Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Under Construction

Hi All. Just wanted to let you know that I have been trying out some new features here on this blog, and I would be interested in your feedback. I've added a widget that displays recent popular posts, the ability to follow via email and I've officially claimed authorship of this blog. For the last three years I've written under a not-to-hard-to-infer nickname. With updates to the behind-the-scene aspects of the way the blog works, my personal and professional persona have collided. I'm still working on how this blog flows with Google+, so hang with me if some aspects disappear or reappear in odd places. It's a re-design in process! Your insights and wisdom are welcome

(In particular, I'm interested in knowing if the search option is working. And, if it's not, any insights on how to fix it?)

And in case the season slips by me, I wanted to wish Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours, however, with whomever and whenever you celebrate. Whether you arrive by car, bus, bike or plane, wishing you all the best!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

BITU's Third Anniversary

Three Years. This blog on this little corner of the internet started just three years ago, and I had no idea where this journey would lead. Starting out I was bicycle advocate and trained planner recently moved from the Midwest – Madison, WI specifically. I had hailed from the land of bicycle-friendly streets, businesses, and culture. Inspired by my personal and professional experience, I wanted to a place to explore what biking in the Upstate meant. Three years later this blog is still going strong, and I’ve had some great opportunities to meet some great people and further the development of bike facilities in the Upstate.

The journey has been fun, and it’s been great to have you along the way. It’s important to note that the number of communities, activities and events supporting bike riding has increased over the last several years. Some may point to the success of the City of Greenville’s Master BikePlan as the kick-off for bike-related successes in the Upstate. With the development of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a number of bicycle-related businesses and programs, it would be hard to disagree. And this kind of success is spreading with the continued planning efforts for the Doodle Line Trail that would run between the cities of Pickens and Easley. What other routes could connect communities like Seneca, Walhalla, Anderson and Pelzer? What other entrepreneurs will be inspired to start their own business related to bicycles? 

I hope that you’ll continue to join me in the months to come and enjoy this pedal-powered journey.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bicycles at a Parking Conference

Earlier this fall, I presented at the Carolinas Parking Association annual conference. Invited to present by Clemson University's Parking and Transportation Director on the Clemson University Bikeways Master Plan and related successes from its implementation, I was excited to present to an audience that was knowledgeable about transportation issues. Attendees included parking directors, consultants, government leaders, parking enforcement professionals and vendors. With the conference focused on multi-modal transportation issues, it was a great opportunity to make a connection between parking and biking.

During my presentation, I talked about the development of the university bike plan and some related successes like the installation of a bike repair station and the installations of several miles of bikeways on the campus. However, to really connect with this group, I thought it was important to focus on the connection between bicycles and parking, and why supporting bicycle facility improvements matters to parking professionals.

Providing facilities for bicycle riders is one way to help solve the parking problem in cities, neighborhoods and campuses across the country. When people arrive at a destination, they are looking for a safe, secure, convenient parking spot for their bike, just like when they drive a car. By supporting the development of bicycle facilities (bike lanes, paths, cyclepaths and shared roads) and investing in bike parking, people are more likely to ride their bike. More people on bikes means that there are fewer in cars. Sharing this bicycle-parking connection with the audience was important.

A good foundation for my presentation was made early on in the conference. One of the keynote speakers talked about the International Parking Institute's 2013 International Parking Survey. The survey was based on answers from parking professionals from 21 countries, and revealed the top issues that parking professionals are facing. One of the most important issues that the survey revealed was that sustainability is an industry focus around the world. Biking was specifically mentioned as a way to address alternative parking solutions and to take note that folks are using it as a real, legitimate form of transportation (meaning that it's here to stay), especially with our international neighbors. I was excited to see that supporting and addressing the needs of the bicycle riding community was recognized at the international level. 

Last year I presented to a bicycle-centered group at the Georgia-Lina Bike Summit. Having an opportunity to talk about the connection between bicycle and parking to some colleagues in a related field was fun and important. Broadening their perspective and having an opportunity to answer their questions was an important step in continuing the dialogue about why bikes matter. I was a great time, and I look forward to more future opportunities.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Upstate News Update

I'm a little behind the times on this one, but there has been a flurry (excuse the pun - it's supposed to be cold the next few days) of bike planning activity. Some of it has been posted on this blog, while others have been in the local news. It's been great to hear that the interest in making better places for folks to bike in the upstate continues. Let's get a round up of what's been taking place this fall:

Greenville County has been busy promoting several projects for updates to a  biking and walking master plan. The Greenville News reported that the local BikeWalk Greenville group has taken action to improving local connections, intersections and routes for people to walk and bike in the community. Proposed improvements include more along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, along Haywood Road and the intersection at Wade Hampton Boulevard and Pleasantburg Drive.

Earlier this month, the cities of Easley and Pickens came together to host a public workshop for the Doodle Line Trail.  Over 100 people came out - despite Clemson University's Thursday Night's home football game was going on at the same time. Didn't make it out, and still want to have your voice be heard? Fill out the Doodle Line Feasibility questionnaire. Not sure on the date to submit it to either City Hall, so try to do it before the end of the first week of December. The Doodle Line is a 8.5 old rail line that will be converted to a shared path (think the Rails to Trails program). This event was the latest in the over-year-long process to bring some life back to the once-vibrant route.

One event that I didn't get to due to being under the weather, but I had planned on attending, was the Upstate Women's Forum. Held in Greer, the inau"girl" event was an evening of discussing women's cycling issues, networking and, in imagine, a fun time. (If someone who attended would be interesting in doing a guest blogpost, let me know! I think it would be great to share the experience with those who were unable to attend!) Events like this to bring women of the Upstate together is important to building stronger bridges and coalition. I look forward to the next event held under this name.

Clemson University hosted their second Bike Week. It was great to see the University continue to support and host events around bike education, repairs and fun! Students from across campus participated in the various events. One of the newer events was focused on teaching the students how to use the bike repair station.  

If there's an event I missed, please let me know. It's great that the excitement continues to build in making the upstate a more bicycle-friendly place.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

No Longer Acceptable

Not too long ago, this article in the New York Times caught my attention. With the title "Is It OK to Kill Cyclists?," it was meant to grab attention. Upon further reading, the article brought up some good points that I thought were important to share, especially in the Upstate where communities are in the midst of planning and building bike systems that will be with us for (at least) the next 20 years.

The article focuses on the idea that we're at a sort of crossroads in many places across the United States. Our culture has grown accustom to the cars having the right-of-way. Bicycle riders, especially the "brave, wacky" few starting in the counter-culture of the 1970's, were few and far between on the roads. A few may recall neighbors from a time past where bicycle riding was one of the ways to get around, as the Greenville News highlighted in an article last year, but that was not the norm.

People have gotten comfortable driving their cars, moving from place to place, sometimes growing complacent in their commutes. With the rise of bicycling - bike lanes, bike paths, cycling clubs, bike share programs, bike to school or work events - there are more people taking to two wheels and remembering the joys perhaps not experienced since childhood. As more people do that in more places, there is cause for concern. Study after study has shown that there is safety in numbers when it comes to bicycle riding - the more people that ride the safer it is. However, until that critical mass is reached in streets and communities across the country, and until society reaches a certain comfortability with cyclists, the number of accidents - deadly accidents - will rise. And, as the NYT article points out, society seems to be too comfortable with that.

By building suitable, safe bikeways that are meant for ALL riders, of ALL ages and abilities, and by starting to implement educational programs in our elementary and secondary schools, over time, perhaps in the not-to-distance future, we can create a society where bicycling deaths are no longer acceptable.

Monday November 18 UpdateA bill to enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety is up for bidding in Congress. Do your part, take a stand and act today to make the bill a reality.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Doodle Line Workshop

Y'all come! There's more happening with the Doodle Trail in the Upstate. The Greenville News reports that there will be a public workshop for the Doodle Rail Trail Feasibility Study for the cities of Easley and Pickens on November 14 from 5:30 - 7:30. Join in on the fun and let your voice be heard in the mulitpurpose room at the Pickens YMCA at 2223 Gentry Memorial Hwy. For more info, contact Easley or Pickens City Hall.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Clemson University Fall 2013 Bike Week

This week, October 28 - November 1, Clemson University is hosting it's second-ever Bike Week. Last May the inaugural event provided an opportunity for staff, students and faculty to learn more about bike safety, attend a bike repair workshop and participate in other fun events. This school year's event will have more events and fun things to participate in.

  • All Week Long folks are encouraged to take photos of themselves biking on campus. Submit photos in the photo contest sponsored by PATS (And, ya, there's even a prize.)
  • Monday learn how to use the on-campus bike repair station. CORE will be outside Holmes from 10a -1p to help folks with a quick DIY demo of how to use all the various components.
  • Tuesday there's an opportunity to engage in open dialogue to learn more about the rules of the road for all users. Oh, and word on the street is that there'll be some refreshments. Come interested at 6 pm at Fike.
  • Wednesday will be another opportunity to learn more about bike maintenance. Always a good skill to brush up on. This would be for those time when there's not a bike repair station near-by. 5:30 for Beginners & 6:00 for advanced at the Big Red Barn.
  • Thursday has no official events planned, but consider taking your two wheels out for a spin to have some fun. Do something spook-tacular.
  • Friday will be a mountain bike ride through Issaqueena Forest in Clemson's Experimental Forest. A great opportunity to get out in the woods and to try out mountain biking. Contact the folks at CORE for more info.  
Have a little fun this week for a study break, trying something new or just for a break in the routine. The events should be fun, and it's great to see some great outreach events on-campus. Join in the fun.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Upstate Women's Cycling Forum

Mark your calendars! (You know I have.) The first Upstate Women's Cycling Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13 from 6:30p - 8:00p in Greer. The Village of Pelham will be the host location. Special guests will include the Executive Director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition; the owner of Pedal Chic, the first only all-female bicycle shop in the nation and Partners for Active Living board member and GlobalBike volunteer. Sounds like quite the group for a Wednesday night.

It should be a great night of talking about bicycle-related issues as they relate to women! In a recent post I talked about some of my concerns from my female perspective. The timing could not be better. This event will be a great opportunity to meet other ladies who are interested in socializing, connecting and learning with female riders of all levels.

For more information on the event or for any questions, please contact these folks. Ask your friends, husband, significant other or someone to take over the evening chores. Put a little extra time in a work to get off early on the upcoming Wednesday. Do what you can to make it out. Professionals, riders, friends, sistas, moms - hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Scenario:  It's been a long, hard day. Up early with the puppy, the kid, the kitten. Made it into work even though there was light rain. Worked hard all day waiting tables, taking care of the kids, crunching numbers, chained to the desk. Ran into a few of the usual faces at the office, at the grocery store, at the bank. Mindless chatter, watercooler talk about the Big Game, the Latest TV Show, the Local Gossip. Ready for a ride? With the girls - hell ya! With the guys - ummm...I'll get back to you.

I commute to work on my bike. Even though I love it, it can be a little stressful riding in a 3 foot shoulder where road debris alongside speeding traffic. I long to ride:  more often, in an area where I don't have to constantly look over my shoulder, where I'm having fun, with a group that doesn't intimidate me. I've been invited to a long-standing weekly group ride by a male colleague. I think to myself "ah, here's an opportunity." But the reality, "I just want to ride and let my hair down." Nothing against the guys, but sometimes girls just wants to have fun.

I want to chat, laugh and listen while I ride. I want to feel comfortable with who I am on a bike and where I'm at. I want to ride on a safe, separated path removed from traffic that winds through fields, along rivers, in neighborhoods. Group riding can be intimidating, and sometimes folks don't even mean to or realize their approach and what's said can be off-putting.

No fancy clips or shoes? Don't have a $3,000 race-ready bike? Not even sure where the next turn is on the route? It shouldn't matter. It's all about getting out and having fun. After a day at the office in an environment surrounded by older guys, I look forward to the future opportunity to ride with women. I look forward to finding my tribe.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cycling Retreat in South Carolina

The New York Times recently reported on a unique, Upstate bicycling-focused training, hotel and get-a-way that can be had right in our back yard. In Traveler's Rest, South Carolina, about 30 minutes north of downtown Greenville, Hotel Domestique is offering a cycling-centric experience unlike anything else offered elsewhere. Folks can come, relax and schedule a ride alongside local cycling champ George Hincapie. (What!?!)

In a previous post, I wrote about the businesses that are popping up near or because of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. And though you can't quite get to the hotel taking the trail, this retreated has decidedly taken a step to address a niche market by taking advantage of the bicycle-friendly opportunities in the area - for the serious, recreation, road and mountain bike rider. This hotel will likely attract visitors from across the southeast and the country. The area around "TR," as its known to the locals, is beautiful, scenic and close enough to Greenville to have all the advantages of a city without any of the hassle. (Can we say "Hello Greenville-Spartanburg Airport connect?")

It's great to see a local business get some national press, and even better when it promotes the bicycle-friendliness of the region.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bicycle Safety 101: How to Use a Bicycle Repair Station

Earlier this year, Clemson University installed a bicycle repair station on campus. The university decided to install a Dero Fix-It station after reviewing several other comparable fixtures. In agreement with purchasing done by the Clemson University Undergraduate Student Government, and general upkeep and maintenance be undertaken by the University Cycling Club, the project was completed late summer 2013.

Clemson University's Bike Repair Station
If you've never seen or used a bike repair stand, they look pretty intriguing - and a bit mystifying. Good thing we'll take you through a step by step guide on how to use one of these babies.

Step 1:  Have your bike in hand, and approach.

If Your Bike Needs Air.  Step 2.  Lean the bike up against the fixture or a near-by object. Unscrew the bike tire cover, set it aside - and make a note where you put it. (It seems I'm always trying to remember where I placed that sucker!) 
Nice work!

Step 3:  Note the PSI needed for your bike tire/tube. To find it, look on the outside of the bike tire. The PSI is noted by the text followed by a number range. (For example:  "PSI 35 - 60".)

Step 4:  Place the hose on the bike valve. If it doesn't fit, try toggling the air lever up or down. (Bike tubes have one of two types of valves. This pump accommodates both.)

Step 5:  Pump up the tire/tube until the maximum PSI level is attained.

Step 6:  Put the air hose back over the pump.

Step 7:  Ride off into a beautiful sunset! Or to your next destination.

If Your Bike Has Minor Maintenance or Repair Issues.  Step 2:  Pick up your bike and place the seat between the two bars parallel with the ground.

Bike properly placed on the stand.

Step 3:  Select the appropriate tool(s).

Tools available at the stand.

Step 4:  Fix your bike, according to your amazing wisdom and experience...or, if you have a smart phone use the QR Code to check out some simple "how to" videos. (Or do some research on the internet ahead of time.)
QR Code Sticker.
 Step 5:  Place the tools back. Take the bike off the stand.

Step 6:  Ride off into a beautiful sunset! Or to your next destination.

These babies are popping up around campuses and in cities across the country - and they are getting used and noticed. They started out in Europe, and have successfully made their way across the pond. Next time you see one, take some time to tinker and check one out. They're pretty cool and easy to use.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It takes a village. Find your tribe.

Motivation to ride. Lately, I'm in the groove with commuting to and from work daily. Especially now that the weather has turned cooler, the crispness of the air and the first glimpses at the sunrise make for an energizing start to the day. If it wasn't for all that bother-some, nerve-wracking traffic I ride next to, I'd say that my commute is my favorite part of the day.

Getting into more recreational riding - whether it be for speed, exercise or racing - has been a bit of a challenge. I want the facilities that my area lacks. It takes a village to build them. I need to find folks I feel comfortable with. I need to find my tribe.

It takes a village - a group of people - to build support, political will and energy to develop biking facilities. Bike paths along side roads, abandoned rail lines, through open fields - the places that call the soul to get away from it all.

Finding your tribe, some folks say, is the key to enjoying riding and the motivating factor to keep it up. Your tribe can be your family, your friends, a group of co-workers or business partners. Whoever it is, it's the group that keeps with you, mile after mile.

I hope to give group riding a few more tries. It's fun, it's freeing and it's a way for me to engage in something I love. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet Streetmix

Holy Community-Involvement Batman! Streetmix is a new website allows anyone to design the street of their dreams. Using tools and perspectives that planners, designers and engineers typically agonize over for hours in AutoCAD, the website simplifies - democratizes - streetscape development. This could have resounding positive affects for Complete Streets committees. Consider the possibility of workshops or "homework" assignments in strategizing , imaging and planning future alternatives for Main Street. First year students in planning and design departments could learn the fundamentals of community development - over even students in high school!

Streetmix. Democratizing streescape design.

Spend some time in the coming days playing around, dragging and dropping and exploring Streetmix.