Category Archives: East Bay Bike Path

Irene Aftermath

Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene – too much media hype? Discuss.

Well, as long as you don’t watch cable news or the weather channel for hours on end, then I think it is safe to say that Irene was a major storm that did a moderate amount of damage over a wide area and a great deal of damage to a few smaller areas, plus Vermont. I’d say we’re lucky it was weaker when it hit New York City. I direct hit from a cat 3-5 would be pretty bad there.

Anyhow, it hit us in Providence and knocked down quite a few trees and power lines. Evidently, half of the state lost power at some point – that’s about 1/2 million people. Luckily, I was not one of them. There were a few downed trees in my neighborhood, and a scattering of houses and businesses lost power. Also, some of the local rasta banana trees lost their delicious, gigantic fruit.

you may not want to eat that

(thanks to Sheryl for the picture)

There were many roads blocked around the state, including parts of the East Bay Bike Path. Fellow bike commuter (and CFPVD interview subject), Jim, took some pictures for me.

It looks like the storm surge may have even gone over the path at this point.

Jim told me that there were a few places where cyclists had to go off the path in order to get around a tree (or play limbo like in the picture below).

Evidently, much of the path has been cleared now. It’s nice to know that RIDOT (or one of the cities) took the time to clear the bike path soon after the storm. My cynical nature led me to believe that they would just clear out the trees on the roads and then get around to the bike path in a week or two.

At least I still have the sand and glass-covered bike lanes of Allens Ave to confirm my cynicism.

hiatus

-yawn- -stretch- -hmmsgrrrghh-

Well, that was a refreshing break from blogging. Something we all need from time to time. Something we don’t need is a break from cycling. And as mentioned previously, I’m very happy that my break from cycling is over. I’ve been back on the bike for about two and a half weeks, and it feels great. I haven’t been on any long rides yet, just to and from work or the store. After just a couple days on the Raleigh, I switched back to my regular day-to-day bike, a 2005 Cannondale flat-bar roadbike (or “performance hybrid” if you prefer). The Raleigh is certainly a distinctive ride, but sometimes I just want to get to work or get home without lugging 40 pounds of steel around. I’ve had no issues with pain in my collarbone, so everything seems to be going fine. Instead, my ankle has been bothering me, so I’ve laid off the clipless pedals for a while. Instead, I’m rocking it like a retro-grouch with my Keens.

But enough about me, It’s bike month!

What’s that? Bike Month was May and I hardly blogged at all? Oh well…. I was all set to mark Bike To Work Week since it was the first full week that I was able to actually ride my bike. Of course, BTWW is not much of a challenge to me, so I decided to participate in BTWW on “expert” level: Bike To Work While Wearing a Tie Week:

I couldn’t quite complete the expert level. The temptations of “casual Friday” are to great for me, so I left the tie at home. Still, four days in a row while wearing tie, that’s good for something, right?

Besides, it was wicked cold:

The temperatures got a little better for the concentrated glory that is “Bike To Work Day” (The Friday of BTWW).  I missed BTWD last year because I was visiting family in Olathe KS, where I joined fellow blogger, commuterDude on his bicycle commute. (This limited-edition collabo resulted in my most epic post ever). Unfortunately, I missed the BTWD festivities this year because I had to be at work at 6:30 AM. I took a coffee break a little after 9:00 AM, and rolled up to the WWI memorial where all of the bike commuters were supposed to gather. Only two bike commuters remained, one holding a sack of mini-bagels. As the last commuter to join the fun, I got the bagels as my reward. GCPVD was there, and captured a few pictures including this one which I believe I have annotated just enough for it to qualify as “fair use.”

The orange arrow points to our mayor, Angel Tavares. He is usually driven around in a Hybrid SUV (which was purchased during his predecessor’s administration), so it’s nice to see him on a bike. I don’t know who the woman next to him is (indicated by the yellow arrow), but she is looking the most “cycle chic” out of the collection of commuters that day. I’ve used a green lightning bolt to indicate a set of Zipp carbon wheels on a carbon road racing bike. Perhaps not the best commuter bike choice, but hey, I guess some people drive to work in a Porsche, so why not ride a racing bike to work? Really, I’m just jealous of his coffee mug that fits in a water bottle cage – I’ve got to get myself one of those!

Something else I need to get (at the suggestion of reader, V.):

Now that’s a bike fit for a contraption captain!

I’ve heard that one of these has been spotted on the East Bay Bike Path. The first reader to provide pics gets…. um. I don’t really have any prizes. How about some of my expert-level gratitude?

How to wipe that smug smile off my face

In which our hero learns that one problem with smugness is that too much of it can lead to some serious come-uppance.

If you read bike blogs, or talk with avid cyclists much you’ll know that there are three topics that never fail to bring out people’s opinions. I’m not talking boring technical roadie stuff like steel vs. carbon vs. titanium or Campy vs. SRAM vs. Shimano. The topics I’m talking about are Critical Mass, Bike lanes (and other infrastructure), and the advisability of everyone wearing a helmet. Here are (briefly) my takes on the first two. I’m rather grumpy today, so I’m prone to extreme positions. Also, I’m now incapable of shrugging my shoulders, which means I can’t really equivocate. I’ll explain my grumpiness when I get to helmets.

Critical Mass: (wikipedia if you need a definition). I participated in two CM rides in Edmonton. At first, it was kind of fun, riding in a big group, letting most of the traffic go by. Later, it seemed like the mass was just there to block traffic and piss people off. The most often expressed point of CM is that it is a “celebration of cycling.” I suppose that’s true in the same way a loud, drunken tailgate party is a “celebration of school spirit” in that it makes everyone who’s not on your side hate you even more, and embarrasses the people who are ostensibly rooting for the same team. If you go with the “spontaneous protest” justification and the point of CM is to convince people that “bikes are traffic” it’s a stupid fucking way to do it. Instead of CM, ride your bike everyday, everywhere you need to go. Encourage other people to do the same. CM is for bullshit wannabe revolutionaries.

Bike Lanes: Some bike lanes are good, some bike lanes are bad . I don’t need bike lanes in order to feel comfortable riding in the street, but it’s kind of nice to have them. I’ve biked in cities that have more lanes than Providence and it was pretty sweet. I’ve biked in cities with hardly any bike lanes and while it was certainly manageable, the worst part was the 45 MPH speed limit on some streets. A grid street pattern allowed me to stay off of those streets for the most part. Bike lanes (when constructed properly and kept clear of debris), can encourage more people to ride. When built incorrectly, they are a hazard. And the Park Slopers suing to get rid of the lanes on Prospect Park West are full of shit because those things make everyone safer.

Helmets: If you read about biking much, you’re bound to come across the “great helmet war.” The anti-helmet crowd says stuff like, “The Dutch don’t wear helmets, and they have some of the best cycling safety statistics.” Good for them, they also have the best cycling infrastructure and culture in the world. “That one guy in England found that when he wore a helmet, cars passed closer to him” Nice sample size there. “Bike helmets aren’t designed for the common types of accidents” Well then, let’s make them better. “Requiring helmets convinces people that cycling is unsafe.” Some people are stupid, what are you going to do? I’d keep going, but I think that this post does a better job of breaking down the arguments for wearing a helmet.

In the last year, I’ve sort of skirted around the edges of the “helmet wars” as I’ve read various bike blogs. I’m a bit conflict-averse, so I’ve avoided reading much of it. But I’d heard some of the intriguing counter-intuitive arguments and I’ll admit that they appealed to my scientific curiosity. Earlier this week, I found the video below on a bike blog called DFW Point-to-Point, and I thought, “well, maybe I’ll take a look at this anti-helmet stuff.”

I’d proceed with my usual frame-by-frame mocking of the video (a skill I picked up by spending too much time watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 in my youth), but I’m typing with one hand and don’t quite feel up to it today.

On Friday, I wiped out while riding my road bike on the East Bay Bike Path. It was a beautiful day, with a high predicted to be in the upper 60’s. I had a comp day coming to me, so it seemed like the perfect time to take the day off and enjoy a casual ride with Spouse. I even wore shorts. We were on a flat, straight section of the EBBP, completely  devoid of any gravel, twigs or debris. I had just mentioned to Spouse that we could ride side by side since there was so little traffic. I took a swig from my water bottle, and as I replaced it, I lost my balance. My bike got sideways, and I hit the ground hard, mostly on my left shoulder, but also on my left hip. My head also hit the ground, but I’m not certain of the sequence. I heard a snap, at the time I thought it was my helmet, but it was most likely my collarbone. I didn’t black out, but the pain took a few minutes to catch up with me. Spouse kept a level head and helped me get to the side of the path. She called our friend (and faithful commenter) Vanessa to help with the bikes, then we decided it was best to call an ambulance.

X-rays confirmed that my collarbone was broken on my left side. I won’t bother you with the details of the ER right now (I have 4-6 weeks of no riding ahead of me, so i’ll need to stretch out the stories). I’ll just say that I’m glad I always carry with me: my ID, credit card, and insurance card. I didn’t have anything with emergency contact info on it, but I’ll be adding that to my kit for my next ride. Something else I always have with me: my helmet. Did it save my life yesterday? No, that would be an exaggeration. But it probably saved me from a concussion.

 

It's hard to see the crack, but it goes almost all the way through.

Fortunately, you can’t see the crack in my clavicle, but I can assure you that it is protruding much more than the other side. I’m not sure why I’m smiling, maybe it was the percocet.

Do you think it's kind of flirty how one of the straps keeps falling down?

I’ll be wearing this for the next several weeks, thus the one-handed typing. And one-handed eating. And one-handed just about everything else.

At the end of my recovery, i’ll get to buy a new helmet. They’re not perfect, but they’re the best thing we have for protecting our brains (along with not riding like an idiot). I can’t blame this accident on anyone but myself, really. I suppose I could try to blame it on the extraordinarily strong pull of the lunar perigee on the water in my bottle.

The so-called “Supermoon” woke me up around 3 AM this morning just to mock me as it passed across my window.

I’ll try to keep up with the blogging in the next few weeks, concentrating more on walking and transit. Until then, ride safe!

Destinations make the trip worth while

There are three major bike paths that lead out from Providence. The Blackstone Valley Bike Path, the Washington Secondary Bike Path (which, in true New England fashion, goes by different names depending on which town you are in), and the East Bay Bike Path. The EBBP is by far the most popular. It’s almost completely flat, it has nice views of Narragansett Bay, and it runs through some of the more affluent parts of the state. Thus it can fill up with casual riders on a nice weekend day. It’s not my favorite of the three paths, but it does have one great perk that the other paths are missing: a destination.

Here’s the end of the Washington Secondary:

The pavement just sort of ends, and gravel continues. It doesn’t really inspire a cyclist to reach for the end of the path. When you reach this point, you just turn around an go home (unless you feel like going off-road, which doesn’t really interest me).

And here is the view that awaits you at the end of the Blackstone River Bike Path:

It’s the world’s most useless bike rack! It’s at the end of a bike trail next to a parking lot here. There is nothing to walk to, nothing to do. I can’t think of a single reason to lock your bike to this rack. Not exactly inspiring.

Ah, but what awaits the patient cyclist at the end of the East Bay Bike Path?

photo credit: thebeehivecafe.com

The charming little city of Bristol, and my favorite Bristolian restaurant, The Beehive Cafe.

And inside….

photo credit: thebeehivecafe.com

It’s an almost perfect way to spend a lazy weekend day. A nice ride down the coast, followed by a delicious lunch. (I recommend the breakfast sandwich on a Portuguese roll.)

There’s just one problem with this cafe. Here’s the best bike parking:

Locking up to a tree. It’s so undignified. Just look at how the bikes are just falling into each other. Meanwhile, what did I find right next to the restaurant?

Ample horse parking, a necessity for the modern Rhode Island restaurant.

Night Riding: Back from Bristol (and Beehive Cafe review)

Saturday was the last day of moderate temperatures before an expected heat wave (looks like 5 or more days of 90 degrees plus!) Spouse and I decided to make the best of it by meeting a friend for some afternoon activities near the East Bay Bikepath. First, we biked to the Tillinghast Farm, popularly known as the “RISD Beach.” This was a farm along the Narragansett Bay that was donated to the Rhode Island School of Design for use by the staff & students. Because Spouse works for an affiliated institution, we are allowed access to it as well.  Theoretically, you need to have an ID from said institution, but nobody is checking IDs at the gate. There is a lack of bike parking, but Spouse and I made the best of a wooden sign post.

Our friend brought her dog, who was much in need of some quality beach time. I’m not sure if I’d want to swim at this beach – the bay is still a little too polluted for my taste – but it’s a pleasant beach for walking along and watching a big dog have fun in the waves.

Aside from the traffic, one thing I hate about the EBBP is the many road crossings you have to slow down for as you ride along. There’s a stop sign for cyclists posted at each crossing, even for the places where the path crosses an industrial access road that is blocked by a gate. For some of the crossings, one needs to actually stop, but it’s difficult to know which ones. Now I have a new thing to hate about the EBBP – there’s no street signs for the crossings. It was very difficult to know where we needed to turn off from the bike path (Middle Highway) in order to get to the farm. We were smart enough to check it out on Google Streetview ahead of time so we knew to look for the crossing that has five big rocks. But still, there were several crossings before Middle Highway that looked very similar. This shows a basic problem with the philosophy behind bike paths – they are often built with the idea that they will be used solely for recreation, not transportation. You don’t need to know what street you are crossing, cyclist, because you should just stay on the path where you belong, then turn around and go back to your car, put your bike on the back and drive home! I’m sure that 90% of the people on the path on the weekend use it for recreation (unlike my coworker Jim), but still – they should be able to know what street they are crossing so they can find their way to destinations off of the bike path. There’s also a general New England problem with street signage. New England cities are notorious for tiny, poorly placed (or completely absent) street signs, thus making the non-grid streets all the more confusing to outsiders. Okay, enough of that rant.

After a little bit of beach time, we headed down to Bristol for dinner. For the outastaytas in the audience, Bristol, RI is the home of the nation’s oldest continuous 4th of July parade (since 1785). Spouse and I arrived to find the area full of pre-4th revelers enjoying and outdoor concert. Luckily, our dinner destination was not too full. Our friend with the dog used her car to get to Bristol and arrived at about the same time we did since there was so much traffic. We ate at the Beehive Cafe,  a lovely little restaurant near the harbor. The food was delicious, and if I was a better blogger, I would have some great pictures of the three of us enjoying our meal on the patio while the dog enjoyed the cool concrete. I think Miss Sarah in Edmonton does the best job of this sort of thing. I had a great Aquidneck farms burger. Spouse had some chunky-style gazpacho and a Mediterranean plate with all sorts of goodies. Our friend had the 4 cheese penne pasta. We then shared some strawberry-rhubarb pie. Everything was excellent, and reasonably priced for the quality. I felt like my burger was of the same quality that I would get at La Laiterie, but significantly less expensive. Everything on Spouse’s Mediterranean plate was of the highest quality. In describing the plate, Spouse said that each individual item could have been sold for $3-4, so it was a good deal as well. Enough with the restaurant review! I’m just including it as an attempt to draw some search engine hits. And to show that you can use a bike to get to a restaurant that is about 18 miles away. (One more thing, they have a decent beer list – very refreshing after cycling in the heat).

As we wrapped up our meal, the light was beginning to fade. Our friend had left her bike rack on her car in case we wanted a ride home. Spouse decided to take her up on the offer, but as you know dear reader, I’M WAY TOO HARDCORE TO ACCEPT THE OFFER OF A RIDE!!! Actually, the temperature was unstoppably pleasant and I wanted to see what it was like to ride on the path at night. The sun had just gone down as I set out on the path. There were a few other cyclists early on, but they thinned out to nothing within the first 5 miles. I was completely alone on the path. Except for a few million bugs. At first there was just the occasional swarm that I would ride through, but eventually, it was an almost constant barrage of bugs. I was sure to breathe through my nose, and through some miracle I avoided eating any of them. The bug gauntlet was  worth it as a trade off for an empty path. Without any of that pesky traffic, I was able to keep a very steady pace (aside from the road crossings) and I hardly coasted at all. Time seemed to stop as I chugged along on the path, collecting bugs on my shirt. I can see why some people prefer a brighter light than what my Planet Bike 1/2 watt has to offer. I often felt like I was straining my eyes and it would have been nice to make the tree tunnels a little brighter.

As I approached the northern end of the trail, a fireworks display started in a nearby town. At the top of the final hill, many people were pulled over in their cars to watch the display. A few decided that the perfect way to watch the fireworks was to sit on one side of the bike path. I had to slow down to about 6 mph to get past them. A few times I had to yell out “excuse me” to the people standing in the middle of the path staring slack-jawed at the sky.

It was quite pleasant to ride the path at night. I hope to do it again, but I may have to get a bike like this just to avoid the bugs.

photo credit: windwrap.com