Friday, April 30, 2010

May is here and it is NATIONAL BIKE MONTH!

This is part informational and part editorial, promoting a more bike friendly Middletown.

May arrives on Saturday along with National Bike Month! Get that bike out of the garage, or basement, pump up the tires, check to make sure all is in proper working condition and RIDE to school, work, and all around Middletown! First and foremost it fun, but is is also good for your health, it's good for the environment, and with the price of gas on the rise again, it's a good way to save up for that big splurge at your favorite downtown restaurant. Rumor has it, 4 new bikes racks are headed to downtown, thanks to some funding supplied by our very own Pedal Power on Main St. Still no word if there will be bike parking at City Hall. Currently bikes can be found locked to the handrails of the handicapped ramp, not the best place to lock a bike but currently one of the only places.

Don't like to ride alone? Check out one of the links below to find others to ride with. Pedal Power sponsors both road (Mondays at 6:00) and mountain bike rides every week. There are slow riding recreational groups (8-12mph) with fewer hills, and a fast riding racing group(16-20 mph), with lots of hills, plus a couple of in-between speed groups. If you're looking for a nearby recreational ride on Wednesday night check out
Cycling Concepts in Rocky Hill. If you'd like to try a May Day 100k; head up to their Glastonbury location on Sunday, and choose between the 60 mile route and the 25 mile challenge. If you can't make the May Day 100k then put their ever popular Two Ferry Metric ride on your calender for September. This ride comes through Middletown before heading to the Chester Hadlyme Ferry then heads north to take the ferry from Glastonbury back to Rocky Hill. Another ride option is CT AMC group bike rides. One more locale option is to sign up for the Middletown Adult Education, Bicycle Ride Series (on Rail Trails) which starts May 8. The course provides you with a bike if you do not have your own, and meets 7 Saturdays throughout the summer.

If you just want to head out on your own, but need some ideas of where to ride check out Connecticut Bike Routes. The web site is a free service hosted by 3 CT based cycling enthusiasts. There are over 250 CT routes with a choice of mileage, terrain, and region. If that doesn't get you where you think you want to go, you can try the new Google Maps "by" bike which debut March 10 of this year. If you want to know more about the folks who cajoled google into offering the bike mapping go to Bike there' for a safer, healthy, happy world. I can't vouch for their bike mapping ability, it's too new.

In honor of National Bike Month, I completed the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) scorecard posted below to assess if Middletown is ready to apply for the Bicycle Friendly Community designation. The score was a paltry 3 out of 17. The first step in improving this score without bringing any cost to the city would be to create a Bicycle Advisory Committee, a step many, including myself
have been advocating for; as well, the Downtown Parking Study Final Report made the same recommendation in 2008. The first job of the committee would be to create a comprehensive bicycle plan for Middletown, followed by the creation of a map of suggested bike routes across town with links to the rest of the region. Other CT towns have bicycling advisory committees working to improve their town's bike culture, in doing so they have documented an increase in the numbers who bike and walk to work and school, they've also noticed less congestion and parking complaints. I'd like to see Middletown become the first town in CT to achieve the LAB Bike Friendly Community designation, or even the second or third; Simsbury, West Hartford, and Glastonbury even Hartford are way ahead of us, as are some of the Gold Coast Cities further south.

In the meantime plan on taking part in the annual Bike to Work Week May, 17-21st, if you can't ride the whole week, then plan to ride on Friday the 21st on Bike to Work DAY along with thousands of others across the city, state and country. So dump the pump, and ride away. Hopefully by then the new bike racks will have been installed, and appointments made, and the first meeting held of Middletown's Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Also on May 19th, the World Wide Ride of Silence will take place to honor those who have been injured or killed while riding on public roadways, and to bring attention to the need to SHARE THE ROAD. Middletown has participated in the past by having a short silent ride along River Road. We will do so again by meeting at 6:45 in Union Park for a 1/2 hour slow (under 8 miles an hour) procession down River Rd. in solidarity with these aims. All are welcome.

Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood has spoken out in favor of, and blogs often about his support for increasing funding for sidewalks, bikes, trains, streetcars and other common sense transiting options. In March, Congresman Blumenaur introduced H.R. 4722 the Active Community Transportation (ACT) of 2010. It's time for Middletown's politicians to join the fray and become more pro-active on multi-modal transiting options. Please join me in celebrating Bike Month in Middletown, with advocacy and planning for, a more bike friendly Middletown.

More to come during Bike Month.


David Bauer said...

Hey Beth,

I was pleased that the Middletown Commission on the Arts is considering the installation of artistic benches in downtown Middletown. I suggested that there might be an even greater artistic potential in some creative "Middletown unique" bike racks. The MCA could also tap into some of that yummy federal earmark money for such a project.

What do you think of the idea of some distinctive, uniquely Middletown bike racks?

What is happening to Middletown that I would be an Ad Hoc Art's Commissioner?

Lady Cyclist (Beth Emery) said...

Hi David,

In my post I focused on biking in Middletown in honor of Bike Month. I believe what would serve the city best is a Bike PEDESTRIAN Advisory committee, commission, board--whatever the city wants to call it. You have heard me state just that on more than one occasion to members of the Common Council. Within that context I will respond to your question and state that I think this is something to be considered by that "committee." Your suggestion is a good one, that should be discussed in committee, not to slow down and hamper the process, but because I’ve seen many artsy designs for bike racks that just don’t work, and don’t get used. They looked good on paper, but the real needs and wants of the cyclist where never considered—that being a secure, quick and easy way to lock more than one bike in a safe location. I’ll take a functional bike rack over an artsy one any day.

Can you do anything "creative" in your role as a Common Council member about getting this bike advisory committee appointed before spending time talking to the MCA about "unique" bike racks for town? I think the committee idea has a lot of "potential" that could lead toward making Middletown a more walkable, bikeable community. What do you think, and what can you do, to help make this happen?

Matt said...

There is a cycling group here in Middletown: The Middletown Cycling Club. They meet monthly at Pedal Power. I believe that they are taking the beginning steps to help make Middletown more bicycle friendly. I'm fairly certain that they've also spoken with city officials to gain interest.

Last year they organized a great ride during October called the Fall Classic. There were several routes to choose from, and a nice spread of food for riders at the end. There's more info about the group on the Pedal Power website for those interested:

Bill Warner said...

The EDC is discussing the steps nessesary to create a more bike friendly community and complete streets at their next meeting. (second Monday in May at 6pm)

Professor Rich Lenoce said...

Thank you Beth for a excellent article and for the plug. I am one of the "three enthusiasts" mentioned and am a Middletown resident. We are now up to over 400 rides in the database 10 of which start in MIddletown and another 25-30 or so pass through. As an avid cyclists for over 20 years, I have attempted to commute using my bike but getting from one side of town to the other always poses difficulties. Many streets have no shoulders and some are downright dangerous such as maneuvering the ridiculous new High Street "curves" in traffic. I find it a city impossible to commute safely. To bike recreationally I find I bike from my house to destinations outside Middletown. Considering this is a "college town" the city should have policies in place and our transportation and safety personal making decisions with cycling in mind. I look forward to being part of the dialog on this if needed. Rich Lenoce

Anonymous said...

All this would be moot if cars and bikes followed the rules of the road and speed limits. It wouldn't cost a dime and could start now.