Archive | May, 2014

Vote for your Vision of Bicycling!

29 May

GMTMA needs help picking a winner for our Bike to Work Week Photo Contest. We had some great entries and have narrowed the pictures down to two finalists. Please help us pick the best Vision of Bicycling!

Here are the Finalists.

Picture 1: Lunch Break Errands.

Lunch Break Errands

Crossing the Canal Bridge on Alexander Street in Princeton.

 

Picture 2: Gandhi Garden with Bicycles

49-1

Cyclists gather in Gandhi Garden during the Trenton Social Ride May 3, 2014.

Please vote in the poll below. Thank you! And congratulations to our finalists.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Two Half-Commutes

27 May

Carol Bike 1Please welcome my colleague Carol Staats as this week’s guest commuter.

As a fair weather biker, I have been patiently waiting for warm enough mornings to begin my bike to work commute between Hopewell and West Windsor for the year. In celebration of Bike to Work Week, I planned to begin Monday.   I typically do a one way bike commute so that my car is available to me for work purposes – so Monday was a bike to home day. I was one happy biker when I got to Rosedale Road yesterday (Monday) afternoon during rush hour. The cars were backed up beyond Province Line Road all the way to Carter Road. It was a nice reward for me as a biker because I just kept on biking right past those idling cars! I am thankful for many courteous drivers on the roads yesterday and again this morning; we all can safely share the road.

Thanks Carol – if you’d like to share your commuting experience, please contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Bike Commuter Journal – Bus, Bike and Back

20 May

Jennys BikePlease welcome Jenny Goodman as this week’s guest commuter, and contact jfoster@gmtma.org to share your experiences.

OK, after the long, long, winter, it’s going to be 60 degrees and no rain, I picked up my son’s friend and dropped them both off at school, the 606 bus leaves at 8:12, so I have 15 minutes to get my bike shorts, t-shirt, bike shoes, helmet and gloves and get over to the bus stop. You see I am somewhat of a wimp. I don’t ride when it’s cold (and this morning it’s 35 degrees), in the rain, or in the snow.

I made it. The bike goes on the front of the NJ Transit bus in a really cool, super-easy-to-maneuver bike rack. While I have a few panic attacks as we go over some wicked potholes, hoping my bike won’t get thrown off the rack and smashed by the bus, my stop comes up with everything still intact. My work is about a ½ mile from the stop, so I bike over looking like a dork with my jeans tucked into my white socks.

My bike is a steel 1980 Reynolds 531 double-butted Puch that has Campanolo pedals with toe straps with over 10,000 miles on it. (Though truth be told, I don’t even tighten up the toe straps, nor have cleats anymore.) Talk about retro. The fork was also 531 but was crushed when I flipped over the hood of a car pulling out of the Hightstown McDonalds in 1993. We got it fixed and painted by Andreas Cuevas (that might mean something to somebody out there). And it has beautiful lugs.

Work is finally over and I set out on my first ride of the season, April 1. I have a great commute from Ewing to Princeton on the Princeton Pike, which has a great shoulder almost the whole way. Not too long and not too short, about 11 miles one way. The only bad part is fighting for position on the bridge over Stony Brook. Pretty hairy. Yeah, I know, there is a separate bike lane you can ride on, but between the frost heaves and the mud and gravel at the bottom of a turn coming off the bridge, I’d rather take my chances. The first ride home of the season is so pleasant. First I pass Halo Farms with its plastic herd of dairy cows. No joke, you should go see them. Through the parking lot of the Trenton’s Farmer’s Market, dodging a thousand pieces of glass, past the “Win, Place, and Smoke” shop, then on to the open road.

I thought I would feel worse than this for the first ride of the season. A previous blogger (and neighbor of mine) says NJ is like Holland, nice and flat. Well, that’s true I guess, but not on your first ride of the season, especially up the hill into Princeton past the Battlefield Park. Coming into town is my favorite part of bike commuting – being passed by some cars in a hurry and then proceeding to pass them back while they wait in traffic at a stop sign or light. And now that Nassau Street has sharrows, I feel so legit giving myself enough room so I don’t get slammed by a car door opening up. I make it home in one piece (again). And tomorrow looks like it will be nice for another ride home.

Jenny Goodman has been bike commuting off and on (on nice days) for about 25 years. She is entitled to be a wimp, having ridden with her husband across North America, from Alaska to Montana, from Portugal to Switzerland, Maine to New Brunswick, and from NJ to Canada twice in the wind, snow, sleet, rain, blazing sun, and bugs (including a swarm of huge grasshoppers in Saskatchewan).

 

Walk and Bike To School Week is May 19-23

15 May

WW HSS Track Team Running cropBiking and walking to school is good for children and good for the community.

Walk and Bike to School Week will be celebrated this year from May 19-23, 2014. Governor Chris Christie signed a proclamation encouraging state and local governments and school districts to promote active and healthy lifestyles by walking and bicycling to school.

Safe routes to schools is a priority for the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (WWBPA) because it benefits health and well-being of the whole community, from our youngest members to our oldest. Biking and walking to school is great for student health and academic success. Studies in Denmark and Spain have shown that biking or walking to school leads to higher levels of concentration that lasted throughout the morning hours – “Walking and biking to school is also a great way for kids to get the physical activity needed for healthy minds. Kids who are more physically active have better academic performance. Studies are also beginning to show that exposure to nature and free outdoor play can reduce stress and relieve ADHD symptoms,” said Dr. Jennifer Rupert.

Not only is active transportation good for kids’ school success, kids who get themselves around also know their neighborhood and environment better.  This study looked at kids in a high traffic neighborhood and a low traffic neighborhood and found that students who lived in the high traffic neighborhood, who were driven most places due to safety concerns, had a negative attitude about their neighborhood and could not draw a map of their street network. The children in low traffic neighborhoods had a high knowledge of their neighborhood and more positive feelings of their place. The study followed up with the adults and children in the same neighborhoods after the facilities for biking and walking were improved in the high traffic neighborhood. The children’s knowledge of their town improved once they were able to get around on their own. Previous studies had shown that adults living in high traffic neighborhoods felt more isolated from their community, too. Being able to get around outside of a car builds community and connection between neighbors.

Beyond the health and community-building benefits from walking or biking to students themselves, getting more kids and parents out of cars has congestion and air quality benefits for the whole community, especially for folks living near the schools. A traffic engineer interviewed by NPR noted that “One of the biggest problems we have with schools in general is parents dropping off kids, buses, and kids walking, all converging in the same fifteen minute period,” says Lees.  In fact, 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is children being driven to school, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.”

As Dr. Rupert points out “think about the air quality around a school when dozens of parents sit in idling cars while their children jump out. Air pollution has contributed to childhood asthma rates doubling between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Asthma rates remain at historically high levels and cause 14 million missed school days every year. Walking and biking to school is healthy for kids, healthy for communities, and healthy for the planet.”

In New Jersey there are a number of organizations working to make biking and walking safer for students and their families. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes that safe routes to school has benefits New Jersey, “Since 2005, $13.5 million of this grant money has helped pay for New Jersey projects, from the construction of a bridge and sidewalk system along Route 539 and Frog Pond Road in Egg Harbor, to new crosswalks and flashing school zone signs in Jersey City. In January, Gov. Chris Christie announced a new round of grants totaling $5.7 million for 25 communities, including some struggling areas such as Garfield, Jersey City and Brick, where many children don’t have access to safe places to be physically active. This is good news for our kids, for our communities and our health.”  New Jersey has a safe routes to schools organization which helps provide coordination and resources to folks wanting to organize and advocate for safe routes to schools. They run an award program to recognize schools making strides towards safer biking and walking. We also have a walking and biking resource center funded by NJDOT and run out of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers New Brunswick.

WWBPA supports biking and walking to school as a healthy, community building activity. We partner with students, parents and teachers in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district to host bikes and walks to school, biking and walking “buses” and to advocate for safer routes to schools. Recent partnerships have included working on the Knight Trail as well as the Cranbury Rd Sidewalk and Safety Project. We know that safe routes to schools are an important part of a community active transportation network.  Want to plan something for bike and walk to school month in October? Check out this fact sheet from NJ Safe Routes to School campaign through NJ DOT. Contact us at wwbpa.org to partner with us as you plan an event at your school.

Thanks to former West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance trustee Beth Zeitler for contributing this article, a version of which will also appear on their blog.

 

Bike Commuter Journal – The Wimpy Way to Work (So She Says)

13 May

Kiyomi Road Bike at WorkPlease welcome Kiyomi Camp, who also serves on the Princeton Free Wheelers bike club board, as our guest commuter this week.

When I was in high school and college, I used to ride my bike everywhere, both for transportation and for pleasure. As an adult in semirural Montgomery, New Jersey, that didn’t really seem like an option, especially after my kids were born. I lived on a 2-lane highway 4 miles from the nearest commercial area and about 8 miles from my workplace and the kids’ school.

Then I went to my 30th college reunion. Seeing all the people riding bikes at the college brought back happy memories. I resolved to try riding my bike to work, at least during the summer when I worked shorter hours and didn’t have to chauffeur kids.

The route I worked out involved riding on the towpath for 3 miles then taking to the streets. At the time, I only owned a mountain bike. The first climb up Mt. Lucas on knobby tires nearly killed me, then I had to climb Cherry Hill Road! I changed my route to avoid Cherry Hill, bought slick tires, and eventually got strong enough to make it up the hills without having to stop. My route was about 9 sweaty miles. I work in a school and have access to showers so this was not a problem. My clothes and lunch fit in my trunk bag and I kept shoes and toiletries in my desk. I really enjoyed riding to work during the summers, when I could ride home before rush hour, but I’m a pretty wimpy rider and found the rush hour traffic on my road during the school year was more than I could handle.

In 2011, I moved to Hopewell, a mere 7 miles to work but on more heavily traveled roads. From Princeton Free Wheeler ride leaders Diane Hess and Andy Chen, I learned some routes through developments that minimize my time riding on The Great Road. I also make use of the “bike lane” (really, a sidewalk) on The Great Road for the uphill portion of my ride home. My new route turned out to be rideable at rush hour so I can now ride year round although I’m still a wimp and drive if it’s icy or visibility is poor (or if I oversleep.) My ride to work starts and ends with pretty nice downhills. Of course, this means that my return trip starts and ends with some pretty serious uphills, but I can reward myself with a shower and a recovery beverage when I get home.

GirlyatworkI acquired some different bikes and became addicted to a couple of bike blogs that extolled the pleasures of riding to work on an upright bike while wearing one’s normal clothes. Enamored of the vision of myself riding to work on a stylish bike in my dress and ballet flats, I decided to give that a try.

Kiyomi bikeUnfortunately, seven miles with a couple of miles of uphill each way is not really fun on an upright bike. I concluded that I really prefer riding a road bike while wearing bike shorts. I’ve learned to bring in a bag of office outfits on my driving days so that I can commute on my unencumbered “fast” road bike. I also built up a vintage touring bike with a Brooks saddle and Carradice bag for days when I want to look picturesque or carry my clothes and lunch.

As a wimpy rider, I like to make myself as visible as possible. My bikes sport front and rear lights that are used even in daylight, and my main commuter has reflective tape on the frame and rims. I wear a helmet, use a rear view mirror, and avoid road-colored clothing.

Brompton at workI don’t bike to work every day, but I’ve never had a day where I biked to work and wished that I hadn’t. I guess this means I should bike to work more often!

Thanks Kiyomi – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Bike Commuter Journal – All in the Mind(set)

6 May

Please welcome Jim Angelus as our guest commuter this week – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Everyone has an experience that births the compulsion to begin and end the work day on a bicycle.

Until ’98, my commute was limited to the overcrowded and undersanitized Lexington Avenue line in lower Manhattan. I was born in the city and lived there for 35 years commuting to ad agencies, where I was a creative director. Living in Hopewell 20 years later, a stark contrast – I rise at 6, am out the door at 7.

It wasn’t until taking *mandatory* retirement from my marketing job at Merck that cycling took over. It was 2001. I was out of a job with newly born twin boys; retirement at 45 not an option.

Time to redirect, refocus, narrow down, be practical, and use time wisely. I had been cycling the Sourlands, up through Frenchtown, Holland, and Lebanon townships trying to plan next steps.

Fortunately, logic and sound thinking didn’t reign – however, a self-absorbed plan to cycle cross-country with a close friend in ’02 did. This 3,215 mile/25 day ride from Point Reyes, CA to Keyport, NJ was the perfect gestation cycle that gave birth to the “third wheel” in my marriage.

A decade later in ’12, my German friend joined me once again, as we cycled from Seattle, WA to South Seaside Park, NJ – 3,300 miles/37 days later.

Today, I ride to work in South Brunswick, on Rte 518 into Rocky Hill, up the hill by the quarry to Rte 27. My ride home varies as does my mood. Sometimes a detour up Lindbergh Rd, other times Aunt Mollie Rd serves me well. Decisions! Decisions! My single speed wheels are picky and I must keep them happy.

Whit is planning a Lewis and Clark Trail excursion in ’15. Three’s a charm – I may just ride home…