and I’d say a year-long membership is essential for anyone living in DC.
Total Mileage for 2012: 2,397.3 miles since mid-March. I’m shooting for at least 3,000 miles next year.
Below is a screencap displaying my local ride map for the year, created with Jonathan O’Keeffe’s multiple ride mapping tool. The line thicknesses represent frequency of riding specific routes. Suggestions for where to ride more in 2013? Arlington streets don’t appear to be represented, though I take the Custis Trail quite often.
I’m sure all this riding balances out the beer.
What a successful event! The Hains Point 100, a century ridden entirely as loops around Hains Point, was an idea by Megan Jones sprouted a few weeks ago. She decided to make it a fundraising ride for WABA’s Women & Bicycles advocacy program, which will work to support women’s cycling in the DC area.
The Census Bureau reports that women make up only 2,985 of the 9,300 DC residents who commute by bicycle. To put it another way, there are more than twice as many male cyclists than female cyclists. WABA’s new program intends to address this gender gap in cycling and get more women on bikes. Megan noted this morning that the ratio of women to men at the Hains Point 100 ride was very similar, but that it was important for everyone to help in this effort.
Lots of great local sponsors – and one not-so-local sponsor, New Belgium Brewing – pitched in to provide snacks, prizes for riders, and donations. Plenty of people brought food (especially baked goods) to keep the picnic table full as well. Hains Point worked as a great location for this kind of ride since it’s a short 3-mile loop and riders could take a break or grab snacks when they came back to the meeting point.
I rode a few laps and got to see lots of DC area cycling folks out today on a beautiful winter day. Megan (and others) successfully rode over 100 miles each, and raised a lot of money to support the cause by putting on this event.
You can donate here: WABA’s Women & Bikes Program.