Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clemson Ciclovia

Did I get your attention? No, there's not one happening, but if it did, would you participate?

Photo of a Ciclovia Event
Ciclovia is Spanish for "bike path." In Bogota, Columbia, the people started hosting car-free Sundays on major roads, and called it a "Ciclovia." It was a movement to recapture the city at the pedestrian level. People came out to walk, bike, skate and run on the streets. It reconnected people to each other, the city and to a healthier lifestyle. Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Madison, WI., and other cities in the US have hosted events with tremendous success.

I was able to participate in one of the first Ride the Drive events in Madison. A friend and I biked the typically-car-filled route several times at a relaxed pace. We stopped at a few of the stations sponsors had set up along the way - we outlined our bodies in chalk on John Nolen Dr., stopped for a few snacks, passed bicycle repair stations and admired all the different types of bicycles and bicycle riders that came out. It was really fun! (Photo credit.) What was the point? Well, besides obstructing traffic for a few hours on a Sunday, it got people out on their bikes along routes that people were familiar with in a relaxed atmosphere. There was no race, and a lot of fun.

Ride the Drive. Madison, WI.
What route do you think a ciclovia would be fun and successful to ride along in your community? In Clemson, I could see a route down College Ave and following the perimeter of the University campus - along 93 Hwy to Perimeter Road, Perimeter Road to Cherry, and Cherry back to 93, including the heart of Clemson's Campus. In Greenville, would the route include N. Main Street, S. Academy Street and include parts of the Swamp Rabbit Trail? How about in Anderson, Spartanburg or even Walhalla?

Ciclovia's are can be inspirational. They can be a catalyst for biking in a community - take bike planning and propel it into bike action, energy, momentum. It's hard to stop once you start - pedaling, that is.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patroness of Bicyclists

Did you know that there is a Patron Saint of Bicyclists? A few friends gave me a small gift - a medallion with the Patron Saint of Bicycling - Madonna del Ghisallo - and I wanted to share the story.

The story goes that St. Mary appeared to a count named Ghisallo who prayed for help as he was being attacked by thieves in medieval times in Lombardy, Italy. He ran to the vision, and was saved. She became a local patroness of travel. A small church (see the photo below) was built in her honor by Count Ghisallo. Eventually, a local bicycle race included traveling by the site of the vision and church. And in 1949, an Italian priest requested that Our Lady of Ghisallo become the "official" saint of bicyclists. She has been watching over cyclists ever since. (Photo credit.)

Today the church is a shrine, has a small cycling museum with photos, artifacts and stories about famous cyclists. People make a tough, two-wheel, hilly pilgrimage to the site. An eternal flame to honor cyclists for died is also at the museum. (Photo credit.)

I've also seen some cool souvenirs.

This could be a cool place to visit if you're for a cycling adventure in Italy or just a jaunt off the beaten path. I like to know that someone is looking out for me when I'm on the road. A fun bicycle story to share!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Feeling Safe Enough to Ride

Life gets overwhelming and busy sometimes. There's that famous line that's cliche by now, but it still rings true: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I've not been able to ride my bike in the last several months. Shorter days. Rain. Mostly a busy work schedule. I don't feel safe riding here, now, this time of year. When I lived in a more bike-friendly area, I would ride almost year-round. As long as the pavement was visible, I rode. Riding in the cold wasn't ideal, but it didn't keep me off my bike. And riding in the dark wasn't my favorite thing to do, either, but if work kept me late, conditions were such that I didn't fear for my life.

Safety is an interesting issue when it comes to bike riding. It's all relative. If people feel safe, they'll ride. Some will ride in almost any condition, on any road, like on Scenic Highway 11. Crazy hills next to the crazy traffic on the crazy bike lanes. Riding in conditions a little less stressful are a safer choice for a majority of bicyclists, like those found on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. If I want to ride near my house, I'm riding in conditions that are somewhere in the middle. Not crazy enough to prohibit people, but not safe enough for novice riders or children. Sometimes it gets to me. I want to scream at the cars riding too close, bang on sides, kick the doors at the next stoplight. I don't, but it would sure feel good. (Graphic credit here.)

I wish that the "bike route" that was identified with outdated signs was safer. Debris-filled shoulders that were cleaned. Bike lanes that weren't substandard, being forced to ride in the gutter pan. Speed limits or road conditions or street designs that were a little more inviting or (at least) did not encourage speeding motorists. If you check out the League of American Bicyclist's Bicycle Friendly America Program, you can check out how safe your state (and possibly community) is based on a few criteria. South Carolina is the 11th most dangerous state.

Safety is an issue when bike riding. I used to ignore it, but now I can't help it that my stress level spikes when cars buzz by. I can't wait until the conditions are such that I can get back out my bike.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Biking in Clemson

Clemson University held a Student Meeting for their Bike Plan at the end of November. There were a small, but dedicated group that attended the meeting. The University is looking at connecting the Campus, Beach (once known as "Y Beach," now called "Campus Beach") and the North and South Forest by bike. Clemson University does not own all the land to connect these places by bike lane or path, but they're working on other ways to draw connections between these places that are inviting to people who ride bikes - recreational riders, families, hard core mountain bikers, road cyclists, etc. Their aim is to develop a network that will appeal to a variety of bike riders.

At the meeting, the University was looking for input on routes that cyclists use - around campus and in the Forest. There isn't much in the way of official bike paths, trails or lanes on campus (or in the Clemson area, for that matter), but a good way of developing a good network of paths is by talking to the users. There are many trails in the Forest, but there are user conflicts, unclear trail signage, etc. If you bike on campus or in the Forest, feel free to post a comment below about places you go, things you'd like to see improve or change and other ideas. 

It was also great to hear that the University and the City are talking about their bike plan together. The City is also working on a bike plan. They are just in the beginning phases, but after input after the public meeting on the update to the City's Recreational Master Plan, public interest in developing better bikeways in Clemson is clear.  The City and University will be working on a network of connected routes and destinations. The two entities are known for working together on other initiatives, programs and events. Great things in Clemson!

Clemson is a great college town, and having a network of bike paths would help to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors to the area! It would also be great if the bike routes connected to the larger apartment complexes. There are a high number of students biking from off-campus, and providing them a safe way of getting around would do a long way. Getting the cities of Central and Pendleton to join in or write their own bike plan would also be great. 

Keep up the great energy, interest and biking!