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Monday, February 15, 2010

St. Louis Open Streets

Earlier today, Gene Bisbee at the Biking Bis blog wrote about how ciclova-style celebrations -- in which a thoroughfare or park is open only to bicyclists, pedestrians and skaters for one or more weekend days -- are catching on in the United States. Gene's post cited celebrations in Kansas City, Mo.; San Jose, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

The inspiration for many of those events has been Bogota, Colombia, which closes 70 miles of streets to motorists every Sunday and holiday and opens them up to cyclists, pedestrians and skater, hence the term ciclova.

St. Louis is getting in on the act.

This year, the city will present Open Streets 2010, which it bills as a "part bike tour, part block party, a great time for exercise, people watching, and just enjoying our region’s wonderful spring and fall mornings."

The Open Streets 2010 route consists of the Forest Park bicycle trails, Lindell Boulevard, Grand Boulevard and Locust Street. The on-street portion of the route goes from Skinker Boulevard at Forest Park to the Gateway Arch. Family, cultural and fitness rest stops are planned along the route.

The first of the events will be May 1, and will be tied into the St. Louis Cardinals-Cincinnati Reds game at Busch Stadium that afternoon. The above streets will be closed to motorists from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Metro-East Park and Recreation District and the Great Rivers Greenway District will have a pre-game party from 11 a.m. to noon at Clark Street and Broadway, and the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation will have free and secure parking available for bicyclists at Busch Stadium for those wanting to watch the 12:10 p.m. game.

More Open Streets 2010 events are slated for June 13, Sept. 19 and Oct. 9.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Illinois Share the Road license plates

Once again, the League of Illinois Bicyclists will be offering "Share the Road" license plates in honor of National Bicycle Month. The plates can be legally displayed on licensed Illinois vehicles during April and May.

LIB is trying to take the concept one step further. LIB is pushing to make permanent, year-round "Share the Road" plates. Twelve already have the year-round plate, but LIB would have to convince Illinois lawmakers to pass a law allowing the plates and would have to sell a minimum of 1,000 plates to offer them.

If successful, customers could order the plates from the Secretary of State at a cost somewhat higher than the cost for their regular plates. From the incremental cost, the Secretary of State gets $15 the first year and $2 each year thereafter. The rest would go to LIB for statewide educational "Share the Road" campaigns.

Efforts to approve the plate this year were stalled because of financial concerns. LIB hopes to reintroduce the legislation in 2010.

LIB is taking a survey to determine interest in the "Share the Road" plate. Perhaps we in Illinois can join our friends in Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado and eight other states in displaying "Share the Road" plates all year long.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Capital city cycling controversy

At first glance, the fact that Springfield -- the capital city of Illinois -- has formed a Bicycle Advisory Council sounds like a major victory for cyclists in the city.

In September, Mayor Tim Davlin named nine people to the advisory panel, which will "act as an advisory body on bicyclist issues; analyze routing, operation and the safety of bicycles and their riders. Members will also evaluate and make recommendations for signed shared roadways, the use of and installation of bicycle racks and signalization."

But the appointment of David Sykuta as the panel's chairman has raised the ire of the Sangamon County Organization for Reform of Cycling Habitat, according to an article this week in the Illinois Times. SCORCH describes itself as "the radical wing of Springfield area bicyclists, propagandists and participants of local Critical Mass rides and other cycling events."

Sykuta is a member of the long-established Springfield Bicycle Club, but what concerns SCORCH is that Sykuta also is the executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council. SCORCH sees of conflict of interest having someone promoting the interests of the petroleum industry serving as the head of a cycling advisory board.

“Because of his position as a lobbyist for big oil, I can only assume that he is interested in promoting biking as a form of recreation and not as a means of transportation," SCORCH member Wes King told the Illinois Times.

Sykuta, who told the Illinois Times that he's a recreational rider, said his goal is for the advisory panel to look beyond politics and work on improving bicycling facilities in Springfield.

“The real challenge is that bicycling is everyone’s third or fourth most important thing,” Sykuta told the newspaper. “It’s not the top of anyone’s agenda. Everyone likes it, but our job will be to move it up there so it is a more important choice for more people.”

The Springfield area has 13 miles of trails, the 5-mile Interurban Trail that links Springfield and Chatham, the 5-mile Lost Bridge Trail that links Springfield and Rochester, and the 3-mile Wabash Trail in the southwestern part of Springfield. The League of Illinois Bicyclists also has developed a map of local road cycling routes (PDF file) based upon the recommendations of Springfield-area cyclists.

SCORCH members are advocating more official bicycle routes that would allow people to easily commute to state government offices, more bicycle racks in the city and bike racks on city buses. Advisory board members are seeking many of the same things, including a route that would link the city's Abraham Lincoln attractions.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bicycle Video Theatre

I know both of these videos have been around for a while, but I just found out about them this week, so I thought I'd share them with you.

The first is of Scottish stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill practicing the art of Bike Parkour, which The Telegraph newspaper describes as a style of riding in which people use every available urban or rural platform to choreograph a set of stunts. The aim is to move from one point to another as smoothly, skilfully and quickly as possible.

Danny's stunts are simply amazing. A tip of the hat to Facebook friend Lisa Maher guiding me to this video. Lisa's husband, Mike, is a cyclist and a former colleague of mine at The (Alton) Telegraph.

The second is of German sisters Carla and Henriette Hochdorfer, who were competing in the 2009 European Junior Champions for Indoor Cycling. The two begin on two fixed-gear bikes, then jettison one of them to perform some graceful moves.

A tip of the hat to Thomas Carter for the link to this video. TC is the originator of the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society's Donut Trail Ride in south St. Louis. TC will be leading the club on the streets of St. Louis on Sunday (Oct. 11) for a visit to four or five donut shops. We'll be taking off at 9:30 a.m. from the Forest Park MetroLink Station.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Biking to play horseshoes

I can't say that I know bicyclist Chuck Carter, although I've probably seen him around since he lives in nearby Cahokia, Ill. Nevertheless, Chuck tells an interesting tale.

The 58-year-old Chuck biked from Cahokia to Moline, Ill., to participate in this weekend's Illinois State Horseshoe Tournament.

A story in the Moline Dispatch says when Chuck was younger, he lost his toes to frostbite in a hunting trip in the mountains. He has an artificial knee and said his rib cage is held together with wires after he was stomped on by a bull when he worked in the rodeo.

"I've been everywhere," Chuck told the Dispatch, naming off Canada and states such as New York, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota and Washington.

Chuck has some good news for people who want to do long-distance cycling: 98 percent of the folks he encounters are good people!

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tour de Belleville, Tour de Donut safety tips

Two of the St. Louis area's largest group rides are coming up -- the Tour de Belleville on Friday night and the Tour de Donut on Saturday morning -- and it's time to offer these tips to make your ride a fun and safe experience.

These same tips can be used for rides such as the St. Louis World Naked Bike Ride on Aug. 15 and the Moonlight Ramble on Aug. 29-30 in St. Louis, as well as other similar rides throughout the country

Tips for newbies:
  • If you're a slower rider, try to ride as far to the right as safely possible so faster riders can pass you. If you have to walk up a hill, walk your bike as far to the right as safely possible.
  • Groups of cyclists should not take up the entire lane, again so other people can pass.
  • If you plan to stop, be sure to give some type of warning. At a minimum, give a verbal warning such as "braking" or "stopping." It's also a good idea to give a hand signal by extending your left hand toward the ground. For a good illustration of that, download the Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road (pdf file).
  • If you're stopping for an extended period of time, pull off the road so other cyclists can pass safely.
  • Use your gears. Most new cyclists tend to use a gear that's too big for them. Find a gear where you feel comfortable riding 60 to 90 pedal strokes a minute. When you approach a hill, you probably want to shift to a lower gear before you start climbing.
  • Above all, ride at a pace that's comfortable for you. The Tour de Belleville is not a race, so don't get tempted to ride at a faster speed than you're used to just because you want to keep up with other people.
Tips for experienced riders:
  • Be patient with the less experienced riders. Remember that you once were an inexperienced rider yourself.
  • Ride defensively. When approaching a family with young children, give yourself plenty of room to get around them because you never know when someone will suddenly veer to the left or right.
  • Use caution on hills. There's a good chance someone will try to climb a hill only to run out of gas and suddenly stop. Give yourself plenty of room to maneuver around them.
  • Slow down. This is not the time for a 20-25 mph training ride and long pacelines. Events like the Tour de Belleville are meant for fun, so slow down and smell the roses. The exception here, of course, is Tour de Donut, which is a race.
  • Be a good ambassador. The way you behave will influence whether a newcomer will stick with the sport.
After riding last year's Tour de Donut, I have to say I'm concerned with some of the riding I saw last year. Way too many people were riding three or more abreast on portions of the course that are open to motorized traffic -- which is most of the course -- and too many people were crossing the yellow line to pass them.

Too many people think that because the first part of the course through Staunton is closed to traffic that the entire course is. That's not the case. Once cyclists make the turn off Illinois Route 4 on the southern edge of Staunton on Renken Road toward Prairietown, the rest of the course is open to motorists. This year, please use common sense and obey the rules of the road.

I hope all of you have a safe and fun experience on whatever big ride you choose to do.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cross-country bicyclist killed in accident

The Belleville News-Democrat reports that a 65-year-old man who was riding his bicycle from California to Washington, D.C., to protest government bailouts was killed Sunday by a suspected drunken driver in a hit-and-run crash on U.S. 50 near Carlyle, Ill.

Jim Gafney left his home in Chula Vista, Calif., on April 27 for his "Mad As Hell Bike Ride Across U.S." with the goal of hand-delivering a petition opposing government bailouts to lawmakers sometime in July. Gafney had completed about two-thirds of his 3,000-mile ride, and collected about 500 signatures, before he was killed about 12:40 a.m. Sunday.

The newspaper reported Gafney spent Saturday near Lebanon, and most likely was riding at night to avoid the heat. He was on U.S. 50 at Diamond Springs Road -- about 60 miles east of St. Louis -- when he was struck by a 1997 Nissan Altima driven by Leon K. Marcum, 27, of Centralia, according to Illinois State Police.

Marcum told police he was driving over a hill and saw Gafney, but was not able to stop. He left the scene and later was arrested near Sandoval.Marcum was charged with aggravated DUI, leaving the scene of a fatal crash and failure to reduce speed. He was being held Wednesday at the Clinton County Jail on $100,000 bail.

The San Diego Union-Tribune account of the accident also quoted Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Chris Trame as saying U.S. 50 in that area is just two lanes with no shoulder, Trame said. He described it as “pretty isolated” and “not well lit.”

“We were so worried. We begged him not to go But he had a mission and he was determined to make that dream come true," Gafney's daughter, Colleen Uhden of Temecula, Calif., told the Union-Tribune about her father's decision to ride in the middle of the night instead of throu

The Southwest Free Press, a publication that was supporting Gafney's ride, hopes to complete Gafney's goal of getting 500 to 1,000 bicyclists to ride to Washington and hand-deliver the petition against the bailout to lawmakers.

Here's the last video Gafney posted on YouTube before he died:

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Monday, June 08, 2009

A small town's effort to promote cycling

I'm all supportive of the big efforts to promote bicycling such as Bike to Work Day, but I'm also supportive of the small efforts as well.

The ITS Trail Committee -- based in Staunton, Ill., the home of the original Tour de Donut bicycle race -- is starting an effort called Second Saturday Tour.

In a press release distributed by ITS Executive Director Jarid Ott, the group says the purpose of the Second Saturday Tour is to encourage everyone throughout the Staunton area to be outdoors between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon on the second Saturday of every month. There are no distance requirements or timetables. Just walk or ride your bike around your block, neighborhood, town or trail on the morning of the second Saturday of each month.

The idea was hatched last month when Jarid and a group of recumbent tricycle riders took what they called an adventure ride from Staunton to Worden on the Quercus Grove Trail. There were no timetables or schedules whatsoever, which made it all the more enjoyable. They visited the Yellow Dog in Worden for coffee and had brunch at the Staunton Family Restaurant upon their return.

Trail committee members want people to ride for health and environmental reasons, but there's more to the effort than that. "The Second Saturday Tour is all about you, so you are encouraged to smile and wave to your neighbors, meet and visit with those around you and enjoy walking or riding on your tour," says the group's press release. "Perhaps you will discover a new trail, an old coffee shop or an old friend along the way."

The first of the Second Saturday Tours is slated for this Saturday, June 13. A group will be leaving from Duda Garden, 205 N. Union St. in Staunton at 8 a.m., riding to Worden and back.
The next Second Saturday Tour happens to be July 11, which is the same day of this year's Tour de Donut.

Speaking of Tour de Donut, the deadline to register at lower rates -- $20 for solo riders and $40 for tandem teams -- is June 15. After that, the fees go up to $30 for solo riders and $50 for tandems. You can sign up for the ride at There is no day-of-ride registration, so you have to sign up online.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Spoked!": An art show for bicycle fans

The Soulard Art Market and Contemporary Gallery is calling for submissions to “Spoked!” a juried exhibition of local artists. Exhibition runs from Sept., 4 through October 2. S.A.M. is looking to represent a select group of artists in our Contemporary Art Gallery, to exhibit alongside our 15 resident artists.

Here's what the gallery has to say about the event: "In conjunction with the Tour of Missouri, which is a world-class cycling event, we are proud to announce our exhibition “Spoked”. We are seeking artworks that feature bicycling as a theme for inclusion in our show. Our gallery is on the race route, and we have special hours and events planned that are sure to draw a crowd. The eyes of the world will be looking our way and we’re gearing up for the liveliest show this town has seen. Get crankin’!"

The gallery looking for any medium of artwork (painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry) that in any way features bikes or cycling. There is no submission fee, and full details can be found at the event's Web site.

Artists are being asked to consider donating bicycle-themed artwork to a charity silent auction. All proceeds will go directly to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi program which assists children of incarcerated parents. Each artist who donates an artwork valued greater than $100 to the auction will have his name entered into a drawing to receive 2 tickets (value $500) to the Tour of Missouri Gala, a black tie affair presenting the best 125 cyclists from around the world. The auction as well as the gala will be held on Sept. 6 at the City Museum.

The gallery is located 2028 S. 12th St. in St. Louis and is on the course for Stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri on Labor Day (Sept. 7).

I'm sure you can do better!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Help sought for Complete Streets

Yesterday, I received a note from League of Illinois Bicyclists Executive Director Ed Barsotti urging me to contact my lawmaker, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, to support language to requiring states to adopt Complete Streets legislation to receive federal funding for highway projects that receive federal money.

He also asked me to spread the word among the cycling community, and I'm glad to oblige.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering the transportation authorization bill, and bicycling groups are asking for the inclusion of Complete Streets requirements as part of the bill. People are urged to contact lawmakers on the committee by early Thursday to include the requirement.

Generally speaking, Complete Streets rules require transportation officials to consider all users -- including bicyclists, pedestrians and the disabled -- while planning highway projects. Illinois adopted Complete Streets two years ago, while Missouri bicycle advocates are facing an uphill battle to get that state to adopt Complete Streets.

The St. Louis area is well-represented on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Costello is the third-ranking Democrat on the committee, and Reps. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., and Phil Hare, D-Ill., also are on the committee. You can see a full list of committee members on its Web site.

Costello's Washington office can be reached at 202-225-5661.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Columbia, Mo., makes strides as bicycling city

The Missouri Bicycle Federation is tooting its horn about the strides the city of Columbia, Mo., has made as a cycling and pedestrian and for good reason.

MoBikeFed Executive Director Brent Hugh noted over on the organization's Web site these facts:
  • Single-occupant vehicle trips to work and school have dropped by 15% in a single year.
  • Bicycle trips more than doubled--increasing from 3.4% to 8.7% of all work/school trips. (Nationally about 0.5% of commute trips are by bicycle.)
In a note to MoBikeFed members, Brent noted, "That's above the latest figures from Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and comparable or even higher
than the latest figures I can find for cities like Madison, Wis., and Berkeley, Calif."

GetAbout Columbia program gets much of the credit for promoting bicycling and walking as transportation in the community, home of the main campus of the University of Missouri. You can read more about Columbia's strides at MoBikeFed's Web site.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

St. Louis County helmet law: Who knew?

In December, St. Louis County enacted a law effective countywide that requires children 16 and under wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, a scooter, roller skates, roller blades or a skateboard.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday that only two citations have been given out since the law went in effect. A reporter's survey of the St. Louis County communities of Kirkwood, Maplewood and Maryland Heights indicates that many police departments are unaware that the law applies to their communities.

A couple of departments questioned the practically of enforcing the ordinance. Here's one example:

"Is it practical to enforce if you come across three or four kids out riding bikes without helmets?" Maryland Heights Police Chief Tom O'Connor told the Post-Dispatch. "What the hell do you do, confiscate their bikes and then drive them all home to tell their parents? It ought to be the parents' responsibility in the first place."

The helmet law does not affect the city of St. Louis because the city is a separate entity from St. Louis County.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Angry driver bites off part of cyclist's ear

Over in New Castle, Ind., Curtis A. Cross, has been accused of biting off a chunk of cyclist Jeffrey H. Guffey's ear on April 1.

The Star-Press of Muncie, Ind., reported that Guffey told police he shouted at a driver of a sport utility vehicle, "Slow down, there are kids out there!"

The SUV driver -- later identified as Cross -- pulled to the side of the street and got out of his vehicle, telling Guffey he "wasn't going to talk to him like that," according to a police report.

Guffey said he told the driver, "I'm just asking you to slow down. I don't want trouble, but there are kids out."

The man hit Guffey in the face, then "took him to the ground, where he struck him some more with his hands, then bit off his ear," city patrolman M. Chase Hightower said in a police report. "Guffey stated the man then got up and spit his ear out at him."

New Castle Police Chief James Nicholson said "a good chunk" of Guffey's left ear was torn off. Guffey was treated at a hospital. Cross has been charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.

Here's a video from WISH-TV in Indianapolis about the incident:

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Is bicycling bad for the environment?

On his new show "Stuff Happens" on the Planet Green cable network, Bill Nye the Science Guy has reopened the debate about whether bicycling actually is bad for the environment. One of my friends from the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society, Thomas Carter, has this to say about a recent episode of the show:
"Well, the other day the show was based on things in garages. And where do
most people store their bikes, but in a garage. So. ...

He also mentions an amusing University of Pennsylvania study that claims
people who ride bicycles on a regular basis were actually harming the
environment. This is because bicyclists live longer, and by doing so they
are around to consume more and produce more waste.

Okay... bad idea or what."
The study Nye speaks was written by Karl T. Ulrich of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and it's titled "The Environment Paradox of Bicycling" (PDF file). In short, the study suggests there is an immediate energy savings by bicycle riding, since a cyclist is up to nine times more energy efficient than a single-occupant car. However, the study suggests cyclists increase their longevity by 10.6 days for every year of cycling. Because of that, they consume more energy over their lifetimes, thus doing more harm to the environment.

Back in 2006, several media outlets wrote about the study, including NPR,, the New York Times and Salon.

It should be noted that some of those media sources also describe Ulrich as an avid cyclist and that he admits, "Those who adopt the bicycle as a means of transportation could potentially develop an increased awareness of the environmental impact of their actions and may over their lifetimes reduce energy consumption substantially in their other, non-transportation activities."

I don't know about you, but I'm going to keep on cycling!

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

10 Great American Bike Trails

I wasn't too surprised to see the Katy Trail made the list of 10 Great American Bike Trails recently published at Forbes Traveler and republished at USA Today. I rode the vast majority of the225-mile trail Great Bicycle Trails Web site as saying: "As older riders, surface matters to us. We don’t want to ride a trail that’s too rough. The Katy Trail would be a ten because of the beauty of the territory and the trail surface—mostly of hard-packed limestone. It’s basically flat and it’s an easy ride for people of all ages. You can ride for mile after mile seeing nothing but country."

The other trails that made the list were:
  • Hiawatha Trail, Idaho to Montana
  • Underground Railroad Trail, from Mobile, Ala., to Owen Sound, Ontario
  • Deschutes River Trail, Oregon
  • Great Divide Trail, Roosville, Mont., to Antelope Wells, N.M.
  • Trans-America Trail, Astoria, Ore., to Yorktown, Va. (The trail also goes through Missouri and Illinois)
  • Slickrock Trail, Moab, Utah
  • Green Mountains Loop, Vermont
  • C&O Canal and Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage Trail, Washington, D.C., area
  • Central Park Loop, New York City
If you want to see a short glimpse and a photo of each trail, go to Forbes Traveler's slideshow. Too bad I don't have the time or money to get to all of these great trails!

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Saluki Spokes keeps cyclists on the move

The Student Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale appears to have a found a good way to serve students who use their bikes as a mode of transportation.

The Student Center recently started the Saluki Spokes program to help those who bike to work, school or for fun or exercise keep their environmentally friendly alternative modes of transportation in working order, The Southern Illinoisan reported.

Saluki Spokes offers several services, including loaning bike locks for use during time on campus and lending wrenches, screwdrivers and oil for basic bike repairs and adjustments. Fix-A-Flat kits are available for purchase.

While Saluki Spokes is not a bike repair shop, both the staff at the Student Center and the Student Recreation Center are dedicated to providing the recreational cyclist, the student, the staff member or the campus visitor with the help needed to repair their bike while here on campus. A valid Dawg Tag -- the student, faculty and staff identification card --or driver’s license will be required to borrow tools, locks, etc.

There are two Saluki Spokes locations: the Craft Shop in the Lower Level of the Student Center and the Student Recreation Center.

From time to time, Saluki Spokes will be putting on bicycle repair workshops.

As an adjunct instructor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, I hope the Saluki Spokes is a success and spreads to SIUC's sister campus and other colleges throughout the country.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cardinals pitcher rides his bike to work!

rogerkramercyclingSt. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright -- who helped lead the Cards to the 2006 World Series title with his relief pitching -- is riding his bike to work while the Cardinals are in Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla.

Because of copyright concerns, I'm not showing the full photo by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Chris Lee here, but you can see it here:

It's hard to believe, but we're only about a month and a half away from the start of the regular season. Play ball!

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Money sought for bicycle/pedestrian projects

The Missouri Bicycle Federation is targeting Sen. Claire McCaskill in its effort to get divvy some of the money in the proposed economic stimulus bill to bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Why Sen. McCaskill? Because she expressed to MoBikeFed Executive Director Brent Hugh
that she thinks there is little support for bicycling and walking outside the big cities.

"The economic stimulus plan under consideration by Congress includes about
$30 billion for roads and highways," Brent wrote in a recent newsletter. "But there is a good chance that little or no money will be included for improving roads for bicycling and walking -- when we know federal and state funded roads are often the biggest dangers to walking and bicycling in Missouri."

Brent goes on to say: "You know that federal transportation funding and policy is one of the biggest reasons Missouri communities are unsafe/unfriendly for bicycling &
walking. Think of the state and federal highways where you live -- are they the best for bicycling and walking, or the worst?"

Last year, I reported that Missouri received a D from the MoBikeFed for its overall bicycle/pedestrian environment. Last year, I also reported that the League of American Bicyclists ranked 28th among Bicycle Friendly State; Illinois ranked 8th.

In case you want to contact the senator, you can reach her through the MoBikeFed's Web site. Of course, you're welcome to contact Missouri's senior senator, Christopher "Kit" Bond as well. Illinois residents can contact Sens. Richard Durbin and Roland Burris, and people in other state can contact their lawmakers. You can find a list of all the senators and links to their Web forms here:

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mixed bag on state park, historic site closings

Users of the Hennepin Canal Trail and the I&M Trail are happy that the two Northern Illinois trails have been spared from budget cuts that would have closed or limited access to the trails starting Monday morning.

Hennepin Canal Trail State Park, Channahon Parkway State Park and Gebhard Woods State Park were saved from closing earlier this month when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich used his amendatory veto power to keep the parks open. The Illinois General Assembly had approved $2.1 million to keep 11 state parks and 12 state historic sites open, but Blagojevich decided to use the money to keep the only three parks listed above plus Kickapoo State Park open.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists was among the groups that pushed to keep Hennepin, Channahon and Gebhard Woods open. The League pointed out that by closing the Hennepin Canal Trail, the state would have been in danger of losing federal transportation money, which was used to build the trail and other state projects.

But as an Illinois history buff of sorts, I'm saddened that several historic sites in Southern Illinois were not spared. Among the sites that will close Monday are the Cahokia Courthouse in St. Clair County, Fort de Chartres, Fort Kaskaskia and the Pierre Menard home in Randolph County and the Vandalia State House in Fayette County.

The first four sites preserve key parts of Illinois' history before it became a state, even as far back as when the French, then the British, governed Illinois.

Kaskaskia was Illinois' first state capital, followed by Vandalia, before the capital moved to Springfield.

I realize the state is in the midst of a budget crisis, but I wish Blagojevich would have had a little more regard for the history of the state in chosing the sites that will be closed.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Need something to do this weekend?

If you're a St. Louis bicyclist needing something to do Saturday night, here's a couple of suggestions:

Bicycle Bash -- A Salute to Cycling: The St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation will be putting on its Bicycle Bash -- A Salute to Cycling from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the William A. Kerr Foundation, 21 O'Fallon St. in St. Louis on the edge of the Laclede's Landing district. The party will celebrate another successful season of bicycling fun! Entertainment by Big Budget Blues Band. Bring a dish for the buffet table if you like, or just show up. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 at the door. Proceeds will go toward the Bike Fed's ongoing work.

Einstein on a Bike Trivia Night: Trailnet, the St. Louis-based organization that promotes the construction of trails in the St. Louis region and bicycle riding through its Bicycle Fun Club, will be putting on its first-ever Einstein on a Bike Trivia Night at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. in St. Louis' Central West End. The good news for Trailnet -- but the bad news for you -- is that all the tables are booked for the event. That means unless you know somebody who needs an extra player for his or her team, you're out of luck.

On its Web site, the Bike Fed apologizes for scheduling its bicycle party the same night as the Trailnet event, but the group is hoping that many people can still make both events.

Beyond this weekend, mark your calendar for these events:
  • Highway 40 West End Opening Celebration: The STL Bike Fed and Big Shark Bicycle Co. are planning the Ride 64 bicycle event, which tiedto the Missouri Department of Transportation's West End Opening Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 14. The west section of the rebuilt Interstate 64-U.S. Route 40, better known as Highway 40 to the locals, reopens to motorized traffic on Dec. 15.

    Bike 64 consists of a fun ride on the westbound lanes of the highway from noon to 2:30 p.m. and a 9-mile time trial, also on the westbound lanes of the highway, also from noon to 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required for both events. The cost of the fun ride is $25 for adults and $10 for kids 15 and younger and go up to $35 and $15 respectively after Dec. 3. The cost of the time trial is $25. Proceeds from the fun ride will go toward the Bike Fed's efforts to install bike racks in St. Louis city and county.

    You better ride it while you can. Once the road reopens to motorized traffic, bicycles are prohibited from interstate highways in Missouri.

  • Cranksgiving Day Food Ride: St. Louis BicycleWORKS will be putting on its third annual Cranksgiving Day Food Ride at noon Sunday, Nov. 23 at BicycleWORKS' shop at 4109 Shenandoah Ave. in St. Louis. Last year, 72 riders donated hundreds of food items to those who needed them. BicycleWORKS hopes to triple the amount this year. Each participant on the 5- or 25-mile routes will be asked to buy at least $20 in food and be able to carry the goods with them on their bicycles. The rain date is Sunday, Nov. 30.

  • Friends of Hostelling Trivia Night: The Gateway Council of Hostelling International, which puts on the Moonlight Ramble, Tour de Stooges and other great cycling events, will put on a Trivia Night on Jan. 16 at the Maryland Heights Community Center at 2344 McKelvey Road in Maryland Heights, Mo. The cost of the event is $120 for a table of eight, and all proceeds will be use for the development of a hostel in north St. Louis.

  • Tour de Stooges: Speaking of the ride that I lead for the Gateway Council, the 12th edition of the Tour de Stooges will take place Saturday, May 2, in Highland, Ill. I expect to update the site in the next week, and registration for the event likely will open in the neighborhood of Jan. 1.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bicyclists, dog walkers to get first dibs on Highway 40

Construction on a stretch of Interstate 64/U.S. 40 -- better known as Highway 40 to St. Louis-are residents -- is running about a month ahead of time.

Because of that, bicyclists and dog walkers will get the first chance to legally use the stretch of highway between Interstate 170 and Interstate 270 before that stretch of Highway 40 opens. There's anecdotal evidence that bicyclists and dog walkers already are using the reconstructed highway, but be warned that it's illegal to do so.

No date has been set for the Highway 40 fun day, but the Missouri Department of Transportation is planning a Friday press conference to talk about progress on the road.

KTVI-TV, Channel 2, in St. Louis reports the Highway 40 fun day will include a 5k run, a time trial for bicyclists and then be open to the public for everything from dog walking to family picnics.

One of the groups happy about the fun day is a Cub Scout troop from Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield, Mo. The troop has had to detour around the shutdown zone to get to ride to the Big Shark Bicycle Co. in St. Louis.

"It'll be a nice, big, wide-open piece of new concrete, give people a chance to come out and ride their bikes, walk around and legally walk their dogs," project spokesman Dan Galvin told Channel 2.

Right after the Highway 40 fun day, the section of Highway 40 from I-170 to I-270 will reopen to cars and trucks. The second phase of the $535 million project from I-170 to Kingshighway in St. Louis, will shut down immediately for about a year.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Around the horn

The publication design class I'm teaching this semester at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville continues to gobble up vast quantities of my time, thus I've been lax at both cycling and writing about cycling.

Anyone who thinks teaching is easy would be wrong. It would be safe to say that I'm basically earning minimum wage this semester because of all the prep time needed when teaching a class for the first time. Because this is a visual course, I've spent hours creating visual presentations for the students.

For the most part, I think the students have responded well to what I've tried to do. I have one student who probably needs a swift kick in the butt -- figuratively, not literally -- strong words of advice to motivate her to work up to her potential, but the vast majority of students are working hard and trying to improve their skills.

I must say that this has been a learning experience for me as well, especially because this is the first time I've taught a class at any level. I've had to learn that I need to be as specific as possible in writing tests and assignments, and I constantly have to remind myself that these students are still trying to learn a complicated software program, QuarkXPress, that I've been using for more than 10 years.

Here's some other items of note about the world of bicycling:

BUBBAFEST KICKS OFF: When I scheduled my vacation time for 2008, I fully intended to be on BubbaFest, the weeklong ride my longtime cycling friend Bubba Barron puts on every November in the Florida Keys. However, the class and the higher cost of living we've all experienced this year prevented me from making the trip.

One of my college buddies and longtime Tour de Stooges volunteer Doug Kaufman is making the trip, and I'm sure many of my cycling acquaintances are along for the ride. This morning, they are riding 52 miles from Key Largo to Knights Key Campground. After a layover day Monday on Marathon Key, they'll ride 42 miles Tuesday to Key West.

As I write, it's 39 degrees in beautiful Belleville, Ill. By contrast, the temperature in Key Largo is 75 degrees.

Man, I wish I was in Florida right now!

IOWA BOWLING ALLEY WINS COURT BATTLE: A bowling alley owner in Wall Lake, Iowa, who faced suspension of his liquor license after a half-naked customer slid down a beer covered bowling alley during RAGBRAI in 2004 will be able to keep his license, The Associated Press reported.

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division threatened to suspend Darrin Boger’s liquor license after the incident at Lake Lanes, but the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled in Boger’s favor. The case revolved around rumors that Boger planned to sponsor a naked beer slide for riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

The man was arrested for indecent exposure and state regulators wanted to suspend Boger’s license for alleged violations of a law that deals with nude peformances.

Court records show a state trooper stopped in Boger’s business and was monitoring the crowd when a man dropped his shorts and ran toward the beer-soaked plastic.

“Having a liquor license doesen’t give you the God-given power to know when someone is doing to take off their clothes,” attorney Robert Tiefenthaler said. “So this was a good win. And it was a long time coming.”

Gateway Council of Hostelling International is planning a weeklong ride next year along the Missouri alignments of Route 66 that would start in the St. Louis suburb of Eureka and end with a jaunt along Route 66 alignments in Kansas and Oklahoma.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

SIUC hashes out bicycle safety

Bicycling safety's a concern at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the surrounding community, and a group is trying to address the issue.

Carbondale Conversations for Community Action coordinator Sarah Heyer hosted an hour-and-a-half long dialogue between local cyclists and police on Thursday at the SIUC campus. The goals is to make Carbondale streets safe for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians, according to the Daily Egyptian, SIUC's student newspaper.

Three cyclists have been involved in motor vehicle accidents on the SIUC campus since January, An accident between a motor vehicle and cyclist also led to the death of an SIUC student in September 2001.

Most of the 30 participants agreed that using courtesy and common sense would go a long way to solve many of the safety concerns -- a position I've always held.

One of the participants said bike lanes in the Carbondale area often are unsafe for cyclists.Tire-flattening debris often settles in bike lanes, making them a hazard to cyclists, said Sandy Semrow, a member of the SIUC Triathlon Club who commutes from Murphysboro to Carbondale on her bicycle daily.

Several of the cyclists said they choose to ride in the road to encourage motorists to show them the same respect as another motor vehicle instead of crowding them into a hazardous bike lane.

SIUC Police Lt. Harold Tucker told the panel he distinguishes serious cyclists from casual, and oftentimes careless, ones by whether they wear helmets. Those who don't wear helmets are less likely to follow the rules of the road, he said.

"They're kind of compromising all the rules," Tucker said. "Basically they're saying, 'I just disregard all of that and I make up my own.'"

Generally, the tips in a graphic that accompany the story are sound, but not completely accurate. For example, a new Illinois law that went in effect Jan. 1 allows cyclists to extend their right hands outward to signal a right turn as well as raising the left hand.

The graphic also says 3 feet is a safe distance for passing a cyclist. That's true, but it's also the law in Illinois. That law also went into effect Jan. 1.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Federal Complete Streets Act

Fresh off the success of getting the Bicycle Commuter Act pushed through as part of the federal financial bailout package, bicycle advocates are trying to get Congress to pass a federal Complete Streets Act.

Bills in both the U.S. House and Senate would require that all users of the transportation system -- including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users as well as children, older people, motorists, and those with disabilities -- are adequately accommodated in all phases of project planning and development. It also would require that the safety and convenience of all users are considered in all phases of project planning and development.

Illinois lawmakers passed a state version of Complete Streets last year, while an attempt by Missouri lawmakers to pass its version of Complete Streets was scuttled by Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn, Missouri Bicycle Federation Executive Director Brent Hugh said in an advocacy alert.

Joining the Missouri Bicycle Federation in the effort are the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and the League of Illinois Bicyclists.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, while Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Reps. Russ Carnahan and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri are co-sponsors of the House bill. The groups are seeking support from other lawmakers from the bill.

The advocates are asking cyclists who support Complete Streets to send e-mails or letters to their lawmakers to encourage them to support the plan.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bicycle battles in Iowa

When supervisors in Crawford County, Iowa, banned RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register's Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, it spurred a debate between counties concerned about liability issues and cyclists who are asserting their rights to ride on Iowa roads.

On Saturday, nearly 100 cyclists staged a protest ride against the RAGBRAI ban.

Crawford County supervisors voted to ban the annual ride last fall after settling a lawsuit with the family of a rider who died in 2004. The lawsuit claimed the county was negligent in its road maintenance, but since the case never went to trial, that was never determined.

"I don't understand what they are so upset about," Crawford County Board Chairman Dan Mulbauer told The Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs. "We are not against the riders. We need to have some liability protection. We can't afford another $350,000 lawsuit from someone saying our roads aren't good enough."

In response to the liability issue, the Iowa State Association of Counties drafted a sample draft ordinance that requires all bicycle rides to provide a certificate of insurance. It would require the sponsors of any qualified bicycle event to purchase a $1 million policy that also covers the county. Violators would face fines of at least $750.

You know cyclists are in trouble when you read the first section of the draft ordinance: "County roads are not designed for bicycles. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, bicycling results in more emergency room admissions than any other sport or activity. Large organized bicycle events that use County roads create a unique risk of injury to bicycle riders. Allowing such rides puts the County, and County taxpayers, at risk for lawsuits and large damage awards."

The draft ordinance (Word document) goes on to say: "The County wants to encourage large organized bicycle events, while at the same time protecting the County from liability. The County has a legitimate interest in protecting itself from liability for injuries associated with the use of County roads. The best way to do that is to require that large organized bicycle events procure insurance that includes the County as an additional insured."

On Tuesday, dozens of bicyclists persuaded Dallas County officials Tuesday to reconsider an ordinance that would require liability insurance for any organized bike ride with more than 20 riders that is based upon the group's draft ordinance, the Des Moines Register reported..

County supervisors delayed a vote on the proposal, which has met resistance from cyclists who say it would hinder cycling clubs and charity fundraisers that can't afford policies.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Back from the Katy Trail

rogerkramercyclingAs you can see, the Missouri River keeps on rolling along -- albeit a bit higher than normal -- along the Katy Trail.

Yes, I did ride the Katy Trail last week. I hope to have the full article up on the Web site later this week, but here's a brief summary.

In some ways, it was the kind of ride where everything that could go wrong did. For example, I wasn't happy to find out that when I got to Hermann, Mo., last Monday that I had left my towel and comb at home. Ugh.

At our final camping spot in Liberty Park in Sedalia, a heavy thunderstorm blew through town and knocked down my tent, drenching everything in it.

And yet, it was a rewarding ride. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources does a first-rate job of supporting cyclists, and it's hard to top the Katy Trail for scenery in this part of the world. The bluffs near Augusta and Rocheport are very scenic, but I also found the rolling plains between Sedalia and Clinton rewarding as well.

Flooding on the Missouri River did force a couple of detours, as I expected, but the flooding on the Missouri is nothing like the flooding on the Mississippi right now.

I really didn't have the opportunity to find Internet access during the trip, and that was a blessing in disguise. I found I really needed to take a break from the Internet, e-mail and blogging. I spent way too much time on this computer this spring because of organizing work I did for the Tour de Stooges and The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride, and it was great to spend time on a bike!

My mountain bike made it through the trail OK, although I probably would have been happier on a lighter hybrid or at least with less-aggressive mountain bike tires on the crushed limestone surface on the Katy Trail. I do now have a name for my mountain bike, a Raleigh -- Behemoth!

Another reason I was glad I didn't access e-mail or the Internet last week was because the parent company of the Belleville News-Democrat, McClatchy Newspapers, announced that it was eliminating 1,400 jobs nationwide through layoffs, voluntary departures and attrition. The News-Democrat will be cutting 12 jobs. I am grateful none of them are in our newsroom, but I feel for those who will lose jobs in other departments.

It is discomforting when you think about the troubled state of the newspaper industry. Recently, fellow bicycle blogger and journalist Jill Homer reported in her Up in Alaska blog that her newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, is indefinitely cutting retirement benefits.

Yes, a week away from reality did do me a lot of good!

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bicycle helmets: Are they sexy?

Is wearing a bicycle helmet sexy? There are at least two groups that are convinced bicycle helmets are hot, and they're trying to tell the world.

The video above is from a troupe from Vancouver, British Columbia, called the B:C:Clettes, who are trying to promote cycling with "with style, attitude, and hopefully safety somewhere in the mix." Here's more from their Web site:
We are an all lady, bike inspired, street-performance collective. Our performances are a celebration of bikes and those who like to ride them.

The B:C:Clettes are a Biker Collective, Creating Love, Equality, and Toughness Through Engaging Spectacle!

We will not be defined by words alone; instead you will find us perpetually in motion, taking back the streets for revolutionary use as bicycle ways and dance floors. We’re revolutionary, yes, like our wheels.

Hot, tough, and shiny — like the sexy steeds we tame and ride. Pedal, pump, coast and fly: we ride in all weather. Swing, shimmy, strut, and jive: we dance in all weather. We weather all storms as a collective, together.
Bikes on the Drive in Vancouver provided red, shiny helmets to the B:C:Clettes, and they hope you'll wear a helmet, too.

The second group is The Safety is Sexy Campaign. Below is a sampling of the group's wares:

What is the mission of The Safety is Sexy Campaign? "To erase the stigma that wearing a helmet is dorky or uncool and to encourage the idea that wearing a helmet is attractive, cool and smart." You can get a free "You'd look hotter in a helmet" sticker through the group's Web site.

Sex appeal always has been a major part of advertising and marketing campaigns, so I guess it's only natural that sex appeal be used to promote bicycle helmets.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

McKinley Bridge Bikeway and Trestle grand opening

The Great Rivers Greenway District and the Metro East Park and Recreation District will jointly celebrate the grand opening of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway and Trestle at Branch Street on Saturday, June 7, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The McKinley Bridge Bikeway is a 2,600-ft. long by 14-ft. wide cantilevered lane separated from vehicular traffic lanes on the McKinley Bridge. Offering dramatic views of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis, the bikeway is a unique and distinctive feature of the reconstructed bridge that was reopened for vehicular traffic last November.

Also new on the Missouri side is the Trestle at Branch Street, a 2,400-ft. long by 24-ft. wide paved path that rises from street level at Branch Street to the height of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway. The trestle provides a direct connection to the popular 11-mile Riverfront Trail.

Eventually, an additional extension on the Missouri side will connect the Trestle at Branch Street, an adjacent historic elevated steel trestle that continues to downtown St. Louis. The trestle, which was a former rail corridor, will distinguish St. Louis as only the third city in the world, after the High Line in New York City and the Promenade Plantée in Paris, to convert an historic elevated railroad viaduct into a linear urban recreation area.

In a press release for the event, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan highlighted another important aspect of the project. “Thanks to the vision and hard work of the Madison County Transit District (MCT), we have a world-class bikeway system featuring over 100 miles of interconnected trails in Madison County. The opening of this landmark project by MEPRD and Great Rivers Greenway brings us another step closer to providing Missouri residents with enhanced access to those trails.”

While there are existing on-road connections to both the Confluence Trail and Schoolhouse Trail, MEPRD and MCT are in the planning stages for a trail connection that will link the McKinley Bridge Bikeway directly into the one of those existing MCT trails.

No bicycle riding will be allowed on the McKinley Bridge during the event, but participants will be able to walk or take a shuttle bus to take advantage of bands, food and other activities in St. Louis and across the Mississippi River in Venice, Ill. There's an early bird ride from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. from North Riverfront Park in St. Louis down to the bridge. The bikeway will be officially dedicated at noon.

Columbia, Ill.-based Helmets First will giving away bicycle helmets to the first 100 children.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride

We hope you're planning to attend The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery
Bicycle Ride ( this Sunday, June 1, at Central Junior High School, 1801 Central School Road in Belleville, Ill. Here's some last-minute details:

REGISTRATION: Online registration
( closes at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, May 29, but you can sign up the day of the ride at the school. Although there is no discount for registering early, it does ensure that you will get our T-shirt, which includes artwork by Signal Hill School student Louis Holm. The cost of the ride is $25 for adults, $15 for children 13-17 and $5 for children 5-12. Registration is from 7 to 10 a.m., and you may leave anytime from 8 to 10 a.m.

FREE HELMETS: The first 50 children ages 5-12 will receive free bicycle helmets! The helmets are being donated by the Columbia,Ill.-based Helmets First! program, which is led by Dr. Joseph Cangas of Illini Pediatrics. Helmets First!

ST. LOUIS REGIONAL BICYCLE FEDERATION: The St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation will have a booth at our event to promote bicycle advocacy. We think it's appropriate for the group to be represented at a benefit ride for a seriously injured cyclist, and we hope the event will improve the group's visability in Illinois.

LIVE MUSIC AND KIDS ACTIVITIES: The bluegrass-country band Pick'n'likin will perform from 11:30 a.m.-1:30, and a rock 'n' roll cover band will play from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Lunch will be sold at a nominal cost. Non-riders are welcome to join us for lunch, the music and the opportunity to be with Gerry. Face painting, balloons and other entertainment will be available for kids.

USE METROLINK AND BIKE TO THE EVENT: With the price of gas the way it is, we know you want to save a few bucks when you can. It's a 3.1-mile bike trip (one-way) from the Belleville MetroLink station to Central Junior High School. After getting off MetroLink, take Scheel Street across Jackson Avenue. The name of the street then changes to Church Street. Take Church Street to East Main Street. Continue on East Main to the Veterans Memorial Fountain. At the fountain, turn south on South Illinois Street (Illinois Route 159) and take Illinois Street about 1.6 miles to Westhaven School Road. Turn left on Westhaven, and that will take you to the school. Here's a link to a map:

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Helmets First!

One of the organizations you'll see next Sunday (June 1) if you attend The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride is a group called Helmets First!

Helmets First, based in Columbia, Ill., is an effort led by Dr. Joseph Cangas to encourage children to wear helmets while riding bicycles. Helmets First will be giving helmets to the first 50 children ages 5-12 who sign up for the Gerry Frierdich benefit.

The mission of the group is simple: "To promote the safety of children by providing helmets and helmet education, as well as rewarding those who wear a helmet, so that they may grow to be healthy, productive members of society."

According to the group's Web site, it has given more than 2,500 helmets to children and provided bicycle helmet education to more than 4,000 children. With the help of police departments in Columbia, Waterloo and Salem, the group also rewards children who wear helmets.

Helmets First also will be giving away 250 helmets at the grand opening of the McKinley Bridge bikeway on June 1. The McKinley Bridge bikeway will connect the Riverfront Trail in St. Louis with the Confluence Trail in Madison County, Ill.

The group is willing to provide free or discounted helmets for youth organizations, and it's also seeking donations and sponsorships so it can continue to provide helmets. It sounds like a worthy cause to me, so go check it out.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Ride

Just a reminder: There's still time to sign up for The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride on Sunday, June 1, at Central Junior High School in Belleville, Ill.

You can register for the ride in three ways. You can download the flier for the event and mail in your registration, but mail registrations must be postmarked by Friday, May 23. You can register online through Thursday, May 29, via ( charges a small handling fee). You also can sign up the day for the ride.

If you can't come to the ride, you still can make a donation. You can make a donation online through Active Giving, or you can mail the donation to the Gerard Frierdich Trust Fund, c/o Bud & Sandy Gore, 2391 South 11th Street Road, Belleville, IL 62226.

Gerry has made considerable progress since the Aug. 19, 2007, accident -- Gerry's recumbent bicycle was struck by a pickup truck on South Greenmount Road in Belleville -- that left him paralyzed from the chest down. However, he still has a long way to go, and the proceeds from the event will help with his future medical needs and other necessities.

Nearly as impressive as Gerry's progress is the outpouring of support he has received from the Belleville and cycling communities. For example:
  • Gerry rode a Bacchetta recumbent bicycle. Bacchetta donated not one, but two, recumbent bicycles for us to raffle. The winner of the first drawing will be announced in September at the Millstadt (Ill.) Biathlon, and the second will be awarded in February 2009. You can download the flier to find out how to buy a ticket, plus tickets will be available at various St. Louis-area events and at The Touring Cyclist shop in Fairview Heights, Ill. Keep in mind that winners from outside the St. Louis metropolitan area will be responsible for shipping and handling costs.
  • Tom Egel, a cyclist from Ann Arbor, Mich., has taken up Gerry's cause. Tom plans on riding a century during this year's One Helluva Ride in Michigan, and he's set up a page at Active Giving to accept donations for Gerry. In about a week, Tom has raised more than $900 for Gerry! If you're motivated to raise money for Gerry in a similar fashion, I will be happy to help you set up a fundraising page. Just e-mail me at, and I will fill you in on the details.
  • The organizers of The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride have obtained $13,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorships for the event. That will insure that all the money raised by the ride will go to Gerry. We are grateful for all the help we have received from businesses and individuals in the Belleville and St. Louis area!
Anything you can do help Gerry will be greatly appreciated!

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

CBS News reports on commuter bikes

At the risk of sounding like a shill for CBS News, Here's another segment from the "Early Show" about Bike to Work Day. Harry Smith, a bike commuter, talks with Bicycling magazine Editor Steve Madden about the newest commuter bikes and the benefits of bicycle commuting.

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More video from St. Louis Bike to Work Day

Had I spent a little more time searching yesterday on CBS News, I would have found this Web-only video taken Friday during St. Louis' Bike to Work Day. Fortunately, someone over at the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation found it, and I pass it on to you.

Nancy Cordes, CBS's transportation and consumer safety correspondent, interviewed Trailnet Executive Director Ann Mack about the increase in bicycle lanes in St. Louis and the increase interest in bicycling prompted by high gasoline prices.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Trailnet, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to enrich the St. Louis region by promoting bicycle and pedestrian activities and collaborating with the public and private sectors to ensure and enhance a premier trail system.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

St. Louis Bike to Work Day on CBS

In case you missed it this morning -- count me among those who did -- St. Louis' Bike to Work Day was included in a a segment on CBS's "Early Show" in a story about gasoline prices. You have to sit through a commercial, then some footgage from a stock-car track in Junction City, Kan., before you get to the St. Louis segment. The entire segment takes about 3:25 (3:55 if you include the commercial).

Here's the link to the story: 64-Cent Gas! Eye On the Road.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Liability shadow hangs over RAGBRAI

Most Iowa communities want to be a part of the Register Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa -- better known as RAGBRAI -- because the annual bicycle tour brings thousands of dollars to their communities.

The 38th edition of RAGBRAI starts July 20 in Missouri Valley with stops in Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama-Toledo, North Liberty and Tipton before ending in Le Claire on July 26.

"We've seen towns that get 20,000 to 30,000 people," T.J. Juskiewicz, the ride's director told the Des Moines Register. "That's a lot of dollars. The economic impact, some towns have told us, is $2 million."

But not every local government is thrilled about the ride. This summer's ride doesn't pass through Crawford County, where the county's board of supervisors passed a resolution in October banning RAGBRAI or "any event of like kind and nature," the Register reported.

The supervisors approved the ban after it paid a $350,000 insurance settlement to the widow of a RAGBRAI rider who died in 2004. The rider was thrown from his bicycle after hitting a center-line crack on a Crawford County road.

The Register goes on to report that many county officials want the Iowa legislature to address the problem this year by providing an exemption for future court cases involving bicycles on county roads.

To me, it sounds a whole lot like the 1998 Illinois Supreme Court ruling that made bicyclists permitted, rather than intended, users of Illinois roads. The ruling held that local governments are liable for bicyclists' safety because of road condition only on streets marked or signed as a bike route.

I certainly understand the counties' desire to avoid liability, and I certainly understand that some road conditions that are unsafe for cyclists, including a crack in the middle of the pavement, aren't necessarily unsafe for drivers of cars, trucks and tractors. But my experience cycling on roads in North America tells me that the roads that are substandard for bicycles often are substandard for motorized vehicles as well.

A better solution would be one being offered by Iowa state Sen. Bill Dotzler. The Register reports Dotzler plans to introduce a bill in the Iowa legislature that would enable counties to get state grants to repair the roads.

Of course, that would involve spending money, but spending money to make roads safer for all users -- including cyclists -- seems like a wise use of taxpayers' money to me.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Work planned for MCT Nature Trail

Madison County Transit soon will be replacing the pavement on a section of the MCT Nature Trail between Pontoon Beach and Edwardsville, Ill., that is in dire need of repair.

Dan Corbett, a friend of mine and a member of MCT's board of trustees, said the board today accepted bids on the project.

The section of the Nature Trail that will be affected by the repairs is between Chain of Rocks Road just outside Edwardsville and the junction with the MCT Nickel Plate Trail near Long Lake in Pontoon Beach.

That section of the trail will be closed during the repaving, but no exact timetable has been set for the work.

At the moment, that section of trail is open, but please use caution and watch for warning signs and cones -- especially if you ride a road bike. The cracks in the pavement can easily catch a road tire.

The reason why the section of the Nature Trail has deteriorated so much is because of the soil conditions beneath the trail surface, Dan said. Work will be done to the bed beneath the trail to make it better suited to handle an asphalt trail.

Thanks to MCT's extensive trail system, you'll still be able to ride on a trail between the Granite City/Pontoon Beach area and the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area while work is being done on the Nature Trail. Instead of using the Nature Trail, you can use the Nickel Plate Trail between Long Lake and the eastern end of the Nature Trail.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tour de Grape press release

Julie Gaebe, the development director of HavenHouse St. Louis, is much too generous in calling me the organizer of the Tour de Grape bicycle tour, because she and a host of others are putting a ton of work in effort to make this fund-raising ride a success. Nevertheless, I'm passing along the press release she wrote about the event:

First Annual Tour de Grape Is a Beginning of Season Joy Ride for Cyclists

The first annual Tour de Grape to benefit HavenHouse St. Louis is planned and ready for action as a two-day, 100 mile pledge cycling tour of the wine areas near Farmington and Ste. Genevieve, MO over May 12 and 13, 2007. Participants pay a modest $25 registration fee and collect minimum pledges of $250 each, and prizes will be awarded to individuals and teams raising the most money for HavenHouse’s programs and services.

HavenHouse St. Louis provides lodging, care and support services for up to 33 families, or 100 people, each night in their 32,000 sq. ft. facility in Creve Coeur. “The actual cost of our program (room, meals, transportation to area hospitals and support services) is $75 per family per night. Families may receive vouchers of up to $50 per night, and half of the families’ remaining $25 obligation is paid by third parties such as Shrine temples, Medicaid or health related foundations,” explains Kathy Sindel, Executive Director. “We rely upon the generosity of individuals and the success of events like the Tour de Grape so that we can serve more than 1,500 families next year.” HavenHouse provides what a family needs to rest, regain their strength and focus on their critically, chronically or terminally ill child.

The Tour de Grape is the perfect brainchild of a committee including organizer Roger Kramer, USA Cycling Certified Coach Chris Mileski, and route chairs Charley Sindel and Larry Keith. “Over half of the families that travel to HavenHouse for their child’s hospitalizations in St. Louis actually reside in Missouri or Eastern Illinois and last year, 15 families from the route areas stayed at HavenHouse as guests. We feel that we are including our extended family with this event,” says Kathy Sindel.

“We know this ride is early in the season, so it is a great way for cycling enthusiasts to prepare for a great year of riding,” says Kramer. “On day one, participants will ride one of two routes around the hills of Farmington, and on day two, they will enjoy the history and scenery near Ste. Genevieve and the Illinois areas from Chester to Fort de Chartres as they choose two routes of different lengths.” Lunches are served both days, and an awards dinner on Saturday will recognize the people raising the most money for HavenHouse.

For more information, visit,, or

Not mentioned in the press release is the fact Tour de Grape is a Missouri Advocacy Event. That means $1 of your registration fee will go the Missouri Bicycle Federation so it can pursue improved bicycle facilities and safety for Missouri cyclists.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Bike trails taking shape across area

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today reports the idea of a two-state web of interwoven bicycle trails is beginning to take form. Tax-supported local agencies in Illinois and Missouri, like the railroad builders of old, extending a network that will allow riders a choice of routes for pedaling the breadth of the metro area.

As you might expect, Madison County Transit's extensive 85-mile network of trails is a big part of the story, and so are the efforts by Trailnet and the Great Rivers Greenway District in their efforts to build trails on the Missouri side of the river.

"Trails connect us," David Fisher, director of the Great Rivers Greenway District, told the Post-Dispatch. "They let us be healthy together. And they have become very, very popular."

More trails are in the works. Some of those not included in the Post-Dispatch story include a trail that would link O'Fallon, Ill., with the Madison County Trails system near Troy and a trail in Swansea that would tie into the MetroLink Bike Trail in Belleville. And let not forget about the efforts of the ITS Trail Committee, which is trying to build a trail from Staunton to Benld in Macoupin County, Ill., with a long-term goal of linking the Madison County trails to the south and Springfield, Ill., to the north.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Woman sentenced in cyclist's death

A 19-year-old Urbana, Ill., woman, Jennifer Stark pleaded guilty Wednesday to a petty offense and was sentenced for actions that led to the death of Matthew Wilhelm, the (Champaign) News-Gazette reported.

Wilhelm, a 25-year-old former Champaign resident, a University of Illinois mechanical engineering graduate working for Caterpillar in Peoria, died on Sept. 8 from head injuries he received Sept. 2 when Stark hit him with her car because she was downloading ring tones to her cell phone instead of paying attention to driving.

Stark received the maximum penalty for the offense, improper lane usage: a maximum sentence of six months of conditional discharge, a form of probation without reporting to an officer; a $1,000 fine; and traffic safety school.

"I can only apply the law I have in front of me, not as I wish it would be," Champaign County Judge Richard Klaus said during the sentencing hearing.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz did not file a more serious charge, such as reckless homicide, because she determined the accident that killed Wilhelm did not fit the state's legal definition of recklessness needed to file a felony reckless homicide charge.

Rietz is pushing for the Illinois General Assembly to create a stronger law for distracted drivers. According to a draft of the proposed bill, a person would be guilty of negligent vehicular homicide if "while in the course of operating a motor vehicle, the person's negligent operation of such vehicle is a substantial cause of the death of another person."

Wilhelm's parents, Gloria and Chuck Wilhelm, are continuing their push for the General Assembly to pass the law. The News-Gazette reported that the Wilhelms spent much of Tuesday talking to state representatives and senators and their staffs about the legislation.

The Associated Press picked up the story Thursday, and several Illinois newspapers, including the Belleville News-Democrat, published it in Friday editions.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Just catching up

I know it's been about a week and a half since my last post. I no longer have BubbaFest as an excuse for not posting, so here's some random notes:

Happy Birthdays: My sister Teresa's son, Julius, and my late brother Wes' daughter, Ani, are celebrating their 16th birthdays this weekend. Julius turned 16 on Thanksgiving, while Ani turns 16 today.

After the Thanksgiving meal Thursday, my family got to watch "Tour de Donut: Gluttons for Punishment" for the first time. The film inspired Julius and Teresa to want to come down to Staunton, Ill., next July to give Tour de Donut a try. Julius is convinced he can eat 20 doughnuts, while I think my sister can do well in her age division next year. If Julius would ride and eat well enough to win, it would be the second Tour de Donut on "Old Blue," the blue Cannondale I rode to victory in the 1995 Tour de Donut.

Ani, meanwhile, played for the Belleville West High School junior varsity girls tennis team. She most likely will be on the varsity roster next year, so I'm hoping to see her name in the Belleville News-Democrat often the next two seasons.

Great biking weather: It seems as if I brought some warm temperatures home with me from Florida. The high temperatures in the St. Louis area will be in the 60s this weekend, so I plan to get some miles in today. I should have been biking Friday, but I didn't because I put Christmas lights up for my duplex and because I was fighting a bug that left me tired. I finally turned the corner Friday evening, so there's no excuse for me not to ride today.

I want to get a short ride in Sunday morning before I go to the St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49ers game with my nephew.

Marty Baird and Roger KramerStill thinking about Florida: I hope to post my official account of BubbaFest sometime next week in the main section of the Web site. In the meantime, I'm posting a photo taken by my good friend Doug Kaufman during the trip.

Our buddy, John Chester, needed to get a tire fixed during the course of the ride at the Big Pine Bicycle Center. It turns out that the owner, Marty Baird, may be a bigger Three Stooges nut than I am, if you can imagine that.

Not only does he own the jersey pictured here, he also has 146 Stooges episodes on tape and gobs of Stooges memorabilia. It was only appropriate Marty and I recreate a classic Stooges scene for the cameras. I told him about the Tour de Stooges, but he won't be able to make it up north for the ride because it's his busy season. I will try to make sure he gets a shirt for his collection.

Just starting out: Friend and former News-Democrat colleague Emily Priddy, the hippie of the Red Fork Hippie Chick blog, is writing about her efforts to become a cyclist after finishing two marathons and four half-marathons. She asked me not to laugh at her humble Thanksgiving Day ride.

I'm not laughing.

We've all been in Emily's shoes sometime in our cycling lives, and I applaud her efforts to become a cyclist. In a matter of time, she should be able to cruise her bike up those hills she now walks.

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