Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bill Dunn announces his candidacy for District 19

Delaware Bikes is proud to announce Bill Dunn as a candidate for 19th District Representative

Bill believes that better planning is important to protect all the residents of Delaware. Development must be carefully paced to insure we do not make traffic worse, increase costs to taxpayers, or jeopardize our environment and our children’s future.

Business development and jobs demand healthy, safe and efficient commuting options. As a cyclist himself, Bill is an ardent supporter of Complete Streets implementation, the Trails and Pathways initiative, and Active Transportation funding in general. As the victim of a bicycle crash involving an aggressive driver, he understands our vulnerability as a participant in vehicular traffic, and the importance of non-motorized safety.

Among Bill's recent community involvement and experience:
  • Recent Past-President of the Civic League for New Castle County
  • President of the Milltown-Limestone Civic Alliance
  • Recently, Unanimously Elected, Chairperson of the 19th RD’s Democratic Committee
  • Senator Blevins Appointee to the Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority
  • Steering Committee Member of Progressive Democrats of Delaware
  • Member of Americans for Democratic Action
Bill's opponent in this year's race is incumbent Kim Williams, an Education leader from the Red Clay School District. You can read all about both candidates in the Hockessin Community News.

Encourage your friends, and get out the vote for September 9th!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Deadly weekend? Bike Delaware absent on critical facility upgrades

Bike Delaware loves to report on injuries and fatalities on the road. Yet they are conspicuously absent when it comes to advocating for improved safety conditions. And they could be at the forefront - as seen in other state's advocacy organizations - considering that they employ Delaware's only full time bicycling lobbyist. To boot:


Above: Conditions along the abandoned Route 72 Multi-Use Pathway (MUP) south of Newark are deplorable, to say the least. This arterial highway is centrally located in New Castle County, and with this MUP, offers one of a very few truly safe crossings of I95. There are also many key destinations along this corridor. Yet, bicyclists find themselves hovering dangerously close to high speed traffic, due to deterioration and narrowing of the facility.

If this is what we have to look forward to with Trails and Pathways, we're in serious trouble. Multiple appeals to DelDOT's "Report a Road Condition" on-line form produced no results in clearing this tree growing up a utility pole (and mostly blocking the pathway).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Where are drivers most likely to yield to pedestrians?

From Angie Schmitt, Streetsblog -- You’re approaching an un-signalized crosswalk. How likely are drivers to obey the law and stop to let you cross the street?

According to a national survey of experts, that depends on a few factors, including the width of the road you’re trying to cross, how many other pedestrians are in the area, and even what part of the country you happen to be in.

Robert Schneider, professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin, and his co-author Rebecca Sanders interviewed almost 400 professionals from the fields of public health, planning and engineering, and safe streets advocacy around North America. They asked them to assess the likelihood of a motorist yielding to a pedestrian in their town at different kinds of crosswalks that do not have traffic signals.

Some interesting patterns emerged. Here are the three major factors that, according to respondents, influence whether drivers show courtesy to pedestrians. [Full story ...]


Poster's note: Drivers rarely stop for bicyclists and pedestrians as they attempt to cross Wyoming Ave on the Pomeroy Trail, as demonstrated in the video above. Maybe it's because a check of Delaware law reveals a fine of only $2 to $25, making any type of enforcement simply not worth it. The result is warning signs that are so vague, and so toothless, as to be laughable.

The State of Massachusetts is serious about non-motorized crosswalk safety. Maybe it's because they can be, given fines as high as $200.

Related:  Why crosswalks are so dangerous in Delaware

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Casualty of Trails and Pathways

If you're environmentally conscience, building the final connection between Phase 1 of the Mike Castle Trail and Delaware City (Phase 2) is a bit disturbing. Unlike the elevated boardwalk design proposed for Phase 3 of the Industrial Track Rail Trail, this project is filling in sensitive wetland areas, with massive amounts of layered dirt. Below is a series of photos taken this past weekend, illustrating its impacts on the environment.

The brand new right of way (ROW) is very wide, and parallels the C&D Canal Spur into Delaware City. Once the path is completed, it will become an economic boon to the City, drawing bicyclists and pedestrians from all over the country.

Here, the ROW came to an abrupt halt, where crews are marching forward with massive layers of fill dirt - directly over the wetlands.
A closer view of what's to be filled in as the project moves forward.

Large white ballast stones, seen along the water (upper left in the photo), are being added to reinforce the ROW. At the same time, they are filling in much of the crab's natural habitat along the canal.

At Delaware Bikes, we love Trails and Pathways when they repurpose existing ROWs, such as abandoned railroads. However, routing them through prime wildlife habitat should be a very last resort, and/or designed with utmost sensitivity. Witnessing the invasive nature of this construction project, we sincerely hope that all other options were considered.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Randy Inglis, Delaware's bicycling pioneer and leader

Cross-posted from Bike Delaware's website

By Carol Ireland -- The local bicycling community was shocked last week to learn of the death of Randy Inglis, a leader in Delaware’s cycling community.

Randy was the general manager of The Bike Boutique (TBB) in Wilmington, which is where I first met him. When TBB was in its original location in downtown Wilmington I asked Randy if Bike Delaware could put some Bike Delaware cards in his shop. He readily agreed and we discussed some of the biking issues and recent biking successes in the area.

Randy was a pioneer in locating the bike shop downtown and creating a partnership with a nearby fitness center so bike commuters could store their bikes and get a shower before heading to work (dubbed “bike-lodging”).  But the poor economy and too small a customer base in that location led to TBB moving out to the Trolley Square area.  [Full story ...]

Monday, July 21, 2014

Delaware Ave is not the only cycle track candidate

Route 72 multi-use path is one
of a very few truly safe crossings
of I95. Centrally located, it makes
many key connections - yet
remains in deplorable condition.
The Newark Bicycle Committee has been in the hot seat lately, under pressure from Bike Delaware to push a bi-directional cycle track along Delaware Ave in Newark. Though included in the City's Bicycle Plan, there are several challenges to overcome. Among them, sufficient space within the existing right-of-way (ROW), which could hamper the level and quality of separation between the traffic lanes and the cycle track itself. As things stand now, it is going to be a very tight and costly fit, but replacing the current 1-way bike lane with a protected 2-way facility is big in Newark's mission to increase bicycle safety and modeshare.

There is tons of hype surrounding Trails and Pathways funding, with Bike Delaware at the forefront. Yet, they are silent on other desperately needed projects, such as the dangerous Route 72 multi-use path (MUP). Replacing this badly deteriorated and damaged facility (overgrown to the width of a sidewalk) would increase safety and put more folks on bikes, especially Newark commuters who live south of I95. A cycle track here may also be lower hanging fruit, as there is more than enough ROW to construct the minimum 10' wide path/track.

Airport Road bike lanes disappear into
Commons Blvd, a four lane curb to curb
road designed only for high speed traffic.
Other possible candidates include Commons Blvd in New Castle. This is another 4-lane, curb to curb arterial road that is anything but safe and hospitable to non-motorized users. A cycle track (or at the very least, a parallel MUP) here would allow many folks, including employees of the New Castle County Government Center, the option to bike or walk to work.

What is Bike Delaware trying to achieve in terms of Bikeway networks that everyone can use to get where they want to go on a bike? Most of their focus appears to be on recreational bike paths and rail trails with little to no emphasis on road connectivity. Bicycle-friendly roads complete the network, and are the only thing that will truly make off-road pathways a viable commuting option. Bike Delaware has been absent on projects like the above, even though it appears to fit their mission. These are badly needed to make key connections between bike-friendly roads, destinations, or other existing facilities. Such projects would open up major swaths of NCC to bicycle commuting, by circumventing dangerous high speed roads that have no shoulders and probably never will.

Hazardous conditions along the Route 72 MUP put users at close proximity to high speed traffic.

As with most Delaware MUPs, Route 72 is never resurfaced, and receives little basic maintenance. The failure to maintain what already exists - never mind new installations - should be of major concern to Trails and Pathways advocates.
Airport Road, where it changes names to Commons Blvd. The bike lane terminates into high speed traffic with no shoulder,  rendering it useless to all but the most fearless.

(well designed) Bike lanes save lives AND money


Cross-posted from Grist.org -- Next time you hop on your bike, give yourself a pat on the back for being such a model citizen. Not only are you about to get some fresh air and exercise, you are going to save your city some serious dough.

According to a study from Environmental Health Perspectives, cycling infrastructure is a smart investment for penny-pinching city planners. Taking the city of Auckland in New Zealand as a test case, the researchers looked at simulations of different biking scenarios: a shared-road bike lane network, separated arteries of bike lanes on all main roads, something called “self-explaining roads” with car-slowing design elements, as well as a sweet-spot combination of those separated lanes and self-explaining elements.

In every scenario, between $6 and $24 were saved for every dollar spent, compared to a business-as-usual baseline. How, you ask? In addition to the pollution, traffic congestion, and sedentary-lifestyle health problems associated with cars, society bears the brunt of our automobile addiction in the form of medical and emergency services. That car crash is, yes, tragic, but it is also expensive. [Full article ...]

Friday, July 18, 2014

DelDOT Takes Wikimapping to the Boardwalk


Bicyclists of all levels asked to log routes and riding experiences

Dover, Delaware -- Ranked between Wisconsin and Oregon, Delaware is the fourth most Bicycle Friendly State in 2014, according to the League of American Bicyclists, and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) continues to work toward the number one spot. Anthony Aglio, DelDOT Bicycle Coordinator explained some of the ways the department is working to climb up the rankings:

“Summertime in the beach communities of Sussex County is a great time to work on Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation,” four of the five “Es” the League uses to determine the bicycle friendliness of a place, he said.

In addition to the dozen or so safety checkpoints and many local rides that happen annually at the beach, this summer DelDOT is working on a bike-mapping effort that will identify routes that cater to less-experienced cyclists. The goal is to get more people bicycling comfortably and safely and make Delaware an even more bicycle friendly state.

With the help of Wikimapping - a new online public input tool - DelDOT will be able to better understand the challenges and experiences of bicyclists. The Wikimapping web app, which can be accessed at bikeatthebeach.com on a computer or smart phone, is being used for planning efforts around the country. From July through September 2014, Wikimapping is being used to gather input from visitors and locals who bicycle, or would like to bicycle, in the Delaware beach areas to identify popular routes, peoples’ comfort on those routes, barriers, and opportunities to improve the network of trails and bicycle facilities. Ultimately, the information gathered through Wikimapping will be used to map family-friendly bicycle routes. These maps will be available through the chambers of commerce, online, and possibly other outlets in summer 2015.
  • What: Public input using a new online app will help DelDOT produce family friendly bicycle maps and identify challenges for cyclists at the Delaware beaches.
  • Where: Delaware beach communities. People can access the mapping application on any computer or smartphone at bikeatthebeach.com
  • When: During July, August, and September 2014, the site will be open for public to submit their experience, concerns, and ideas.
  • Who: Bicyclists of all skill levels - both visitors and locals. Anyone that rides a bike around the beach communities in Sussex County.
  • Why: DelDOT is seeking to better understand where bicyclists want to ride, their riding experience, barriers or challenges on their routes. The information will be used to produce maps for the summer of 2015 to help direct less-experienced cyclists and families to safer, more comfortable routes. The information will also be used to identify opportunities for improvements to the bicycle network in years to come.
Please contact Anthony Aglio, Delaware Department of Transportation: 302-760-2509 or anthony.aglio@state.de.us

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Last week's totally excellent commuting Ed-venture!

On Thursday, July 10th, I was offered a most unusual commuting option - using Sunset Lake via water taxi (electric powered fishing boat) to reach Purgatory Swamp Road/Route 72. At Skipper was "Indian" Ed Yoder, a wonderful Native American. Starting out, it required painstakingly guiding the boat and its propeller around muddy shallows and areas thick with Lily Pads. Once in the clear, we headed out into open waters en-route to the Newark Angler's Association's piers and clubhouse. Once there, Ed helped unload my bike. After a lengthy chat and archeological history lesson, I resumed my commute north on Route 72, historically known as Purgatory Swamp Road.

My standard commute route follows the solid red line. It leaves Siemens' parking lot and crosses Sunset Lake on a foot bridge, before heading south and east on an abandoned site road. The dashed line is my "Indian Ed-venture", being ferried the entire length of Sunset Lake in a fishing boat.

Loaded up and ready to go!

"Indian" Ed steers us clear of the swamp. It was necessary to clear the propeller of weeds a few times, something Ed is well accustomed to!

A HUGE Snapping Turtle caught us by surprise. Though difficult to see in this photo, the tail is clearly visible to the right.

Home stretch! In sight of the Newark Angler's Association lakefront property.

Monday, July 14, 2014

DelDOT unable to patch dangerous rumble strips

Cross-posted from Bike Delaware

On Thursday, DelDOT contractor Safety Improvements LLC made a second try at fixing improperly installed rumble strips.

The second test took place on the eastbound side of Route 9, west of Lakeview Boulevard near Lewes (map). 

Several weeks earlier, Safety Improvements made a first try at fixing the bad rumble strips on Route 24 near Robinsonville Road (see image at right). Bike Delaware evaluated the fix and, reluctantly, reported back to DelDOT that it was a failure. The patch material formed mounds that were not flush with the surrounding pavement and was, as a result, effectively unrideable.

For the first test on Route 24, DelDOT’s contractor used a hand-operated, gas-powered tamper to fill in the rumble strips. For the second test on Thursday, the contractor used a roller. [Full story ...]

So far, all the attention has been focused downstate. The same hazardous rumble strips were also cut on several roads in New Castle County, including  Route 72 (above).
Poster's note: Delaware Bikes first reported on this issue well over a month before it drew Bike Delaware's attention away from Trails and Pathways. We are encouraged to see this rare and unexpected interest in road advocacy.

Petition: Create an on-road bicycle route between Wilmington and Newark

Click above to join this campaign!
Although there are stretches of roadway with good bicycle facilities, Delaware lacks complete bike routes between destinations. In surveys of cyclists, Kirkwood Highway and Route 4 are consistently among the highest priority for the development of bicycle routes. These corridors already have a good base of viable infrastructure. With paint and signage, plus a few projects to remedy pinch points, a route can be created at relatively low cost.

The proposed routes were created by cyclists who regularly bike this corridor for transportation. DelDOT is aware of the routes and is willing to consider implementation. However, the agency lacks funding and a plan to proceed with their creation. We are therefore asking the public to lend support for these routes and to encourage DelDOT to move forward.

Creation of an on-road bicycle route between Wilmington and Newark is an important step towards creating bicycle route networks that will allow the residents of Delaware to safely get where they need to go by bike.

When you sign this PETITION, please note why it is important to you, as this will help DelDOT take the petition more seriously. And, make sure you forward this link to anyone else who's interested!


Special note from Amy Wilburn:  DelDOT has the proposed routes and they are positive enough, but they have no plans or funding to see it through. We want to show them that this matters to cyclists. The entire emphasis has been on the trail route, but the trail will take decades to become a reality, will be time-consuming and circuitous, will be costly, and will not provide access to most of the major destinations along this corridor. We not only need to get a low cost fix in the interim, but it would be helpful to have an efficient route that accesses important destinations. Please spread the word to others who might like to sign.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Delaware Bikes announces new Mission Statement

In light of a recent legal challenge to our name and domain, Delaware Bikes has released the following mission statement:

Delaware Bikes is a non-profit Advocacy and Advisory Committee that communicates primarily through a Blog known as DELAWARE BIKES. Delaware Bikes does not solicit members, nor does it ask for monetary donations. Although based in Newark, the blog covers issues of interest to cyclists statewide.

Guided by these 5 components - Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation - Delaware Bikes is committed to supporting the implementation of, overseeing of, and enforcement of DelDOT's Complete Streets and Bicycle Policy. Delaware Bikes strives to create a safer environment for all cyclists on Delaware's roads and pathways, with a special emphasis on those who cycle as their primary means of transportation, by advocating for improvements within the existing infrastructure.


The committee unanimously voted to maintain Delaware Bikes, and if anything, calls on Bike Delaware to examine their name and domain in light of false advertising. At the time of this writing, Bike Delaware:
  • Focuses almost their entire energy on multi-use trails and pathways funding.
  • Has undermined, or attempted to undermine initiatives and projects related to on-road advocacy.
  • Engages in misinformation campaigns through their website and lobbying activities.
  • Does not link constituent organizations, and rarely cross-posts critical issues.
  • Serves few needs and interests of today's recreation and transportation cyclists. 
These are not merely allegations - one only has to examine Bike Delaware's website to understand their priorities. To that end, we dispute the following from their Attorney:

"Generally, merely inverting the words in a mark does not distinguish the marks, especially in view of the similar meanings and connotations of the respective marks. The significant similarities between the marks - particularly where the services are identical/overlapping and are directed to the same consumers and through the same trade channels - is likely to confuse consumers."

Delaware Bikes does not serve Consumers, nor does it operate within Trade Channels. Our focus (or services, if you will) is not identical, and has minimal overlap. Both websites are available for all to read, and both supply news of interest to cyclists. However, a critical difference between us is that unlike Bike Delaware, who requires that members pay a fee, Delaware Bikes does not solicit memberships nor do we accept donations of any kind. Therefore, we question the "competition" that they allege. And indeed, many people read and follow both websites.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cycling Haters Are a Sign of Cycling Success

Cross-posted from The Atlantic -- The past couple of weeks have witnessed more than one high-profile instance of journalists demonizing cyclist behavior. In one case, NPR's Scott Simon tweeted that all city cyclists "think they're above the law" (though he subsequently toned down the venom). In the more severe case, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy made the seemingly sociopathic suggestion that drivers annoyed by cyclists should consider hitting them and paying the $500 fine.

Driver rants against cyclists are of course nothing new. It's been pointed out in this space before, most skillfully by Sarah Goodyear last year, that cycling haters are actually a sign of cycling success. As major American cities embrace multimodal transportation and balanced mobility networks, cycling has shifted from an outsider enterprise to the mainstream. That shift, in turn, has produced a new psychological strain for drivers accustomed to the belief they own the road.  [Full article ...]
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

'Parkettes' on Main Street in Newark?

Newark Post -- One complaint Downtown Newark Partnership Administrator Ricky Nietubicz said he often hears about Main Street is the lack of public seating areas.

“We really don’t have any on Main Street,” he said.

To combat the problem, the DNP’s design committee looked to Philadelphia, where parkettes, also called parklets, have recently sprung up across the city as places for pedestrians to sit and hang out.

The parkettes take up one or more on-street parking spaces, typically extending out from the sidewalk and spanning the width of the parking space, and are a growing trend in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Nietubicz said the idea is still in the beginning stages for Newark. “Right now it’s really a conceptual kind of thing,” he said. [Full article ...]

Poster's note:  Who wouldn't support the concept, and desire to sit or dine out on Main Street? But the noise from modified motorcycles, muscle cars, and pickup trucks is so loud, it can gives folks an earache even on the sidewalk - never mind inches from the lane. Until police start enforcing noise laws, a better use would be to install a few bicycle parking corrals to help reduce clutter on the sidewalk and against trees. It would also provide the same benefit of greater pedestrian visibility.

With virtually no vehicle noise law enforcement in Newark, we recommend a variation of the above bicycle parking corral in Rehoboth - designed for parallel parking. It would have many of the same pedestrian safety benefits as a parkette, while reducing sidewalk bicycle clutter and damage to trees.

UD terminates Data Centers project for STAR Campus

UDaily, 9:30 a.m., July 10, 2014 -- The University of Delaware announced today it has terminated its lease agreement with The Data Centers, LLC (TDC), putting a halt to TDC’s plans to develop a data center on the University’s Science, Technology & Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. 

Following analysis of TDC’s plans, the UD Working Group concluded that the proposed facility, which included a 279-megawatt cogeneration power plant, is not consistent with a first class science and technology campus and high quality development to which UD is committed. The findings are detailed in the Group’s report. View the report PDF on UD’s website.

“The University is committed to providing economic development opportunities for the region and state,” says University of Delaware President Patrick T. Harker. “Moreover, it is extremely important that development on the STAR Campus, which is held to the highest standards, is appropriate both for the short and the long term, and that future generations of students will have a top-quality education. We have carefully examined The Data Centers’ plans, and have determined that they are not a good fit for the STAR Campus.” [Full article ...]

Now, let's get on with developing the STAR Campus in a green, sustainable manner.
Related: Coverage in the Wilmington News Journal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Newark Bike Lanes and Sharrows Phase 2 complete!


We are very happy to report that Phase 2 of Sharrows and Bike Lanes in Newark is now complete. This project speaks loud and clear that the City is committed to moving the Bicycle Plan forward. And that they are serious about maintaining existing bicycle facilities as well - both on and off the road. In the words of Tom Coleman, DPW Director:

"We are very happy with the installation, and recently went around to touch up the sharrows that were damaged by snow plows on Main Street. We are using a new product and are very happy so far, as the symbols go down very quickly and hold up fairly well (so long as we don’t have winters like this past year every year)"

Advocates have also been encouraging Newark to set aside part of their transportation budget each year specifically for Bicycle Plan implementation. Failure to do so will keep things moving at a much slower pace, given a total reliance on DelDOT to include facility treatments only with Pave & Rehab operations. But with the support of the Mayor, key City Staff, and City Council, the chances of dedicated funds should be excellent. It only makes sense; DelDOT has granted Newark permission to move forward with these improvements on their own, and for that we are grateful.

A huge tip of the helmet to all of those who worked together to make this happen, including Tom Meyer of DelDOT who assisted with the layout and drawings. Also, Representative Paul Baumbach, who secured the funds for all of Phase 2 materials. Newark's bicycle-friendly future has never been brighter!

A brand new, plenty wide bike lane heads straight up West Main Street in Newark.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bike lanes added on Limestone Road in Pike Creek

A brand new bike lane retrofit on Limestone Road in Pike Creek. Note the scrub marks outlining the original right turn only lanes - these will fade in time. This project demonstrates that improvements can be made anytime a road is adaptable.

By Amy Wilburn, Chair, Delaware Bicycle Council -- During the winter of 2013, the DBC compiled a “wish list” of bike facilities contributed by area cyclists for each of the three counties. The lists were submitted to DelDOT.  During the summer of 2013, representatives from the cycling community met with members of DelDOT to discuss the lists. While most items on the wish lists will require either a major construction project or at least a pave and rehab, it was determined that some of the projects in New Castle County and Sussex County are attainable via paint and signage.

Fast forwarding one year, bike lanes are being installed on northbound Limestone Road, from Arundel to just north of Stoney Batter Road.  Limestone Road, with its direct course, many destinations, and wide shoulder along much of its length is a great candidate for bike facilities. Unfortunately, although the shoulder is wide at all points, it is not always wide enough to accommodate both turn lanes and bike lanes. Therefore, at this time, bike lanes are not being created at every intersection or on most of southbound Limestone Road.

The bike lanes, however, are currently in place at a number of the intersections along northbound Limestone Road, and they felt comfortably wide. We already noticed a difference in the way the motorists interacted with us at intersections with the bike lanes, as is usually the case. It’s a great improvement.  Not only does it provide guidance in terms of positioning for both motorists and cyclists, it provides visibility for cyclists and reminds motorists that we not only are present, but that we have the right to be on this road.

What is also notable about these bike lanes is that they were installed totally on behalf of cyclists, without waiting for a pave and rehab project or major construction project based on the needs of the motoring public.

Thanks to everyone in the cycling community who provided input for these “lists” and to everyone at DelDOT who was involved in installing these bike lanes. A special thanks to Mark Lusczc, DelDOT’s Chief Traffic Engineer, for pushing this project through and making sure that it happened.

The facilities on Limestone Road don’t yet create a complete route, but they are a great start. We can certainly hope that bike facilities will be installed wherever possible during future pave/rehab and major construction projects on Limestone Road (to complete this valuable route) as well as on other roads that provide important routes for cyclists.

So get out there and check out the bike lanes on Limestone Road! Happy cycling!

Tour of Vermont and New Hampshire Revisited, Part 2

Chuck, firming up his bid for the Lantern Rouge

Day 7: As much as I loved the scenery, it was a relief to watch VT fade behind as we entered Massachusetts. You become immediately aware that this state takes bicycle and pedestrian safety more seriously. During our entire time in VT, not once did we see a share the road sign, sharrow, or bike lane of any kind. And the driver behavior toward us reflected a huge lack of education and enforcement. VT deserves to be placed at the bottom of the BFS rankings, and I plan to make LAB, VT Tourism, and VDOT aware of that. Starting right out in North Adams, the downtown had bicycle pavement detection markings at major intersections. They had some bike lanes. And once again, they had warning signs with fines for failure to yield in a crosswalk. We felt more welcome here, despite the generally poor condition of the infrastructure. The same went for Adams, where Chris, Ed, Ira and I took the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail en-route to Pittsfield. Sabine opted late for the 3,446' climb of Mt Greylock in advance of forecast showers on Day 8. My day ended short of the Q-sheet, as I rolled into the Crown Plaza Hotel with 70 miles.

Day 8: This was the Tour's only optional rest day - in Pittsfield. Forecast showers appeared to be holding off, and would provide the opportunity for some who were planning to climb Mount Greylock starting at 7:30 a.m. With nagging pain in my right Achilles yesterday, I instead opted for a walk around the city, and a visit to the Berkshire Museum. Like so many others, Pittsfield's local economy appears in economic decline. The Wal Mart sits outside an architecturally stunning, once thriving downtown, where independent businesses struggle to survive. Most obvious, of course, were the tattoo parlors, bail bonds, insurance agents, manicurists, etc. that come to make up Main Street USA these days. Adams and North Adams weren't much different. After stretching the legs a bit, I jumped on the bike for a short 11 mile ride to Hancock's Shaker Village. What a great way to spend a rest day.

The peloton enjoys lush woods and beautiful scenery along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Day 9: Thoroughly enjoyed today's ride of 87 miles. There was heavy rain overnight, and things started off damp, drizzly, with patchy fog until mid-day. As feared, we faced lots of debris, storm damage, even a detour for down power lines. Much of today followed lovely Route 22, one of my all-time favorite roads. This would be a day to reminisce, as I've biked this route on several occasions. In 1985, I led my very first Tour from North Jersey to Vermont, and used Route 22 for most of the 3 day journey. This time, however, we had a wonderful option in the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (video above). As much of a non-factor traffic was at this point, it was a beautiful 11 mile deviation, having entered at Copake Falls. Lunch was in Millerton, NY, where Rt 44 splits from 22. Despite several tough climbs late in the day, the miles went by fast, with a tailwind, well paved roads and good shoulders. Most arrived in downtown Poughkeepsie at around 3:30.

Shadow boxing is over. Sabine Cranmer bids for control of the peloton

Day 10: One of the most scenic days on Tour, we started out immediately crossing the Walkway Over the Hudson. I don't have past numbers, but I believe this Tour will set a record for most rail trails used. Shortly after crossing, and getting tons of photos, Sabine and I departed for a mini-tour of Highland NY, knowing we wouldn't be seeing much of the group after that. Though the day's profile was mostly uphill to Port Jervis, the miles were fewer and this was a day to relax and enjoy. With that came lunch at the Karma Road Organic Cafe in New Paltz. From there, Sabine got the itch to take back time on the group ahead, and once in sight of the Shawangunk Ridge, I biked mostly alone after stopping one too many times for the breathtaking views. The roads were superb, with lower speed limits and light traffic overall. They were also familiar; in 1994, I chaired my first century event from the now abandoned Red Apple Rest (Rt 17, Southfields, NY) called "A-round Orange" using many of these roads. So there was plenty here to remember, to reflect on, to cherish. I really didn't want to rush this part of the tour. The hills increased in the end, with about a 400' net gain in elevation on the day. It would have been much more, had we not descended fast and furious at the very end. With the added sightseeing, I ended the day with 60 miles.

Day 11: First of all, last night's Days Inn Was a dump. We knew we were in trouble from the start, when two in the group were assigned rooms that were already occupied. There was garbage in the hallways. The AC in my room obviously didn't work, as everything was moist and washed clothes didn't drip dry. When we woke and went down for breakfast, the first thing I grabbed was an English Muffin, one side solid green with mold. I was so eager to put this place behind us, that I forgot to fill my water bottles. With only about a bottle's worth of yesterday's water, I rode almost 40 miles through Delaware Water Gap NP to Kittatinny Visitors Center before finding a fountain. I regretted not shooting more photos, but I already have tons of this region from past tours. The highlight of the day was a bear sighting on Old Mine Road, and I just grabbed my camera in time to snap a picture from a distance. From there, we headed into Worthington State Forest and eventually into the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA where 4 of us had lunch. Then, we crossed back into NJ and continued south through Warren County NJ, where I again left the group for a visit to Roxburg Station and Fiddlers Elbow Road. "The Elbow" offers the steepest paved incline in NJ and is the scene of total devastation for many during the Hillier Than Thou Century. I made the right turn off of Ridge Road onto Fiddlers, but ended it about a quarter mile later, before the pavement (27% grade) reached for the sky. After the furious descent back down to Roxburg, the day continued as it was - scenic and lightly traveled roads along the Delaware River, before crossing back over again to Easton PA. Distance: 83 miles.
 

Day 12: The final day is usually a formality, as roads grow increasingly familiar, and those who remain start splitting off for home. The reality sets in that the tour is over, and by this time, the number of participants is at its lowest. Picture taking all but ceases. A handful did the full circuit, riding from their home to their transport (Amtrak for most) to Saint Albans, then biking all the way back home - a remarkable feat. For those doing the math, those who rode back to Newark had just over 120 miles. Most who departed the Tour early did so at the end of the Penultimate day into Easton, PA, and achieved what they set out to accomplish. All agree that this was a superb event, meticulously planned by Wally Hertler and led by one of WCBC's all-time great ride leaders, Mary Clare Matsumoto. Let's hope for many more in the years ahead!

Part 1 HERE. View my full Tour photo album on Shutterfly. Revisit the 2013 Tour of Erie.


Wallly Hertler has organized the most amazing club rides and tours every year since 1976. For a complete history of the White Clay Bicycle Club, including Wally, click HERE.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tour of Vermont and New Hampshire Revisited, Part 1


The self-contained Tour of Vermont and New Hampshire (also NY, MA, NJ, and PA) began on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at the Wilmington, DE Amtrak station. Some of the 19 participants rented a car, but most boarded the Vermonter for the 11-hour train (and bus, due to track outages) ride to St Albans, Vermont. A rented truck, driven by volunteers Dwight and John, delivered our bikes to the Cadillac Motel where the Tour would officially begin the next morning on June 18. Below is a recap of Days 1-6.

Day 1: Saint Albans to Island Pond, VT. Art's puncture right out of the parking lot and Chris' rack and pannier implosion would set the tone for a tour plagued by mechanical problems. In the early afternoon, Ed, Sabine and I left the group and headed from Richford VT to the US-Canadian border hoping for a few photos. Totally unexpected, we were detained by Customs in both countries for almost an hour. Canada in particular wasn't amused by Ed's attempt to relieve himself in the adjacent woods. From there, the climb of Jay Peak on Route 105 was 7+ miles long and very challenging, riding into a thick fog as we approached the summit. The long, fast, cold, descent was very shaky given horrible pavement conditions. The 3 of us enjoyed lunch in Newport Center before stopping at the Louis Garneau outlet store. The above delays put the 3 of us in drenching rain and even worse road conditions for the last 13 miles to Island Pond. The potholes, frost heaves, and buckling surface meant that even the slightest mistake could cause a major crash. Total for the day was 90 miles.

Day 2: To Franconia, NH. A visit to the "Common Sense Cafe" for breakfast ensured a chaotic start to the day. Staff was very friendly, but time had no meaning here. The result was inaction and confusion with our orders. When they did start to arrive, most were incorrect or confused with someone else's. Some of us gladly accepted the wrong order just to eat and get started on today's 68 miles. Later, we enjoyed lunch in Lancaster, NH, at GoGo's. The weather today was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. Among the highlights was some of the Tour's most stunning mountain scenery, and roads that were in somewhat better condition overall. But for some, the damage was done; Mary, who broke a spoke, was fortunate to find a bike shop in Littleton.

Day 3: West Ossipee via the Kancamagus Highway. Today brought us spectacular views of the White Mountains along a paved bike path, and a ride over the famous Kancamagus Highway to West Ossipee, NH. Despite perfect weather and fantastic scenery, this was not an easy day.  Upon entering Lincoln, I quickly realized we would be swamped with motorcycles for many miles to come. Bike Week NH had all but taken over northern NH. Deafening noise from hundreds of straight-pipe Harley Davidsons passing us in both directions - for at least 30 miles - was nerve rattling and oppressive. Thank god I brought my ear plugs. Again, most roads had potholes, cracks and frost heaves, and it was hard to control the bike at times. Too many of the 67 miles between Franconia and W. Ossipee were (again) spent finding a safe line. It was a relief, however, that most drivers were polite, and - unlike Vermont - gave us plenty of safe space despite the horrible conditions. Among the casualties today was Mary. With the Kanc just ahead, her rear derailleur basically wrapped itself around the cassette, stranding her at the side of the road. In a twist of good fortune, both her and David ended up taking a cab to complete the day's mileage.

Day 4: Past Plymouth to Lebanon, NH. A splendid 81 miles today through the lakes region, with numerous steep climbs. Again, it was a beautiful weather day characterized by potholes, tire-eating cracks, and buckling pavement. My new Titanium back seems tolerant, but my Peugeot is taking a pounding and I hope it survives this one last tour. The assault of dangerously loud motorcycles continued at least until Plymouth. They continued to swarm us from both directions and in the towns we passed through. Finally, we reached Lebanon, a wonderful little city with generous bike lanes, sharrows, and BMUFL (bicycles may use full lane) signs throughout the downtown. It was a relief to get to the motel followed by craft beers and dinner at the 7 Barrel Brewery.

Day 5: The Assault on Brandon, VT. With 2 major climbs to look forward to, pavement conditions seemed to be improving. However, a demolished river bridge just north of Woodstock forced us to detour through a farmer's field just east of Mt Hunger. It was a harrowing ordeal, barefoot, stepping through boulders, pushing my bike through rushing water only to find out there was no easy way to climb out of the river bed. I finally found what appeared a low bank point but the bike slipped several times and I hurt my back a trying to keep everything upright. Once on the road, I now had a chirping sound coming from my bottom bracket, having been submerged a few times. I enlisted Roger to hold my bike on a shallow angle, as I poured chain oil into the shaft area, but nothing helped. Regardless, we continued on and started the final climb of Brandon Gap. At 2,170', it is one of the toughest passes through the Green Mountains of Vermont. Many in the group stopped at the summit for photos and film clips. The only thing left now was the long fast descent to the Brandon Inn, one of the classiest lodges on the Tour. Again, pavement conditions had everyone on the brakes and being very cautious. Total for the day was 67 miles.

Day 6: Bennington, VT. Increasingly safer roads and shoulders were on the increase. On a personal note, I was definitely paying the price for yesterday's river adventure, with steady dull pain throughout my low back, groin and glutes. The morning's Vicodin and Prednisone cocktail likely saved my day. I expected to feel better the next day, but wouldn't hesitate to dip into the emergency bag again if necessary. This area of VT was a welcome improvement from the North. There is no comparing the Route 30 corridor (that we were on most of the day) with Route 105, which had me cursing the state up and down. Route 30 was mostly well paved, less busy, and included the most stunning scenery in VT so far. It also brought us past Lakes Hortonia, Bomoseen, and St Catherine. I spent many childhood years (mainly early '80s) camping out, boating and fishing with my Dad from Bomoseen SP, so looking out over the lake at Crystal Beach, and crossing Route 4 at Castleton Corners brought back priceless memories. From there, we rode through Poultney before having lunch in Pawlet, then rode through Dorset and Manchester for a view of the Equinox on Route 7A. My bottom bracket was quieter today, and I was less worried now about catastrophic failure. But my chain was stretched considerably, and I hoped to pull back my rear wheel for retentioning this evening. Total for the day was 78 Miles.

Check out Part 2, Days 7-12!

Wally Hertler has organized the most amazing club rides and tours every year since 1976. Mary Clare Matsumoto graciously accepted leadership of this Tour in his absence. For a complete history of the White Clay Bicycle Club, including Wally, click HERE.

Related: 2013 Tour of Erie, Revisited.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Amtrak finally comes around to bikes on long distance trains

Featured in Streetsblog -- The nation’s intercity passenger rail service just got a lot bike-friendlier.

Amtrak announced last week that it is installing new baggage cars - equipped for bike storage - in all trains on its long-distance routes by year’s end. The change will allow Amtrak riders to “roll on” their bikes, rather than disassembling them and transporting them in boxes. The new baggage car equipment is being tested in Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, and the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak officials said in a blog post.

Amtrak officials hinted the more convenient bike transport was in response to demand from consumers. Campaigns aimed at securing assembled bike storage aboard Amtrak routes have been waged in New York and other states. Only a handful of Amtrak routes currently allow a limited number of fully assembled bikes. [Full story ...]

Poster's note:  Wally Hertler's Annual June Tour (with WCBC) regularly uses Amtrak when going one-way. But with bicycles not allowed on trains, other arrangements have to be made. Usually, this involves loading them on a one-way rented box truck driven by willing volunteers. Maybe things are about to become a whole lot easier?

Participants in Wally's 2007 Tour of Vermont and New Hampshire exit Amtrak's Vermonter at its terminus in St Albans.
In 2010, Wally captures some much needed sleep aboard the Vermonter, en-route to Saint Albans. That year, the Tour headed west and south through the Adirondacks and Catskills before entering NJ and PA and ending in Delaware.
Using checked baggage in 2011, Tour participants unbox and re-assemble their bikes after the long train ride to Greenville, SC. This was an epic Tour that followed the entire Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
A box truck waits at the Wilmington, DE train station as participants load up their bikes and some belongings (2007 Tour) before boarding the train.