Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in DC.

Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Volunteering with Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition

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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.

Bici Centro Open Shop

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.

SB Bike at Santa Barbara Open Streets

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.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 10th, 2013 at 10:38 am

Historic Highway 30 and Portland

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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.

Cycling Historic Highway 30

Gorgeous, and enormous, Multnomah Falls.

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.

Breakfast with aunt

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.

Downtown Portland

Some neat old factories-turned-condos in the downtown, as well.

Convert Building

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.

Written by Crystal Bae

August 1st, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Crossing Lake Michigan into Wisconsin

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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.

Aboard the Lake Express

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.

Beer List at Bernie's Tap Room

Cyclists enjoy beer

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.

Written by Crystal Bae

June 15th, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Week Two: Pittsburgh, Erie, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Toledo

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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.

Up towards Beaver Falls

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.

Entering Cleveland

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.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Flight at Great Lakes Brewing

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.

Ice cream break

Always break for ice cream.

Written by Crystal Bae

June 12th, 2013 at 12:53 am

John Dienst: Getting to Alaska

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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.

John DienstDo you have any advice for us on our bike trip?

Keep moving.

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.

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Written by Crystal Bae

May 20th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Gallows Road Bike Lane

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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.

Bike lane on Gallows Road

Thanks to Mary’s Errandonnee challenge for inspiring me to grab a shot of this lane!

Written by Crystal Bae

February 22nd, 2013 at 10:09 am

Recommended read: “Walkable City” by Jeff Speck

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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.

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

“It turns out the way we move largely determines the way we live.” (55)

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.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 16th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Year 2012 in Cycling

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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.

Anatomy of a Road Bike, via aarline.info

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.

2012 Full Year in Bike Rides

I’m sure all this riding balances out the beer.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 8th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Hains Point 100 for Women and Bikes

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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.

Cyclists gathering for Hains Point 100

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.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 23rd, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Highlights from a long weekend in Georgia

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Spent the last weekend and some change in Georgia visiting a couple friends who have moved out there recently. I’d never before been to Atlanta, so it was a good chance to explore what lay beyond the reaches of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) – the world’s busiest airport.

High Museum of Art in Midtown

High Museum of Art, Atlanta

The High Museum is the largest art museum in the Southeast, housing a huge and varied collection. It is part of the Woodruff Arts complex, which includes a theatre, symphony hall, and restaurant. In their own words, the High’s collection includes “an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art.”

The museum also has a focus on folk art, with many pieces pushing the bounds of art brut (outsider art). It was fascinating to see the work of self-taught artists working in a variety of mediums, including found materials. One of these artists was the Reverend Howard Finster, whose outdoor museum Paradise Garden is a strange and exaggerated celebration of god. Finster was a Baptist minister who heard a voice one day telling him to devote his life to making religious art. The High Museum owns part of the original Paradise Garden installation, and dedicates a room to his work.

Howard Finster - folk art

We saw furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as the famous Red Blue Chair by Gerrit Rietveld. I tend towards the more modern and contemporary works, and my favorite exhibits at the High included Anish Kapoor’s concave dish of mirrors (you can play with light and sound) and the special exhibit “Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913-2013″. One strange rule was that for the special exhibit we couldn’t take photos with dedicated cameras, but cell phone camera photos were allowed – anyone know why that would be the case?

As with many other institutions in the city, Coca-Cola is the largest benefactor of the museum. The Coca-Cola Company headquarters is in Atlanta, as well as the World of Coca Cola – which we didn’t visit.

The High is located on Peachtree Street, but so is supposedly everything else in Atlanta. The name “Peachtree” is a popular street name here, which makes things just a bit confusing for outsiders. There are even places where streets of the same name cross each other. I’ll meet you at the intersection of Peachtree and Peachtree.

High Museum of Art, Atlanta

It’s easy to while away half a day exploring the High Museum, and that we did.

Georgia Aquarium

We went downtown to visit the impressive Georgia Aquarium on Monday, since it would be less crowded than on the weekend. This aquarium is notable for its size – the largest in the world – and the number of species it holds. Especially interesting is that is the only place you can find whale sharks outside of Asia; the Georgia Aquarium houses four of these strange and beautiful creatures. There are several enormous tanks in the Ocean Voyager gallery, the most impressive of which you can walk through in a glass tunnel.

Georgia Aquarium - Ocean Voyager

Getting Around

Atlanta is a city built for driving, with highways cutting straight into the city and a major spaghetti junction that’s often referenced on the traffic report. Luckily, we managed to avoid driving during rush hour, which I’ve heard is horrendous (though probably not much worse than Tysons Corner traffic, I assume). Though walking within certain areas in the city is manageable, it can be tough to walk from one neighborhood to another, due in part to the sprawl of the city and in part to the highways that divide Atlanta’s urban areas. I did see a few bike lanes, but only a handful of cyclists.

However, there is a limited public transportation system in Atlanta, named MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). MARTA consists of four subway lines, but they only run in two lines within the city: east-west or north-south – with stations spread relatively far apart. And the buses run about every 40 minutes, making it tough to rely on for quick trips.

Despite these major walkability issues, Atlanta has a lot of culture and history, strong economic drive, and is well worth exploring. It started as an important southern city at the crossroads of major rail lines and has a proven record of rebirth through times of hardship. I’m hoping to return one day to learn more, catch up with friends, and explore the many parks of Atlanta.

Midtown Atlanta

Written by Crystal Bae

October 21st, 2012 at 9:25 pm