Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bikes on Trains: California vs. Connecticut

                        Bike on a Metro North train in Connecticut.

One day you’re a seasoned Connecticut cyclist with intelligence and connections and the next day someone’s staring at you blankly because you asked what a Clipper Card is. 

Let me back up a second.

So I’m trying to get used to the idea that I’m moving from Connecticut to California. Part of it involves having to relearn a lot of everyday things that are incredibly stressful to me but seem profoundly silly when I explain them to someone else.

Using the Caltrain for the first time was one such area of stress. I’ve used the Metro North in Connecticut so many times I took for granted the conductor with the mesh-topped hat coming around with the little custom hole-punch to pop a tiny hole in my ticket and charging me the Blue Book value of my car for not having a “Peak” ticket during Peak times. 

Not so in California - and that was only the first difference I’ve found when traveling by train in the state once helmed by the star of Kindergarten Cop

Now as you know bikes on trains is a big issue in Connecticut. Metro North allows them on the train absolutely anytime except when it would be useful for a bicycle commuter. Racks, promised to cyclists years ago, have now appeared sporadically in Metro North but they share the same space with foldable seats. The racks themselves only hold two bikes per car. 

Things are different out in Silicon Valley. And by different I mean, better.

Visiting the Redwood City station one morning I saw several bike commuters waiting with people who didn’t have a bike. When Caltrain pulled up you could tell right away it was bike commuter friendly. 

Further research - done with me apprehensively carrying my Bike Friday on a train I later discovered was carrying me in the wrong direction - confirmed that the “Bike Car” had spaces for 40 bikes. Having them lean on each other with bungees is far from perfect but this was taking an awful lot of cars off the road which is the point of building this kind of infrastructure and policy

Finally, many Silicon Valley bicycle commuters place a yellow tag on the bike with the destination station written on it. The reason is so you can try to lean your bike with other bikes going to the same destination to make it easier to get on and off the different stops without having to dig your bike out from under a pile.

I don’t understand: Connecticut attained statehood in 1788. California in 1850. How did my birth state squander its 62 year head start?

I may never know the answer, but any conversation about fixing Connecticut transportation infrastructure has to include these kinds of improvements. Making trains easier for cyclists means making the train a good alternative to #choosethebike instead of adding another car - electric, hybrid or otherwise - to the road. 

But now that I know how beautifully friendly the Caltrain is to bicycle commuters (and I finally know what a Clipper Card is) I’m going to use it as much as I can to get around. If you're in California, haven’t used this system, and are tired of queueing up at red lights: I recommend you give this a try today, seeing as it is Earth Day and all - and/or during Bike to Work Day, which is May 14th in Silicon Valley

If you're in Connecticut, demand better bike access on trains AND make a note that Bike to Work Day is on May 15 (not sure why the CT BTWD is different from CA. May have something to do with the three hour time difference). Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dear Connecticut: It's Not You, It's Me

I doubt I’m going to handle this with the same level of class and composure Jon Stewart mustered when he gave his announcement a few months back but here goes: over the next several weeks I am leaving Connecticut and moving to Silicon Valley. There are only two possible explanations: I have either gotten tens of millions of dollars in funding to develop the DIYBIKING.COM smartphone app or my brilliant wife got a job offer in California and I’m packing up my laptop, bikes, Star Wars action figures and HO scale miniatures to go with her.

I'll give you a hint: it’s the second one

So I’ve been flying back and forth to California several times over the past few months. This is a big reason why there are longer than usual gaps in posts and a lack of builds lately. I’m sorry to say I’ve been spending a lot of time dismantling things that were never built to be dismantled and selling things I always thought I’d keep.

I know, I know, I know - I even donated my good ice scraper to Goodwill the day after teaching my bike repair workshop at Rippowam Labs.

What ‘builds’ I have done have been improvements to our Stamford home so the sight of parts of it wouldn’t send potential buyers fleeing toward the West Beach breakwater. I even modified my workshop so it would look less like like a Dexter Morgan kill room and more like a place Bob Vila would like to hang out it. 

Of course, a lot of the house looks great. I mean, we haven’t even gotten two years out of the kitchen that upended our lives in early 2013, so that’s a huge selling point…once I get past my disappointment of just figuring out where everything goes when emptying the dishwasher a couple of weeks ago.

So while that’s been going on I have been checking out the bike scene in Silicon Valley and hope to be a part of it - recreationally and professionally. It’ll be an adjustment, for sure (just now I’m getting used to the idea of having to apply sunscreen in months like February) but eleven years ago I adjusted from rural New Hampshire life to city life, so I have a halfway decent track record going on. Also, as I’ve learned biking around this country and eleven others: a lot of cities have similar transit problems - many of which can be solved if more would #choosethebike. 

Also, I am terribly sorry to say I will not be participating in this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour. Last year was my tenth one in a row, and not giving it a proper send off is like Ed Sullivan going off the air without a finale. I’m sure it’ll be a great one per usual - visit the Bubba’s Barbikyu tent if there is one at the festival - but there are regular rides in Silicon Valley and some cool-sounding events taking shape like the 1st annual Silicon Valley Bikes: Festival & Bicycle show on Sunday, May 3rd at 635 Phelan Avenue in San Jose

Even though I’m not completely on a hard timeline for finishing this move (Jon Stewart's being vague about his last day; this is no different) I am excited to begin a phase of my life where I don’t need to dream up ways to make my house smell like baking cookies for potential buyers.* While I am in this transitional period I’ll do what I can to promote Bike to Work Week in Connecticut (especially Stamford, since there is even more planned this year than there was last year) and Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day in Silicon Valley

Thank you for keeping up with this site and for all you’re doing to lift your communities with cycling. As I’m learning it may not matter where you live since you can bicycle - and improve the environment for bicyclists - no matter where you are or what you do. I’ll let you know when I’m about to have my last alfajore cookie at Lorca and when I get my California driver’s license.  As always, thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*As a service to cyclists who may be selling their homes, here’s the process I developed when you have five minutes to get out of your house before a realtor comes over with a client:


1) Buy Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough at your local grocery store. Roll into 1” balls and place on a sheet of aluminum foil in your freezer.

2) Within an hour of the broker and potential buyers coming to the house, remove one of the frozen balls of cookie dough, place on a paper towel or napkin, and microwave for EXACTLY 42 seconds**

3) Leave the microwave door open when you remove the now steaming ball of dough and place in a central location of your house.

4) Wait three to five minutes. This is a good time to get the rest of your Go Bag together.

5) Discard the cookie dough in the kitchen trash can and close the microwave oven door. The smell should linger about two hours.

**42 seconds took a while to figure out. Also I like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Six Ways to Mitigate the Loss of the Stamford Transportation Center Parking Garage

                       The Stamford parking garage in happier, intact times. 

Breaking news reported by the Stamford Advocate: the parking garage attached to the train station has been closed by the state because, as regular car parkers like myself will attest, the Quikrete combovers of rebar bald spots hasn’t been enough to make the garage safe. 

I’ve parked my car in that station more times than I wished to. I advocated that 700+ space garage to be kept where it is so motorists wouldn’t just drive all the way to work instead of deal with a longer train-based commute. I’m not sure how I feel about the loss, but since I am not in Stamford at this moment (more on why in another post) I can’t go to the station to say a proper goodbye.

But what I can do - in addition to admonishing the city of Stamford and the state of Connecticut for doing an appalling job encouraging bicycle commuters over the years - is present a short list of action items we can all do in the wake of the station suddenly vanishing. 

1. Instead of driving to the train station, #choosethebike

This is pretty obvious. After the kind of winter that would freeze a Tauntaun in its tracks, it’s finally starting to get a little nicer outside so your list of reasons to not bike is shorter automatically. Also: biking is healthier than driving, not much slower, a whole lot cheaper and much more fun than driving a car. 

2. Advocate for better bike parking and bike lockers in and around the station.

Parking a bike is easier and cheaper than parking a car, but at the Stamford Transportation Center (and most of any city, for that matter) it isn’t without its drawbacks. Yes, you can park a bike for free but not without bashing your two-wheeled friend against a metal railing, rack or another bike.

When someone decides to #choosethebike and ride to the Stamford Transportation Center, they leave an automobile parking space for someone who really needs it. But bicycle commuters are going to need more spaces immediately and, as I’ve written about several times on this site, the bike parking at the Stamford station is just terrible - and is much better in other parts of the world. 

     Bike lockers in Frankfurt, Germany

No matter how outlandish some seem, bike lockers and bike shelters can be put in place quickly at a fraction of the cost of a car parking space. Now is the time to do it. 

3. Advocate for sharrows and bike lanes around the station and throughout downtown Stamford. 

A lot of people don’t like to bike in cities because they feel unsafe. I know this because I see passionate cyclists wave at me all the time from behind the wheel of their hybrid cars with nobody in the passenger seats. Every time I tell someone I am going to go biking in a new city the first thing I am usually told is to be incredibly careful - followed by a hug and the tender words of ‘come back safely’ as if I am heading off to war. 

Make cycling safer. I would pay to have those words tattooed on the mayor’s arm or at least written somewhere prominent in the government center at 888 Washington Boulevard. Make cycling safer and everybody wins. Fewer cars on the road, more people getting to work on time. Win-win. Done and done. 

4 . If you’re a legislator, raise the car tax but grant breaks for one-car households.

Sometimes politicians who should know better talk about ending the car tax. I don't like paying that tax as much as anyone but ending the car tax is stupid. There’s no sugar-coating it. If there was a way for municipalities to make up for the loss of not having a car tax we would have discovered it by now and anyone who has driven on I-95 in Connecticut during the morning or evening rush will probably answer ‘no’ if you ask them if the state could incentivize more people to own cars - which is what ending the car tax would do. 

The car tax should be raised, not lowered. Once that’s done, we can restructure the tax to provide breaks for households that have only one car between two adults. If we make the city easier and safer to bike and walk in few will mind. 

5. Make it safer to walk and bike to the Stamford station - starting tomorrow. 

Tomorrow morning in Stamford there are going to be some awfully confused people moving around in and around the station. Some of them, especially people who didn’t realize the garage would be closed, are going to be angry. Angry people are going to drive that way and make mistakes. If you’re a pedestrian, look both ways before you cross the street. If you’re a cyclist, wear a helmet, outfit it with a rearview mirror, and take no chances biking in Stamford going forward. If you’re a police officer, please make the case to be on foot or bike patrol all around the station for the next several days at least. Give written warnings to every illegally parked car on day one but tow them and fine them if there is a day two. 

This situation just feels like trouble so make sure that you and your neighbor, no matter how he or she gets to work, is safe.  

6. When it comes to car parking, remind people to reduce the demand instead of increase the supply.

Searching the Stamford Advocate archives I found a long letter to the editor about why the Stamford parking station needed to be bigger - but the very author of that letter said that we ‘do not need to add more traffic’ around the station - which is what adding more parking does. 

Making the car tax higher, creating ways to encourage walking and biking to work and realizing that we can put public space to better use than temporary storing a car are all things cities needs to do. Stamford: I’m sorry you can’t do it on your own terms now, but maybe this sudden parking garage closure - and the misery that will surely result - will finally move you to action. Everyone please be patient getting to work tomorrow. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Workshop at Rippowam Labs: How to Fix Up Your Bike For Spring

Yesterday, six days into the season of spring, I taught a workshop at the Rippowam Labs makerspace called “DIYBIKING.COM Presents: Fix Up Your Bike For Spring.”

It snowed all day. And I thought Mother Nature and I had settled on a safe word. 

I had already committed to biking to the class pulling along the bike trailer I made with my work stand and other bike tools on board (a nearly identical set to what I had during Red Hook, New York’s Bike Rodeo last year). 

I also decided to ride my city bike - and ride it completely untuned from when I rode it last back in early January. I know some skeptics don’t think waiting three months to ride a bike a long period of time to go between tune ups, but many of them did not live through The Day After Tomorrow-like winter Connecticut lived through. 

So I rode the bike to class without tuning it first. I don’t recommend doing that - I just wanted to create a teachable moment that hopefully wouldn’t be too teachable. 

I arrived slowly but safely, got my gear inside, and soon enough was able to talk about a subject I enjoy. But as a service to my readers who didn’t attend here’s a short list of rules I follow when fixing up your bike for spring. 

Clean the Bike 

The first thing to do is clean off the bike. There will be road grime - and depending on what you transport in the bottle carrier, smoothie stains or coffee stains. 

 You don’t need to be all toothbrush/detail oriented, but be thorough. If you take a rag or disposable cloth and wipe down the dust or road dirt from a bike, not only does it look a lot better but it gets your face close enough to the frame so you can see the components better. That way if something is amiss you can fix it before you go riding. If you don’t check the bike out first (as I don’t sometimes) trouble can result. Dangerous trouble, like walk-your-bike-along-a-gravel-trail-for-a-third-of-a-mile-hunting-for-a-missing-bolt trouble. 

Be Subtle 

That’s me on the left adjusting a limit screw on a rear derailleur on a bike someone had brought to the class. You'll notice I'm wearing rubber gloves since I think it's important not to be afraid to get your hands dirty but pack rubber gloves anyway.

It was around this time I talked about how a whole lot of stuff that needs to be done on a bike that needs an adjustment or tune up after a long period is subtle. It’s like R2-D2 fixing the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive by turning a tiny part a little bit to the right. 

If a bike chain rattles through the gears on the lowest or the highest, you need to adjust a limit screw. As I showed with my major overhaul of the recumbent, a tiny turn with a screwdriver is all that’s needed. And do not underestimate the importance of doing that: if a chain jumps between the gears and the wheel it can be bad.  When it happened to me I could have ended up a road pizza but was lucky enough just to have to push the bike home - and replace the chain and wheel. 

Check for Cable Stretch

Brake and derailleur cables go through extraordinary abuse and have to deal with so much force they stretch. Cyclists often don’t notice this until one can’t stop or they have to squeeze the brakes all the way to to the saddle to make the bike stop. Just squeeze the handle and check to see how much distance the brake pads need to travel before the hit the rim. If there’s a lot of space (and assuming your brakes are similar to mine) loosen the bolt holding the cable,  pull maybe an eighth of an inch (remember subtlety) of cable through, and retighten. If you don't know how to do this, find someone who does. 

With Lubrication, Less is More

When I was a kid I remember spraying WD-40 on my BMX chain like I was fumigating a house for termites. 

There’s a reason we grew out of such techniques.

After cleaning a chain, it’s much better to apply lubricant (NOT WD-40) drop by drop on each of the rollers. It takes a bit of patience but it is worth it - and I demonstrated it in the class: I took two pieces of identical bike chain, made the one marked with green wire ties wet, and sprinkled both with the contents of my welding room dustpan. The gritty sand and other debris stuck to the green chain, which means that it would travel through the derailleur and cogs and wear out both quickly - to say nothing of wearing out the chain. Get a small bottle of lubricant at your local bike store and it’ll last all season or longer if you apply it right. 

Don’t Take Chances With Tires

In the maintenance class, I talked about changing tires but I talked even more about ways to keep tires from going flat to begin with. That means keeping them properly inflated at all times (I’m talking to you, co-founder of Bike Stamford) and checking the tire itself for wear. 

On a trip to California last month I failed to do that, and you can see the photo above as evidence: I pedaled from Redwood City to San Francisco and back (more on that and why I was there in another post) but carelessly I did it on tires on last summer's bike trip in Brazil. I may not have gotten a flat during that punishing day, but nicks showed up in the tires and I ignored them.  

Until on the tail end of last month’s San Franscisco/Redwood City trip I suddenly felt a thump-thump-thump-thump sound and noticed my back tire looked like it was digesting a small animal. Thankfully, a mile from Chain Reaction Bicycles, I was able to buy a new tire before the old one could explode through the tread. 

Know When You’re Out of Your Depth

                          Pacific Swim Bike Run, a bike shop and training center on 575 Pacific St. in Stamford 

This is a lesson I still need to teach myself sometimes. Few DIYers can fix absolutely everything and there is no shame when something is above your intellectual pay grade. Not only that, but if there is something really complex that needs to be done (i.e., truing a wheel, replacing a bottom bracket, etc.) it often involves very specialized tools. You have to true a bike wheel quite a few times to come out even on the cost of a good truing stand. So find a local bike shop and bring the bike in. 

So with temperatures in Stamford creeping above freezing, I wish you all the best getting your bike set to go and taking a long ride to cure yourself of this toxic cabin fever. And if you missed my bike maintenance class, pass this link along - and check out the Rippowam Labs class schedule. You'll definitely find something you like. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How Cities Kill (Failing That, Inconvenience) Cyclists and Pedestrians in Winter

I’m in Stamford, Connecticut and it’s still winter. I can tell because it is snowing again. 

What makes it especially jarring is that not four days ago I was applying sunscreen before biking in a T-shirt in Redwood City, California (more on why I was there in another post). 

So I had nearly forgotten just how well cities use winter as a tool to harass, confound and confuse cyclists and pedestrians - and how blind cities are to the fact that some of their most valuable public space could be put to better use than comforting empty motor vehicles. 

Let’s start with the road looks like immediately after a snowstorm.

When city streets are covered in snow, the cars that are parked alongside of the road get covered in snow, too. 

I figured that out on my own.

After a period of time - sometime between the middle of the snowstorm and, say July - a city plow will come by and plow the road.

It is usually at this point you’ll find people on Twitter whining about having their cars blocked in by snow (often using the hashtag - and I swear this is A Thing - #snowparking). 

But that isn’t the end of the story for the defenseless motor vehicle. Some people may spend a lot of time shoveling off a spot of public street that they want to claim as theirs when they bring their car back. These parking spots are sometimes guarded zealously. So much so, in fact, that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recently said people can’t use lawn chairs, trash cans, or other creative parking space savers to ‘save’ their spot. 

Eventually, a person will want to get in their car and go somewhere. So they’ll dig open the driver’s door, start the car, let the engine warm up while they brush the snow off. Then they get back in their car and drive off.

Take a guess where the snow ends up a lot of the time. 

Of course, every Northeastern city goes to great lengths to make sure sidewalks are perfectly accessible during the winter. 

Yeah, I couldn’t keep a straight face when I wrote that.

What a lot of communities do is take care of a few sidewalks here and there but punt everything else foot traffic related to the individual property owners and their own sections of sidewalk. This of course results in an inconsistent quality of said sidewalks. 

So snow piles up on the sidewalks. It’s an easy place to put it. Another convenient place to store snow is in the shoulder of the road or in bike lanes. Dan Haar of the Hartford Courant took the time to point out that people use bikes to commute year-round, but cyclists are even less visible in cold weather than they are in warm, even as they are forced into the middle of the road when they don’t want to. 

And nearly every street has...wait for it...This Car.

Those of you who live in a part of the country where bathing suits and yoga mats aren’t sold in gas stations know what I’m talking about. I pass by one of these cars every time I leave my house.  The car never moves. It's forever immobilized like one of those volcano victims in Pompeii. The plow goes around - being careful not to hit the car - and the snow piles up.

Sadly, people who store their motor vehicles on public streets and don’t even use them never seem to ever get punished. But people who have to use the roads do - and if you are waiting for an emergency vehicle to arrive, you may have to wait a bit longer since the street is that much narrower. 

Now of course if you’re a cyclist, the problem is even worse. Not only are the racks covered in snow, but there are few places for you to carry your bike to the street - and it’s tough walking it on narrow, unplowed sidewalks. 

And then it snows again, and the Circle of Icy Winter Death continues: the snow falls, cars get first dibs on the clean pavement, and cycling and pedestrians just have to deal. 

But let’s think about something here: we’ve seen a tremendous number of articles over the past several months that a big problem is finding places to put the confectioners sugar (I mean, snow) after it has fallen. We put it on sidewalks, in bike lanes, pile it high on corners so people crossing the street are completely invisible to drivers - but we don’t think to ourselves that we also need to find a place to put motor vehicles when they aren’t in use and create a city where people don’t have to use them in the first place.

We also need to acknowledge just how valuable the real estate that a parked car takes up. The Transportation Committee in Stamford, tragically, decided recently that parking should stay cheap - when a much smarter move would have been to raise the price of parking and use the money to enable more car-free ways to get around. 

Owning a car in a city shouldn’t be - and, for many other reasons, can’t be - the only option a person has to get from one place to another. Before this snow is done melting, I hope legislators in municipalities across the country realize just how absurd coddling cars and punishing pedestrians and cyclists is. We all have better things to do with our time, money and creativity. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Knocking Down Barriers Between the Rider and the Ride

So I’m in San Jose right now. The reason is a long story, but a subplot of that long story is that I’m trying to learn about the bike culture in Silicon Valley. As you know I’ve already done two California adventures - biking the 17 Mile Drive last year and doing a long tour (and finding a lost cell phone near Anaheim) a year before that - but California is kind of a big state. 

I’m off to a slow start - but I did take my Bike Friday out for a couple of rides so far. To keep my friends from hating me for escaping the Hoth-like conditions of Connecticut, I don't say anything on the internet about the sunshine and palm trees I’ve encountered. 

To try and get a feel for the culture (and buy some much-needed lubricant for my chain) I did visit the Mike’s Bikes location on Lincoln Avenue in San Jose - a very nice and welcoming shop.

(sorry: I thought I had taken a photo of Mike's Bikes on Lincoln Avenue but I didn’t).

The customer service there is extraordinary. For instance, if a jet lag-addled Connecticut cyclist picks up lube off the shelf, pays for said lube, and walks out of the store leaving said lube on the counter, an associate at Mike’s Bikes will run outside, track this cyclist down, and tap on the window of said cyclist's rental car to give him said lube.

(The only problem I had with Mike’s Bikes was the sign outside of the shop that read ‘Challenge the Weather: Ride a Bike’ It gave me a smirk. It’s February with temperatures flirting with 70. Go to Connecticut and and learn about how to ’challenge the weather.’)

West Beach in Stamford, CT, - 2014

But I’m getting off the subject.

I wasn’t even planning on writing a post this morning but then I saw this terrific story from Rob Roth on  KTVU: a mom in San Jose is trying to raise money to pay for a bike for her special needs son. All this boy wants to do is ride a bike but there is a barrier - and having a barrier between a rider and a ride is something we can all relate to. 

But while most of my friends in the Northeast have a barrier that involves simple patience (waiting for the weather to be less Jerry Bruckheimer film-like) this mom has a bigger barrier: a bike for a special needs 9-year-old is expensive - so a GoFundMe site was created to raise funds to buy it. 

Cyclists in the Northeast: put down your ice scrapers, stop pedaling on parabolic rollers in front of the Mythbusters pirate special DVD for the hundredth time, and make a small donation. Just think of the joy Tony and his mom will feel when this barrier to cycling falls and he can go riding. And if you can't help Tony try to find someone else who has a non-weather related barrier and help them out. Either way, you will do some good and kill some time while you wait for your own barrier between you and riding to, literally, melt away into nothingness. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Biking Nations: Strasbourg, France (and Kehl, Germany)

I went to Frankfurt, Germany for work not to long ago (more on that in another post) but for anyone who has been to Europe: it’s not always about the place you’re visiting, but the places you get to visit on side trips. At my wife’s suggestion, we went to Strasbourg, France - and I found there a city that does biking and urban transit right. 

Where to begin: Strasbourg doesn’t allow cars in the city center. Now this is similar to the no-car policy of Paraty, Brazil but I think that is more of a result of cars getting stuck on, under and between the Kia Sportage-sized cobblestones. 

Strasbourg was smart enough to do it on purpose, and the picture above is what I’m talking about: you have whisper quiet trains running about that are clean, have huge windows, and look like they are from the future. And the motorman’s cabin, unlike the Bill & Ted phonebooth-sized ones on subways in the U.S., is a spacious wedge-shaped room that gives the driver of the train a full range of vision.

And to top it off: the trains run so low to the ground it makes running someone over almost impossible. I didn’t try this - I don’t have a ‘Buster’ equivalent for this web site (Hi, Adam & Jamie! Loved the aqua bike episode!).

Strasbourg also showcased the kind of everyday cyclist I wish we’d see in the U.S. more often (or, rather, the kind of cyclist we’d see if elected leaders would throw more than table scraps toward Complete Streets). Note the smile. 

There are also trails and bike lanes almost everywhere you turn. This one, running along a river, made me smile when I thought about what the Mill River Greenway in Stamford could grow up to be someday.

To be clear about something, too: you don’t just walk in Strasbourg, you stroll.

Naturally, all of the strolling made me antsy, but luckily I brought my Bike Friday New World Tourist - which made France the 10th country I’ve biked in. 

I had no aim, no goal, nothing I wanted to particularly do other than stretch my legs after an intercontinental flight. I allowed one street to turn into another and, while I had the usual Area Map with me I didn’t use it much. Strasbourg’s layout and landmarks make it a happy place to get lost.  

Another big reason to put Strasbourg on your biking bucket list: you can cross off another country while you’re in town. That’s right: there is a bridge that crosses the Rhine and leads right into Kehl, Germany. 

I crossed it the following morning: my wife, who made some beautiful sketches in Strasbourg and planned to sketch again, said she wanted a pretzel from Germany. It’s as good a reason to bike to Germany as any, so I agreed. 

Strasbourg’s network of trails made it easy to find the bike & pedestrian bridge, which is hard to miss. 

Years ago I remember feeling tremendous excitement when I crossed the state line into New York state for the first time (part of me may have just been happy to leave the bike-unfriendly pit of despair known as Greenwich, Connecticut). That was nothing compared to the strange thrill that came from stopping at the base of the bridge and realizing Germany just became the 11th country I’ve ridden in.

I didn’t think I was going to stay long in Kehl. I was on a mission, and after only a few minutes, I accomplished it. 

In fact, it was such an easy trip I decided to stay a little while. First I headed up and down the trail on the German side of the bridge.

While there, I spotted a UFO that had landed. I’m sure the backstory of this object is more interesting than that, but that’s a tale for someone else to tell.

I also headed up toward Offenburg but didn’t make it all the way there. After all, I still had a pretzel to deliver. 

On the way back I passed a station that knows how to do bike parking a whole lot better than any of the Metro North stations in Connecticut. Nearly brought a tear to my eye, it did.

Closing in on the border I stumbled across two other Americans on Bike Fridays. I struck up a very brief conversation with them, and if they are reading this I must apologize for pedaling on ahead and not riding with them: You were really nice but I didn’t fly all that way to hang out with people from Oregon - and, more importantly, I had a pretzel to deliver. 

Back in Strasbourg I paused on one of the bridges. I did need to finish bringing the pretzel to my wife but I knew this would be my last ride in France for a while and wanted to savor the moment. 

And there you have it. Due to the hours I was there I didn’t have a chance to visit any bike shops or even make a dent in the places one can go in this area, so as we were sharing the pretzel, my wife and I both agreed we needed to return to Strasbourg one day. If you too have been there I hope you can also return, and if you haven’t I hope you can go for the first time. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.