Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The River

As I have stated previously, I find extreme pleasure in being able to bike along the St. Joseph River every day going to and from work. I am a "river person". The river seems to me to be more alive than, let's say, a lake. I have been lucky enough in this life to have spent some time running one of this country's great rivers, the Colorado. It was then that I fell in love with rivers.
I spent some time in Arizona on a Pima indian reservation. The Pima name for their tribe was Akimel O'odham, which means "River People". They were dependant and very connected to their rivers. Here in Fort Wayne, it seems the only time we care about the rivers are when they flood.
It is crazy that I have found myself in the City of Three Rivers. And that I get to commute along one of them each day. For that I am truly thankful.

Where the heck am I going with all of this river stuff you ask?
Well, the St. Joseph River, on which I commute, is probably one of the uglier rivers of the three that we have here in Ft. Wayne. I understand that the levies are a necessity but it makes for a very un-natural appearance. That is until the rivers have been allowed to flow more freely in the last few days. Finally, I saw the geography of the river, Where it wants to flow and where it wants to deposit its sediment. It has actually come alive. I have been able to see it in it's more natural state.
So today as I was taking all of this in and traveling north looking at the Tennesee bridge I see a splash that, I thought, came from an extremely large fish. I kept my eye on the spot as I got closer and then had a horrible realization. Someone driving on the Tennesee Bridge had thrown a can of Mt Dew into the river as they passed over it. It made me sick to my stomach that this living river could take such abuse. This river, that is on of the main reasons that the Indians were here before the whites chased them out. The reason that we are here still today. We throw our trash and our poop and whatever else into out rivers. It is no wonder that the wildlife seems so absent form this stretch of the St. Joe. With the water low you can see a shopping cart and an old camper shell too. If I am being too dramatic then I guess I just don't get it. These rivers are a resource, not a flowing trash can. That is how I view them at least. Although the prevailing attitude seems to be different from my own. I mean, the only reason we are doing the storm water separation project that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the next twenty years is so the City won't get fined by the EPA! I guess I don't get it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some bicycle articles from the Christian Science Monitor

These really hit home with the problems that can arise from more people biking.
Should we be looking to solve them now, or should we wait until the problem gets a bit bigger?
They both should give you all some interesting food for thought.

Critical Mass Ride gets some press

Check out the press on What's Going Down(town) blog!

I will be attending my first Critical Mass ride this month and I hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bike trails and bike lanes plan

Cities such as Portland, OR and Minneapolis, MN have terrific alternate (especially bicycle) transportation systems. The city governments went out of their way many years ago to plan for what exists in those municipalities now.

Fort Wayne is no where near those other cities as far as infrastructure, but there is a pedestrian and bicycle planning process that has taken place. And a plan that has been produced. That of course is the first step in creating a network of trails and bike lanes that would help to connect the city and county. The Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council is the agency that completed the Bicycle/Pedestrian transportation Plan.

Here is a little snippet about who NIRCC is and what they do (taken from the Public Participation Plan dated May 2007)

The Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) is the agency
designated by the Governor of the State of Indiana to perform general purpose planning
on a regional basis for Adams, Allen, DeKalb, and Wells Counties. NIRCC functions not
only as the regional development agency, but also as the Intergovernmental Review
Agency for this multi-county area. In addition, NIRCC serves as the Metropolitan
Planning Organization (MPO) for the Fort Wayne-New Haven-Allen County Urbanized

The Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council as the Metropolitan Planning
Organization is charged with performing comprehensive transportation planning in the
Urbanized Area. Under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity
Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) regulations, the metropolitan transportation
planning process must occur in an atmosphere of public involvement and participation.
The regulations state that each “MPO shall develop and use a documented participation
plan that defines a process for providing citizens, affected public agencies,
representatives of public transportation employees, freight shippers, providers of freight
transportation services, private providers of transportation, representatives of users of
public transportation, representatives of users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle
transportation facilities, representatives of the disabled, and other interested parties with
reasonable opportunities to be involved in the metropolitan transportation planning

The public participation plan in its entirety can be viewed here:

It explains, in case you don't want to read the whole thing, how the agency went about coming up with the bicycle/pedestrian map for the future of Fort Wayne.

This map can be viewed here:

The map shows proposed and existing, on and off street trails, sidewalks, bike lanes, curb lanes and shoulder lanes.

Obviously a lot of time, energy, and money went into this plan but from what I can tell by examining it, very little has been implemented. I do not know the reason for that but, it is good to know that there is a plan out there that seems to be quite comprehensive if and when the appropriate agencies decide to implement it.

Bad Bikers, Bad.

Today I witnessed two different sets of bikers completely ignoring the rules of the road and I said to myself...Self, bikers will always have a bad rap as long as there are bicycle commuters out there who refuse to obey the rules of the road.

One guy seemed like he was a bicycle commuter (the backpack, the helmet, etc) and was on Main St heading east at Ewing. The light was red and he waited for the traffic to clear and then ran the red light. As a motorist on occasion, I can tell you that this type of behavior typically infuriates me. As a bike commuter it just makes me shake my head and know that this is one example of why I, when on my bike, get yelled at and sometimes cursed at by motorists for apparently just existing in their immediate area.

The other set of bikers were on Coliseum right by the Kmart and Lakeside golf course. east side of the street. They were, I assume, Mormon Missionaries. They had the white shirts and ties (I am from Arizona so I am pretty sure that I know what I am talking about). They proceeded to ride against northbound traffic on the shoulder across the bridge over the Maumee! Wow. Not only dangerous and totally against the rules of the road, but crazy.

So, the underlying theme of this post? We will not be respected as bike commuters if we do not follow the rules of the roads that we ride on, period. Think I'm wrong? I'd love to hear your point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bike Language: The Wave, the Yell, and the Nod

This comes from Nate Berg by way of Paul S. and is pretty right on.

City cycling can be hectic. Let's be realistic: most American cities are not meant for cyclists. It would be great if they were, but for now, our city forms are primarily designed for the movement of cars. Because cities are made for cars, it's understandable that car drivers tend to disregard the fact that somebody might be riding a bike out there. Until our urban forms and public policies encourage the use of roads by a variety of transportation types, the burden is on cyclists to assert their role in the transit jungle. Communication is key to achieving this goal. Safe cycling (and safe transportation in general) relies heavily on communication. Safe cyclists speak bike language -- a rudimentary system made up of three main components: the wave, the yell and the nod.

1. The Wave
The wave is a critical part of cyclist communication. The wave is the simple use of the arm to indicate where one is heading. To show others where they intend to go, bikers can merely point in the direction of a turn, just like a driver can use a turn signal. When people know what to expect on the road, they can react appropriately. It's a pretty simple concept, and one that is incredibly easy to put into action. In addition to being a basic safety measure, the wave can also be used by bikers to thank others for acknowledging their presence. For example, when a car yields to the right-of-way of a cyclist, or when drivers stop to let a signaling biker turn, a friendly wave is a nice way of saying "thanks for not killing me."

2. The Yell
The unfortunate reality of city biking is that cyclists are often unnoticed. The wave helps to make bikers more noticeable, but sometimes a wave is not enough. The yell is an important part of bike language, as it tends to be used when there's little time to do anything else. A brief yelp has saved many bikers' lives from blindly merging cars and distracted drivers. It's also a highly effective method of reminding people that cars are not the only occupants of the road. Car drivers are used to seeing the roads filled with other car drivers, so many don't often even consider the fact that there might be a biker infiltrating their playgrounds. This is a symptom of sloppy driving, but one more deeply caused by a road network design focused on serving one type of user. Ignorant drivers should by no means be forgiven for overlooking cyclists, but we should recognize the root cause of their ignorance. The yell is a great way to help drivers transcend from this ignorant state and attain the true understanding of the road as a multi-user medium.

3. The Nod
The third of the three most important elements of bike language is the nod. While the yell and the wave are mainly instruments of cyclist safety, the nod is more about community. As cyclists pass each other on the road, they can often be seen giving each other a quick nod of the head. It’s a sign of solidarity in a world where the cyclist is a second-class citizen of the road. This simple gesture creates a subtle but real sense of community amongst bikers, reminding that, no, they are not alone.

Using these three basic forms of bike language will make city biking a lot safer, and a lot easier to integrate into the fast-moving oblivious world of the automobile. Now, I'm sure many drivers out there have had some frustrations with self-righteous bikers at some point, and I know for sure that many cyclists out there have had some scary and painful interactions with inattentive drivers in the course of their city cycling. Let's remind ourselves that the few outliers can't possibly represent the entire spectrum of bikers and drivers. Yes, many are conscious and respectful of each other, but it's best in this situation to assume the worst and proceed as cautiously as possible. A lot of people say the best way to drive is to drive defensively. I think the best way to bike is to bike communicatively.

Nate Berg is assistant editor of Planetizen

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bike news briefs

This just in.
Here are some great articles that are worth the read on bikes, bike lanes, and bike commutes. In that order.

This one speaks to european style bikes which are terrific for commuting comfortably.

This one is particularly interesting because you wouldn't think that a city like Boston would just be dedicating the first two stretches of bike lanes this last week. It's true. You know how I know? I found it on the internet!

I only have to bike 2.1 miles form my house to work. It is an easy, easy commute. I have asked around and no one seems to know the breaking point at which people would no longer consider riding their bike but would drive instead, For me it is about 5 or 6 miles. I'm spoiled. But check out this article about a guy in New York that does 12 miles, one way!

Stay safe out there!

We're out there!

This last week has been an exiting one for me because I spotted a couple of bike commuters.
I was on the River Greenway on my way to work and I had run over a piece of glass so I stopped to get it out of my tire and all of a sudden was passed by a fellow bike commuter heading (I can only assume) downtown.

Then, on Monday I was riding with a buddy of mine in his car on our way to golf and we passed another bike commuter on Spy Run! I couldn't believe it! She was brave and on a pretty sweet hybrid type bike.

You may be asking yourself how do I know that these people are bike commuters? Well we are usually unmistakeable because of all the gear we have to haul around. I have a big pack that I carry rain gear, change of clothes, my lock, water, etc. That is the necessary equipment. I get the question all the time in the elevator. So now you know.

The more I ride, the more I can't help but think of how great a town this is for biking even without bicycle specific infrastructure. Downtown has great neighborhoods that make it an enjoyable place to commute on one's bike. So if you have thought about it in the least, get out and give it a try. You don't need any specific bike or gear to get started. As you do it you will find out what you need and what you don't.

Someone passed my wife on her bike the other day and yelled at her to get on the sidewalk. I will say this, from what I understand it is against the law to ride bikes on sidewalks in the downtown and I think that everyone would agree that it is unsafe to do so. Have you ever tried to ride on the sidewalk? (I know that the guy in the truck yelling at my wife hadn't.) Pretty bumpy ride let me tell you. The street trees as they mature sure help to wreak havoc on a sidewalk. The road at least gets needed attention so my advice to all of you bike commuters out there, ride the street.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fort Wayne Politics talks Bike Commuting!

I was pleasantly surprised to find Mike Sylvester blogging about commuting on his bike on Fort Wayne Politics. Worth checking out. Thanks for the material Mike.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Head East Young Man!

A while back I had a meeting at Goeglein's out on Maysville Road. It is located over five miles from my house. It wasn't the distance that was the trouble. It was more the "friction of distance" It wasn't the difficulty of the distance but how to get there in the most safe manner.
I mapquested it and it said to take Lake across to Maysville and then up. Anyone who has ever driven n Lake east of Anthony knows that to ride a bike on lake is just asking for trouble. I could take State Blvd out there too but that is about as safe as Lake.
I could take Anthony down to the River Greenway and out, but there is no way to get off of it at Maysville. I would have had to go all the way to Kreager Park and then back track on Lake to get to Maysville.
So, I finally decided to take Vance. Vance is about 1/2 mile north of State and runs parallel to it (in case you didn't know). It runs from Parnell to Maplecrest. It is a great route to use if you live on the East side. Granted the Right of Way is not all that inviting, but the traffic on it is light (even at peak hours, which my journey was).
So I took Vance all the way to Maplecrest and then Maplecrest south to State and then State to Maysville. Just an FYI, Maplecrest has a lot of room on the shoulder in most places so it was not that bad but State Blvd. and Maysville Road are different stories. It is not for the faint of heart if you know what I mean.
Vance worked great though and I would and will recommend it to anyone who asks.
That leads me to another point. I didn't have to take Vance the whole way. Here in the older parts of Fort Wayne there is a welcoming (at least to bikes and pedestrians) grid pattern of streets for the most part and it is easy to use lower traffic residential streets to get around within the immediate area. A plus for those who live in and around downtown.
Ride safely.