Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rides and Events for That Last Summer Hurrah

Summer is creeping to an end, much to the woe of cyclists who wouldn't mind prolonging the season to continue year round.

Photo: Janine Irizarry of North Fork Ride.

So before it goes for good, we've done a short round up of events taking place around the region as early as tonight.

Some of these like the Lipstick training sessions by Emma Nelson are the start of a nice long autumnal affair, the kind to keep your imagination going, fooling you into thinking that it's still summer.

The competition for legs in September, especially the auspicious date of Sept. 12th is fierce, with big traditional events being held in town, and others with perhaps more mileage, more speed and more adventure out of town.

Pic: Child from Hole in the Wall Camp, fund raising ride on Sept 12 to help kids with serious illnesses enjoy life at Paul Newman's camps.

We've even included an all-important New Jersey Bike Summit in October, when it rains a bit more, to get your mind thinking about how to make your city or town more bikeable. The summit is a worthy destination for New York residents as well since we do not yet have a Complete Streets policy in place statewide.

And for those with a real sense of adventure, we've included information about a ride in Cuba in late November. BBB has been to Cuba before to cover the Pan American Masters Championships in 2000, where I met Peter Marshall, the leader of this trip, and I can tell you it would be well worth it.

Photo: Patricia Dore of the North Fork Ride

Here's the list:

In Bergen County, NJ, right across the George Washington Bridge, tonight, August 26th:
The Tenafly Bicycle Workshop is partnering with Team Lipstick and Head Coach Emma Nelson to bring you fall 2010 training programs for women in and around Bergen County.  For all levels, the cycling, running, and swim programs begin the week of September 14. 
Please come to the information session this Thursday, August 26, 7 pm at our shop.  During the meeting, Emma will describe the programs to you and answer any questions you may have. Also, we’ll have a brief bike maintenance clinic. Tenafly Bicycle Workshop, 175 County Road, Tenafly, NJ 07670, Tel: 201.568.9372,

Windham, NY World Cup Moutain Bike Race and Festival, this weekend, Aug. 26 through the 29th.
Citizen bicyclists are invited to be a part of cycling history and race with the best athletes from all over the world during the Race the World events taking place at the Windham 2010 Mountain Bike World Cup Festival this weekend.
On Saturday, Aug. 28, the Race the World citizens’ downhill event sponsored by Kenda Tires will take place on a uniquely designed course. Professional and Category 1 – 3* cyclists are welcome to participate in the downhill event, which has a 3:15 p.m. start time. Entry fees range from $55 to $70.
On Sunday, Aug. 29, participants in Race the World citizens’ cross country races sponsored by Stan’s No Tube will compete on the same course as World Cup athletes. Professionals, Category 1-3* cyclists and first timers are welcome to participate in the cross country events.
Kids will also have a chance to Race the World on a 1/8 to 1/4 mile loop at the Windham Mountain base, near the lodge. The Kids’ Fun Race is appropriate for children up to age 10. Participants are asked to bring their own bikes. Heats will be broken down by age. There is no entry fee.
The $6,000 purse will be split between the Cat. 1 and Pro fields in both the cross country and downhill races and will be determined by the number of actual paid riders in each category and age group.
Riders are encouraged to register for the cross country, downhill and Kids’ Fun Race by visiting (click on non-UCI, and follow instructions at Online registration closes Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m.

North Fork Bike Tour with Glen Goldstein: Sunday, August 29
Sign up on ride day: $185.00 From Glen here, "tour director and humble servant since 1997": “I can't say enough good things about this ride -- gorgeous, flat, the seaside, the wineries, pie, free beer, more pie...Our flattest ride of the year! AND, free beer.

Photo: Pamela Cattel-De-Maaijer 

The North Fork section of Long Island is, well, what the Hamptons must have been like back in the day -- working farms, vineyards, wineries. We'll ride on low-traffic quiet country roads through lush farmland and past wineries, small towns, and along the coast of the Sound. 
You'll have your choice of four routes -- 100 miles/72 miles/50 miles/25 miles. Everyone starts pedaling the ride together on the same roads -- you can decide right in the middle of the ride which distance you want to do.

Photo: Jeff Cronen

The route is flat, Flat, FLAT... the 25-mile route is the flattest ride we offer all year.  No hills on the 25- and 50-mile routes; one hill on the 72 that any B-class rider can handle. The 100-mile route has three SWELL short hills, but nothing to write home about."
More beautiful North Fork photos and complete ride details here.

Camp Challenge Ride in Connecticut and Lake Luzerne, NY on Sept. 12th 
Camp Challenge Ride, the national bike event launching Sept. 12  to send seriously ill kids to Hole in The Wall camps. These are the overnight camps that the late Paul Newman founded so that kids with life-threatening diseases could, in Newman's words, "get away, kick back, and raise a little hell." The camps have all the activities of a sleepover camp -- customized to meet their campers' complex medical needs -- with on-site 24-hour medical care. Kids all attend free-of-charge, thanks to events like this and some generous corporate contributions.

The September 12 Camp Challenge Rides all start and finish at Hole in The Wall Camps in Ashford, CT, Lake Hughes, CA , and Lake Luzerne, NY .
All of these camps are other wise off-limits to the public. Riders can choose from one of three ride lengths: 15, 30 or 62.5 miles.

Pic: Yes, that is Julia Roberts at one of the Hole in the Wall camps started by Paul Newman. 

The fundraising minimum is $250 and every penny of it goes to send a kid to a 10-day camp session. Additionally--and this may be the best incentive to hoof your way up to any of the two northern locations besides helping those sweet kids, riders get free food, massages, and entertainment back at the camp.

Bike Philly for a Day with the Five Boro Bike Club, Sept. 12th.
Sunday, September 12 (one day only) for 8 people only, full payment must be received by Friday, 8/27
Price: $100, Transportation: Van, Mileage: 35
Enjoy the love of cycling in the city of Brotherly Love on a very special day. This trip will tie in with Bike Philly, a large city-wide bike tour sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. The tour features 10 and 20-mile, car-free routes with a 35-mile extended route on shared roads. See the historic sights, partake the local cuisine and enjoy the day away. Rain or Shine. Trip meets 5 AM at Penn Station and returns to Penn Station the same night. Must be a current 5BBC member. RSVP to, and send $100 check payable to 5BBC to cover transportation and ride registration. Meals not included in trip price. Please send membership form with check as described at bottom of Leaders: Owens Ridges and Wentworth Price

21st annual NYC Century Bike Tour, Sept. 12.
Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. 6 am to 6 pm. The New York City Century Bike Tour is a ride to be proud of. By riding in the New York City Century Bike Tour you're helping make the streets safer for cycling all year round.
During the first years of the tour New York had few greenways and bike lanes. Over the course of the last twenty years, the NYC greenway system has expanded, and each year the ride showcases this growing network.
The first NYC Century attracted about 200 dedicated NYC cyclists, most of whom were daily bicycle commuters, fighting hard for better conditions for cycling in NYC. Today the ride draws over 5,000 cyclists a year. Of course most still come from NYC but many come from Texas, California, Maryland and as far away as Germany, the UK and Mexico. And many return year after year.
NYC Century Bike Tour is unlike other rides. The NYC Century works as a means to show riders how they can connect to different neighborhoods and boroughs of the city safely. To illustrate cyclists' rights to the streets, there will be no street closings; cyclists ride with traffic along New York City Streets and must obey all traffic laws. Registration is now open!

Escape New York, Saturday, September 25th
Put on by the New York Cycle Club. Choose from three clearly marked Escape New York options. Cue sheets will be available at the start.  7:00 am: Century Challenge, 100 miles. A rolling full century through beautiful Bergen and Rockland counties.  8:00 am: RocklandRoll, 65 miles. Ramble on lightly trafficked roads to scenic Rockland Lake State Park. 9:00 am: Piermont Pleasures, 50 miles. A half-century to the charming and historic village of Piermont on the Hudson. 

Limited SAG support will be available on all routes with an emergency phone number provided on your cue sheet.
Helmets are required.
All rides start and finish at Sakura Park, located just north of 122nd Street and Riverside Drive, on the east side of Grant’s Tomb, near the 125th Street stop on the 1 and 9 subway, Manhattan. We ride rain or shine!
No refunds.
 Entry Fee $35  until midnight September 11th
, $45  until midnight September 21st
, $55  after September 21st – cash only at Sakura

Chasing Legends, a film about the Tour de France, Sept. 30th, Symphony Space on 95th St., NYC Seating is limited, and tickets are only $16 (if you buy in advance) for this film by Jason Berry. This is a great option if you want a break from riding, but not a real break. You know what I mean.

There is no greater sporting event in all of cycling than the Tour de France. Chasing Legends touches on the rich history, passion and true grit of The Tour as seen through the eyes of Team HTC Columbia along with commentary from Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Eddy Merckx, Lance Armstrong and some of the sport's most prolific heroes. With a stunning array of HD cameras, poignant and touching interviews, "Chasing Legends" will take viewers deeper into the pro peloton than ever on a rollercoaster ride of action, story and emotion. 

Says Bob Berry, the director's father: "I recently had an opportunity to see Chasing Legends in California and thought it was a fantastic biking movie.  In fact the whole world should be required to see it." The film was also recently endorsed on Phil Liggett's Twitter page.
NJ Complete Streets Summit, Friday, October 22, 2010, 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Voorhees Transportation Center, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, are pleased to announce the NJ Complete Streets Summit, cosponsored by the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association.
The Department of Transportation recently adopted a Complete Streets Policy, and would like to help spread the word about this program, encouraging more counties and municipalities to adopt their own policies.
The summit will educate engineers, planners, and elected officials about Complete Streets, its benefits and costs, and how to overcome barriers to implementing a Complete Streets policy.
Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users - pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies routinely design and maintain the entire right of way to enable safe access for anyone who may use it.

Having a Complete Streets policy can benefit a community in many ways, including making their grant applications for state funding more competitive. A Complete Streets program is also eligible for points toward Sustainable Jersey certification and can help a municipality meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An announcement with RSVP information will be sent out within a few weeks. The event is free, and space is limited.  If you'd like to make sure you're on our mailing list, reply to

Bike Trip in Cuba: November 20th through December 4th (or shorter)
Late November and early December are great for bicycling here in Cuba. 
Come with the CanBiCuba Cycling Club, on a two-week adventure of bikes, beaches, cities, towns and villages. A tour filled with historical sites and easy riding, designed to give you both an unforgettable holiday and fond memories of our homeland.
We are very proud of our country and the way it opens up to cycling in the best ways imaginable.
This is a fully supported event, with a following bus, Cuban guides, mechanical support and a doctor. The distances vary between 100 and 40 kilometers per day and are good for all levels of rider. If you wish to do less distance on any day, ride the bus to your place of choice.
All breakfasts are included as are most suppers. We have space for only 18.
 Land cost for this trip is $1495 Canadian, airfare is not included. There is no payment needed at registration time. We will send you an invoice for your deposit ($200 CAD) and the balance is due 60 days prior to departure. (Please contact Peter Marshall  at for information on how to travel to Cuba from the United States and for US dollar costs).
Special Note: there are a number of people requesting to have this trip shortened, not everyone has two weeks to do this. We are suggesting that you register and then join the tour in Havana, you can be driven back to Havana on the day of your choice. We will make the hotel adjustments for you.
Make sure you have a place register now,

Previously I thought it was legal to travel to Cuba for sports events and with sporting groups. You can check with the Dept. of State. If you are brave, you can go through Canada, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic. A note from someone about travel to Cuba.
It is still not legal for US residents to go to Cuba, although many do. To get here you'd need to go via Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas etc take your pick. It is not easy to arrange but the State Dpt. prefer to give the OK to groups traveling for a specific sporting event. If you could get a group together we could start looking for legal rights to visit the wounderful island.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Streets Winds Up a Long Hot Summer

BBB headed out to bike down Park Avenue for the Summer Streets event with Ana Banana in tow.

It was 80 degrees, cool compared to most of this summer when I loaded Ana into "Paws," her aluminum-constructed Burley wagon, and attached the wagon to my mountain bike.

Wearing one of my Hotvelociti bike dresses which I wanted to test out for function and wearability, I set out for a day of socializing and viewing New York from a different perspective--13 miles of uninterrupted car free roadway from 72nd Street and Park Ave., to the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge.

This was the third and last Summer Street event this year, the first two having been held earlier this August.

The idea was to see Park Ave. from the viewpoint of a cyclist without the pressures and dangers of motorist traffic. This of course was only true once I reached 72nd St. and Park, and to the end of the closed course in Manhattan.

I was to meet John Doyle, research director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and Russell Meddin who is spearheading an effort to bring a bike share program to Philadelphia. Both had boarded Amtrak early in the morning to make  the ride today.

First I wound my way through Central Park, which was relatively crowded for a summer morning--wasn't everyone supposed to be in the Hamptons or upstate? Runners, cyclists, walkers, skate-boarders, skaters, tourists snapping photos, parents with baby carriages, and even the errant car fought for space along the drives.

I exited Central Park at 72nd St., and crossed two blocks to Park Ave. to the start of Summer Streets. 

Starting down Park was marvelous. I breathed a sigh of relief as I experienced this lovely avenue that used to be home to horses and carriages at one time in history, and now was the one day getaway for people to ride and walk in peace.

Children delighted as they biked with their parents, while some skateboarded, and others rode in strollers.

The pedestrians on the right side of us were slightly in conflict with cyclists as we approached and had to stop at major intersections.

Most of the intersections were heavily posted with crossing guards dressed in bright green or orange safety vests, and big signs that they turned, one saying "STOP", and the other, "GO".

But some were not manned at all, and at times this was confusing, and it took a while to relax and go through red lights: you had to look for the barricades on the side street to make sure you would not be hit by a car while proceeding through. 

A woman with flowing blond hair, pink sunglasses, pink shorts and a pink bike cycled next to me. This was her third Summer Streets this year, and she had done three in 2009 and four in 2008. But she said she never rides in the city otherwise. "Too dangerous," said the woman without a name.

Girls cooed at Ana Banana in her wagon, one calling out in French, "Maman, c'est un chien!" ("Mom, it's a dog,") with surprise.

Young men riding in a pack grinned at me, and one said, "She should be pulling you!"

Almost everyone was riding very slowly, much too slowly for my pace. Even when I slowed down I was passing just about everyone. People were just enjoying being there, free and easy, and it seemed to have little to do with the sport of cycling.

As I made my way downtown, we passed the Pan Am building that rose gloriously in front of us.

It was a zooming delight to make our way through the tunnels of the building and out to the other side, where scores of tourists had jammed the roadway trying to take photos of the magnificent building behind us, before swooping down the descent. I think Ana really enjoyed the downhills, as the breeze lifted her little ears, the wind cooling her down from the hot air.

Yes, it is now called the MetLife building, but it will never be that for me, since I've lived in New York most of my life. I mean, the name Pan Am has a real historic echo to it, considering that they left a legacy behind them of interesting architecture, design and style (re: the Pan Am Worldport at JFK Airport, great stewardess outfits, and fancy magazine ads, see pics).

Pedestrians crossed at the regulated intersections when they had a green light, or took their chances darting in front of us where they didn't, but cycling traffic was woefully slow, about 15 mph max.

Once we passed 40th street however, the lanes became much more narrow and it made less sense to have pedestrians walking on the right hand side: there wasn't even enough room for cyclists who formed gaggles and stoppages along the way.

When I got down to Lafayette St., I met up with Doyle and Meddin in front of Charlie McCorkell's store, Bicycle Habitat. It was a hub-bub of activity.

Here is a pic of them with a gorgeous cyclist who happened to come by and I asked her to get into the photo.

There are two Bicycle Habitats-the first one is fabulous, new Trek concept store with high end Madone models and Team RadioShack jerseys and bibs--the second, original two-storefront width shop was jammed with customers.

(You can get some of the higher end Madones on sale now for about $1,000 less than their original price at Charlie's store.)

Just outside the concept store were the folks from bike share company B-cycle who were chosen for the Denver, CO and Chicago, IL share programs, and are vying for the share program in Philadelphia and New York.

B-Cycle is a partnership between Humana Inc., Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky (see pic,) and is similar to the Velib bike share program in Paris, which I checked last July at the end of the Tour de France. (The program which was pioneered by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoƫ of the French Socialist Party is very successful, but the program has also lost a lot of bikes to vandalism and theft.)

According to, a bike sharing program is being evaluated in New York City by the Bloomberg administration as we write.

Next to the B-Cycle display was another table stationed by Charlie Collins, Beth Bryson and John Kalish (pictured left to right) of the New York Cycle Club who came to offer free bike tune ups and spread the word about Escape New York, the big bike ride they are putting on Sept. 25th. The first 800 people to register receive a free pair of socks!

If you recall, Collins and I were some of the lucky New Yorkers (along with Bill Rigler and Tassana Landy--oh yeah, and Bike Snob who dominated the conversation all the way up 9W and then Armstrong knocked his fitness level on Twitter, LOL) who got to ride with Lance Armstrong from near to George Washington Bridge to Piermont, NY last October. We got to know one another a little when we sat and gushed over our experience in Bunberry's in Piermont that day.

One more table down, Bicycle Habitat had set up an outdoor sale table full of good deals on apparel, gloves, and accessories, and it was a freaking mob scene!

Pic right: Matt, Charlie's son, and a customer in a great outfit and riding a zany green bike!

They also had a free tune-up, pump-up stand going on, and there was a line eight people deep waiting for the mechanic.

I decided to come back later when I could check out the store, and Doyle and I headed down to the Brooklyn  Bridge, while Meddin discussed bike share programs for Philly with the people from B-Cycle (apparently they are going to make a stop in Philly tomorrow).

We headed down, stopping briefly at the lights on Canal Street: I have never seen so many cyclists ever on this street! We passed the court buildings, the fringes of China Town, and then neared City Hall and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Since I had Ana Banana in the trailer behind me, I had been forewarned that the bridge would be congested, so we turned around in front of the majestic steps of City Hall.

It was amazing how quickly we got down to the bridge from Lafayette St., a testimony to how much more simple cycling would be with dedicated avenues (not just bike lanes) and real safety.

Everything looked better too--the architecture of buildings really stood out when seen without a jumble of cars blocking the view, and interactions with people on other bikes were easy and friendly.

Coming back to Lafayette St., I went back to Bicycle Habitat and ran into Danny Lieberman, founder of E-bikes, the electronic exchange for heavy duty cyclists in New York (you have to email him to join at

Here is a picture of the two of us together inside the store.  Danny was on his way to the airport soon thereafter for a 2.5 week bike trip in Australia. Have a good time!

While in the store I picked up a new pair of sexy navy bike gloves, and front and back Glo lights by Trek for my mountain bike.

These little babies are so cute, they attach easily to your handlebars or stem, and are made in gorgeous colors like sea foam green and bright fuschia.

Pink seems to be on my mind lately and I mentioned this to Charlie's son, Matt, and he suggested that they had a nice hot pink helmet I could try on. Since I have been looking for a new helmet for a while (the one I have is pretty old) I thought it was a great idea.

It was gorgeous and at the end of my visit, it went home with me! See me with my new helmet outside the store (how did I know this would end up being a cycling shopping trip too!)

Doyle had to take off to get back to Philly in time for a meeting, so I meandered my way back up town to 72nd St.

On the way I passed a set up for TimesUP! at Cooper Square and snapped this picture of a woman with her two little dogs carried in a cage of sorts behind her.

TimesUp! were blasting Barry White through portable speakers and I couldn't stop humming the tune as I made my way up towards 14th St. Could it have been "I am never ever going to give you up?"

I continued further up towards 72nd St., and the traffic crossing guards were already warning us that the road would soon become car-full again, but the way one woman said it was really confusing: "Park Avenue will open at 1 pm".

"But I thought it already was open," I said to one rider next to me, when I realized what she meant was OPEN to cars, CLOSED to us. Darn!

I made my way back to 72nd st. narrowly missing a few pedestrians who were walking aimlessly, and two, three and four abreast in the middle of the cycling side of the street, and then over into Central Park again, stopping for food at the Central Park Boathouse.

It's one of the very few eating establishments in the city where you can actually eat outside with your dog sitting next to you instead of being tied up outside a fence. The food is decent and affordable, and finding a table doesn't usually take too long. Ana finally got to walk around, but refused to eat any of my turkey burger, the pieces of which were snatched up by hungry pigeons. I was shocked that they would eat the meat of their brethren, but down the hatch it went.

We made friends with Pettina and her dog Malcolm who is a therapy dog for children. Malcolm wore a cute Lilly Pulitzer scarf around his shaggy brown neck, and he eagerly drank the water that Ana had left behind.

Two children came up to pet and admire Ana Banana, and then the day was over and we headed home. Too bad Ana could not have run a little next to me--we'll have to save that for the next trip!

And my only other regret: that the Summer Street course wasn't longer and bigger.

Next time it should start in Washington Heights and go all the way down to the Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan. I also think they should reserve Fifth Avenue for traveling south, and Park Avenue for traveling north--two avenues closed, for the whole day. Now that's not too much to ask for, is it???

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bike Bedlam Revisited

Aug 20, 2010 
The recent series by CBS News "Bike Bedlam," highlighting bad cyclist behavior in New York has raised the ire of cyclists, including BBB.

"We're unfairly under attack," cyclists seem to be saying, on blogs, email exchanges like ebikes, and club message boards, like the 5BBC.

But a visit to Soho and the Lower East Side yesterday by BBB showed that cyclists' critics--and CBS-- may have a point. Now BBB has to eat crow.

Pic: Sam Hindy's Ghost Bike --smashed by a car? (C) Aug 2010 Benepe.

What's worse, the city isn't helping matters. Here's what we saw while trying to drive (yes, drive a car) from the West Side Highway across to Chinatown. It was a little experiment.

While on our right were plentiful bike lanes, cars have now been restricted to single straight and turning lanes, making the already unbearable driving experience claustrobic and horrific. Traffic is horrible, and cyclists are plentiful. Normally that should be a good thing. It's what we wanted, right??

But are cyclists using the designated bike lanes? Not on your life, brothers and sisters.

In one example, in what can only be described as an arrogant (or is it ignorant) bicycle stance, no helmet (YES! NO freaking helmet, there we said it, we don't care what the cyclist community thinks, no helmet on a bike or motorcycle is just stupid), a cyclist riding right in front of the car as BBB attempts to make a right hand turn (coming from behind the car) then winding along in front of us in the single lane allotted to our use--while the bicycle lane lay fallow and unused to the right.

Not only were we then required to wait for the cycling jerk to take the turn in front of us that we had already waited to take, but now we had to drive 5 mph behind them as they zig-zagged back and forth in front of us, then darted unexpectedly to the left, and took a left hand turn in the wrong direction up the next avenue--not without first turning and looking at us straight in the face with a look that said, "See, I can do this, because I JUST CAN."

She wasn't the only one. There were cyclists coming in all directions wrong way, right way, most of them blowing through lights, few were riding properly. Right hand turns on red lights, straight throughs on red lights, left hand turns on red lights to go in the wrong direction. This was the smorgasbord of the "revenge of the a-hole cyclists."

The city's Department of Transportation ad (reproduced right) takes aim at cyclists and drivers, saying that if they look where they are going, they can avoid crashes. But that's hard to do when cyclists don't give a shoot.

Paul Dorn, author of the Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit (Adams Media, 2009), said in one of his blog posts from California that riding in the wrong direction is "evil." There is no doubt that it is that, and more--let's start with one fundamental one, dangerous for all involved.

When we finally parked the car I was so relieved I had gotten across the 10 or so blocks without hitting one of these idiots. But a vision of a highly insular New York, sectioned off into little pockets of do's and don'ts with all the don'ts reserved only for car drivers started to form from bubble thought to reality in front of me.

Taxi driver Andrzej Mszanecki said lately: "I do not enjoy driving in New York anymore, there are too many sectioned off areas, and it has made driving a taxi very hard."

BBB has been wishing for this for a long time, hoping that one day New York would become a cycling paradise, where you could ride safely and to almost any destination.  Even though we still find riding in the city very dangerous, we were ecstatic when the city built real bike lanes going down Ninth Avenue from 23rd St. We were overjoyed to see the traffic medians taken up with new sitting sections, and controlled turn lanes for cars on 32nd and 23rd Sts.

But this kind of ridiculous behavior by cyclists was not in our vision. None of these scofflaws are receiving tickets for their antics, and it is about time they did. I would also say that their bikes should be registered so complaints about them --and tickets--can be tracked appropriately.

Cyclists, clean up your freaking act. You disgust us.

The Arrogant Cyclist is Also.....Guess What? Irresponsible!
Pic: Kafkafi points to a bike that has been abandoned for 1.5 years and is beyond repair.

And if that weren't enough, let's move on to the whole derelict bike issue.

About two weeks ago the city's Department of Sanitation held hearings about removing derelict bikes from the streets of New York. Their one mistake was to include in the proposed language Ghost Bikes, of which there are so few it's not even worth considering them. (See above a pic of Sam Hundy's memorial in Chinatown which has clearly been mowed down by some irresponsible motorist)

In this pic three bikes are left abandoned on a city bike rack--along with a workman's piece of equipment, all of them for over 1.5 years. They will not be removed under the new DOS rules because it's a city rack.  (c) Benepe, 2010

Irit Kafkafi has been spearheading a movement to get derelict bikes off her block. It's not a negative act on her part, but the second half of her strategy to get more bike parking on the Lower East Side.

As founder of the movement Rack and Roll, she has been trying to get the city to install more bike racks on the Lower East Side.

BBB didn't believe how much a problem it really was until we accepted her invitation last night to see the number of derelict bikes attached to  everything that stands still on the street, including tree guards, fences, streetposts, store gratings, you name it, it had a bike on it.

And 50 percent of the bikes she had shown us, one after another, had been there for more than a year and a half, with pieces hanging off, wheels gone, gears gone, seats torn off, frames twisted and dented into impossible shapes, and almost all of them--with unbroken kryptonite locks.

Here is video of Kafkafi giving me a tour of one block, almost every other bike has been there more than a year, left by its irresponsible owner for someone else to clean up.  In one case, a local store has taken all the bike rack spaces but never bothered to order more from the city.

The city Department of Sanitation's proposal to clear derelict bikes won't affect bikes tied to city bike racks even if they have been there for years, a weakness in the proposal that should be corrected.

Perhaps people who live in the area, like Kafkafi, or the local community board (do they do anything anymore?)  can give the DOS an idea of how long the bike has been abandoned.

Garbage collects in the basket of an abandoned bike on 2nd Ave. (c) Benepe 2010

The idea that a cyclist would leave their destroyed bike there for someone else to clean up goes against the whole idea of what a cyclist is supposed to represent, a moral citizen who is furthering the greening of New York. HAH! Greening of New York!

These cyclists who abandoned their bikes for whatever reason have only contributed to the JUNK of New York, leaving behind impedimental carcasses of metal that they expect their "mother" to clean up, whomever that is.

One more reason to disassociate myself from this particular cycling tribe.

Adding to the possible reasons for so many derelict bikes is the lack of secure and safe parking in the city. If a bike is parked, gets vandalized, and cannot be ridden, it's possible the owner abandoned the bike because it was no longer useful. But despite all the news about new bike parking laws being passed by the city, requiring residential buildings of a certain size, as well as commercial buildings to add secure bike parking, there are no provisions for smaller and older buildings like those on the Lower East Side.

The seat on this bike is dangling off--the bike has been there for over a year--untouched.

The law states that new buildings must dedicate 3 percent of their space to bike parking. In a recession those buildings haven't been built. Smaller existing residential buildings do not have to comply, and only larger commercial buildings have to comply--but they have ample time to do so.

More than 200 bike racks have been added to the Lower East Side since the Bike Rack program started according to the Department of Transportation and Kafkafi. But most of those spaces have been hijacked by irresponsible bike owners, leaving no space for real bike riders, the ones who actually use their bikes and need to park somewhere.

Kafkafi proposes that cyclists sign an agreement or receive training at the point of purchase that states they promise they will not abandon their bike in a public place, and if it needs to be disposed, to dispose of it properly either by donating parts to Recycle a Bicycle, or by recycling it through the city's recycling program.

Unfortunately, that type of program will not work for junk bikes that are bought for temporary use by students attending New York University, as it is suspected many of these derelict bike riders were--the owners having since left town after their schooling is over.

 In such a case, New York University should instruct their out of town students that leaving a bike on the streets for someone else to remove is not only illegal, but morally reprehensible.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Getting Away to the Alps--in the Catskills (c)

Part One of the Three-Part Catskill Ride Series: 
August 14, 2010 
All photos (c) Benepe 
If you missed out on that French or German Alp vacation this year, don't fret. You can more than make up for it in the Catskills.

Pic: Floyd Landis on Aug 2 at the Tour of the Catskills coming up Platte Clove Road: Beware 22 percent grade. (c)

Just a two hour drive from New York City, the mountainous region that includes such off-bike attractions as the town of Woodstock, NY, major hiking, music festivals and sylvan swimming holes, you can find some of the best cycling in the world.

Lately the site of Tour of the Catskills which drew Floyd Landis and other pro cyclists, the area is host to a number of bike races during the summer, including the Tour of the Battenkill race (a little farther north) and coming up in late August, the last event of the mountain bike world cup series.

More than 1,000 mountain bike racers from over 40 countries will be coming to Windham, N.Y. to compete in the final race of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series of races, Race Windham, from August 26 to 29 – for the ninth and final race of the series and the only one being held in North America, according to its sponsor.

Two teens contemplate the water hole in Haines Falls, NY (c)

Add to the area's natural attraction for racing, the Catskills have some of the best roads for practicing your climbing and becoming a better cyclist. It also has a series of very kitsch motels that date back to the era in the 1940's through 1960's when the Catskills were the place for people to go.

The film "Dirty Dancing" took place in a typical Catskills hotel where families went to stay for weeks, eating together in mess halls, going down to the swimming hole, and of course, sneaking off for romance.

Though many hotels and cabins of that time now lie fallow on the roadside, some of the old motels still operate, many of them still owned by the original German families with names like Brauhaus, Bavarian, Hartmann and Riedlbauer. Hotels like the Crystal Brook Resort and Mountain Brauhaus still serve traditional dishes like Wiener Schnitzel and German beer, and have nightly um pah dancing to live German bands.

And although they don't cater to cyclists, pretty soon they could: they are surrounded by the best climbing and back road cycling routes in the region.

The area is so cycling-ready that some New Yorkers like Steve Leibowitz have moved from New York City and invested their money in creating bike-oriented businesses. Leibowitz's shop, Revolution Bicycles in Saugerties, NY features bike rentals, Surly, Masi, Schwinn, GT, Haro, and a selection of vintage bicycles, and is the perfect setting off point for a number of 18 to 60-mile rides along back roads.

Steve Leibowitz, owner of Revolution Bicycles in Saugerties, NY, with recumbent rider Dan Gelfand 

Originally from Brooklyn, Leibowitz thinks the area will be the next Portland, Oregon, and boasts that Kingston, NY, where he lives, is geographically and culturally poised to overtake the popular West Coast town as the center of US cycling.

He could be right. Even though I have been cycling in the area for  years, the upstart newcomer to the area who cycles everyday the 20 miles back and forth from Kingston to Saugerties,  showed me how to zigzag my way along back roads to get to points north, west, and south, converting a trip I normally took along heavily traveled motorist straightaways, to mostly pleasant back roads.

Pic: A vintage German bike at Revolution Bicycles in Saugerties, NY 

Leibowitz's example emboldened me to take some of my favorite destinations and convert them into gentler versions featuring fewer cars, more scenery, more peace and certainly less close calls with 18-wheeler trucks, and redneck sadists driving loud 60's cars who seem to enjoy buzzing cyclists.

You can stay in the ever popular and more expensive town of Woodstock, NY, in Ulster County or you can venture to points north, east and west where the staying is greener and fewer greenbacks are needed.

Girl in Woodstock, NY at Tinker St. (c)

North of Woodstock about 15 miles in Cairo, NY at the Crystal Brook Mountain Brauhaus you'll pay $73 dollars a night or less (with more people in one room or more nights), a price that includes three square German meals a day served by slim young women in lacy cotton-shirted and slim-vested fraulein outfits.  A black Labrador ironically named "Schnitzel" sleeps at the front door and likes to have the back of his ears scratched or else you get "the paw."

The "resort" has been run by Margaret Hasenkopf-Dukarm since the 1960's (she is now in her 80's) and includes tennis courts and a swimming pool. They will even pick you up from the bus stop in Cairo, NY. Adirondacks Trailways comes to Cairo twice a day, about a 2.5 hour trip from the city, (though if you are bringing a bike, the company makes you box it before boarding the bus, a horrible anachronistic touch.)

Hasenkopf-Dukarm (who still uses her first husband's name as well as that of her second) was standing in the back room doing laundry for her guests when I came in: a fly had made it into my eye on a fast downhill along Polly's Rock Road, and I needed help getting it out.

She was warm and inviting and pointed a flashlight into my eye to find the bugger, while telling me stories about her late departed husband Mr. Hasenkopf who refused to go to the hospital until it was too late, leaving her with 6 children and a hotel to run by herself.

You can ride your butt off all day using the Crystal Brook as your central starting point, and even repeat the routes that were raced in the August 1-2 road race, stage one and stage two, through Greene County. I rode portions of these routes with Richard Benfield of Piermont, NY, and learned that the stretch along Route 20 north of Route 23 (an East-West highway) is extremely bikable, with a number of winding climbs, gorgeous scenery and a consistent view of the Catskill mountains.

Pic: Benfield along a stretch of Route 20 when we followed the Catskill race, stage 1 

If you're more the bed and breakfast type, there are several in the area that have good reputations for good food, charming rooms, and stunning surroundings, and are all situated along the routes I recommend, including La Duchesse Anne in Mount Tremper ($80 to $230 a night depending on the room);  the George Ellen Bed and Breakfast in Round Top ($150 a night which includes breakfast), and the Villa in Saugerties which is currently being remodeled by its new owners (contact them for rates and availability).

What follows are some amazing rides in the area, including one which I recently discovered which covers 99 percent back roads, and others which will certainly put your legs back in your legs. Here is the first ride, with more to follow in the next two installments of this series, "Getting Away to the Alps in the Catskills."

Saugerties to Catskills and Back (click here for Map My Ride Map)
This first 40.83-mile ride will take you from the center of Saugerties, NY to Catskill, NY and back.

If it is a Saturday, first visit the Saugerties Farmer's Market at 119 Main St., started by my stepmother, Judith Spektor, and my dad Barry Benepe (also co-founder of New York City's Greenmarkets).  You'll find a huge selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, local wines, fresh coffee, and scones and muffins. Then amble over to visit Leibowitz at his Revolution Bicycles one block away to check out his vintage bikes and shoot the breeze about cycling and Brooklyn.

The ride leads straight out of Saugerties past HITS, the overnight horse show and competition sensation that came to Saugerties a few years ago and is a huge draw for teen aged girls.

Much of the route is on back roads, but I didn't take notes when Leibowitz rattled off the turns. So half of the route is on back roads, and the other half is on roads like Old Kings Highway which has moderate to low traffic and limited shoulders.

Coming back from Catskill, I took a secret back route that the 'rents showed me that winds along from the back edges of Catskill to Route 9W which has moderate traffic and mostly no shoulders.

Pic: The wetlands near Saugerties where baby turtles are known to cross the road.

But there are some lovely segments including a little wetlands area that bears the sign, "Caution, Baby Turtles Crossing," and that secret back road leaving from the town of Catskill that features a couple of slumbering farms, and dead end roads leading off the Hudson River (hint, one leads to a Saugerties Farmer's market mushroom farm.)

Sadly, along Old Kings Highway are a number of old farms that have since gone out of business and been converted or sold for residential use.

It's one more sign of the waning of the small farmer in the U.S., and in this area, despite efforts by people (like my father and stepmother) who have tried to help local farmers stay in business by setting up local markets so they can sell full price and direct to the public.

When Old Kings Highway reaches Route 23, you bear a right for a very short distance (less than a mile) and then a left to take a gorgeously sinuous back entry to the town of Catskill.  You'll have to do some climbing up the back roads to get into town, a road that drops you off behind the parking lot of supermarket chain, Price Chopper.

After turning left on Route 9W, you'll edge off onto the right, and cross the creek at the bottom of a fast hill into the more historic section of Catskill. Take a left on Main St. to get to the best place to stop and eat. Co-owners and previous New York City residents Eddie and Jeff serve such delicacies as the Rachel Who? sandwich and the Brenda, Rachel's Bitter Cousin at Cafe 355 at 355 Main St.

Pic: The Atlantic at Cafe 355. "Cycling begets eating begets cycling," an old Jen Benepe proverb.

Eddie said Brenda is bitter because so many more people order Rachel, made of turkey and swiss, and so "Brenda is jealous. She tries but she can never quite be as good as Rachel," said Eddie, as he prepared sandwiches behind the counter. I had an Atlantic, made of salmon and capers, ideally light for my continued ride.

Before you head out of town, make sure you visit some of the historic sites, including the Thomas Cole House at 218 Spring St. 

You'll need an appointment to get in, but it is well worth it, featuring the home of the 19th Century painter whose most frequent subject matter was the mountains of the Catskills. You can also tour the outside of Beattie Power's home which faces the Hudson with gorgeous views of the land on the other side of the river.

Pic: View from Beattie Powers' house (c)

If you look closely you can see Olana  (open Tuesdays through Sundays) which you can also visit if you want to add miles and cross the river.  Olana is the old estate of Hudson River School artist Fredric Edwin Church and was built in an elaborate brick Persian style.

But if you just want to tour around the town of Catskill you'll see some lovely old homes, one of which was a church recently purchased and converted to a private residence.

Pic: A church in Catskill that was converted to a private residence (c)

Next door another turn of the 19th Century home has been renovated. Others Victorian beauties situated closer to the Beattie Powers home on top of the hill are for sale with a real estate outfit called Gary DiMauro. (A subsequent tour of his website revealed gorgeous historic homes in impeccable condition for sale around the area. Better not look if you don't want to be seduced.)

As you return along Route 9W keep an eye out for the old-fashioned one-way stops for road narrowing, and the abandoned buildings of the cement factories that are now old and forgotten, as well as the town that was built around the old cement industry, Cementon.

Next: Woodstock to Round Top, and Back.

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