Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Inspirational Rider: My Mom

In a recent conversation with my family, I learned that my mom has joined the bike commuting community. She has been a recreational rider for years, and now she is riding to her weekly Bible study group at church and to the library. (She's an avid reader.) This has added up to her biking 450 miles in 2014!!

My parents church is about a mile from their house. She takes residential side streets that have a low speed limit and little car traffic. She also bikes on up to the local library a few more miles north with books in-tow in a back pack. She enjoys the short commute and gets some exercise. She also is a trend-setter within her church group, demonstrating to others just how easy and fun it can be! I asked her why she does it, and she said that she likes the exercise, it's close and it's better for the environment. I can't argue with those reasons.

This is big news, as my parents live in a car-friendly suburb of Grandville, Michigan outside of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids has recently made some pretty big strides in becoming bike-friendly, which is something worth noting. Michigan was home to the auto-industry for the 20th century, and the state and local communities were quick to develop the roads to support the state's largest industry.

Growing up, like many families, we drove everywhere. To church, school, movies, the mall, sports games. Many of these places were within a 15 minute drive (or less), but riding bikes was not a realistic, safe option for a family with kids in tow.

We were lucky because part of the Kent Trails was located about two miles from our house along an old abandoned rail line. This provided our family great recreational riding opportunities. We loved riding to a local ice cream shop at one of the of the trail. As a teenager, I enjoyed the experience of long, solo rides. My parents continue to use the trail as a part of their exercise routine. As my brother and I left the house, my mom rediscovered her love of biking. She and my dad got new bikes, and soon thereafter began riding in neighborhoods and along shorter trails in the community.

My mom's decision to bike to get around town is new and has been recent. Hearing her story has been inspirational. Biking 450 miles is pretty awesome, especially since she's not training for any races! She knows that I've been getting around by bike since 2006, and she may have initially drawn some inspiration from me. Now, though, I see her decision to try something new and to be comfortable with doing something different as continued motivation for me. On days when I need a little extra push when I'm riding to work, I think of my mom.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

BITU Celebrates 4 years

Wow. That's right. Biking in the Upstate is celebrating 4 years this month. Last year was the first time that this blogiversary was ever celebrated, and I briefly looked back on the successes that have happened. This year I decided to continue the tradition since it's this blog's birthday and its close to the end of the year. Let's take a look back over 2014.

2014 Biggest Upstate Bike News Story:  The Doodle Line Bike Trail Plan completed. The cities of Easley and Pickens worked together over the last couple of years to put together a plan for a trail that would connect the communities by the old "Doodle" railroad line. This is quite possibly the biggest news to his the Upstate since the inception of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Recent news indicates that this trail may be completed during summer 2015!

2014 Most Visited Blog Post:  Christmas Gift Review: Bontrager AW3 Hard Case Tire. Last Christmas I got a new hard case tire, and was pretty stoked. Hard case tires are great for biking in areas with a lot of road debris. The tires are designed to reduce the frequency of flats, and I can attest to that. They are a bit more pricey then regular tires...but they are so worth it. This post got picked up by Bontrager on Twitter, and I got a lot people interested. It got 306 pageviews, leading this post to my 7th most visited post of all time.

2014 Blog Post with the Most Comments:  The Good, The Bad and The Reality of Clipless Pedals. Several of you had some encouraging things to share with me as I explained my opinions on clipless pedals. I appreciate your encouragement, feedback and the discussion. After six more months of riding, I'm still feeling the same:  I love 'em for the weekend rides, but they aren't as convenient for commuting. I have learned that maybe what I really need is two bikes. One for long rides on the weekend, and other with the gear for commuting. Hey Santa, if you're reading this, take note. (One can dream, right?)

2014 Author's Favorite:  Top Southeast Mountain Biking Trails: Checking Out Tsali Recreation Area. This was a close choice between several different posts, but I really enjoyed the vacation that went along with checking out one of the best mountain biking parks in the southeast. And the pictures in this post are just beautiful! If the idea of a get-a-way weekend in the mountains is something you're thinking about, check out this post. Along with the trails, there are campgrounds, whitewater rafting, great bbq and a smoky mountain train ride near-by.

The fourth year of this blog's life was a fun one to write. I look forward to seeing what the fifth year in 2015 brings!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rolling Bike Summit Round Up

Last month I participated in the first ever South Carolina Bike Summit. The Palmetto Cycling Coalition took an innovative approach by taking the Summit across the state to Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia, Aiken, Blufton/Hilton Head and Charleston. Taking an opportunity to get to Spartanburg, was nice to see a part of the Upstate that I'm less familiar with. I met some new people, including a member of the PCC Board of Directors.

At the Summit, I had a chance to talk about some of the great bike-related things that have been progressing at Clemson University. The Bicycle Friendly University Program was the speaking topic, as there are several colleges near Spartanburg including Wofford College and Converse College. Clemson University has been designated a "BFU" at the Bronze Level. The program, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclist, is a way to help colleges implement bicycle-related improvements on campus. The improvements can be things like better bike racks or more bike lanes, safety campaigns or education outreach programs. The program rewards college campuses across the country with recognizing those who focus on making improvements.

Speaking at the Summit in Spartanburg

I talked about the BFU application process, and how it brought departments and offices across the University together. The 70+ question application was free to complete, but took quite a bit of research and effort to complete. Becoming a BFU is not a given, and a college has to have a proven track record. Clemson University was honored to recieve the designation on our first try at the application.

The Palmetto Cycling Coalition tracked the support, stories and events of the Rolling Bike Summit on Twitter and Instragram. Check out the hashtag #scbikesummit to review the great ways the biking community came together across the state. Thanks to the PCC for putting on the event, all the local hosts and those that came out to make the Summit a success!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Taking to Two Wheels Together

This Thanksgiving we hosted my brother and his girlfriend. I had a fun time showing off the highlights of the Upstate:  downtown Greenville, a winning Clemson Tiger football team and enjoyable bike riding. They are avid cyclists, and enjoy biking in rides across the country. They brought their bikes with them from Mississippi, and we managed to squeeze in some two-wheel time.

Taking a two-wheel tour of the Upstate
My brother and I grew up as athletes. I was older, and led the way with competing on various swimming, softball and basketball teams. He also became an accomplished athlete, and encouraging each other to succeed and bonding through our similar athletic experiences was one way that we bonded as kids. As we've gotten older, both of us have gotten into biking. Though we bike for different reasons - I enjoy commuting and am just getting into longer, recreational rides, and he's just the opposite - its brought another dimension into our relationship. Being able to take a bike ride over the holidays together was a special experience since we don't get to spend a lot of time together throughout the year.

We spent some time on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and also took a ride to appreciate the mountains along Belle Shoals Road in Six Mile. There's nothing like riding with views of open fields and the Blue Ridge mountains during the holidays. The ride gave us time to reflect, laugh and share.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my brother and his girlfriend over the holidays. Being able to ride together was icing on the cake...or whip cream on the pumpkin pie. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round

Here's an interesting take on the best roundabout designs for bicyclists from the Netherlands that came through my inbox. I think this article is well worth the read as state DOT's are considering, designing, engineering and implementing roundabouts in states across the country, including in South Carolina.

In the Upstate, there are places where roundabouts have been designed with bicyclists in mind using a variety of standard practices. Here's a photo of a roundabout in Greenville, South Carolina (near Woodruff Road, on Carolina Point Parkway). There are several signs to help a variety of users navigate the facility.

SC Roundabout
 And here's another in Asheville, North Carolina with less signage, but on a neighborhood street designed for lower vehicle speeds and less traffic volume.

NC Roundabout
 Both of these try to incorporate design for bicyclists, but may fall short, according to the article.
Being a part of APBP (that's the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals), there's an email listserve where folks share and discuss current best (and worst) practices in design and development from across the country and in the world. Thanks to being a part of this great group, I'm able to stay tuned to discussions on best practices, and try to bring the best to South Carolina's Upstate.

If you've ridden around any roundabouts, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what worked well and what fell short.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Upstate News Update, Fall 2014

Welcome to November. I have been a bit busy lately, so please forgive the slack in posting. However, there has been and continue to be some great things happening in the Upstate as 2014 continues on. Let's get right to what's the latest in the Upstate.

SC Rolling Bike Summit. The PCC will bring folks in communities together throughout the state during the state's first bike summit. Two years ago PCC joined with Georgia Bikes to put on the Georgia-lina Bike Summit. Next week, November 17 - 21, the Summit will spend two nights in the Upstate. On Monday November 17, the Summit kickoff's in Greenville, and Tuesday November 18 the conference rolls into Spartanburg. It's open to everyone, and hope to see you out there!

The City of Spartanburg has been busy! In early October, Partners for Active Living met with the City Council to discuss the next steps in expanding trail development in the area. Of the $750,000 set aside for bicycle and pedestrian paths, $650,000 has yet to be allocated to future projects. The City has also continued working on plans for the Northside. The Northside Initiative Master Plan is a powerful project that calls for the transformation of the community. Some of the plans include taking "Nasty Branch" creek and turning it into Butterfly creek with an adjacent greenway, the reinvention of Pearl Street with bike lane installations, the better connections between the Northside, Wofford College and Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.

The City of Anderson unveiled it's master plan this past September for more bicycle and pedestrian paths. The proposed trails would connect key places in the city like Anderson University, the AnMed Health Medical Center, the AnMed Health North Campus, the  Recreation Center, the Westside Community Center and several of the city parks. This plan would be the next level of improvements and connections beyond a few existing greenways in the city. Check out these renderings and images for some great visuals for the future improvements.

Greenville County Penny Sales Tax Vote. Disappointingly, it did not pass when folks went to the polls on November 4. The referendum would have helped improve county roads, sidewalks and bike lanes across Greenville County. Getting national support from People for Bikes and The Alliance for Biking and Walking, there was a great moment for the Upstate of South Carolina to shine. However, there were a few holes, including a major one that did not exclude groceries from the sales tax, that the voters could not overlook.

I've also spent the last 6 months getting familiar with twitter. For the latest events, news stories or to join in the conversation, you can follow me at BikingintheUpstateSC. I look forward to carrying the conversation further with you! Feel free to say hello!

If there's anything else that has gone on in the Upstate that I missed or any future events, please feel free to post in the comments below.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

At the Intersection of Happy & Healthy

I recently attended some training on the latest improvements in bicycle facility design with examples of various kinds of improvements and treatments from across the country. Walk Bike Columbia, an initiative that supports the state capital city bike and pedestrian plan, hosted a workshop. National experts came in to share their experiences and wisdom with a group of local, regional and state planners, engineers, landscape architects and other professionals.

One of the most interesting designs that was shared was the idea of the protected intersection.

Design for a protected intersection that's better for bicylists & pedestrians.
 Not yet found anywhere in the country, the inspiration for the facility came from similar installments from across the pond. Here is a video for a similarly designed intersection in The Netherlands. This idea blows my mind...and has me really excited to ride on one some day in the (hopefully not too distant) future. Can you imagine riding with your family on a bikeway like this? I can. *SMILE*

Let's break down the benefits of how the design works. There are improvements for bicyclists crossing the intersections. Pedestrians also keep their designated, separated place. Though the right turn for cars is not as convenient as it is in some states, like South Carolina, there is still room to react to potential conflicts. (That means that there should still be enough space and time for a car not to hit a bike or pedestrian.) It's a win for all, and huge improvement for the folks on two legs and two wheels.

Since this hasn't been installed anywhere in the country, it would be really cool if a city in South Carolina (*ahem, Greenville, cough*) stepped up to the plate. Share an intersection where you think this might work in your community in the comments below!

And don't forget to vote on Tuesday, November 4, especially if you live in Greenville County. There's an important opportunity to fund bikeway improvements around the county. Get out and make your opinion heard.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 2014 SC Bike Summit Rolls Across the State in November

Last month, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition announced the 2014 Rolling Bicycle Summit, as I shared in a previous post. From Monday, November 17 through Saturday, November 22, the PCC is bringing the statewide conference to a community close to you. There are two opportunities to get together in the Upstate. On Monday, the Summit hits Greenville from 6:30 - 9:30p, and then rolls into Spartanburg during the same time period on Tuesday. Details for each of the locations can be found here.

The summit will be a bit lighter, as its the first bike summit in South Carolina history, but a lot will be packed into the 3 hours. A few speakers will share what's going on in their community and newly trained Safe Streets Ambassadors will be introduced. If you are interested in becoming a Safe Streets Ambassador or learning more about the program, please checkout this website or contact Amy. There will also be time for networking and socializing. Attendance is free and open to the public.

I've been invited to speak at the Spartanburg Rolling Bike Summit. It'll be good to share what's been going on at Clemson University (more bikeways implemented, improvements in bike parking, several bike repair stations installed, etc.), as it'll be a brief update from the presentation I gave at the 2012 Georgia-lina Bike Summit. The early successes in building momentum are applicable to other communities, and not just those involved with higher education. It will also be great to hear what's going on in a different part of the Upstate.

Folks at the PCC are also encouraging folks to consider attending the summit at a location in a nearby, but different part of the state. This creates opportunities for some cross pollenization of ideas and the ability to meet some new people. I really look forward to meeting some new people and to learn from their challenges and successes. Being able to listen to and have conversations with others in bicycle-related professionals is a valuable way to build better bicycling communities.

Consider attending, and if you do, say hi if you're in Spartanburg. Remember it's free, open to the public and is for anyone with any level of experience or interest related to biking. Taking time to attend the summit is critical to the bicycle-friendly future of South Carolina. I look forward to seeing you in November!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vote Yes on November 4 to Support Biking & Walking in Greenville County

If you feel like the roads in your local community have been deteriorating over the last several years, you’re not alone. Roads, bridges, sidewalks and trails across the state are in desperate need of repair and improvement.  On November 4th, folks in Greenville County will have an opportunity to vote for improving the conditions of these kind of facilities.

A referendum to increase the Greenville County sales tax by a penny for about 8 years will be up for a vote on November 4. Local voters have an amazing opportunity to directly support the addition of 69 miles of sidewalks and trails. Through this proposal, bike lane total mileage would increase from 18.5 miles to 23 miles. The referendum would also support bringing the Swamp Rabbit Trail out to Simpsonville and Clemson University’s ICAR campus. The total investment in bicycle and pedestrian facilities would be $48M. The referendum in full text can be found here.

Momentum has been building across the county since this spring. The Greenville County Council voted in favor of the idea back in May, allowing the citizens of Greenville County to voice their opinion on the matter. Local media has come out in support of the measure. The need for such a measure comes from the lack of a long-term, dedicated, stable funding source from the state government. South Carolina roads are in terrible condition.  Mind-blowing statistics reveal how much we are hurting. And highlighting this need is has been the story for several years

Bike Walk Greenville has led a campaign to raise awareness about the way the referendum will positively affect bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Through their twitter account, the organization has shared the fifty four future Safe Routes to School projects that are included in the county’s sales tax referendum. Safe Route to School is a national program that creates better, safer ways that children can walk or bike to school. The program has helped improve facilities in Greenville County and in other places across the state.  Each tweet contains a short list of important information and a picture about proposed improvement to the school route. If you're interested in learning more about their efforts or want to help spread the word, consider attending their next meeting on Wednesday, October 8.

Support the increase in sales tax by a penny in the November 4 election if you are in Greenville County. Better yet, get out and vote to mark that support.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building Relationships through Constructive Dialogues

Not too long ago I was nearly hit by a car on my morning commute to work. The most upsetting thing wasn't the near-accident, but rather a local law enforcement officer's inaction. By sharing my incident, I hope others can encourage their local law enforcement to become informed and be part of the active development of a better bike culture in the Upstate.

I was riding in what I call super nerd gear - yellow reflective safety vest, orange t-shirt, front and back lights flashing - making sure that I was doing my best to be visible. As I approached the intersection, I noticed a car approaching from the perpendicular side street. Watching the driver with a mindful eye, aware that he might either obey or disregard the stop sign, I continued to ride forward. I had the right of way, and the driver had a stop sign. As he initially stopped, I proceeded to make my way into the intersection. Then he started forward again...then stopped and then hit the gas to plow through the intersection, nearly hitting me, and took off.

Moments after the near-accident, I decided to let it go. I was shaken and upset, but I realized that chasing after the car would have accomplished nothing positive. However, I noticed a local police car parked nearby. Curious, I biked on over. Greeting the officer in the car, I asked if he had seen what had transpired. To my surprise, he replied that, though hadn't seen the car nearly hit me, he had heard me yell and saw the car driving away.

I paused in disbelief. Once I gathered my composure, I decided to take the opportunity to encourage him to consider taking action if he were to come upon a similar incident in the future. He didn't have much to say in reply, so I politely repeated my point and continued on my way.

It's important to remember that police officers have a tough job, and they take on a lot of stress in dealing with the public. However, part of their role in enforcing public safety also includes looking out for the safety of people on bikes. Acknowledging that it will take some time for police departments to to learn local and state bike laws, officers should determine how they contribute to a culture of bike safety and inclusion in their community.

There is a lot of education and culture change that is occurring in communities across the country. The infrastructure is beginning to appear, but we're in the midst of a messy, fun, necessary and slow learning process where we figure out how cars and bikes should co-exist. Leaders, decision makers and community members should foster opportunities where folks can be exposed to these kinds of new ideas in a non-threatening, fun way through public safety campaigns, events and other programs.

My hope is that the police officer I spoke that morning brought this challenging situation back to his department. Questioning the status quo and encouraging open, positive dialogue where people can learn is an important part of change. Public law enforcement officers are critical allies in creating better places to bike, and helping them find their role in addressing public safety will make better communities for all of us.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Road Again

This post has more questions than answers, as I have been wrestling with some of these issues for a while. Take some time to read them and think them over. I'm interested to hear what your thoughts are…

Bike Lanes. Multi-Use Paths. Cycletracks. I’ve thought a lot about these different kind of facilities over the last few weeks, and recent discussions with some folks in the profession have pushed me to consider the implications of each. Both have their place, but I’m interested in what you have to say, riding reader. Why do you prefer one over the other? Is your preference for one kind of facility influenced by what kind of riding you’re doing:  Shared path for running errands or recreation riding? On-road bike lane when you’re out for a group ride or training for a race? Do you mind riding next to traffic or do you prefer some space? Where would you let your 8 year son or daughter ride? What would you think about your 80 year old mother, father or friend riding on this kind of facility?

On-road bike lanes are less expensive and improve the existing conditions for willing. However, the speed, volume and proximity of the vehicular traffic can really influence a rider’s feeling of safety or comfortability. How would you feel riding right next to traffic on Greenville’s Wooddruff Road? What are your thoughts about the bike lanes in the photo below?

Bike lanes in a sea of pavement. Would separated lanes have been better?
But how to accommodate the driveways?

Separated facilities, whether they are paths or bike lanes, have been shown to improve safety and are places where more folks feel comfortable riding. They are more expensive, typically take more time to install and can require a significant reworking of the existing landscape. However, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the most recent and well known example of this kind of facility, has been one of the most significant improvements in the region.
Swamp Rabbit Trail Users of all ages and abilities.
(Photo Credit:  Upstate Forever)

Part of a community’s responsibility is to develop facilities that folks will use. Over the last several years, as I have seen significant bicycle facility improvements in communities across the upstate, I wonder if we are doing the right thing. Are on-road bike lanes enough and will they provide the best facility for all riders? Or are we just doing the easy, convenient thing to say that we are bicycle-friendly? What more would it cost to build something that would address the folks who are “interested, but concerned” on two wheels? I then turn to consider the needs of the racing, spandex-clad crowd. What kind of facilities are preferred by a majority of this population? Is there a difference between men and women, experienced and novices?

There are some questions I've been mulling over. I wanted to get them out there, and I'm really interested in what you have to say. No matter how long you've been riding or what kind of rider you are, I'd really like to hear your thoughts on your preferences.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Power, Ordinary People and Bikes (A TED Talk)

Okay, that's not really the TED Talk title...but it could be.  There's an important lesson I'd like to draw your attention to as it relates to creating a better biking culture in your home town.

I recently watched a talk that I thought was particularly compelling as it relates to advocating for community improvements, including better biking infrastructure: bike lanes, paths, more parking, etc. "Why ordinary people need to understand power" is a talk by Eric Lui that I think you should watch. It's worth your time, especially if you're looking for inspiration or not sure how or where to get started in creating effective change in your community. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sneak Peak for Sping 2015 SC Training (Update: Training to happen Fall 2014)

Update:  Amy from the PCC contacted me with an updated Safe Streets Curriculum Training tour schedule. They'll be out touring and training folks across the state the week of November 14-22, 2014. Stops haven't been set - yet. Contact them if you are interested in learning more or having a possible tour stop in your home town!

I wanted to make sure that you had an opportunity to learn more about the Palmetto Cycling Coalition's Safe Streets Curriculum Training if you hadn't already heard about it. As the state advocacy group for South Carolina, the PCC works hard to education, improve and empower decision-makers, state and local planners and engineers and public citizens to do more for biking. They are a great group, and you should consider supporting their cause.

The Safe Streets training has been developed for two different audiences. One is geared towards teachers and students of almost all grades and is available on the state's Department of Public Safety website. The other training geared (pun intended) towards a more general public audience. However, the final touches are being put on this training, and it will be unveiled during a week-long tour in the Spring of 2015 during the week of November 14 - 22, 2014. Contact the PCC directly for more information or to have them consider a tour stop in your hometown.

The Safe Streets curriculum aligns with the PCC's ongoing Safe Streets Save Lives campaign which works on developing educational programs, workshops and literature to improve safety for everyone on the road. This is a great campaign, and one that everyone can get behind.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bicycle Riders, Mount Up!

I've recently been working on a project to improve bicycle parking and storage at some university residential facilities. Commonly found around the campus are variations on the "comb-style" bike rack. You're probably familiar with these because most elementary schools, churches, grocery stores and businesses have these as their standard bike rack.

Comb-Style Bike Rack

After doing some research, I started to consider some wall-mounted bike racks. The project area was covered, but was tight on space. The project called for a better organization and use of space so that the bikes could be more accessible. Additionally, the space was covered, so it was really important to take the time to do this improvement project right. Covered bike parking at residential places is a hot commodity - no one likes to leave their bike outside exposed to the sun, wind and rain if they don't have to.

There are all different kinds of wall-mounted bike racks to consider - modular racks, single racks, hook racks. I started searching online. To meet the needs of the project, the racks had to be something that could be mounted into a cement or brick wall, provide a secure place to lock the frame of the bike to the rack, be cost effective and look nice. There were a couple different models I considered.

Wall Mount Option #1 Cycle Safe:  The Cycle Safe Wallrack model was a contender. It could be mounted into the wall and provided a place to lock the bike.

Cycle Safe Wallrack

However, the installation of several fixtures left too much room for potential error (placing them too low to the ground or too high so that they couldn't be reached by a user or too close together to handle bars would entangle), so it was crossed off the list. I also felt that for the needs of this project, there needed to be more to the fixture to address the issue of security. (Though this might be the perfect thing for your garage!)

Wall Mount Option #2  Vertical Wall Mount:  Upbeat had a model that was also interesting. Though the name was a bit of a mouthful, the Bicycle Locking Vertical Wall Mount Rack, the locking mechanism seemed to be a bit better than the Cycle Safe model. The fixture also seemed a bit more robust and had me feeling better about my concerns with security. This was better, but since these came in individual units, too, I kept digging.

Wall Mount Option #3  Dero Ultra Space Saver:  The Dero company makes the Ultra Space Saver model that looked promising. It comes as a modular unit of 8, has predetermined spacing (16" standard between racks), and is great for mounting into the cement or brick wall. These were also recommended to me by someone who works within another university setting. Hearing that there was known success regarding use, security and durability over time with this model also helped. The company also makes the bike repair stations on the campus, and we've been satisfied with the quality of the components.

So, after a call to the company to get more details and answer a few questions, the Ultra Space Saver ended up being the winner. Here's a photo of the area before the rack....

Hmmm....we can do better.

and after.

                              Much improved!*

What a difference the wall-mounted rack makes! The photo was taken several weeks after the racks were installed. The fixture was intuitive enough that the students learned how to use it on their own! Success! It felt really good to see the positive response to the organization, use and accessibility improvements. I have continued to occasionally check in on this space to see how it's being used, and I have nothing but good things to report! (*Please ignore that white space on the photo. I don't know where that came from.)

Have you seen any bike parking wins? Have ideas how to address some bike parking fails? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Top Southeast Mountain Biking Trails: Checking Out Tsali Recreation Area

Recently we took a vacation to the North Carolina mountains. Living about two hours from the Great Smoky Mountains, it was close enough to home that we got to spend a lot of time taking in breathtaking vistas, towering trees and lush foliage. Cooler temps and views like this was exactly what I needed. It was a nice retreat from the South Carolina summer heat.

The Great Smoky Mountains - What a view!

The entrance from the NC side of the mountains.
We camped at Turkey Creek Campground in Almond, NC. I had heard that Tsali Recreation Area was nearby, home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the region, so we decided to check it out one afternoon. 

Tsali is within the Nantahala (pronounced "Na-tah-hay-luh'") National Forest owned by the US Fores Service, so it's covered in trees and has an extensive trail system. The drive to the trail head was winding and a bit long, giving one the feeling of "leaving it all behind." There is also a campground and boat launch within the park, providing visitors with several choices of outdoor activities. A day pass for biking is $2.

When we arrived at the trail head, there was a large gravel parking lot, bathrooms, an information kiosk and a washing station. 
Trail head and Facilities at Tsali

The bathrooms were nice, clean and were in the middle of being renovated. The open-air covered shelter had a few benches that were nice to sit and make any last minute adjustments before heading out on the trail. Providing a little cover from the elements was a nice touch. There was also a clear demarcation between the area were cars were allowed by the small, subtle wooden bollards, as shown in the photo above. The set-up was really welcoming. 

Moving just beyond the area, there was a clear sign that helped trail-users understand the trail schedule for mountain bikers and the equestrian community. Communicating trail etiquette, rules and schedule is important in creating an inviting, safe environment for everyone. A major issue on a trail system like this is the potential for conflict when a mountain biker comes up on a horse, and vice versa. (Mountain bikers are fast and quick moving, which can easily startle a horse.)  The photo below shows Tsali's trail schedule, limiting some trail use based on the day of the week.

Tsali Trail Schedule

For example, mountain bikers are allowed on the Tsali Trail on the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), and horses are allowed on a different trail during the same time, on the Thompson Loop and the Mouse Loop. Interesting way to control traffic and mitigate issues between the parties.

There was also a bike washing station that was being used. You can get pretty dirty mountain biking. Here was a simple wooden frame that had four dangling "J" hooks where folks could hand their bike and wash it off with some running water. It was great to see how a simple, elegantly designed facility was a big asset at the trailhead. There's also a shower head where riders can rinse off if they get covered in mud. It was pretty nice.

Mountain Bike Washing Station at Tsali

There were also some general rules posted at the kisok. The list of reminders, rules and tips was extensive yet brief. If you do go out, make sure to take some time to read and absorb some of this stuff. (The photo below isn't the most ledible, but you get the idea.)

Sharing the Trail - Rules & Reminders

It looked like an awesome set up. This visit didn't provide the opportunity for us to try out the trails, but we enjoyed checking out the facilities and spending some time on Lake Fontana. It was beautiful.

If you've had the opportunity to ride the trails at Tsali, somewhere else nearby or want to share a great spot with other folks, please share them in the comments below. It's always great to check out new places and have new adventures!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Reality of Clipless Pedals

A little over a month ago I shared that I bought some new bike shoes. I had admittedly given up the sneaker-and-pedal-cage combo to try out the clipless bike cleat. In a post written in January of this year, I shared how I have been pretty comfortable with the pedal-cage option, as I have been using it for about 7 years for my mostly-commuting lifestyle.

With an invitation from a friend to join in some group rides, I felt like I wouldn't be taken seriously unless I made the change. I also feared that I wouldn't be able to keep up with other riders.  I was also really curious to try something new to see what all the fuss was about. How could I be so opinionated on something I had never really tried?

After about 6 weeks of use, I'm ready to share my reflections - the good, the bad and the reality - after making the switch.

1.  (The Good) They are inspiring me to ride - which has been a big surprise. This has been the single biggest and best surprise for my riding experience. I think I was over due for some inspiration, and having some new gear has seemed to do the trick. It helps that I feel more efficient, and I love the clicking sound the shoe/cleat make when clipping into the pedal. Maybe it's my little way of saying to myself "it's go time."

2.  (Okay, another Good) I am using new muscles. Yes, ones I didn't even know I had. My body apparently was using one set of muscles with the pedals and cages. Because it is using a whole other set with these babies. And I'm sore. But I like it. The new shoes are engaging my core, back and different leg muscles in a better, more efficient and more comfortable way. I'm pretty stoked because it results in a better riding experience for me. Because your foot doesn't move around very much in the shoe or on the pedal, the mechanics of completing a full pedaling revolution can be different. I'm loving it.

3.  (The Bad) They are a royal pain to walk in. Since they don't bend or have any tread, you can't walk more than 10 feet without feeling like you're going to slip or fall. You are also walking directly on the cleat, essentially wearing it down, grinding the metal on the pavement with each step. For as pleasing as the clicking sound the shoe makes as it snaps into place on the pedal, this sound is equally "nails-on-a-chalkboard" irritating.

4. (Yep, another Bad) They make falling over on your bike ridiculously easy. Wanna see a grown man tip over like a falling log? Or want to see a proud, strong athlete blush? While being clipped into your pedal helps with speed, stopping without falling over is the most difficult part of using this kind of pedal. Because the shoe is practically tied down to the pedal, the almost-thoughtless action of stopping on a bike takes forethought:  seeing the upcoming potential for a stop, planning the stop, the planning of which shoe to remove from the pedal, removing the shoe from the pedal, breaking and finally stopping. It's not impossible to master, but it does take some practice. (For the record, I have not fallen...yet. However, I KNOW that it's just a matter of time.)

5. (The Reality)  I love these babies for long-haul rides, but have no place in commuting. Here's my advice: If you love to ride for practical purposes, errand running, short trips around town, etc. stick with traditional pedals!

I have been thinking how I should adjust my daily commutes. I can see the benefits, fun and appeal of the clipless pedal for the long haul, racing crowd, but my everyday riding has undergone a temporary setback. This is well explored and explained in some recent books that are encouraging folks to just ride instead of getting caught up in the need for fancy, expensive equipment.

There are a variety of options I'm entertaining, and I'll let you know what I come up with. In the mean time, I'm interested to hear your opinions and experiences on pedals and changes versus clipless pedals. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

National Night Out

National Night Out was a tradition in my neighborhood as a kid. Growing up the family in the house next door would round up some goodies and invite the families in the neighborhood to have a night out. Neighbors would turn the porch lights on and trod on over to spend some time together. The parents would set up lawn chairs, sit around and talk. The kids would run around playing games, eat and drink all the snacks to our hearts delight and McGruff the Crime Dog would show up in a limo. Every year. This was the big time on our small cul-de-sac.

Maybe it was the extra time out in the evening with the neighbors. Maybe it was all the extra goodies. Or maybe it was because the Mayor's daughter lived next door, but McGruff always visited us and it was a great time. A summer highlight in my childhood memories

The City of Clemson will be celebrating their own National Night Out. Full of fun, community and highlighting safety, this year the event is on Tuesday, August 5th. The details of the event are still coming together, but there is rumored to be some kid-friendly bicycle events focused on teaching bicycle safety. Taking time to get together as a community is always important, and an event like this is a great timing in reminding kids about safety before the school year begins.

In my days, McGruff was more focused on crime-prevention, but these days he's even into promoting bike safety. I'm not sure if he'll make an appearance in Clemson, but there will be a lot of fun stuff going on. Consider coming out to the event in Clemson or joining a local National Night Out event nearby. A great family-friendly event, there's sure to be a good time for all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bike Spotting

I have to admit it. I need to come clean. I love bikes. Yea, you already probably knew that. But, I LOVE bikes.

I find bikes interesting. They have the potential to reveal so much about a person. A knobby-tired mountain bike with with suspension. A red and black road bike with skinny tires. An orange and purple fat tire bike with streamers. A grey hybrid with a coffee mug attachment.

Owning a bike can be a form of self expression. A bikes can be just as unique as the individual that rides it. There's something to learn about a person by the bike they ride:  what they love to do, how they like to get around and what's important to them.  The Minimalist. The Fashionista. The Racing Speedster. The Errand-Running Uptowner. The Splurging Young Professional. The Family Man. Every ride, like every person, is different.

 I love bikes, and sometimes I just catch myself staring. 

I'm not talking about staring at a "I'm-a-creeper" kind of way. (Because that would just be weird.) But it's more like admiring a fine piece of art, taking in all the style that can fit on two wheels. Bicycles are inspirational, fun and liberating, a lot like art. So, when I get a chance, I have taken a few pics of some of the more unique bikes I have seen.

There's been some pretty rad "bike spotting" I've seen in the Upstate and during my travels. The pics below are some of my faves.

Why not carry two bikes on the back of your motorcycle?
(Does that make it a TriCycle?) Greenville, SC.

First experience with pedicabs in San Diego, CA.

A colorful array of on-street bike parking with a
bike repair station. San Diego, CA.

Bike Share comes to downtown Greenville, SC.
Main Street station.

Individual style meets available parts meets recumbent ride.
Tybee Island, GA.

Coffee to go, please! Savannah, GA

What are some of the cooler bikes you've seen? Are you a fan of "bike spotting?" I'd love to hear your stories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Upstate News Update: Mid Summer 2014 Edition

Hi all. Happy Summer! I've been off enjoying some summer fun, and I hope you have, too. I took a jaunt to see my parents and brother over the 4th of July. A weekend at my parent's cottage in Northern Michigan on an inland lake was pure bliss! Here's a few photos from my time away.

Lakeside scene at the cottage. Pure Michigan!

Enjoying a little r and r on the water.

I had the latest copy of Momentum Magazine with me, the 'zine focused on sharing the style, simplicity, issues and every-day-ness of bicycle riding. My brother and his girlfriend paged through it for their beach reading. As more of the "Sport-O" biking types, they were intrigued and impressed with the magazine's message. As my brother's girlfriend put it, "Look, they feature real girls who bike. *Pointing at a healthy-looking, dress-wearing lady.* Look at those thighs!" 

Her comment made me smile. Yes, the time with "the fam" was great. It was also fun to share my love of bike riding as a way of life. My family knows I'm really into biking, and it was nice to see them "get it."

There have been a few bike-relate events and stories in the upstate recently. In case you have been busy riding or having some other kind of fun, here's a bit of a update.

In reaction to an interesting turn of events this spring where local upstate Rep. Wendy Nanney took a rather rash approach to addressing bicycle safety, several upstate groups have come together to get the word out. Local cycling groups, bicycle shops, media and the bicycle advocacy groups are getting the word out to new bicyclists about how to act, respond, have fun and be safe.

A new indoor cycling workout studio is set to open this month in Greenville. For those looking to get a workout in, beat the heat and humidity of the hot southern summers and leave squeaky clean (aka they have showers), consider checking it out.

The second bike repair station at Clemson University is up! The first one was installed last year near some residential halls, and this one is located behind the student center. The repair station is also located near some spiffy new racks. This means there's twice the access to tools and air (for tires) for the students on access. 

Bike Repair Station #2 at Clemson University

If there's any other news or events to be shared, let me know by posting it in the comments below.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've Got Some New (Bike) Shoes On...

Couldn't help but think of this song as I was writing this post....

I may not be doing a lot of walking in these new shoes, but I'm feeling pretty spiffy...and excited. A while back, I shared that I wanted to get more involved with group riding. I've met a few new people, and have had a few more experiences that have been encouraging. However, as I started to explore what it meant to get involved with this crowd, there was an ever-present push and pull that had me taking my time exploring this side of riding. (Yea, I'll get back to the "new shoe" theme in a bit.)

The push. The push to have a carbon-fiber frame with thin rims and wheels. The push to have "the right" kind of wardrobe. The push to get the gear - speedometers, a racing seat, sleeker helmet. However, I found the real push came from within. The push to feel like I was a credible road cyclist.

And then there was the pull. The pull to love the bike I have - the steel-framed Bianchi Volpe I spent months researching that I bought since it is designed for long-haul touring. (A dream of mine is to ride across country some day, by the way.) The pull to not want to give up the lifestyle biking I've preached on this blog. The pull to just be me.

I wanted to see how I would do compared to some more serious riders, so a few weeks back I participating in a ride where I knew the "racing/spandex" crowd would be. Over the course of the ride, I stayed with a group of riders that were totally my speed, strength and style. I didn't get left in the dust with my steel-framed, cage-pedaling biking-self. I realized that I could strike a balance. The pushing and pulling I was feeling was gone! Through this experience, I could explore and expand my bike riding style and capabilities, and still be me. It was a win-win.

Wanting to stay in rhythm with this group riding side of the bicycle crowd, I have purchased Shimano Dynalast SH-WR42W (for those that are paying attention). Yes, folks, that means I have made the switch from cages and pedals to clipless pedals. And, they fit wonderfully with the Giro pedals that originally came with my Bianchi Volpe I bought five years ago. (So, for the record, I have a touring bike, racing shoes and mountain biking pedals. That's quite the mixed bag.)

This weekend I spent some time with the great guys at Bike Street in Clemson. They switched out my pedals, tweaked my efforts at putting the cleats on my new shows, let me ride my bike on their trainer and were very supportive to my exploring a new side of biking. (All for a minimal cost, too!) I spent around an hour as they set me up and helped me get familiar with riding with these new shoes.

So, I've made the switch. But I'm exploring a new side of biking. And, I realized, that's okay. I'm really interested in creating a place for the non-racing bicyclists, letting folks know all they need is two wheels to get riding. And that's what I've spent a lot of time doing over the last seven years as a bicycle commuter, and the last three as a blogger. However, I'm interested in expanding my abilities and experiences, and finding new tribes to join. And that's what bike riding is all about - having new experiences, meeting new people and expanding your own horizon.

Hi Guys! Me and my new shoes.
I'm really excited to explore this new path. I'll still be commuting, and I'll still be blogging about riding for all. But, in the mean time, I'll be taking some new roads - with my new shoes on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BITU Joins Twitter

After three plus years of blogging, Biking in the Upstate has joined Twitter! I'm excited to announce that there will be more opportunities to share, learn, converse and discuss bicycle-related issues that are relevant to the Upstate. Follow me @bikingntheupstate or search for BikingintheUpstateSC. There also may be other ways to search or find me, but I'm still getting the hang of it. I look forward to conversing with you, and throw any Twitter tips my way! Make sure you say hi in the Twittersphere.

I'm embarking on a new journey, much like bike riding, by expanding the reach of this blog. Learning as a I go, there's an expanded community to join and build. Momentum for biking in the Upstate, South Carolina, in the Southeast and across the country is growing! By joining Twitter, I'm looking forward to continue documenting the progress and propelling the future of biking in South Carolina forward. Looking forward to your tweets!

And, in other news...two weekends ago I participated in the local Ride for Wellness. This was my very first cycling event, and it did not disappoint! There were lots of seasoned cyclists there...but there was also a crowd that was a bit more my speed. With a steel bike and pedals with cages, I did well. It wasn't a race, but rather a time to go out for a ride over the back roads of Oconee County. There were peaks of the Blue Ridge, wide open fields and glorious downhill (and uphill) spans. It made for a great first-time event!

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Bike Riding is All About: A Review of G. Petersen's book Just Ride

A while back, I did a brief post titled "Just Get on A Bike" highlighting some of the national sentiment on the growing excitement on bike riding. So, when I came across a book with a similar title, I had to check it out.

 Just Ride:  A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen was released in 2012, and is a great read. Ever wanted to learn the best way to ride your bike? Curious on what the riding poncho is all about? How to (or not to) accessorize? With chapters titles like "Ride bumps with skill, not technology," "Don't overthink your underwear," Be saintlike on the bikepath," and "Most bikes don't fit," the book covers a wide variety of bike-related topics. I learned so many interesting things, from tips on bike safety to DIY upkeep to input topics like bags versus baskets, and bike shoes versus pedals and cages. I feel like this is a book that's meant to have bent corner and bike grease stains from it's use. Just a great companion for any rider. As another blogger put it, we're all doing it right.

This is not a cover-to-cover read. Serious time and energy was put into the craft of this book, making it easy to understand, yet not dull or boring.It's the kind of lit that's meant to be taken in bite-size pieces, mulled over and tried out. Maybe even be some topics of conversation with friends at the next opportunity. It would be a great gift for any bike rider - novice, well-seasoned, racer and unracer, a term that's used in th book for everyone who rides a bike in a non-racing event. This one is going to stay within arms reach for a while.

Honestly, this might be one of those "Christmas in July" times.It's available in print and digital, depending on your preferred device. This guide screams stocking stuffer!!! Pick this up for your bike buddy's Christmas or Birthday gift. And, while you're at it, grab one for yourself. After you spend a little time reading, remember, just ride.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Local Event: Ride for Wellness

Come one, come all. This Saturday, June 14 there's an open call for a free bike ride event in the Upstate for those interested in riding. The event is sponsored by Excel Rehab and Chik-fil-A with details are located on the event's Facebook page.  The lowdown: its an 8 am start time in Seneca with a 25 mile and 62 mile ride option. Those that preregister get a water bottle and a free meal from Chik-fil-A. Who doesn't love that?

Why I think this ride matters:  Many of the barriers that can prevent folks from joining in on bike riding aren't present. There's not a cost, donation or entrance fee. It's not advertised as a race - it's called the Ride for Wellness. It's not a fundraiser, which can be a great way to raise funds for organizations in need, but this ride won't be one that affects the wallets of co-workers, family or friends. It's a great event to get some event/group riding experience.

Maps will be provided, along with food and drink. And, as a bonus, there will be free physical therapy screenings before and after the ride. It sounds like a great time! No excuses. Do a quick tune-up on your bike tomorrow evening, register Friday morning and go out for a ride on Saturday. Join fellow local Upstate riders in a great event!

In other news, my previous post on biking at college campuses and college towns got featured by Streetsblog! It's a national blog on sustainable transportation and livable communities. Articles generally focus on urban topics, especially in places like Chicago, New York City, San Fransisco and Portland. I was pretty psyched, and traffic picked up significantly for the last few days. It's great that folks on the interwebs stay tuned to what's going on in the upstate of South Carolina. Thanks, guys!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lessons on Why Biking Matters in Unexpected Places

I recently attended the International Town and Gown Association (ITGA) annual conference in here in Clemson. It's the 10 year anniversary of the organization that started out in the Upstate with Clemson University and the City of Clemson. The organization supports communication and addressing the unique issues that arise in college towns. Think of the new Seth Rogen/Zac Efron movie "Neighbors," but in a more PG version, and where the issues are a little more high stakes.  

Members of the organization include the likes of the Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Weber State, Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, the City of East Lansing/Michigan State University and others.

Why, may you ask, might attending this conference be relevant to biking? During the conference they offered an opportunity to take their certificate program where they have national experts cover a host of topics related to town and gown issues. On the Sunday before the conference started a group of about 18 mostly university folks took advantage of the course.

One of the speakers was a consultant from a national transportation planning firm. His talk covered the changing transportation demands of the current demographic in college and recent grads - and the effects that its having on our national transportation system. Or, to sum it up, how bikes are here to stay! He cited a number of reports from the PIRGS, FHWA, US Census and others showing how folks, especially Generation Y, are demanding more flexible options when it comes to getting around. What made this so exciting was that he was talking to a room full of non-transportation-oriented professionals. He wasn't preaching to a crowd that already got it, but rather to a group that's charged with developing places that young people are drawn to. To hear this message at a conference like this was unexpected, but welcomed.

At the end of the course/day, I thanked him for sharing this information with the group, and that I have seen similar things at Clemson University. I wanted to take the opportunity to share my experience and also be an encouragement that this message matters. I found out that this was one of the first times he had covered the topic like this, and that he was still working on developing the course. So, I feel like it was even more important that he hear that this is a message that needs to be shared, especially to a crowd like this.

Providing sound, safe infrastructure and programs to meet the changing needs of transportation in our cities and communities, including the campuses of higher education is important. Not only are the demands changing (along with expectations), but folks arrive at college campuses looking for new opportunities. Supporting alternative modes of transportation and infrastructure, like bikes and dedicated facilities, can be part of that new, interesting collegiate experience.