Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Biking In Shenandoah National Park, Alexandria, and Washington D.C.

Now I know you probably came here looking for the follow up to the DIYBIKING.COM Salute to the Cargo Bike in which I am honoring superior cargo bike makers by building my own. 

However, I am forced to admit I am having trouble with the rollout. There are a lot of glitches. Nobody is more upset about this than me. But you coming to this site looking for Part II of the Cargo Bike Salute tells me that there is a lot of interest in cargo bikes. Traffic to this site is above what I expected, and people from all walks of life who have never had a cargo bike before are coming to this site to look for one. And even if they aren't interested, they can always keep the bike they have. Once I have have all the bugs out - and I assure you I will - there will be a cargo bike by the deadline. Thank you for your patience. 

So completely unrelated: I biked in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia this past weekend. 

This was a weekend getaway that almost didn't happen. My wife wanted to go to Shenandoah National Park to sketch with a friend but the government shutdown earlier this month made us wonder if we were going to be an Area Man and Area Woman on the news talking about being affected by third-grader-at-recess inspired standoff. But the foreseen conclusion of this brinkmanship came to be, and we drove off to a town called Sperryville, Virginia.

To get there, we drove through Shenandoah National Park. It was $15 to drive a car into the park - or, rather, along Skyline Drive, which is a 105 mile road through some rather breathtaking scenery.

Entering the park on a bike will cost a mere $8; a much better value than a car. However, be warned: if you are out of shape you will know as the word 'hilly' doesn't even apply to this level of elevation changes. Just watching the cyclists on the ascents made me tired but they did look like they were having a lot of fun on the downhills.

After driving only about a third of Skyline Drive, we stopped in Sperryville after a long descent. We joined my wife's friend at the Thornton River Grill for a good lunch before they headed off to sketch and I jumped on the Dahon Matrix, which had traveled in comfort and style from Stamford on the interior bike rack I built

It doesn't take long to feel some level of connection with Sperryville.  And it is a town that does leave you with questions, such as: I'm sure it is a lovely table, but how is it an antique if the guy finished building it this afternoon?

Another question I had was: how much can I climb in an hour of biking? If you have that question lingering in your head as well, this area is the place to go to get a definitive answer…if you attempt to climb Rt. 211 to get back into the park.

I was initially sorry I had brought the heavy Matrix. The front derailleur only has use of the big and middle chainring (never using the tiny gear on my commute to and from work, which is where the Matrix is usually put through its paces, I was in no rush to fix it).

The scenery was lovely and the cars mostly gave me a wide berth, but I was also keeping an eye on the altimeter feature on my Garmin. Even when stopping to rest and take pictures, I wanted to see if I could climb at least 1,000 feet in an hour. For the longest time there was nothing to do but push the platform pedals as hard as I could and try to keep the bike rolling fast enough to sustain balance.

Beautiful, but imagine your thighs being waterboarded and wrapped in razor wire as you view this. 

About 800 feet into the climb, something startling happened: the bike chain dropped from the middle ring to the little ring - just on its own. A push of the level brought it back up to the middle ring and if I really put my thumb muscles into it (and wanted to come to an exhausting and uncomfortable stop) I could still put it in the big ring. But the Dahon dropped into the little ring on its own accord. It made me think of the frogs we learned about in 'Jurassic Park' that spontaneous change sex from male to female in a single-sex environment. 


Remaining in the little gear, I pressed on. An hour in the ride, I had pushed past 1,300 feet of climbing in just under six and a half miles - and I still hadn't entered the park. Time trial speed it wasn't, but it was still a feat for me. 

Needing to catch up with my wife and her friend I turned the bike around…and was quickly reminded of why hills are our friends: you can go down them again. 

I went a good two miles before I even had to pedal at all - and even then it was optional. Having shed a layer already (some nice weather that day) I could actually feel the temperature get a little warmer as I descended, slowing down at each of the switchbacks. Yeah, the hill was worth it - but ask your doctor before you attempt to climb.

And then, when I was making my final, triumphant run into town, I suddenly smelled coffee roasting, so I slammed on the brakes and went in to buy a pound of freshly roasted beans at Central Coffee Roasters. If I was in a car with the windows rolled up going at speed, I would not have stopped. 

When I returned to town - beans safely in the bike box - the second leg of our trip began: Alexandria, Virginia, which is just outside of Washington D.C. This meant staying in a town that is quite pretty and offers access to some fantastic trail networks. 

We stayed at the Lorien Hotel in Old Town Alexandria. What makes this hotel interesting is they actually offer bikes to the guests - beach cruisers, by the look of them - on a first come, first serve basis. It's a nice thing to do and I hope more hotels not only get involved, but have the good sense to put the name of their hotel in big letters on the downtube. 

Now if you're staying in Alexandria and you want to ride your bike somewhere - say, to Washington D.C. - your first order of business is to find the Mt. Vernon Trail. Do this by heading toward the river and pedal as close to it as you can with the water on your right side. You'll eventually find the trailhead. 

I do enjoy calling Stamford home, but my wife and I decided that if we were ever to live in the D.C. area, we'd like to live in Alexandria. The town in nice and, like Annapolis, provides access to the Old Bay seasoned Utz 'Crab Chip' potato chips. Not only that, but the Mt. Vernon Trail connects to the airport and does offer some nice views of the city as you approach. 

The bridge that leads straight to the Lincoln Memorial that I've used in the past to get to the city was, this day, closed to cars. I did not know why that was so, but I did know I was going to enjoy it. 

When I got to the other side, I found that there was a 10K taking place, which made me think of my friend in California who was doing her first 10K the same weekend (she's the same friend who I mailed the cookies to last year when I met Stacey, and she offered me the Exhale Spa gift certificate she received doing her run. I declined - telling her she should come visit Stamford and use the certificate herself). 

When turning toward the National Mall, I immediately remembered that Washington D.C. - for all of the dysfunction and silliness that comes with that brand - has a bike share program called Capital Bikeshare.  On this day a lot of people were enjoying it. Are you paying attention, U.S. cities that don't have this? 

Being mindful of the traffic - both automotive and pedestrian - I rode past the memorials and museums to the U.S. Capitol. I thought it would be great to somehow get all 535 representatives on bikes right in front of the building. It would be like herding cats while wearing a dog costume, but it would be the photo op to end all photo ops. 

Because of all of the road closures, I can't tell you for the life of me how I got back to Alexandria. All I know is I crossed the Potomac a different way than how I got there (on another bridge that was closed to automobile traffic that day) and reunited with the Mt. Vernon Trail after running the Dahon down a grassy hill near the bridge. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've returned the Alexandria quite the same way each time I've done this, so if you ever try it you will probably do fine too. 

After checking out of the Lorian, my wife and I headed to Del Ray - a neighborhood in Alexandria that we did not spend enough time in. We were only there to eat lunch before having some amazing custard at The Dairy Godmother. If you haven't strolled down the street in Del Ray on a sunny day holding a cake cone in your hand, you should do so immediately. Lick the ice cream slowly. Not so slowly it looks perverted, but slowly enough so you enjoy the moment. 

I also came across Velocity Bicycle Co-Op, which we unfortunately didn't have time to check out properly. From the looks of it, it appears somewhat similar to the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op in Cleveland, so I will have to take a more thorough look on my next trip. If you haven't already, I hope you get to take your first trip to that part of the country soon, and in the meantime: if you're in Stamford this coming weekend, be sure to take part in Bike Stamford II, which is November 3rd at 3:00pm at Mill River Park. Between now and then I'll be working on cargo bike glitches. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to Build a Better City - Starting Tonight

We interrupt DIYBIKING.COM's salute to the cargo bike for a special bulletin. 

Today and tomorrow may prove pivotal to the city I live and work in. Tonight, at 7:00pm on the third floor of the downtown Ferguson Library, there is a Stamford Master Plan meeting that encompasses the downtown and railway station areas. Tomorrow, there is a mayoral debate in the same time and place. 

It's important for cyclists to go to both. This is a 'the more, the merrier' situation here, so don't assume your neighbors will cover for you. Do to these meetings what angry people wearing tri-corner hats did to healthcare town hall meetings four years ago, except with firm politeness instead of Jerry Springer guest manners and with modern helmets instead of 18th-century headgear.

Okay, so not like the angry-tri-corner-hat people. And now that I think about it we're getting pretty close to Halloween, so if you insist on a tri-corner hat I won't stop you. But a bike helmet under your arm will probably send a clearer message. 

I also highly recommend cyclists do try to sit all around the room (and be represented at the breakout sessions) instead of being clustered together. Spread the love and wisdom around.

Now a challenge isn't necessarily the resistance to bicycle infrastructure. The challenge is that too many people are indifferent about it, don't understand how it benefits them, or have unfortunately seen enough cyclists run red lights and zoom up sidewalks (I'm talking to you, white mountain bike-riding guy on the Urban Transitway last night) to dismiss cyclists as a class. So up to and after the meeting, follow the rules of the road. 

At the meeting itself, put forward some ideas so that the person who would never, in his or her wildest dreams, think about biking anywhere in the city will come to see how cycling infrastructure helps them.

Let me illustrate: please excuse the crudity of this model. I did not have time to build it to scale and to paint it. 

Yes, I found some of my HO scale cars from my youth and supplemented them with a mini buying spree at HobbyTown USA on High Ridge Road.

Now I am using these toys to illustrate the typical parking situation at Ridgeway. A great view of this video-game-waiting-to-happen is on the down escalator from Michael's and Marshalls. I've never counted, but I believe there are usually about 580,000 cars for every parking space available at any given time.

Yet, we do have a bike rack. Really. It is in the corner not far from Old Navy. All the times I have used it with my Office Bike I have never, not once, shared it with another two-wheeled pedal-powered machine. 

What if we moved that rack or otherwise created a rack in one of those spaces? Put cycling front and center? What if that made a couple of people leave their cars at home? What if we took advantage of the fact that young people today - the very people we want to attract to this city - do not like cars as much as previous generations?

(And to get a bit specific here: what if we asked all of the businesses and restaurants along Bedford Street to see which one(s) would be willing to trade a couple of the parking spaces in front of their business for permanent bike racks? A bike rack in front of a great place like Lorca will make the place easier to see and find from the road since it won't be forever blocked by cars).

Yes, we cyclists don't just wear weird clothes and use the metric system: we are givers of parking spaces. Just about every cyclist I know owns a car, and great things happen to ourselves and to others when we leave them at home. 

Let's illustrate this again, with this crude model of the Long Ridge/Cold Spring intersection (although it could be almost any major intersection in Stamford during evening rush hour).

As you can see, we have the classic intersection issue here: the 1957 Chevy Bel Air thought he could make it through the light but as it turns out there is so much traffic waiting at the next light he is 'blocking the box.'

That's naughty. And it happens many, many times a day - only with cars that are much less interesting. 

Then we have the HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! (GESTURE) HONK! HONK! HONK! procession of vehicles swerving around the Chevy. That's on a good day. Other times, the entire procession is stuck waiting at another traffic light cycle. More honking, more anger, more noise pollution.

Nobody wins when that happens.

When I rode one mile with Michael Fedele and David Martin a couple of months ago, I said that if ten people are driving downtown today and just one of them takes a bike tomorrow, traffic will move easier for the other nine. 

Like this. 

I do remind drivers of any HO scale vehicle (or any vehicle of any size) to leave three feet of space when passing cyclists. It's the law. And it is good manners.

Finally, let's talk about the roads themselves. Another thing I told the mayoral candidates is that downtown Stamford is ground zero: it has the highest population density and the highest concentration of residences and businesses, so it is there where cycling infrastructure needs to start and where any investment will have the most bang for the buck. 

Cars do in fact expand to take up whatever space that is allowed to them, and the more narrow the lanes are, the more likely cars will not only drive slower, but the more space there will be for a bike lane.

So if the lanes are made narrower (say, dropping from twelve feet to eleven feet) it doesn't really affect the motorists but it does leave some room on either side…perhaps for bike lanes. And if there are bike lanes, some people who would otherwise take a car might instead choose the bike. 

As an aside: with a Sharpie, it is difficult to illustrate a bike stencil that doesn't look like a small cannon. My wife is the artist, not me. 

So that's just a few examples of the kind of wisdom that needs to be brought to tonight's Stamford Master Plan meeting and to tomorrow's mayoral debate (Update: Michael Fedele has already posted something online about his transportation plans, and you can see that video here. It's great that he mentioned the value of bike lanes but try to get him and the other candidates to talk about it again and with greater detail).

I hope to see you at tonight's or tomorrow's meeting (or both). Remember, the Ferguson library has a bike rack right in front. Fill it

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DIYBIKING.COM Salutes the Cargo Bike: Part I

Now, as you know, I'm all about trying to get people who drive cars to choose the bike, and that means a lot of people need to pitch in and make the lists of excuses of why they're not choosing the bike shorter. I'm hoping the next mayor of Stamford - either Michael Fedele or David Martin - works with business owners and community leaders to do that. Be sure to remind them each time you see them.  

Mayors, board of finance members, representatives and others can go a very long way making it easier for motorists to choose the bike, and, after the first Bike Stamford ride last week, I really feel the city is about to turn a corner.

But there's choosing the bike…and what bike someone wants to choose. 

A big thing that might keep someone off a bike and in their car is cargo capacity. We can just hear the excuses now: I have two kids, I have so much stuff with me, I transport Civil War cannons regularly…and so on. If you are among those people, I want you to know: I hear your voice but want you to feast your eyes…on this.

This is a cargo bike. It puts the sport back into sport utility. This one is an Xtracycle Radish, and once you get over that odd name you'll see it really is a good looking bike. 

Xtracyle is also behind the conversion kit to allow a bike you already own to take on your everyday SUV errands (you may recall seeing a picture of artist Lillian Karabaic on one when she was moving a borrowed Brompton). 

I myself have a particular fondness for the Yuba Mundo, mostly because it looks good in orange and it isn't too heavy for me to lift off the ground. I even test rode one in a bike shop in Vermont and was pleased with the handling. Had it a cushion, I would have happily invited my wife to sit upon the rear deck (be so much nicer to pick her up at the Stamford railway station in that instead of the car or take her to any of the great restaurants in town). 

Carrying kids about is something a lot of people do with these things. I've seen it firsthand in Portland, Oregon. As I noticed from issue 24 of Bicycle Times - which features a great guide to cargo bikes - a woman there named Emily Finch who transports her six children on a modified WorkCycles Bakfiets, which is a very long and heavy bike with a wooden sleigh-type compartment in the front. Emily even sold her Suburban. Just like we had that fit and attractive woman posing with her three kids with a 'What's Your Excuse?' sign over her, so too should Emily Finch (@1lessgmsuburban).

She may have already done this. The internet is a big place.

While I like using bike trailers when I can, there's something inherently better about a cargo bike. It just says yes: Yes to picking up toilet paper that come 24 rolls to a pack. Yes to taking a Thanksgiving eve run to the grocery store. Yes to picking up your date. 

But since I can't afford to buy one myself, I thought I'd honor the superior designers and manufacturers out there by making a sort of tribute to a cargo bike - that might actually work. I was inspired by the new Xtracycle Edgerunner, which features a 26" front wheel and a 20" back wheel to allow for a lower center of gravity for your cargo, and this got me to thinking. 

Okay: here is the dirt bike I rescued from the Metal Only bin some time ago. It was supposed to tow a small trailer to promote the Person-to-Person clothing driving that was going on at the same time, but the rain put a stop to that. The bike has 20" wheels and a five speed cassette. 

This, as you know, is the DiamondSchwinn. My first successful experiment in practical-but-ugly frame welding, the bike - originally a throwaway from my dad - was immortalized in the legendary Bike to Work Week Coffee Cup Challenge and has taken extraordinary abuse as a Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Bike

I'll leave you to assume what is about to unfold.

Now I had no idea what I was doing because I hadn't done it before, so this should absolutely not be seen as way to build your own cargo bike. This is just how I did it, and you can do with that information what you see fit.

I got the yellow bike on the work stand and promptly removed the rear brake and derailleur lever before sawing off the headset. Once done, I wheeled it gently toward the back of the DiamondSchwinn, which was about to become the Turducken of cargo bikes. 

I have no jig or special clamps. What I do have is wire ties, magnets, and a pretty good imagination. 

I took my own sweet time with that step. I carefully aligned everything by eye before finally flipping down the mask and tack welding the frame. Once I was confident that I had everything lined up properly* I let both frames feel the power from my Lincoln Electric MIG welder. 

With the slag spilling all about, I worked my way around both tubes.

I welded so much, in fact, I ran out of wire and didn't have any left. That meant I'd be unable to finish the build, which I want to be a true cargo bike with the integrated rear platform.

But I had proof of concept: I joined two old bike chains together and ran a new, extra long derailleur cable from the handlebars to the back wheel. I did the same for the rear brake by buying a tandem cable (those were the only things I needed to buy for the build; everything else is something that someone threw away). 

I attached a temporary rack which I had taken long ago from The Mysterious Raleigh Sports, wheeled it out of the welding room and had a look at what I had created. 

Five thrown out bikes were used to make this (so far), including 3/8ths of my dad's old bike. 

It survived the first three tests I had for it in rapid succession:

* It did not snap in half when I sat on it.
*I pedaled it from the clothes dryer to the water heater without incident.
*At the water heater, where I squeezed the brakes, the bike stopped.

It almost seemed too easy. 

I decided that it would be prudent if I had left the bike as it was in the basement until I had finished building it and tested its roadworthiness.

But then I changed my mind and rode it to work. 

And I am excited to tell you that it worked. The long wheelbase does a pretty decent job of ironing out bumps, but it also makes cornering a little more of an intellectual challenge than normal. Of course you see I added everything a good commuter bike needs: lights, a place to put your work clothes, and an under frame rack to put the cable lock.

When I ride the Dahon I just take it up to my office, but there was no way the Bikeducken** was going to fit in the elevator, so I parked it in a parking space and chained it to a railing.  I reasoned that since I had left my car at home I was still entitled to a space all the same. 

And later, wearing my work trousers and dress shirt, I rode it home, proudly ringing the loud BBBBRRRRRRINNNGGGGG-style bike bell where appropriate. It's not pretty to look at and the chain makes two different sounds each time it passed through the derailleur (I had spliced together two different brands of chain which probably isn't ideal) but I was still riding something that no one else was…and well on my way to building a complete cargo bike. I still have work to do on it and will keep you posted on the progress I make and the challenges I will put this new bike through. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

(click here for Part II)

*DIYBIKING.COM term for 'close enough'

**I swear I just came up with the name 'Bikeducken' as I was typing. It'll stick. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Night Bikes

Tonight I made an extraordinary discovery: I confirmed the existence of a 'Share the Road' sign in Stamford. It's in the south end, not far from Exhale Spa. I was so transfixed I almost wanted to fall to my knees, gaze upon it and ask it to command me. 

Now I might not have made that extraordinary discovery had it not been for the extraordinary Bike Stamford, which successfully put more cyclists in one place at one time than I've ever seen in this city. As I wrote earlier this week: the ride was organized by Meg and Andrea and it was set up to be a polite, friendly non-Critical Mass ride. When I arrived tonight at the meeting point (Latham Park on the corner of Bedford and Prospect) twenty minutes early, there were already people showing up. 

Michael Fedele, the Republican candidate for mayor who I had the pleasure of riding a mile with in August, was there and said hello. He told me he regretted being unable to do the Bike Stamford ride himself, but did let me know that bike lanes were discussed at the AARP candidate forum this week.


David Martin, the Democratic candidate who I also had an enjoyable ride with in September, also showed up with a couple of volunteers to do the Bike Stamford ride. A few members of People Friendly Stamford were there, and I also noticed Lindsay, a photographer from the Stamford Advocate and a News 12 cameraman. 

Once again: Excellent.

We started a bit late but no one seemed to mind. Meg and Andrea stepped up onto a picnic table to welcome everyone and explain the course. As she had said to me at the lunch, she stressed that it was a family friendly ride (pointing out a couple of children who were there) and it was "not a Critical Mass ride." I saw a lot of heads nodding and was thankful I wasn't the only one who understands that being rude on a bike isn't about you sticking it to some motorist today, but how that motorist will treat cyclists and cycling issues tomorrow

When we mounted up, I then took a step back and realized just how large the group was: it had to be more than sixty. 

At the corner of Bedford and Forest, right in front of the Avon Theater, we got into position. Now I know that this next picture does show cyclists taking up the entire lane. But please note: they are stopped at a red light (and Meg had told the group to stay in single file whenever possible).

When the ride began, we mostly did stay in single file and two things impressed me: the riders I saw pedaled predictably…and the motorists mostly drove predictably too. I can't speak for everyone, but I talked to several riders later and we all agreed that Stamford motorists were on mostly good behavior. 

The whole Bike Stamford ride was what sharing the road should feel like…but often doesn't. 

I didn't even hear a car horn by RBS, which usually has a lot of BMWs and similar vehicles just streaming onto the I-95 on-ramp. However, it was now after six so we were on the tail end of rush hour.

When we arrived at the south end, we suddenly had bike lanes before us. Unfortunately, cars were often parked on them. I wish they wouldn't do that. Maybe I could weld a homemade boot in my shop to put on the cars as a deterrent? Never mind. 

Yes, that white line on the right is where the bike lane is.

Now it wasn't like that the whole way. In fact, not far from where this photo was taken was the Share the Road sign that nearly hypnotized me. Also exciting was the fact there were also sharrows (signs painted in the roads to remind motorists that, you know, cyclists exist).

A beautiful sight to behold.

So was a bike lane that wasn't blocked by parked vehicles. Friends, citizens, candidates…lend me your eyes: paint is cheap and a little goes a long way to improving quality of life, attracting young people (millennials don't like/need/want cars like their parent's generation did) and reducing traffic congestion. The next person who is going to be mayor is reading this right now, so here I say this: doing this citywide needs to be high on any priority list. 

We snaked our way through the south end, passing Pacific Swim Bike Run - which just started their Columbus Day sale - and several curious people who looked as though they wanted to join us next time (some even said so).  

Eventually, the bike lanes disappeared entirely and we pedaled back under the Metro North tracks. This was a place to be wary since this is the sort of intersection that makes me think cars go through the light more when it is red as opposed to green.

When the light did go green, we paused to make sure no one was running the red light the other way, and proceeded through safely. It was on Atlantic Street, on the way back to the park, when I began to realize just how dark it was getting. Fortunately, there were a lot of light colored clothing and blinking lights in our group. 

Back on Bedford, we found less congestion than we thought and moved back to the park, getting the attention of a lot of diners at the restaurants. 

Finally, we returned to Latham Park. To be fair, this was the only time I heard car horns the entire ride: several of us were turning into the park and were forced to pick safety (getting off Forest Street so as not to be hit by cars turning right from Bedford behind us) over manners. At least one car on Forest waiting to get to Bedford honked. 

Motorist: whoever you are, I am sorry. I know you only had to wait a few more seconds, but if we waited on that narrow lane, we'd be inconveniencing more people longer. And if any of us were hit, you'd have to wait even longer than that. But I am sorry. Please support bike lanes and I hope you had a good Friday night. 

Once in the park, we waited for the rest of the riders - the red lights had broken us up into smaller groups through the ride - and talked about how much fun the ride was. 

And it really was fun: riding with a large group of people in the city where I live and work is very much out of my wheelhouse. But people noticed us. Some were walking, some were sitting on stoops, but most were in cars. Maybe, just maybe, some of them realized that they too can choose the bike...and would be willing to help make this city work so it'll be easier for everyday people to make that choice. 

So Bike Stamford was a great ride, and I am sure there will be more, so follow Bike Stamford on Facebook. Also, if either Meg or Andrea ever asks you to take a bike ride with them, you say: yes. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Make a City More Bike Friendly (Remember That Word: Friendly)

Now, as you know I created 'Cycling with Candidates' to try to make Stamford, the city I live and work in, more bike friendly. I figured by giving the mayoral candidates a chance to take a one-mile bike ride with me through downtown Stamford (they all survived!) they'd think about getting around town a little differently and bring attention to the issue - and I again thank News 12 Connecticut, the Stamford Advocate and Itsrelevant.com for their coverage.

But that's not enough, and there's a lot more going on in town to make Stamford a better place to ride - thus making it easier for motorists to choose the bike. 

For starters, there's an event coming up this Friday, October 11th at 5:30pm: 'Bike Stamford.' This is a bike ride through the city that originates at Latham Park (on the corner of Bedford Street and Prospect Street). Bike Stamford, which has its own Facebook page, was created by two very nice people named Meg and Andrea who explained the whole thing to me over lunch at Cappricio's in Stamford

From what they said, the ride will be about five miles through Stamford and, much to my relief, does not have the trappings of an actual Critical Mass ride, such as corking (the rude and dangerous act of cyclists blocking an intersection so other bikers can move through a red light uninterrupted).  I've never cared for or understood cyclists behaving obnoxiously when trying to make a case for a city to become more bike friendly.  I often think the only reason Occupy Wall Street fizzled while Critical Mass has been around two decades is that it's more fun to ride a bike with friends than pitch a tent in a public park. 

Now I've seen cyclists run red lights, zip up sidewalks, weave in traffic and not use hand signals and I am asking anyone who does those things to consider something: When someone is in a car, would you rather have them noticing how much fun you are having and how well you are following the rules? Or would you prefer them honking like mad and setting the stage for their hackles to instinctively rise the next time they see a cyclist - or have someone mention bike infrastructure at a town hall meeting?

It's like X-Men: we cyclists are the Mutants and the motorists are Everyone Else.  We have to think like Charles Xavier and not Magneto or we may end up with Senator Ted Cruz on the Capitol floor saying something along the lines of: "I hold here in my hand a list of 57 cyclists in the State Department who ran a red light."

So yes, I hope every cyclist thinks like Professor X and understands that using hand signals, stopping at red lights, riding predictably - matters.  We just saw in the news how bad a group of motorcyclists can be (and how that group demonized the motorcyclists who ride safely and made their lives more difficult) so let's do this ride and hope someone uploads a completely different YouTube video of how great bicyclists can be when they get together. So I hope to see you at your friendly-best at Latham Park this Friday at 5:30 for Bike Stamford.

Also, this very same week (Wednesday) Stamford is hosting one of its series of workshops on city planning. If you live in the Cove, East Side and Shippan neighborhoods, plan on attending the meeting at the Domus Foundation Cafeteria on 83 Lockwood Avenue on Wednesday, October 9th for a 7:00pm start time. The more cyclists that show up to participate the better, and if you want to know when your neighborhood workshop will take place, visit this link. Then go. 

Last but not least:  Michael Fedele and David Martin, two of the candidates for mayor I got to do my one-mile bike rides with, are going to be debating soon. There's one this week: the AARP Candidate Forum at UCONN Stamford at 6:30 this Thursday (October 10th).   Now I'm not yet sure what format the debates will be in, but I am positive that if a lot of voters show up with bicycle helmets under their arms, they'll notice.  If cyclists ask the candidate questions, they (and the audience) will notice. If we jam the auditorium - and the bike rack in front of the Ferguson Library before the League of Women Voters debate on October 24th, they'll notice. A debate schedule is here.

So these are just a few of the things going on outside of my workshop right now. Inside of my workshop, which looks like a bomhittit*, there's a ton of welding slag on the floor and something rather odd on the homebuilt work stand. I will talk about that later and in the meantime, I'll hopefully see you at Bike Stamford. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*'bomhittit' may not actually be a word. It is something my mother used to say my childhood room looked like whenever it was terribly messy.