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Bike Month encourages bicycling as transportation

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday, June 9, 2011 Page 5A

Bike Month offers opportunity to reflect

Eco Man

by Richard M. Stowe

May was Bike Month. Friday, May 20 was bike-to-work day; May 16-20, bike-to-work week.  It rained so hard in Connecticut on Wednesday, May 18 that Ms. Joaquim, the owner of Fairfield Trek Store, canceled “Ride of Silence” scheduled for 7 p.m.

But while rain deluged the Northeast, my friend Peggy called from San Jose, Calif., while soaking up the sun on Sierra Road. There, bicycle racers climbed a 9.4% grade (1,759 foot elevation gain) to the finish line of the fourth stage of Amgen’s Tour of California after hammering a 81-mile course from Livermore through Mount Hamilton’s backside to San Jose.

On May 20, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blogged about bike-to-work day. In Connecticut, Elm City Cycling drew 50 bicycle commuters to a bike-to-work breakfast in New Haven though “the weather wasn’t that great.”

I got soaked riding through the streets of Manhattan that day. So did New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. Mr. Wolfson bicycled from his Upper West Side digs to City Hall. A former strategic message coordinator in Senator Clinton’s nearly successful 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Wolfson’s new assignment under Mayor Bloomberg is to encourage New Yorkers to commute by bike.

New York City’s investment in bike-friendly street redesign has accelerated rapidly since April 27, 2007, the day Mayor Bloomberg appointed Janette Sadik-Khan as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. From 2008 to 2010, the city added 200 miles of bike routes in its five boroughs. The city’s separated green bike lanes, in which parked cars may serve as a protective barrier from motorized traffic, have been lauded by cycling advocates.

The Federal Highway Administration subjects green bike lane applications to formal Request to Experiment procedures that include extensive before and after documentation. The minimum width for a green bike lane are subject to regular bike lane standards. Painted buffers and flex posts may be used in conjunction with green bike lanes.

On March 9, Ms. Sadik-Khan unveiled the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guidelines, which describes state of the practice solutions for on-street bicycle facilities, at the opening plenary of the 2011 League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. Viewable at c4cguide.org, the guidelines were launched by NACTO, an association of 15 major U.S. cities, due to the limitations of existing design manuals.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation released a press statement on Tuesday, May 17. Acting Commissioner James P. Redeker said: “The Department supports and advocates multi-modal mobility transportation options. Combining public transportation with bike transportation bolsters a natural, seamless, multi-modal integration. To do that, it is necessary to provide a safe and secure method for bicycles to travel on the trains while at the same time provide adequate seating for passengers. We hope that this prototype system will accomplish that goal for the first time and we look forward to testing this system with MNR during the coming months.”

The bicycle racks will be installed later this year on two M-8 cars and the department will seek out customer feedback.

On Monday, May 23, USA Today published the League of American Bicyclists annual 2011 Bicycle Friendly State Rankings. Connecticut came in 21st. In prior years, Connecticut ranked 40th, 44th and 42nd. One notable Connecticut DOT policy change was to reduce minimum lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet on state roads — the extra foot-wide shoulder benefits bicyclists. With narrower lanes, bicyclists and pedestrians still must yield to emergency vehicles.

Even environmental writer Bill McKibben is talking up bicycling as 350.org plans carbon-free Moving Planet rallies on September 24. Bicycling is efficient — 6.2 times more than walking — when you factor in energy output and time for a given distance.

One of downtown New Canaan’s defining characteristics is its train station. Interestingly, New Canaan may apply for Federal Transit Administration Safe Routes To Transit grants, if it can meet the eligibility criteria. For bicycling, those routes must be within three miles of the station. That covers much of New Canaan!

Where bike lanes aren’t feasible, New Canaan could narrow vehicular lanes and utilize sharrows — bike-and-chevron shared lane pavement markings. Originating in Paris, sharrows migrated to Chicago and San Francisco — New Haven has eight miles of the markings.

Bicycling can be practical and enjoyable on warm nights, but it’s important to see, or be seen on New Canaan’s dark roads. Light & Motion, whose sustainable business practices wins awards, designs and manufactures all of its bike lights in Monterey; its lightweight helmet-mounted headlight/taillight, rechargeable via smart phones, is designed with women and children in mind.

Richard Stowe is a member of the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling. He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com.

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Sidewalk project offers ‘sustainable’ opportunities

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday, May 12, 2011 Page 5A (http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/ncadvertiser/opinions/93722-ecoman–sidewalk-project-offers-sustainable-opportunities.html)

Sidewalk project offers ‘sustainable’ opportunities

Eco Man

by Richard M. Stowe

On Friday afternoon April 29th I participated in an East Coast Greenway ride from New Haven to Simsbury.  At the end of the ride, a crowd of bicyclists gathered on the Simsbury Green.  A tall, lanky man wearing a lycra jersey walked up to me and asked “What town are you from?”  “New Canaan,” I responded.  “You’re Richard Stowe!” he said.  It turns out the cyclist, who lives in Simsbury, was Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics.

Mr. Chalder was very pleased to learn about the results of New Canaan’s April 27th sidewalk referendum, which was a clear mandate to extend sidewalks down Main Street and onto Old Norwalk Road.   Our conversation turned to the issue of impervious surfaces in New Canaan – parking lot expansion in Waveny and sidewalk extensions.  We agreed that increasing impervious surfaces is a problem.  We talked about two possible solutions: pervious concrete and compacted stone dust.  Mr. Chalder was quick to point out that in comparison to pervious concrete, the soles of pedestrians’ walking shoes may get sandy with a stone dust surface.

Granted impervious (water sheets off these surfaces) concrete and asphalt have excellent properties for human powered modes, which favor speed and coordination, such as rollerblading, skateboarding and bicycling.

But according to Bruce Dinney, Vernon, CT’s Parks & Recreation Department Director, a town with 10 miles of compacted stone dust trails, compacted stone dust is easier on your feet for walking and jogging.  Strollers are regularly used on Vernon’s trails.  Eric Weis, an official at the East Coast Greenway, concurs.  Mr. Weis feels compacted stone dust has excellent walkability properties.   For compacted stone dust to be used as a surfacing material on East Coast Greenway-designated trails, it must also be suitable for touring bicycles and wheelchairs – the surface must meet American with Disabilites (ADA) standards.  Lindsey Martin at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says that to meet these ADA standards, the crushed rock, limestone, or sandstone, must be no greater 3/8 of an inch in diameter.  The application of compacted stone dust is 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick.  Bruce Dinney says that the original compacted stone dust trail in Vernon (1995) was resurfaced with 1 1/2 inches of stone dust twelve years later.

Mark Paquette, who serves as Executive Director of the Windham Regional Council of Governments  and on the East Coast Greenway Trail Council, has a 3 1/2 mile stone dust trail in Chaplain and a 2 mile trail in Willimantic.   It turns out that stone dust costs about nine times less than asphalt and is simple to maintain.

Pervious concrete has unique properties; it differs from impervious concrete in that it has very little to no sand, or fine aggregate.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Low Impact Development Center recognize the proper utilization of pervious concrete to be a Best Management Practice in controlling water pollution.  Pervious Concrete is most often used in parking lots, sidewalks, driveways and residential, or lightly trafficked and streets (green highways).  Pervious concrete provides first flush pollution control and stormwater management.  If properly maintained, it dramatically reduces run-off relative to impervious concrete.  It facilitates the recharge of local groundwater supplies and cleanses the water in the process.

Pervious concrete has a measurable advantage over impervious concrete in wintry conditions, especially melting conditions.  Melting snow drains through the porous concrete, whereas melting snow on impervious concrete re-freezes, creating icy, unsafe conditions for winter walkers.

Jim Langlois, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Concrete Promotion Council, states the cost of “pervious concrete is absolutely competitive with the cost of impervious concrete” and with today’s price of oil “the initial costs of asphalt and pervious concrete are identical.”  In August 2010 Governor Rell in co-ordination with the  Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and United States Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to construct 23,000 square feet of pervious concrete sidewalks at the State Capitol as part of the “Hartford Green Capitols Project.”   Those pervious walkways were installed in October of 2010.

Let’s seize this opportunity to make New Canaan’s new sidewalk improvements on Main Street and Old Norwalk Road in a sustainable manner.

Richard Stowe is a member of the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling. He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com .

Demolition man waiting in the wing

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday, October 14, 2010 page 5A (posted on ncadvertiser.com at 14:07)

Demolition man is waiting in the wing

Eco Man

by Richard M. Stowe

On “A Change Would Do You Good” video Sheryl Crow wails:

“Chasing dragons with plastic swords

…everybody wants more…

I’ve been thinking ‘bout catching a train…”

A change would do you good”

while the nine-time Grammy winner throws her possessions and then herself out an apartment building window.

Well, as sure as a Metro-North engineer blows the horn as the train approaches Richmond Hill Road, “change” is coming to New Canaan.

The image of Ms. Crow throwing herself and her possessions out the window may serve as an allegorical allusion to what may occur if New Canaan officials authorize a planned demolition of a stand alone, town-owned brick barn.

On The Police’s 1981 release, “Ghost In the Machine,” front man Sting sings:

“Tied to the tracks and the train’s fast coming…

Tied to a chair, the bomb is ticking…

You say this wasn’t in your plan

…don’t mess around with the demolition man

I’m a walking nightmare, an arsenal of doom

I’m a walking disaster…

But I’m nobody’s friend, I’m a demolition man”

The brick building is no longer used for storage; the shuttered boiler avoids $7500 outlays per winter.  The chain link fence, auxiliary garage and debris have been cleared.

The Historical Review Committee recently denied Mary Findlay’s demolition delay request.  A demolition contract is out to bid; bids are due October 14th.  Public Works official Tiger Mann will review bids.  On Tuesday October 19th he will make a recommendation at the Board of Selectman meeting.

All requisite town bodies reviewed and approved the demolition.

As Bob Dylan exclaims in Subterranean Homesick Blues: “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.”  Translation: take a stand; its the eleventh hour; the clock is running; there’s no remaining time outs.

Standard Oil built the vernacular two-story brick barn in 1901, 4 years after John D. Rockefeller resigned as Chairman, three years before Ida Tarbell’s “The History of the Standard Oil Company” was published, ten years before the United States Supreme Court broke up Standard Oil into 34 companies and sixteen years before United States declared war on Germany.

Preservationists recently adopted the name Mead Park Carriage Barn; more familiarly it is the Richmond Hill garage.  “Carriage barn” may inflate its first use, but “garage” conceals its origins.

The building’s first story housed a horse-drawn delivery wagon and two teams of horses; the second story was built expressly as a hayloft.  The horses delivered kerosene.  Its brick construction is more unique than its wooden barn counterparts.  Its 1901 construction precedes the American automobile onslaught; “bicycle share” storage would serve as one green use true to that era.

Friends of the Mead Park Carriage Barn seeks community input for potential uses for a rehabilitated brick barn.

To halt this demolition, two no votes are needed by any two selectman – Jeb Walker, Rob Mallozzi, or Sally Hines.  To request a no vote call, or e-mail Jeb, Rob and Sally by Monday October 18th.  If the bid is accepted, it becomes nearly impossible to halt demolition machinery.

As Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones sing in Time Waits For No One:

“Time can tear down a building, or destroy a woman’s face

Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste

Time waits for no one, no favors has he

…The dreams of nighttime will vanish by dawn”

The fate of our brick barn is in the balance.  You will make the difference.

Yes, change is coming to New Canaan and unless you say no, it will be brought to you by the demolition man.

Richard Stowe is president of the New Canaan Environmental Group and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling. He may be reached atbike.rail.politics@gmail.com

 

The Village Commons’ pricey plan

Eco Man — Work within existing footprints for LEED certification

New Canaan Advertiser

Written by Richard M. Stowe
Thursday, 10 June 2010 10:06

All the towns’ players are abuzz about the concept of a “village common” as part of an overall master plan which among other things resuscitates a plan to remodel and expand Town Hall. The linchpin for a village common would be a crosstown move for the New Canaan Library from Main Street to Park Street.

I will look at this ersatz concept, which could include housing the library in a LEED-certified building on top of a decked parking structure behind Town Hall, and offer a green, livable streets alternative. The timing to announce the plan to build decked parking, the penultimate structural symbol of automobile addiction, couldn’t be more inopportune as the largest oil spill in United States history unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Advertiser reported on the 1913 library’s deteriorating condition, “the current library… as [Town Council member Steve] Karl described, is crumbling from within.”

New Canaan doesn’t need an insular common. The pricey plan may create a nightmare on Elm Street by upsetting downtown’s delicate balance.

Since a majority of town residents live south of Elm Street, the level of service at downtown signalized intersections will likely deteriorate with a “commons” sited north of Elm. Increases in traffic and noise will reduce the quality of life in the historic district.

Pricing, not supply, is the best way to address parking demand. Revenue from market-priced curb parking can fund transportation demand management toolbox techniques, such as parking cash-out and designing bicycle-friendly environments.

To learn what may go wrong, let’s evaluate downtown’s recent history. The 1972 Cherry Street extension, designed to speed traffic through downtown, effectively separated the venerable library and Center School buildings from downtown and triggered commercial space construction, subject to minimum parking requirements. The 1979 library expansion bastardized the existing historic structure. The 1984 razing of Center School was truly a tragedy in which the town “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

A more prudent strategy would have allowed for adaptive re-use of Center School. Constructing the odd-looking teen center where town garages once stood was a logistics blunder. That space is needed for a LEED Platinum Town Hall annex with school administration offices in lieu of expanding Town Hall.

The U.S. Green Building Council now encourages LEED for Existing Buildings certification. Renovate Town Hall to LEED Platinum within the “existing footprint.”

To improve the library, raze the 1979 addition, determine how much of the pre-1979 library building to retain. Restore the library (LEED Platinum) as quiet space with books, magazines and newspapers. Expand parking within the 1979 footprint. Convert the Cherry Street egress from a driveway to a “walkway.”

Directly across in Morse Court, construct a two-story LEED Platinum library annex with technology center, children’s activity room, teen study space, meeting rooms and teen center.

The annex would border the Cherry Street sidewalk from Main Street to the Mobil station property line, or to South Avenue. A fully glazed south-facing wall will provide daylight, and in colder months passive solar heat. A traffic-calming “speed table” spanning Cherry Street would connect the “walkway” to the library annex pedestrian entrance.

With its strategic location in Morse Court, the annex will serve as an anchor to enhance business downtown.

Richard Stowe is president of the New Canaan Environmental Group He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com .

Bike culture on the Laguna Coast

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday June 18, 2009, Page 6A, 10A

Eco Man

Bike culture on the Orange Coast

For years, the bicycle shop located at 240 Thalia Street in Laguna Beach was staid and uninteresting.  No more.

One evening in the late summer of 2000, I walked into French 75, an upscale bar, a few blocks south on the Coast Highway.  I met Deborah Richards, an interesting and attractive woman living in Las Vegas, who owned a beach home in Laguna.  We spoke by phone a number of times.  During one conversation, she recommended I visit Laguna Cyclery.  She said Patrick, the new owner, was pretty cool.

When I walked into Laguna Cyclery, I knew she was right.

Patrick Fetzer, soft spoken, but charismatic, has transformed that store into a place to be, not only by his personal presence, but also by developing by a select inventory that draws you down the aisles and to the cash register.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Fetzer threw a party to celebrate the store’s 38th year and his ten years in business.  Saturday May 23rd started with a 7:30 a.m. bike ride up Laguna Canyon Road. With a little help from his friends, Mr. Fetzer transformed the bike shop parking lot into a stage for party, which commenced at noon.  Those friends included a former bike shop owner-turned-food caterer, excellent musicians and a friendly, relaxed crowd.

British-born Jason Feddy’s performance (joined on lead by “somewhat legendary” Laguna Beach guitarist Bob Hawkins) may have been the high point of the day.  The duo flawlessly played one cover after another.  Songs included Sexy Sadie, I Shot the Sherriff, Brown Eyed Girl and MIchelle.  Ms. Bennett closed the celebration with an angelic interpretation of Elton John’s Your Song.

One Laguna Beach resident I met at the afternoon festivities was Michael Hoag, who is involved in local community affairs.  Mr. Hoag participates in a monthly critical mass ride on a series of streets parallel to the Coast Highway on the third Saturday of the month at 9 a.m.  Think of Laguna as a “City Different” – it’s historically been a bit progressive and bohemian.  Timothy Leary took up residence in Laguna Canyon back in the 1960’s.  In follow up e-mail communication, Mr. Hoag listed Village At as a sign-off and in a phone conversation I learned that Mr. Hoag serves on the City’s Long-Term Business Assistance Task Force’s Mobility Committee.  The City Task Force is co-chaired by longtime public transportation advocate and Laguna Councilwoman Toni Iseman.

Bicycling home to San Juan Capistrano at dusk that evening, I experienced one delightful change since my last visit to Orange County.  As part of Pacific Coast Highway improvement project, the lanes on the Coast Highway in Dana Point had been reconfigured and re-striped to accommodate bicycle lanes!  For years, from a bicycling standpoint, that stretch of Coast Highway in Dana Point seemed inhospitable.  From a “place” perspective the re-striping makes a big difference on how that ride feels.  The City also plans to convert a pair of one-way streets back to two-way streets in the downtown area.

It leaves me hopeful: if that stretch of the Coast Highway in South Orange County can be reconfigured to be more bicycle friendly, that feat should be able to be replicated in communities across our country.

So did the action by the Connecticut General Assembly on June 1.  On June 1, the House concurred with a previous vote by the State Senate in approving S.B. 735, An Act Improving Bicycle and Pedestrian Access.   Most notably the Act, which was fashioned and championed by the Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Committee vice-chair Tom Kehoe (D-Glastonbury) as a “complete streets” bill, establishes a Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.  The duties of that board shall include “examining the need for bicycle and pedestrian transportation, promoting programs and facilities for bicycles and pedestrians in this state, and advising appropriate agencies of the state on policies, programs and facilities for bicycles and pedestrians.  The board may apply for and accept grants, gifts and bequests of funds from other states, federal and interstate agencies, independent authorities and private firms, individuals and foundations, for the purpose of carrying out its responsibilities.”

In 2008, State Rep Tom Kehoe guided a 3-foot passing bill through the Connecticut General Assembly.  His speedy ascent to Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee this year and his success in seeing the Complete Streets bill through this legislative session may put him on par with New York City’s Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who in a very short period of time has implemented many bicycle friendly measures on New York City streets.

This is the first in a series of two articles by New Canaan resident Richard Stowe, founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling.  He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com

September, a challenger to ‘Bike month’

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday, September 18, 2008  6A

Eco Man

By Richard M. Stowe

Any month is a ‘Bike Month’

May has been known as Bike Month since 1956, but it turns out September is growing in stature as a bicycle-friendly month.  It helps that the weather is generally warmer in September than in May.

For starters there’s World Carfree Day, hosted by the Prague, Czech Republic-based World Carfree Network, which takes place this year on Monday, September 22nd. 

Most events take place in Europe, but look for World Carfree Day to pick up in American communities in years ahead.

Coney Island

Coney Island

Then there’s Transportation Alternatives’ NYC Century Bike Tour, which took place this year on Sunday, September 7th.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to bicycle over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Prospect Park, past Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Canarsie Pier (sections of Brooklyn that I visited for the first time) on a sun-filled day before volunteering as a marshal on Randall’s Island. 

Hell Gate Bridge

Hell Gate Bridge

Founded in 1973, Transportation Alternatives’ mission is “to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives.”  Transportation Alternatives strives to influence elected officials to direct New York City Department of Transportation officials to implement measures such as traffic calming, car-free parks and bike lanes with the goal of creating safe streets.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Friday September 19th is National Parking Day (http://www.parkingday.org/) and it is promoted on the home page of the Trust for Public Land at tpl.org.  It is an effort to create temporary parks in parking spaces.

Finally two new cycling events have emerged this September.

Bicycle For A Day  occurs on Saturday September 20th from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM at South Street Seaport in Manhattan.  More information is available at bicycleforaday.com.

Founded by actor Matthew Modine, Bicycle For A Day is an initiative to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by traveling by bicycle and other carbon free modes instead of by petroleum-powered vehicles

Brita Climate Ride is a five-day bicycle ride from SOHO in Manhattan to the Capitol in Washington D.C. in which “climate riders” raise money for non-profits Focus the Nation and Clean Air-Cool Planet, which has a branch in New Canaan.  (See related story on Page 8)

Climate lectures will take place in the evening each day of the ride.  Further information is available at climateride.org

Four cyclists from Connecticut have registered for the 300-mile fundraiser including me.  To make a donation, click “sponsor a rider,” enter the climate riders name, click on that name, and click on the riders name that appears below. 

Climate Ride is no bike-cation, but it provides an opportunity to network, raise money for two climate education organizations while traveling by bicycle to the nation’s capital.

Richard Stowe is president of the New Canaan Environmental Group and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling.  He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com

no prisoner of the white lines of the freeway

New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday August 21, 2008 Page 5A

OPINION

Eco Man
By Richard M. Stowe

A rumbling ride with Riggio

Phil Riggio on Shore Road bridge

Phil Riggio bikes weekdays from his home in Darien to his job in Manhattan (Richard Stowe Photo)

Darien resident Philip Riggio lives “maybe 50 yards from I-95” and works weekdays in mid-town.  While at work he notes “my family hears emergency crew’s sirens blasting every few hours as they cart accident victims off to the hospital. This is concerning.”

But Mr. Riggio is “no prisoner of the fine, white lines on the freeway.”

He lives exactly one-half mile from the Noroton Heights Railroad Station.  Mr. Riggio, who begins work at Cantor Fitzgerald at 7 a.m., appears to be the perfect candidate for a 48-minute, 36.2-mile train ride to Grand Central Terminal.  But up to three days per week he shuns the rail commuting opportunity.  Nor does he drive on nearby I-95. 

Instead, Mr. Riggio, a Catholic-educated, Baltimore, Maryland native, bicycles a minimum of 38.5-miles to work to his mid-town office each way on a Bianchi road bike with flat bars and MTB shifters.

In forging what may be a new category of cyclist: an “extreme” bicycle commuter, Mr. Riggio may be cycling at the edge of history, into an America, which holds 1.6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, but can no longer afford its motor vehicle-driven petroleum habit. 

By setting an example with his 77-mile round trip commute three days per week; Mr. Riggio hopes “to encourage others to follow suit over shorter distances.

Mr. Riggio even straps a trailer to his bicycle, much to the delight of Stella, his daughter, and bicycles her to school.

On Friday August 1st I joined Mr. Riggio on his bicycle commute to Manhattan.  At 4:20 a.m. I left my apartment in New Canaan.  Except for a rumbling ride along Lapham Road, New Canaan’s answer to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the 6.3-mile trip to Mr. Riggio’s home was fast and smooth. 

Phil Riggio sports Light & Motion headlight at daybreak in Pelham Bay Park

Phil Riggio sports Light & Motion headlight at daybreak in Pelham Bay Park - photo by Richard Stowe

I knew I had reached his driveway when his handlebar mounted-Light & Motion headlight broke the darkness – beaming brightly at me. 

A quick hello and we departed from his driveway at 4:40 a.m.  In twelve minutes we reached Stamford Downtown; twenty minutes later we cycled through downtown Greenwich; nine more minutes we arrived in Portchester, NY.  In the next 6.3-mile stretch to Mamaroneck Avenue, Mr. Riggio, a USCF category-2 bicycle racer, cut a relatively fast, flat course averaging 23.7 miles per hour. At 5:42 a.m. we reached downtown Larchmont, 62 minutes after leaving his driveway.

Riggio cycling on St. Anns Avenue under MTA subway 6 line at Westchester Avenue - photo by Richard Stowe

Riggio (on St. Anns Avenue) approaches MTA subway 6 line and Westchester Avenue - photo by Richard Stowe

Phil Riggio approaches Manhattan cycling over Third Avenue Bridge - photo by Richard Stowe

Phil Riggio cycles on Third Avenue Bridge - photo by Richard Stowe

Early morning traffic developed as we cycled over Bronx streets.  Upon cresting the Third Avenue Bridge, we looped back to Second Avenue at 128th Street, where Mr. Riggio positioned himself well for the malaise of diesel trucks, transit buses and motor vehicles that lay ahead on the final stretch into mid-town.

Two hours-fifteen minutes after leaving home, Mr. Riggio parked his bicycle at a 62nd Street storage locker, showered at a gym and walked to work at Cantor Fitzgerald.  Twenty minutes later he was at his desk.

After leaving the Cantor Fitzgerald building, I bicycled down to Union Square Farmer’s Market to buy whole-grain pastries and wild blueberries. 

Westside Bikeway approaching George Washington Bridge

Westside Bikeway approaching George Washington Bridge - photo by Richard Stowe

In an effort to simulate Mr. Riggio’s return trip later that day, I cycled over to the Westside Bikeway and back to New Canaan, via the Botanic Gardens and the Boston Post Road -clocking 95 miles roundtrip.

OK, you’re not a cat 2 racer and your commute isn’t 80-miles roundtrip, but you’re interested in bicycling to work, or bicycling as transportation.  You’ve concluded that bicycling can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

But you’ve concluded that bicycling on suburban streets is foreboding.  You can overcome that fear by taking a League of American Bicyclist BikeEd “Road 1” course. Driven by “vehicular cycling” principles, BikeEd instruction evolved from a course and book called Effective Cycling (first published in 1976) by John Forester.

In the New York area BikeEd classes are offered by Bike New York (http://bikenewyork.org/education).  To take a BikeEd course in New York City, you may contact Emilia Crotty at (212) 932-2453×131.  If individuals are interested in taking a “Road 1” course locally, contact the New Canaan Environmental Group at nceg2453@gmail.com. If a dozen or more individuals sign up for a BikeEd course, arrangements will be made for Bike New York BikeEd instructors to teach the course in New Canaan, or Darien. 

New Canaan Cyclery owner Rob Sherlock shuttered his store last summer, relocated to Austin, Texas and now works at Fallbrook Technologies.

In the wake of that closure, Ski & Sport at 11 Forest Street in New Canaan (and its sister store in Ridgefield) began selling Jamis bicycles this summer.  Ken Ryan, a 13-year veteran at Ski Market, where he served his last six years as either assistant manager or manager at the Danbury and Norwalk stores, manages the bicycle department.  Mr. Ryan states that both sales and service cover a broad spectrum – kids, commuter/hybrid and performance racing bicycles.

Come on New Canaan, come on Darien, “cause summers here and the time is right for (cycling) in the street…”

Richard Stowe is president of the New Canaan Environmental Group and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling.  He may be reached at bike.rail.politics@gmail.com