Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Manchester United

All the elements necessary for a great bike ride were united in Manchester for last Saturday's Wake up the Earth Ride. We had great weather, a great group of people (14 at the start), and some remarkably clean, smooth roads for this stage of the season.

Even the solitary flat tire on the ride was dealt with in a united fashion, with convenient roadside assistance, many helping hands, and perhaps some divine intervention.

There were some hills (for which the ride leader took some good-natured ribbing). But there were also some options over less strenuous terrain. The greater challenge proved to be some local farmers using the early spring weather to get a jump on the growing season by hitting their fields with their manure spreaders. Fortunately this didn't coincide with the long hills. It was bad enough riding by on the flats, eyes watering and throats gagging. One wonders if those poor guys dragging those spreaders around all day get any oxygen breaks. Wake up the Earth indeed!

Next week's ride will be Saturday, May Day, May 1st in Wayne. Frank has a great route planned for us, with more scenic roads, fewer hills, and hopefully less manure. See you there!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wayne Ramble

We had a great ride with great spring weather and a great turn-out last Saturday in Manchester. This Saturday, May Day, Frank Rosen will lead us on another great route from the Wayne Elementary School in Wayne - and if Tubby's is open, there may be an ice cream stop afterwards! Hope you can make it!

Saturday, May 1st - WAYNE
"The Wayne Ramble" - a tour of the lakes and waterfalls around Wayne, Leeds, Livermore, and Wayne.
START: 10:00 AM at the Wayne Elementary School, 48 Pond Road, Wayne.
DISTANCE: 25-30 miles.
TERRAIN: moderate, with some surprisingly flat sections.
HIGHLIGHTS: some very nice scenic shore roads, meadows, and waterfalls.
LEADER: Frank Rosen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wake Up The Earth - Manchester

Yes, it's time to begin! The first Kennebec Valley Bicycle Club ride of the season is this Saturday. Hopefully we've seen the last of the Winter's snows, the days will get longer, temperatures will be closer to normal, and everything will start turning green again. Let's Wake up the Earth! Hope to see all of you in Manchester at the start!

Saturday, April 24th - MANCHESTER
"Wake up the Earth Ride" - a posted roads tour from Manchester to Wings Mills.
START: 10:00 AM, at the Manchester Elementary School parking lot on Rt. 17, near the junction of Rt. 17 & Rt. 202. The school is on the left next to the fire station just after you turn off Rt. 202 onto Rt. 17 West.
DISTANCE: 23 miles.
TERRAIN: moderate, with one long hill.
HIGHLIGHTS: Hopefully some dry pavement, and hold the pot-holes! We'll ride some paved (albeit sandy) back roads along some streams in and out of Wings Mills, take in some pre-foliage hilltop views, and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (on Thursday this year) and the coming of Spring.
LEADER: Jim Merrick.

Things Are Looking Up

I suppose that the freakish snow storm on Saturday serves as a reminder that one can never assume that spring-like weather is going to stay spring-like for any length of time in our neck of the woods. At least it didn't amount to much, it melted quickly, and it didn't fall on next Saturday when we scheduled the first KVBC ride of the season. Heck, I think that qualifies as a good omen. Or maybe a negative bad omen, which is almost the same thing.

It's also time for our annual spring membership drive. Instead of pre-empting your regular cycling program (much like a spring storm) all we do is remind everyone that it's time to send in your club dues: $10 per person or $15 per household. Your dues help to defray costs of the club's liability insurance, and to maintain our affiliation with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the League of American Bicyclists. Hardly anything negative about that omen. You can send your dues to:

Sandi Hodge, KVBC Membership Coordinator
P.O. Box 511
Alna, Maine 04535

Sandi has just recently volunteered to serve as the KVBC Treasurer and Membership Coordinator. She takes over the position formerly held by Chris Beeuwkes, who served the club admirably in this role for the past eight years. We are deeply grateful to them both. Hopefully their respective volunteer efforts won't take up so much of their time that we'll see them both on our rides (and I can get a picture of them in a not-so-weird and less high-tech setting). Thanks to Chris and Sandi!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Bridge Too Far?

Maine DOT to Consider Bicycle Bridge Over Piscataqua River

A.P. - The Maine Department of Transportation announced today that they are launching a feasibility study for a proposed bikeway between Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. The plan involves adding a suspended bicycle track underneath the main deck of the Piscataqua River Bridge.

A spokesman for the agency said that traffic planners had dealt with many complaints over the years from cyclists and advocacy groups about inadequate facilities for bicyclists to safely cross over the Piscataqua, but had not been able to come up with a satisfactory solution. A consulting engineer with the department recently became aware of new bicycle bridge design in the concept stage, however, and realized that it might fill the needs of the interstate river crossing.

"We saw this design by Kolelinia on the internet," the spokesman said, "and we quickly saw how it could be applied to the problem." Rather than undertake expensive upgrades to the old drop bridges over the river, or add dedicated bike lanes to the newer Piscataqua River Bridge, the engineers saw a way to suspend one of these bicycle tracks underneath the deck of the bridge at a fraction of the cost. The bike "bridge" would allow cyclists to make the crossing between Maine and New Hampshire by riding in special channels designed specifically for bike wheels, with safety harnesses to prevent mishaps.

When asked if they thought that this design might prove too intimidating for some bicycle travelers, the Maine DOT spokesman said they did not consider this a problem. "We figure that these cyclists already share the road with SUVs, lumber trucks, and cars with out-of-state plates, so they are already experienced at risk-taking."

Another reporter brought up the concern about cross-winds, and asked if the safety harness shown in the designs had been fully tested. The DOT representative admitted that the cross-winds on the bridge could be a problem, but they wouldn't approve the final design if the safety harness was inadequate. "At 135 feet above the river, that's quite a drop," the spokesman conceded. "Scenic, though."

If the final plans meet the Maine DOT's stringent requirements, the state could begin construction by the end of the summer. "We anticipate no delays, and will not have to close down any lanes on the bridge itself during construction," the spokesman said. "We could have the bicycle bridge completed all the way to the state line by the end of the year."

When it was pointed out that the state line is only the centerpoint of the bridge, the DOT spokesman said, "Well, we have every reason to expect that New Hampshire will complete their half of the extension in due course. In fact," he added, "the New Hampshire folks consider their state line to extend all the way across the river. Maybe we can convince them to pick up the whole project on their own."