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October 27, 2012

Traveling on the MetroBikeLink Trail

Filed under: Illinois,trails — Roger @ 2:41 am

Last week, the St. Clair County Transit District opened the newest 2.2-mile section of the MetroBikeLink Trail. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, though, until this week. Here’s what I saw:

Those of us who are used to riding the expansive Madison County Transit trail section will be happy to know the new section of the trail is much more like the MCT trails than older parts of the MetroBikeLink Trail and the Richland Creek Greenway Trail.

There is just one stop sign on the new section of trail, at Old Caseyville Road in Swansea. In fact, it’s the only stop sign between the Belleville and Memorial MetroLink stations.

You do get to see some larger trees along the trail, and that’s nice, especially when the leaves turn.

You also get to see fences. Lots of fences. Some separate the trail from the MetroLink tracks. Some separate the trail from ditches. Some separate the trail from adjoining residential areas. I’m sure some of that was to appease some homeowners who fear criminals will use the trail to gain access to their home. I think there are too many fences that distract from the view.

Although the trail just opened, it’s already in need of repair. A few sections of asphalt in the eastbound lane have crumbled. Those are clearly marked with pink paint to enable you to avoid them.

But in all, it’s still good to see more miles of bike trails in St. Clair County. Although neighboring Madison County still has substantially more miles of trails, every little bit helps.

Meanwhile, the St. Clair County Transit District has started work on a bridge that will take cyclists and pedestrians over busy Green Mount Road near Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. The section of the trail east of Green Mount Road is closed, so you’ll have to take the bike lanes along Green Mount Road to get to SWIC. The trail is closed indefinitely until the bridge is done, which is expected to be completed next year.

In time, St. Clair County has plans to expand the trail west to the Fairview Heights MetroLink Station and east to the Shiloh-Scott Station, which is the eastern terminus of MetroLink.

 

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October 17, 2012

New section of MetroBikeLink Trail opens Thursday

Filed under: bicycling,Illinois,trails — Roger @ 10:07 am

The St. Clair County Transit District on Thursday will officially open a 2.2-mile section of the MetroBikeLink Trail that will connect the Swansea and Memorial Hospital MetroLink stations.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the paved trail is set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Swansea MetroLink Station. After the ceremony, people will be able to bike or walk the trail. In addition, STCCD representatives will explain how bicyclists can use MetroLink and MetroBus to expand their trips through the St. Louis area.

“Our goal is to create a complete trail system in St. Clair County and this new segment is one big step in the right direction,” Bill Grogan, managing director of the St. Clair County Transit District, said in a press release. “We have already seen spurs, and connections to neighborhoods off of the current trail, including a new one at Southwestern Illinois College to the adjacent neighborhoods. It is our hope that this trail system, with the ability to hop on MetroLink or MetroBus, will link our system to the Missouri side of the river.”

The new extention expands the trail to 6.9 miles. In coming years, SCCTD hopes to extend the trail 3.5 miles westward to the Fairview Heights MetroLink Station and 3.5 miles eastward to the Shiloh-Scott MetroLink Station.

Next year, SCCTD plans to build an bridge that will take bicyclists over busy Green Mount Road in Belleville. Currently, bicyclists have to wait for traffic to pass to cross the road.

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September 20, 2012

Don’t forget the Tour de Coal this Saturday

Filed under: bicycle rides,Illinois — Tags: — Roger @ 11:40 am

OK, I’m very late in posting my advance for this year’s Tour de Coal, which is this Saturday in beautiful Benld, Ill. Registration is from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Benld Civic Center, 200 E. Central St. (Illinois Route 138).

Online registration is closed, but the day-of-ride registration fee is pretty reasonable — $20 for adults and $50 for a family pack — considering the ride includes rest stops, a free sandwich and soda at the Benld Fall Festival and a T-shirt (as supplies last).

The late post, however, allows me to share some photos I took Wednesday while Jim Marcacci and I were marking the Tour de Coal routes. I’ve posted a few in the gallery above, but for a bigger gallery and pithy commentary, go to my public gallery at Facebook titled “A primer for painting arrows on the Tour de Coal course”.

This year’s Tour de Coal is the seventh, and I’ve been proud to be a part of all seven. I’m a Macoupin County native, and we’re proud to share our little corner of the world with you!

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September 13, 2012

Woof! Pedal for the Pooches

Filed under: bicycle rides,Illinois — Tags: — Roger @ 2:13 pm

woofIf you’re a hammerhead looking for a long, fast-paced workout, Pedal for the Pooches isn’t for you.

But if you’re looking for a easy-paced ride where socializing is the main goal, Sunday’s event may be just right for you.

Pedal for the Pooches is a bicycle poker ride and a fundraiser for Belleville’s new dog park, which will be built at Hough Park. The bicycle part of the event goes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a block party from 4 to 7 p.m. featuring  The Cumberland Gap Band, a St. Louis-based bluegrass band, outside Seven Restaurant and Lounge, 7 N. High St. in downtown Belleville.

In addition to Seven and sister operation Shichi Suchi Bar, Pitchers, Sullivan’s Big Daddy’s 618, Fridays South and MoJac’s are participating in the event. Each of those bars will be distributing poker cards, and the best hand wins a Smoking Loon Beach Cruiser. The cost of the ride is $25 and includes food at Seven afterward.

Seven is presenting the event. Since I know several employees — including Stephanie Gain, who’s doing much of the grunt work similar to what I’ve done for Tour de Stooges, and Becca Schmitt, who’s coordinating the music — I decided to offer my services by drawing a map.

I figured it would be a good chance to do a little bicycle education. This kind of ride draws the kind of rider you’ll never see on a Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society or a Metro-East Cycling ride. I went on a similar event earlier this year and noticed how many people don’t know about Belleville’s Richland Creek Greenway Trail or the MetroBikeLink trail.

I also noticed a few people who don’t know the bicycle rules or the road, so I added a brief note reminding folks to obey stop signs and to ride no more than two abreast — riding three or more abreast is against the law on most Illinois roads.

As I was saying, this is not a challenging course. The suggested route is just 6 miles and has two slightly challenging hills, on Cleveland Avenue and the Richland Creek trail. I suppose more experienced riders can add more miles, but you may not have time if spend lots of time at the bars.

My advice would to chill out and enjoy the ride!

 

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September 4, 2012

CyclingSavvy coming to Belleville

Filed under: bicycling,Illinois,Missouri — Tags: , , — Roger @ 1:31 pm

CyclingSavvy, a series of three three-hour courses designed to help bicyclists become more comfortable with riding in traffic, is coming to Belleville on Sept. 27 and 29.

The first part of MetroEast CyclingSavvy, called Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling, will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.n. Sept. 27 at Southwestern Illinois College’s PSOP Building, 201 N. Church St. in downtown Belleville. Through guided discussion with videos and animations, this classroom-based session familiarizes students with bicycle-specific laws, traffic dynamics and problem-solving strategies. That class is free, thanks to a donation from McCarthy Construction Cos.

The second part, called Train Your Bike, is from 8 to 11 a.m. at the PSOP Building. This session is conducted in a parking lot, and is limited to 10 participants. Train Your Bike consists of a set of progressive drills designed to increase students’ control and comfort handling their bikes in various situations. The cost of that class is $20. The normal cost is $30, but thanks to a donation from the Metro East Parks and Recreation District, the cost is $20.

The final course is the MetroEast Tour, a ride through Belleville and Swansea.  That takes place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 29, To particpate in the tour, you have to complete the other two courses. The cost is $20.

The same courses will be offered Oct. 4 and 6 at locations in St. Louis city and St. Louis County. (Learn more about the St. Louis October Workshop.)

CyclingSavvy’s traffic cycling curriculum was developed in 2009 by the Florida Bicycle Association. While it contains elements of courses such as the League of American Bicyclists course and Effective Cycling, FBA says Cycling Savvy “was built entirely new ‘from the ground up.’ It is built upon an understanding of the needs of adult learners and the challenges of changing behavior that is strongly rooted in our traffic culture.”

Karen Karabell, a daily bicycle commuter and a former board member of the now-defunct St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation, has been the strongest advocate of CyclingSavvy in the St. Louis area.

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August 19, 2012

Gerry Frierdich: Five years later

Filed under: Gerry Frierdich,Illinois — Tags: , — Roger @ 10:31 pm

Five years ago, Gerry “Chief” Frierdich suffered the worst thing that could happen to a cyclist — short of death.

On the morning of Aug. 17, 2007, Gerry was riding his recumbent bike with trailer and golf clubs in tow on South Green Mount Road to play a round a golf at The Orchards golf course in Belleville, Ill.

Suddenly, a pickup truck struck Gerry from behind. The collision left Gerry paralyzed from the chest down.

On Sunday, a group of friends marked the fifth anniversary of the accident with a celebration of Gerry’s road to recovery.

Before the accident, Gerry was a professional photographer with Crafty Eye Studios in Belleville. While the paralysis didn’t allow him to continue that career. the good news is that he’s able to use a camera. As part of his continuing therapy, Gerry is working on photos that will hang on the walls of the new wing of Memorial Hospital. He’s also planning a website featuring some of his work.

If you’ve biked the MetroLinkTrail in Belleville and Swansea in recent weeks, you may have noticed the blooming wildflowers. Thank Gerry for that. He, with the help of other trail users, spread wildflower seeds along the trail. A few flowers are still blooming near the Swansea MetroLink station.

“I want the trail to be known for something,” Gerry said. “I want to the trail to be known for its wildflowers.”

Benefit rides in 2008 and 2010 put on by friends of Gerry and the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society helped him get a hand-crank bike and other needs. Gerry rode the bike earlier this year, but an accident damaged the chain.

Once the chain was repaired, the excessively hot weather that plagued the St. Louis area in June and July kept him off the bike. Gerry is unable to perspire because of the paralysis. He’s hoping to get back on the bike now that cooler temperatures finally have arrived.

While Gerry appeared upbeat during our gathering, some things still frustrate him. One is the slow pace in which the criminal case against the driver has moved through St. Clair County Circuit Court.

In the fall of 2007, a grand jury indicted Keith Joseph McCoy on two charged of aggravated driving under the influence, a felony in Illinois. In 2009, then-St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida’s office filed new charges superseding the indictment. In addition to the two counts of aggravated DUI, McCoy was charged with two counts of reckless conduct, also a Class 4 felony.

Police and prosecutors say McCoy fell asleep behind the wheel of his pickup and had been drinking the evening before.

Under Illinois law, a person convicted of a Class 4 felony can be sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison, up to 30 months of probation and a fine. A felony DUI conviction also could lead to the loss of full driving privileges for a minimum of 1 year.

Proceedings in the case have been delayed the past three years according to St. Clair County court records. A hearing on motions has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 30 in Courtroom 401 of the St. Clair County Building in Belleville. McCoy is being represented by Belleville attorney Richard Sturgeon.

“My case isn’t a high-priority case for the courts,” Gerry said.

I’ve known Gerry since 1990, when I started as a copy editor at the Belleville News-Democrat. Gerry worked in our composing room (pre-press deparment) while he was building his photo studio business. From time to time, Gerry also rode on the B.A.B.E.S. Wednesday Evening Rides.

My hope is that I can continue to be a part of his road to recovery.

 

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August 8, 2012

Racing under the lights in Edwardsville

Filed under: cycling,Illinois,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 1:04 pm

Organizers of the Edwardsville Rotary Criterium have added a few twists — including nighttime bicycle races —  to make their event more fan-friendly than ever.

This year’s event is Saturday, Aug. 18, in downtown Edwardsville, Ill.

The previous two editions of the Edwardsville Rotary Criterium took place on Sunday afternoons, but organizers believe the switch to Saturday “will create a high-energy atmosphere for families and spectators of all ages.”

“There’s a higher energy level in downtown on Saturday nights than on Sunday, and we think people will want to come downtown to have dinner, have a few drinks and watch the races,” race director SJ Morrison said.

Racing begins at 3 p.m. with the bigger races coming in the evening. The Women Open race starts at 7 p.m., the Men 3 race starts at 8:10 p.m., and the Men 1/2 race starts at 9:15 p.m. (Full schedule)

While nighttime races should draw more people, organizers are counting on a Pub Crawl featuring many of downtown Edwardsville’s dining establishments and bars to draw even more spectators. For $25, you get a T-shirt, a special cup and the opportunity to indulge in food and drink specials. Proceeds will benefit the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Junior Service Club’s Boundless Playground and the Edwardsville Rotary.

Participating restaurants include Edwardsville classics like Stagger Inn … Again and up-and-coming establishments like Cleveland-Heath. Other participants include Global Brew, Township Grocer, Erato, Big Daddy’s, Bigelo’s, LoCal Café, Fiona’s, Sergeant Pepper’s, Scoops on Main, Encore Wine Bar and Laurie’s.

Tickets can be purchased by calling SJ Morrison at 618-558-3062, Zhanell Enloe at 618-920-9115, Rachel Case at 618-520-7467 or Tara Riggs at 618-580-7470. Advance purchase is preferred.

Between 4 and 10 p.m., the bands Borderline and Crazy Chester will be performing on the steps of the Madison County Courthouse, which is on the criterium course.

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July 16, 2012

“Dead Red” law now in effect in Illinois

Filed under: bicycling,Illinois — Tags: — Roger @ 1:55 pm

The League of Illinois Bicyclists is reminding us Illinois’ “Dead Red” law is now in effect.

What it means for bicyclists and motorcyclists in Illinois is that they can treat a red light like a stop sign if the traffic signal fails to detect them. A minimum wait of two minutes is required before they can proceed through the red light. The law covers all of Illinois except for the city of Chicago.

Actually, Illinois has had a “Dead Red” law in effect since Jan. 1. Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing bicyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through a traffic light after a “reasonable period of time” if the signal fails to detect them.

Gov. Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto powers to send the bill back to the legislature because he wanted at least a two-minute wait before bicyclists and motorcyclists could proceed through the light. Both the Illinois House and Senate voted last fall to override the amendatory veto, and the law went into effect Jan. 1.

While the legislature was overriding the original bill, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, introduced a bill that included the two-minute wait Quinn sought. The House and Senate passed those in the spring, and Quinn signed the bill into law July 6 and it took effect immediately.

The original bill was suggested by a motorcycle group, A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education, commonly known as ABATE of Illinois. State Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, introduced that bill to cover motorcyclists. An amendment added bicyclists.

While LIB says it welcomes the legislation, the group  prefers installation of traffic light sensors that would better detect bicycles. In the meantime, LIB offers these tips:

  • Position your bike over the right perimeter of the rectangular in-pavement loop detector – which is sometimes visible, sometimes not, but always located just behind the stop line – and lean your bike to the left (into the detector).
  • Buy and install a small neodymium magnet to trip the sensor.
  • If there’s a pedestrian signal button, you may push that.
  • If there’s a car behind you, motion for the car to come closer to the stop line to trigger the sensor.

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July 11, 2012

Bike-riding thief may have musical taste

Filed under: Illinois — Tags: , — Roger @ 9:00 pm

This just in from Springfield, Ill. … a thief riding a bicycle stole an antique tuba and trombone from a bar near the state capitol.

The State Journal-Register reports the theft took place Wednesday morning at Boone’s Saloon, 301 W. Edwards St. Here’s a snippet from the story:

A janitor at the bar told police he was cleaning the front window around 5:30 a.m. when he saw a man riding a bicycle east on Edwards in front of the business. The man had a brass trombone and tuba, which had been taken from the stage wall in the bar’s beer garden, balanced on the handlebars. The man on the bicycle went south on College Street and then east on Monroe Street before the janitor lost sight of him.

If the theft actually took place the way the janitor describes, I’m not quite sure how you would carry a tuba and a trombone on your handlebars. It would take one heck of a balancing act for me to do that!

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July 5, 2012

See video of the new Tour de Donut course

Filed under: bicycle rides,Illinois — Roger @ 11:55 am

The original Tour de Donut has a new course for 2012, and the folks at www.tourdedonut.net, a website that gives an overview of the various Tour de Donut-style rides nationwide, has posted a video of the new course.

It should take most competitors an hour and a half to three hours to complete the course on July 14, but the video zips through the course in a little more than 12 minutes. (If you’re watching at your workplace, you’ll probably want to turn down the sound.)

Yes, it’s true. The new course is a bit hiller than the old 32-mile course. There are hills on Reservoir Road north of Staunton and on Washer Road east of Eagarville (the second donut stop). The biggest single hill is on Illinois Route 138 between Benld and White City.

Folks who don’t like hills will be glad to know there are significant flat sections in the new route, especially the old alignments of Route 66 north of Staunton that pass through Mount Olive (the first donut stop) and reach the outskirts of Litchfield.

My hope is that the video will help competitors understand the need to ride responsibly. The old alignments of Route 66 still get their fair share of traffic from local residents and Route 66 tourists. Not only is Washer Road hilly, it’s a little narrow.

Keep in mind the reason the Tour de Donut has a new course in 2012 is because of complaints about cyclist congestion on the old course, which went through the Madison County communities of Prairietown and Worden.

Another thing to watch for will be the stickiness of the oil-and-chip roads. Our current heat wave — so far, the St. Louis area has had seven straight days of 100-plus degree heat — has caused oil to bleed through the limestone chips. In some spots, expect gravel where road crews have attempted to control the bleeding.

The good news is that the Weather Channel is expecting the heat wave to break Sunday, but temperatures still are expected to reach the low 90s on July 14.

If you’re planning to sign up for the Tour de Donut, keep in mind online registration closes at 12:15 CDT July 13. There is no day-of-ride registration for the Tour de Donut.

Below is the map I posted a few weeks ago on Map My Ride:

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