Category Archives: Washington Secondary Bike Path

Stay-cation Sentury*

Earlier this month, I made this declaration on Twitter:

I did this as “re-tweet bait” that is, I hoped that others would agree with my sentiment and retweet my statement throughout the world, thus securing my twitter victory, or twit-ctory. (I haven’t quite figured out twitter – but it is some sort of competition, right?) However, it was only retweeted by one @MoneyOvaBisquik – aaannnd, I’m not sure what that was all about. I’ll have to secure my twit-ctory by other means.

Although it was retweet bait, I certainly agree with the statement whole-heartedly. Cool October weather is perfect for cycling. With that in mind, I scheduled a few days off to enjoy the crisp air. Little did I know that we would have snow storms on during my vacation. I was able to get in a little bit of cycling here and there, however. On Wednesday of last week, I took a leisurely ride up the Blackstone Valley Bike Path. Where I took the obligatory pictures of the pretty little bridge:

and the fall folliage:

The Blackstone Valley Bike Path is my favorite of Rhode Island’s three major bike paths. It rolls gently alongside the river, crossing it multiple times giving the rider views of the valley and there’s hardly any road crossings.

On Thursday, it rained and in some parts of the state, it snowed. But Friday, it was sunny and beautiful, so I was out on the bike again.

This time, I went to the end of the Washington Secondary Bike Path, and then headed out on the roads around the Scituate Reservoir.

I ended up riding just over 50 miles, which is my longest ride since my accident in March, and the longest ride on my road bike (but not my longest ride ever – I performed that on my trusty hybrid). I was pleasantly tired and sore at the end of my ride, and the next day I was only a little bit sore. It was a perfect day for a cool weather ride. Cool enough that I could wear cold-weather cycling clothing, but not so cold that my nose was constantly running. Here’s an approximation of part of my route:

That’s not the full route, I had to extend my ride a little bit at the end in order to reach the arbitrary goal of 50 miles.

I took this picture when I was far out in the hills so I would have a record of there being snow on the ground in October:

Little did I know that we would have a couple of inches of snow in Providence just two days later!

Now the sun is shining, so I’m going to head out on my bike to enjoy my last day of stay-cation.

*okay, so it was a half-century. I did get to ride well over 100 miles during my brief staycation, so that has to count for something, right?

The End of Smugness

Friends, I have a confession to make. For about 2 months, I had in my possession an automobile.

Here, let me return your jaw to you from it’s place on the floor.

I did not own this car, it was on loan to me from some friends who were traveling overseas. Spouse and I had a few car-intensive errands to run while we did some renovations to our house, so it seemed like a good idea to have the car around. Plus, our friends needed to park their car somewhere, and in Providence, you just can’t leave your car on the street overnight. In the two months we had it, we drove about 1,000 miles. There were home improvement errands, day trips, a trip to the beach, and one overnight trip to upstate New York that made up the plurality of the miles.

About a week before my friends were due to return and reclaim their car, I decided to make a stock-up run to Trader Joe’s – about 10 miles from home. Because I am a car-free smugmonger, I left the car in the driveway and took my bike. Some other friends had recently offered me the use of their bike trailer and I wanted an excuse to try it out. So I hooked up the trailer to my city bike and headed out.

Riding with the trailer was a little easier than I expected. At times, I felt like I was flying down the Washington Secondary Bike Path. I stopped for a while to help out somebody with a flat tire. He wasn’t quite sure how to use the patch kit, something I didn’t really know how to do until about 2 years ago, so I was happy to lend some assistance. Besides, is there anything that can make you feel more smug than being the Good Samaritan?

I left my SPD's at home and went for a retro-grouch look with the Keens. Also, I was a little afraid of losing control and needing to put my foot down in an emergency. This did not happen.

To get to the Target, I have to ride on a wide, fast suburban road for about a mile. It’s never fun, and I thought it would be worse when pulling the trailer. However, I didn’t realize that cars would give me more room and not hassle me when I’m pulling a trailer – probably because they think there’s a kid back there. When I pulled into the Target lot, I saw this:

A $20 bill stuck in a bush! What great luck! I figured it was a little Karmic reward for my Good Samaritanism (to mix religious metaphors). This resulted in a general feeling of increased smugness. Next, however…

The bike rack was blocked by a big construction fence! I was slightly angry, but I was riding on such a wave of smugness that I didn’t really mind so much.

I bought a basketball at the Target, thus using up my $20 bill.

Next stop was Target, which still lacks for a bike rack, as does the EMS next door which actually sells bikes. I felt smug as I locked up to whatever this thing is:

A little more navigation of the big 4-Lane road, and I was back on the bike path. I was definitely moving slower than when the trailer was empty, but it was still easy to pull. Around the Point Street bridge, I passed the stragglers of the Rhode Island 70.3 Triathlon. Evidently a portion of the running course went up Olney Street this year. That’s just mean.

After recovering at home for a bit, I decided to test out my basketball. I pumped it up a little, then took a few shots. The first was a brick, not surprisingly since I hadn’t taken a shot in at least a decade. Soon, however I was landing a few bank shots and even a swish or two. Unfortunately, my basketball net has seen better days. Being stuck outside for years, it’s shrunk at the bottom so the ball will not go through. So, every time I made a shot, I had to jump up and punch out the ball. After making a few close ones, I backed up for a 15 footer. I missed, and the ball headed towards my friends’ car. It bounced once on the pavement and then landed on the windshield – and cracked it.

That’s one way to get rid of a day’s worth of accumulated smugness!

Speaking of accumulated smugness, the dedicated reader(s) of this blog may have noticed that I have not included a check-in on the SmugCalc in a while. This was a spreadsheet I started at the one-year anniversary of being car-free. I used this spreadsheet to track all of the miles I traveled using various forms of transportation (except for planes, that’s where I cheated). I was able to keep going with it for months, even tracking my miles after I broke my collarbone and could not ride my bike for a while (I was racking up transit smugness points instead). Finally, however, it just got boring tracking the miles on the bus. But now I’m back. Starting today, the SmugCalc is in full force. It’s not quite my Carfreeniversary, but August 1 makes for a nice round starting date. I’m at 5.5 SmugMiles so far.

And also speaking of accumulated smugness, the ladies at Let’s Go Ride A Bike are holding their 2nd annual LGRAB Summer Games. I have to do 4 of the following 10 items and blog about them:

  • on vacation? rent a bike and go for a ride!
  • write a letter advocating for bicycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike rack, etc) to your alderman/council representative, mayor, or a local business.
  • take a picture of something along your commute that says “summer” to you, and explain why
  • commute to work by bike or bike/transit if you don’t already
  • perform a maintenance task on your bike
  • explore a greenway or bike path in your city that you haven’t previously visited
  • test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride (road bike, mountain bike, etc.)
  • read a book about cycling
  • ride your bike somewhere new in your city
  • go on a group ride

These things have to be done between July 21 and August 8. I’m late to the game, but there’s still time for me to slay it! * So even though this post may be titled “The End of Smugness”, this is really just a renewal of smugness.

* by “slay it” I mean complete 4 tasks, blog about them, then get entered in a random drawing to win some prizes.

The Ambiguity of Street Signs: The Corner of Olney and Camp/Brown

Before I get to the case study mentioned in the title of this post, I have to talk about the street naming issue in New England. This post is about a particular intersection in Providence, where Olney Street intersects with Brown Street to the South and Camp Street to the North. If this were a normal part of the country, I could just call this the corner of Olney & Camp, but no, this is New England, where we change the name of the street every few blocks, just to confuse the outtastaytas. The worst offender is Angell Street as it descends into downtown Providence. After crossing Benefit, it becomes Thomas Street (for one block), then Steeple Street (for one block) and finally Exchange Terrace. Well, not really finally because that only lasts about a quarter mile, then it’s Sabin Street. But it’s less than a quarter mile before one finds oneself on Broadway. And then there’s the lack of street signs. Would it kill somebody to put up a street sign that’s large enough to read at more than 20 feet away. It’s always entertaining to see someone with California license plates driving around Providence with an exasperated look, alternately speeding up and slowing down, looking up at the tiny street signs, trying to figure out where the hell they are.

Okay, now that I’ve got my pet peeves out of the way, let’s get back to the corner of Olney & Camp/Brown. Fuck it, I’m just going to call it Olney & Camp. Here it is:

Let’s get closer:

Aaaanndd a little bit closer.

This is a two way stop intersection. Camp Street (running north-south or vertically in the image) has stop signs from both directions. Olney Street, (east-west, or horizontal in the image), is the more major thoroughfare and thus does not have stop signs. Instead, there’s one of these in each direction for the traffic on Olney:

redundant sign is redundant

One must always stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I guess people need reminding, since I saw this lady waiting in the crosswalk as many cars went past.

I was going to get all “crossing-guardy” on the the negligent motorists, but there was a break in the traffic just as I arrived on the scene and she was able to cross. I was thus denied an opportunity to exercise my smugness superpowers.

Here’s a photoshop-knockoff-freeware-enhanced version of the satellite view of the intersection in question:

The red lines indicate the location of the stop signs and the yellow lines indicate the locations of the redundant “Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk” signs.

Even though most motorists won’t stop for pedestrians here, I have witnessed a curious phenomenon many times. If there are cars stopped at the stop signs, sometimes a motorist on Olney will get confused and stop at the intersection when they do not have a stop sign.

Here’s the view from Olney street facing east:

Corner of Olney & Camp, facing east.

And here’s a view of from Camp Street (actually Brown Street) facing north:

Corner of Olney and Camp, facing north

This phenomenon is more likely to occur when a motorist on Olney is forced to pause in order to turn left onto Camp. Sometimes the driver behind the left-turner decides that they should also stop and let the Camp street drivers through. I’ve also seen a few times where there is an exasperated driver on Camp street, trying to pull out onto Olney, but in that driver’s view, all of the drivers on Olney are completely blowing through a stop sign.

I’m willing to chalk up much of the confusion to motorists’ ignorance of what’s going on around them. But I can also imagine the thought process of these motorists: “People are slowing down, sometimes people even stop to turn left, and there are these strange markings on the street that I’m used to seeing at a four-way stop. Why won’t anyone stop for me?!?!” Well, those strange markings on the street are pedestrian crosswalks, and although every intersection is a pedestrian crosswalk, sometimes the traffic engineers need to re-emphasize this to the motorists. Then they need to stick a “stop for pedestrians” sign for one direction because almost none of those people are actually stopping for the pedestrians. The only thing left to do is put in another sign:

I’ve seen these signs in many parts of the country, but never in Rhode Island, where there are many opportunities for a sign like this to dis-ambiguate an intersection. There’s another example not far away on Thayer Street which I will save for another day.

And now that I’ve been crabby for a while about signage, I’d like to be crabby about something else. It was a nice warm weekend and although the roads were still wet in places, I decided it was time to take out the road bike for the first time since January 5. I was low on work snacks (now that I bike so much, I have to eat almost constantly), so I headed out to Trader Joe’s in Warwick via my usual route: the Washington Secondary Bike Path. Unfortunately, the path was covered in sticks and branches from recent wind storms. On top of that, there were several big patches of ice:

Some of these required dismounting and portaging my bike around the ice. On the way home, I took the regular roads, which were mostly empty. With a nice tail wind, I was able to get up to 30 MPH. It was so good to be back on the road bike. So good that when a motorist honked at me, I just smiled and waved.

The Indignity of Bicycle Parking: Big Box Style

While I may have taken a brief hiatus from blog writing for most of January, I never stopped blog thinking. That is, I continued the meticulous over-documentation of the mundane tasks in my life in order to share this documentation with you. That is to say, I took pictures when I went shopping.

It was January 2nd, a kind of warm, but still mostly miserable day. There were a few remnants of a recent snowstorm here and there, but the streets were clean if a little wet and the CarFreePVD household needed some caulk to seal up some drafts from our windows. There’s a big box home improvement store that is right at the northern end of the Washington Secondary Bike Path. And if I set wheel on the WSBP, I might as well go all the way to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few necessaries.

I’ve whined about the lack of bike parking at this big-box store before. But this time, I have documentation! First, an obligatory shot of the parking lot with a few hundred spaces:

It doesn’t look that impressive here, but what does it look like from space???

Pretty dang big. Now, where can I park my bike? This store is right next to a bike trail, yet there is no bike parking. Last time, I asked an employee and they suggested I leave it near the return desk (where there is no place to lock it). I ended up locking it to the shopping cart carrel inside the store, so I just went straight to it this time.

It’s not a bad place to park a bike – it’s even a little bit stealthy.

I quickly grabbed some caulk [ahem], and I was out the door.

However, although the streets were free of snow & ice, the bike path had not fared so well. This seems to be a common problem as Noah from KC Bike Commuting recently pointed out a protected bike path in the KC area that is plowed over with snow from the adjacent road. Here’s the entrance to the WSBP off of Carolina St.:

I love how the snow has melted away from everywhere except for the curb cut that allows bikes to safely roll from street to path. Let’s ENHANCE!

I like to take pictures of things that make me sigh and feel smug

Moving on….

The path started out mostly clear, but once I entered the “tree tunnel” section, I could tell that very little sunlight had reached the surface of the path to melt the snow. At some point, someone had driven a 4-wheeled vehicle on the path, which was a blessing, because it created two ruts in which to ride.

It was slow going on the path. If there’s not much traffic, I’m usually trucking along at 15-18 MPH, but the ice forced me to keep my speed down to more like 10 MPH. It was a long slog to TJ’s and back. By the time I was heading home, it was getting dark and there was a layer of snow fog just above the path. My camera fails to capture the creepiness.

One bright spot from earlier in the ride. I’d never noticed this street sign before:

That’s a street sign that was installed just for the benefit of people on the bike path. Pretty amazing when you consider all of the intersections in New England that lack any sort of sign.

One week later, the roads were in even better condition, so I decided to head out on the Jamis while I still had the chance. First, I stopped at another big box store to pick up some shower curtains. Here’s the obligatory photo of a parking lot with hundreds of spaces:

I rode around back to see if there was an employee bike rack or something like that. All I found was a classic dual-suspension Big Box BSO free-locked. I was about to take a picture of it for you to enjoy when the security guard (in a car) came around the corner. I asked him if there was a place to park, he suggested the lobby. There was nothing to lock it to there, so I went with this instead:

Maybe it’s time for my favorite activity – “Write an indignant letter to a big company about the lack of bike parking at their store.” On second thought, I think I’ll save my indignant letters for companies that might actually respond.

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:

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

And inside….

photo credit:

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.

Put your weight on it

My recent post regarding shopping for bikes elicited quite a few comments which pleased me to no end – thanks everyone for your tips and advice. I still have a long way to go and many more bikes to try out before buying my next bike.

A topic that often comes up when talking about bikes is weight. To paraphrase from the good book of Sheldon Brown: A 20 pound bike is not 33% lighter than a 30 pound bike. A 20 pound bike + 150 pound cyclist is 5% lighter than a 30 pound bike + 150 pound cyclist. Or something like that. I couldn’t find the quote right away and I’m feeling google-lazy [this is a new term I’m trying to popularize – it means “I could probably find the answer to this question in 10 seconds by using google, but it could take up to 10 minutes and I’m too lazy to do that right now.” An appropriate response to someone’s google-laziness is to hit them with a link from]  Let’s keep Sheldon’s wisdom in mind, as I relate today’s events.

It was a scorcher out there. Yesterday’s high was 94 and today wasn’t any better. However, I spent much of yesterday indoors, and I wanted to spend a little bit of time in the saddle today. Nothing too crazy, I just wanted to get out and ride a little to see how I could handle riding in the heat. We were a little low on some staple items that can best be purchased at Trader Joe’s. It’s about 11 miles away, so off I went with a shopping list and both panniers.

As I made my way through the hot-as-an-oven west side, I passed the White Electric Coffeeshop, where I noticed one of the bike mechanics from Small LBS #1*. I overheard him say to his companion, “man it’s too hot to ride a bike today.” That’s right, I’m more hardcore than a bike mechanic. DEAL WITH IT! He was right, but once I reached the Washington Secondary Bike Path it seemed almost 10 degrees cooler than the streets. I’ve complained about how the path is straight, flat and a little boring, with all potential views blocked by trees. Well, I wasn’t complaining about the tree cover today as I’m sure it was one of the main reasons for the cooler temperature. I’d given the bike a thorough cleaning yesterday (aside from firework-viewing, it was the only time I spent outside), so things were running very smoothly and I kept a decent pace despite the heat. With a little shade and a 15-18 mph breeze, 94 degrees didn’t seem so bad!

I reached TJ’s and loaded up on the usual goodies. Really loaded up. I even bought a big ol’ jug of maple syrup. I carefully arranged all of the goodies and headed back on the trail. I was much, much slower. I was working as hard as before, but I was in a lower gear than on the way there and my speedometer confirmed that I was significantly slower. I was still moving along and everything felt stable, but I was slow. It may not be fashionable to say it in some cycling circles, but I like to be fast.

Here’s everything I bought at TJ’s:

Trader Joe's Haul. Next thing you know, I'll be posting videos of stuff I buy just like a teenage girl.

Note the scale in the background – that’s right, I weighed everything. IN GRAMS.

Then I converted it to American – it was over 15 pounds! So, now I know – 15 pounds slows me down significantly. It wasn’t unpleasant to ride with 15 extra pounds (at least for 10 miles), but it was slower, and I can’t really imagine doing it on a 60 plus mile ride. As a side note, I really think I need to get a new rack. My panniers were starting to bend under the weight and they got dangerously close to my spokes on a few bumps. I tried to take a picture while I was rolling, but no luck, I only got this:

I guess I could have stopped and taken a picture, but then I would have lost my 12 mph breeze. I need to find a rack with a little more steel in the back to hold those panniers out.

So, now I know what 15 pounds of extra weight feels like. With that in mind, I headed to Big LBS #1 for a little bike shopping. I walked in and said that I wanted to talk about road bikes. The young man’s first question was, “How important to you is the ability to have a rack and fenders on your bike?” Me: “Pretty important, I also want to look at touring bikes.” So we talked about what I expect to do with the bike, etc. Unfortunately, there are very few road bikes these days that have eyelets for racks and/or fenders. In fact, in this large LBS that has (I’m guessing) well over 100 bikes on the floor, they only had 1 real “touring” bike, a Raleigh Sojourn. It was probably a size too large for me, but I took it for a short spin. It seems to be a pretty well-equipped bike with a decent level of components including disc brakes, Tiagra front, Deore rear, Dura-ace bar end shifters, a Brooks saddle. It even comes standard with fenders and a rack. But man, the thing was heavy. And too big for me (and I don’t really want the added expense and lack of serviceability of disc brakes). The guy and I talked about cyclocross bikes which often have fender and rack eyelets (go figure), but they didn’t have any in an appropriate size. We looked around some more and found a Fuji Newest 1.0 that was in my size. It has a higher level of components than my current ride and it has rack eyelets. I gave it a quick spin and the difference between the Fuji and the Raleigh was immediately noticeable. It was fast, and the geometry seemed about right for me (with a 54 cm frame). It has an adjustable stem, STI shifters, 105 rear deraileur, yadda yadda. What can I say, I kinda liked how it rode. Only a longer test ride will tell. So, for now it looks like it’s on the short list.

This brings me to my last point of the evening. It’s been a little less than a year since I sold my car and started thinking more seriously about bikes. In that time, I’ve noticed that there seem to be two main schools of thought on what is “good” in cycling. There’s what is popularly known as the “retro-grouch” school as personified by Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works. It’s tenets: Bikes should be made from steel; they should have lugs; frames must always include braze-ons and eyelets for racks and fenders in order to make the bike as useful as possible; lightweight is not good; if you are concerned about weight you should train more so you don’t notice the weight of your bike; a steel bike will last for decades while the structure of an aluminum or carbon bike will deteriorate and possibly fail catastrophically; wear wool, don’t wear lycra; (and something that really suprised me) clipless pedals are useless. Take a little time to look through the articles on the Rivendell site for more details on retro-grouchiness.

Then there is the modern bike manufacturer school: make it lighter, make it faster, every cyclist wants to ride like a racer, eylets are unnecessary on a true road bike, wheels must have as few spokes as possible, aggressive geometry is best; always wear lycra; slap some flashy graphics on that frame and give it a bitchin’ name! Take a look at any cycling magazine or the ad copy of a major bicycle manufacturer for this particular school.

Is there nothing in between these two poles? Nothing for the cyclist who wants to enjoy a nice ride in the country and be neither weighed down by a heavy bike nor bent over like a speed demon? While the retro-grouch rails against a cycling industry promoting its new-fangled technology with ridiculous ad copy, isn’t he just doing the same thing, but from a reactionary viewpoint?

So, my head continues to spin. The only way to solve it is to keep testing more bikes. I still haven’t visited Large LBS #2. I’ll try to do that soon to see what they have on offer. Meanwhile – I’m glad I wasn’t headed southbound on I-95 today:

As they say down south on Aquidneck: Newport society is divided between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have yachts.’ Or in this case, ‘use-ta-have-yachts.’

* I’ve decided to start a policy of semi-anonymizing the Local Bike Shops that I frequent. Readers in Rhode Island will be able to recognize them by my descriptions, and for those outside of the area, the name of the LBS is not really important. I’m not sure why I’m doing this – to avoid showing up in their google searches? To keep my own anonymity? Maybe it would be better to be forthright in my discussion of my dealings with these local businesses. Anyone have thoughts on this issue?

They are: Small LBS #1; Small LBS #2; Large LBS #1; Large LBS #2. The numbers have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I frequent the #1s more than I frequent the #2s. So to speak.

Honk Report: Cranston

I did a little utility cycling today with a trip to three stores in Warwick and Cranston.  The furthest away is the Target on Bald Hill road – about 12 miles from my house. In Rhode Island terms, this is a big trip. I can get almost everything I need at the stores in my neighborhood, but I kind of like the ride to Target, most of which is on the Washington Secondary Bike Path. It also means I get to visit Trader Joe’s, just down the street. I stocked up at TJ’s with about 10 pounds of nuts and fruit, and I cleaned up on Cliff Bars at Target. I was pretty loaded down at this point – I’d guess that my panniers with their loads were almost equal to the weight of my bike. There’s kind of an odd phenomenon to riding with full panniers: once you get rolling, it’s almost like the load just pushes you along. My bike has much more inertia with a full load and it seems more stable in a way. It certainly makes going uphill more difficult – but there’s just a certain heft to riding this way. Anyhoo, I also stopped at EMS to check out their jerseys.

After leaving EMS, I had the option of making my way back to the bike path, or heading home on Reservoir Ave (aka RI Route 2). I’d been on Rt. 2 for a while by this point – it was the best way to get from TJ’s to EMS. There seemed to be plenty of shoulder, and the drivers were giving me plenty of room when they passed. The way to get back to the path seemed convoluted, plus I’d only be on the path for about 3 miles. So, I opted to stay on Rt. 2. Cars passed me, I passed cars at stoplights – the usual suburban stop-and-go. There were a few places where I couldn’t ride in the shoulder due to: excessive amounts of sand (no visit from the street cleaner?), cars parked in the shoulder area (legally), or broken glass. So, I rode in the right hand lane, and most of the cars went around me without a fuss. A red Honda Accord honked at me before overtaking me. They gave me plenty of room, and instead of glaring at them, I decided to take Jenny Ondioline’s advice – I smiled, waved and blew them a kiss. The two middle-aged ladies in the car seemed to get a kick out of it, and we all went on with our business. And now instead of stewing and feeling embarrassed about getting all road-ragey like I did a few weeks ago, I’m feeling pretty relaxed. Therefore, from now on, it’s all smiles, waves and kisses for all honkers.

Quasi-honk report: instead of tackling the 12 % grade on my usual route home, I went up through the college hill area. Brown’s commencement is tomorrow, so the area is full of people right now, including slow-driving luxury vehicles desperately looking for a parking place. Once I was a few blocks from home and traffic picked up, I was passed by a Tahoe or some such GM SUV. A passenger yelled something out the window at me. I’ll file this under honk report, although it’s a little different. Evidently, there’s an odd Rhode Island tradition of car passengers leaning out their windows and yelling random things at pedestrians (and cyclists, I suppose). I’ve tried using popular internet search engines to figure out the origin of this, but I haven’t found it yet. When I’ve asked native Rhode Islanders what the deal is, they usually just say, “I dunno, it’s just a Rhode Island thing to do.” It seems like it’s not particularly aggressive, just random and mostly intended to startle the pedestrian. Still, I’m filing it under Honk Report.

(the honk report is inspired by the Carbon Trace blog from Springfield, MO)

No pictures from my ride today. Instead, here’s an old Ferrari I spotted during my visit to Portland. I’m not a big Ferrari fan, they are so far out of my league that it’s not even worth thinking about. But this one is just plain beautiful.

Washington Secondary Bike Path – plus a little parking dignity

Last weekend featured temperatures in the 70s so it seemed like the perfect time to take the bike out for a longer ride. I had tried the Washington Secondary Bike Path once last year and found it to be a little… dull, but I was willing to give it another try. Plus, the path is close to a Target store, and I have to admit that I like the idea of biking to Target. The start of the trail is about 5 miles from my house, which is a little annoying, but I kind of like the adventure of biking through city streets. Plus, it was another chance to use Google’s new bike directions feature. Here’s what it suggested I do to get through the West Side and over to the start of the trail in Cranston:

seems reasonable enough

The dotted green streets represent “signed bike routes” which means that the city has done the minimum possible to encourage cycling – they’ve put up signs saying “bike route” – yay! The bright green line is the actual bike path – completely separated from the road. I would have to go on a non-bike route street at some point to get there, and google suggested Potters Ave. Potters turned out to be the single most pot-holed street I have ever seen. I didn’t want to stop on the street to take pictures because I just wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. Afterwords, I went back to google maps to grab some screen captures from the streetview feature. Check it:

I did a virtual drive down the street and found many other similar images. Here’s my favorite:

My theory is that the potholes on Potters Ave are so bad that the streetview car’s camera got jostled so much that it was unable to take many useful pictures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this type of artifact on streetview before. Try it for yourself here.

After passing the guantlet of Potters Ave and getting through a pretty hairy intersection at Cranston St. & Rt. 10, I finally made it to the path. And yeah, it was a little dull at first. It’s a rails-to-trails path, so that means it’s very flat, and in this case, very straight. So instead of enjoying the scenery, I decided to push the pace a little.

I went with an upper-half bike-dork, lower-half just-plain-dork look for my ride. In case you can’t tell, I’m wearing black shoes with black ankle socks. I’m also wearing regular shorts – I don’t need bike shorts because I roll with the Spongy Wonder bike seat. On top I’m wearing a long-sleeve bike jersey. There’s a very narrow temperature range in which one can wear a long-sleeve bike jersey, so I figured I might as well go with it. While bike jerseys are pretty bike-dorky, the back pockets make them quite practical. One of these days I’ll buy a short sleeve one.

The path is pretty boring up to the turn-off for Target. Once I was off the path, I had the choice of riding on the sidewalk or on a rather busy street. I started on the sidewalk, but it was covered in sand – so I switched to the road.

Traffic was moving pretty slowly, so it ended up not being a big deal. I was passing most of the cars, in fact. And I was happy that everyone was giving me plenty of room.

I arrived at Target to find a gigantic parking lot, which in most cases doesn’t bode well for bike parking.

However, in this case, I was happy to see my favorite type of bike rack:

But what is that in the background?

It’s another bike rack. The label says “Park Rite” and shows a bike parked with just its front wheel nestled in to the thing sticking out. This would allow you to only lock the front wheel to the rack making it very easy to steal the rest of your bike. Here’s a better look:

Although this is not the most useless bike rack ever (that distinction rests with this rack). It is quite possibly the worst design coupled with the worst installation on a bike rack that I have seen. The only way one could lock properly to this rack would be to lock sideways, thus blocking half of the rack. There is no way that a cyclist designed or installed this rack. Oh well, at least they have a proper rack a few feet away. And since I was the only cyclist using it on a 70 degree day, I’m guessing they don’t get too many customers by bike. Or by foot for that matter, seeing as how the sidewalk ends just outside of the parking lot and there is no discernible way for a pedestrian to get from the street to the stores.

Here you can see the sidewalk ending and … wait what’s that in the middle distance? OMG! It’s someone using their legs to get around! Of course, the lack of pedestrian infrastructure has forced him to cross in the middle of the street.

After picking up a few necessaries at Target (including a sports drink since I had filled my water bottle then left it on my kitchen counter), I was back on my way to the path. This time, I decided to stick to the sidewalk since I would have to cross 4 lanes of traffic in order to get on the right side of the road. However, there was an obstruction on the sidewalk:

I've always found the liquor store to be the best place for my Easter shopping.

Biking in a suburban landscape that privileges the car and does everything possible to discourage biking and walking can put me in a foul mood, so I almost chucked this thing over the guard railing. Instead, I opted for a different solution.

Fixed that for ya.

I was almost back to the path when I noticed this place of business:

That name is so awesome, it created some sort of distortion field that could only be picked up by my iPhone’s camera.

Finally, the path started to get a little more interesting. The path goes by several old mills on the Pawtuxet River, along with the ponds that were created to power/cool the mills back in the days of the industrial revolution.

Old hardware from the mill

There are a few nice bridges on trail like the one above. And while Venice has The Bridge of Sighs, the Washington Secondary has what I call The Bridge of Broken Glass:

Not quite as beautiful. I actually walked my bike across this bridge because I was afraid of getting a flat.

New Englanders seem to love naming streets – so much so that they will take one street and give it several different names. For example, Angell Street changes names 3 times in 3 blocks as it descends into downtown Providence. Likewise, what I am calling the Washington Secondary is part of the same path that changes to the Warwick Greenway, the West Warwick Greenway and the Coventry Greenway, eventually ending at the Trestle Trail.

Seems like each town likes to put their mark on it. (This map also shows the boring part of the trail which goes from mile 2.5 to mile 6.5.) Of course, within each city or town, there are also different “villages” including Arctic:

In case you can’t see it, below the village sign it says, “Hep Make Arctic Earthday Everyday.” Across the road there were some surly teens. The path seemed to be full of them, mostly minding their own or occasionally taking up the whole path. Some seemed to enjoy practicing their newly-learned profanity. I guess it’s better than staying inside playing video games.

The Coventry Greenway section of the trail makes it clear that it originated as a railroad, which I think is a nice touch – linking the industrial revolution to today’s transportation. Well, more like today’s recreation. I wish that people used the bike trails for transportation, but I doubt we’ll see much of that. One exception is the surly teens previously mentioned. There were a few packs of them on the path and I imagine that they were heading from one point to another and not just riding for fun. The only problem is that 99% of them will leave their bikes in the basement once they get their drivers license.

The purple section on the map marks where the path changes from pavement to gravel and continues on as the Trestle Trail.

Evidently, the Connecticut border is only about 8 miles from this point, but I had gone about 20-25 miles. I’m not too fond of riding on gravel, so this is where I decided to turn around and head home. Time and space started to warp as I picked up speed…

but it was mid-afternoon and the bike path had started to fill up.

There was even an old lady on a trike…

whom I totally dropped in like two seconds.

And then…

I was back to the city streets. All in, I probably did 40-45 miles that day. I’m feeling better about taking long trips on the bike. My legs and hands were a little sore after this ride, but not too bad. One day, the Washington Secondary will be part of a bike path that stretches over 3000 miles from Maine to Florida – the East Coast Greenway. Right now, 25% of the Greenway is on separated, traffic-free bike paths. I’d love to take a multi-day ride on it some day. I just hope it is completed before I’m too old to ride.