A cut above – Detroit’s Dequindre Cut

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

For those out there that think Detroit’s a lost cause, the magnificent Dequindre Cut Greenway is an example of why you are wrong. Constructed along an abandoned below-grade rail corridor, the 1.35 mile greenway links some of Detroit’s coolest features – including the scenic 2.5 mile long RiverWalk, the vibrant Eastern Market, and the trendy Villages. Combine those with a world-class greenway for cyclists and pedestrians and some seriously hip graffiti artwork and you have the recipe for a Midwestern version of New York City’s High Line or Atlanta’s Belt Line.

Source: streetsblog.org

Source: streetsblog.org

Kudos to all those individuals and organizations involved in making the Dequindre Cut a post-industrial success story that truly is “a cut above” most other nonmotorized trails.

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

 

 

PortMiami Tunnel to open in May

Source: youtube.com

Source: youtube.com

The twin-tube 4,200 foot long PortMiami Tunnel is scheduled to open to traffic in May of 2014. Under construction since 2010, the $1 billion public-private partnership project will extend Interstate 395 under the Government Cut shipping channel separating Watson Island and Dodge Island thus linking the Port of Miami (a.k.a. PortMiami) with the city’s mainland highway network.

Source: portofmiamitunnel.com

Source: portofmiamitunnel.com

The highway tunnel is designed to provide a continuous fixed link (rather than a drawbridge) which allows port related traffic, including heavy truck traffic and cruise-related traffic, to avoid clogging downtown Miami streets. In 2013, Miami saw more than four million passengers pass through its cruise ship terminals, which makes it the busiest cruise port in the world.

Source: gzconsultants.com

Source: gzconsultants.com

 

Eleven planning lessons from Boston/Cambridge

Dowtown Boston

Downtown Boston from Cambridge

I had the opportunity to visit Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-March. Here is a list of eleven planning-related lessons I took away from visiting these two dynamic cities.

  • Preserve, protect and celebrate your community’s history.
  • A varied blend of historic structures and new edifices is visually intoxicating.
  • Savor and build upon the benefits derived from being home to institutions of higher education.
  • Cultural diversity and inclusiveness makes a community much more vibrant.
  • Accessible mass transit and bike sharing systems are wonderful things.
  • Denser urban development can be softened by rich and varied public spaces.
  • The removal of an ugly freeway can reawaken once forlorn areas.
  • The heart of the city can be a great place to raise a family.
  • Pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and cars can successfully and safely coexist.
  • A thriving city requires thriving neighborhoods – you cannot have one without the other.
  • A compact and walkable urban core is far more preferable to a sprawling mess.

The cycles of one’s life

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

The Golden Days

I will always remember when I got my three-speed, sky-blue Schwinn Sting-ray bicycle with its white, banana-shaped seat and removable plexiglas windshield for Christmas. I thought I was the coolest kid in the neighborhood riding that three-speed bike around. It wasn’t nearly as quick as the ten-speeds the older kids had, but it was seriously cool, stylish, and all mine.

Source:

Source: bikerodnkustom5.homestead.com

Many avid cyclists develop a deep fondness for our rides, perhaps even some name their bicycles. For me, a name never seemed appropriate, but they were my trusted steed all the same.

Sadly, I really cannot recall details about the tricycles and training bicycles I rode prior to the Sting-ray, other than at least one of them was red. The Sting-ray on the other hand was my pride and joy from about age 8 until I was a teenager.

At that point, I had grown too much for it to be a comfortable ride and I was getting tired of not winning the neighborhood bike races we held (and I organized) each May to coincide with the Indy 500. As kids growing up in Indianapolis, that’s what you did each May in the 1960s and 1970s – live,  eat, drink, and breath the Indy 500. Perhaps my family more so since my grandparents owned a trailer rental lot on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana.

Source:

Source: icollector.com

So, as a teenager, I was given a sporty, sierra brown Schwinn ten-speed street bike. It was a terrific bike, but I never grew as close to it as the Sting-ray. I still rue the fact that we gave away my Sting-ray, but the brown ten speed did make me more competitive in the bike races, though I do not recall ever winning in the awesome race we used to hold around the loop of Delaware Trails North or amid the cul-de-sacs of Somerset. Didn’t really matter, as we had great fun.

The Dark Days

As I began driving at age 16, the use of my brown ten-speed waned more and more. In fact, I didn’t even take it to college or later to grad school. I guess I became an arrogant car culture adherent who thought cycling was passe’. I rode every now and again, but for a good 16 years, cycling was largely off my radar screen. I regret that fact very much, as well as the lost riding opportunities.

Golden Days Return

As my sons grew and rode their bikes, my desire to ride more often also increased. Upon moving to Michigan in 1992, my love affair with the bicycle quickly returned. We lived on a mile-long dusty dirt road near Saline, which was perfect for riding back and forth, as well as through the adjoining subdivisions. As a result, I bought a black, Raleigh 21-speed bike that was a cross between a hybrid and a mountain bike, perfectly suited for the gravelly road conditions. I was back in cycling heaven (for some reason I cannot find a photo of this bike online).

The only problem with our location was, there was no safe way to ride into town without risking life and limb, especially if the kids wanted to join me. None of the nearby paved roads had any kind of shoulder, nor were there sidewalks and/or pathways. This was the first time that cycling advocacy became an important consideration. It seemed downright silly that children had no safe way ride to their schools, or parks, or playgrounds. Communities should not develop in such a manner where it is always necessary to drive a stupid car! It’s not healthy, not smart, not cost-effective, not environmentally sound, and not efficient.

As a result, when we moved to Greater Lansing, one of the principal criteria used was to find a home/neighborhood with access to bike paths and trails. Thankfully, the home we bought was in a subdivision abutting the community’s bicycle-pedestrian pathway system and 20-25 minute ride to/from work.

In the 2000s I started developing some minor numbness in the palms of my hands from the forward leaning riding position on my Raleigh. As more and more of my riding was now commuting to/from work,I decided to replace the Raleigh with a blue and silver (Detroit Lions’ colors) Diamondback Wildwood model that allowed me to sit up straighter. In the meantime my oldest son used the Raleigh while in college in Ann Arbor. After 20 years of use by our family, the Raleigh was sorely in need of major repairs and was sold to a fellow graduate student when his family moved to Massachusetts.

Source: bikereviews.com

Source: bikereviews.com

Eventually, as bike commuting became my passion, I added a headlight, storage rack on the back of the bike, as well as a pair of matching saddle bags to transport a change of clothes (when necessary), lunch, my notebook computer, etc. As I developed some back-related problems, the seating, weight, and wider tires of the Diamondback were not working for me.

Source: citizenbike.com

Source: citizenbike.com

After much research, in the fall of 2012 I purchased a dark-gray six-speed Citizen Miami folding bike online. I love this bike and have ridden it religiously for the past 18+ months (weather permitting), particularly for work and church commutes, but also for recreational distances as long as ten miles. It is light weight, easy to fold, easy to adjust, fun, and great in nearly all-weather conditions. The only downside trying to keep up with road bikes and hybrids on longer-distance rides and seat comfort after the ten-mile threshold.

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Behold. Above is an image of the newest member of my riding stable – a 21-speed Trek Allant utilitarian bicycle. My plan is for it to fill my needs for longer distances while also maintaining my comfort level. I am looking forward to many years of riding fun on my new Allant.

An old friend

One other bicycle must be mentioned in this post. When my mother remarried in the mid 1990s, we presented the newlyweds with a 1970s yellow, five-speed Schwinn Twinn tandem bicycle. This bike has been kept at our family lake cottage for the past few years and every trip there requires a fun-filled ride on this vintage treasure. The tandem is the perfect bike for a lake cottage, as it can be ridden alone or Kathy and I can ride it together. It is also much easier to have it stabled there than to bring multiple bikes with us on the back of the car, though most of them have made at least one trip to the lake.

Source: ilikethebike.com

Source: ilikethebike.com

Conclusion

To this avid cyclist, my bikes have always meant more to me than my automobiles. There is something freeing about riding a bike that cannot be felt in a car. Perhaps it’s the fresh air without the accompanying road noise or exhaust fumes. Perhaps it’s the ability to ride off the beaten path. Perhaps its the health and fitness benefits. Perhaps it’s the numerous environmental benefits. Or, perhaps it is the ability to relive and revive your inner child. My guess is that it is some of all the above, but especially the youthful joy of riding a bicycle that leads the way.

 

Saying goodbye to a dear show

Source: collider.com

Source: collider.com

Tonight, the final episode of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) will be broadcast on CBS. HIMYM is a wonderful series that explores the lives and loves of five close friends. It is centered around Ted Mosby and the tale of how he met the future mother of his children. While a comedy, HIMYM routinely touches your heart in ways that few shows can and do. M*A*S*H could. Cheers could. Friends could. Big Bang Theory sometimes does. Modern Family does. And Suburgatory does.

HIMYM is also one of those television shows that grows on you. For the first five seasons, I didn’t even watch it. It was the reruns on local channels that introduced me to the softer and special side of this series – the part never shown in the highlights – the part that not only touches your heart, but carries it away.

Another unique aspect about the show is its appeal to all ages. While enjoying a pizza lunch yesterday, Kathy and I, as well as four of our children ages 19-24 who were with us, agreed that HIMYM is a special show and that we look forward to watching the finale episode airing tonight.

Were there silly episodes? Of course. Were there dumb episodes? Of course. Were there episodes that hit it out of the ballpark? Absolutely! And those are the episodes that will be the ones that everyone remembers and talks about for years to come. This season, there have been numerous keepsake episodes that we will all remember – Thank you to the cast and crew of How I Met Your Mother for years of happy memories.

The ultimate merger of beer and bikes

Bike-Slide

Source: pedalpub.com/

Just when you’ve seen everything, you stumble across something wholly unexpected. In this case it is bike bars (a.k.a. pedal pubs, pedal cruisers, etc.). These pedal-powered mobile beer bars are starting to pop up in entertainment districts and venues across the country. Needless to say, these four-wheeled pubs happily merge two favorite past times – beer and bicycles. The best part is you don’t have to pedal while consuming your libations, you can just go along for the ride. Ahhh…beer bliss and fresh air. What a great combination!

Source: pedalpub.com/blox/licensees-map/

Source: pedalpub.com/blox/licensees-map/

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a cinematic treat

Source: indiewire.com

Source: indiewire.com

We went to see acclaimed film, The Grand Budapest Hotel last night. Unique and eccentric hardly come close to describing the movie, but it appears everyone associated with the motion picture must have had a blast during filming and production. Throughout the movie there are offbeat moments (like a phone booth in the middle of a pasture) and Mel Brooks-like silly, deadpan jokes that tickle your funny bone, while the cinematic style, a la Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice, keeps you visually entertained like few movies can or have. Oh, by the way, the story is rather interesting too, though I have to admit it ended a tad abruptly for my tastes.

The cast is filled with featured stars and cameo appearances of a who’s who from Hollywood. Part of the fun is discerning the guest appearances behind those 1930s Eastern European themed make-up and wardrobes. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori are both excellent as Gustave and Zero, while it was terrific to see Jeff Goldblum again.

Part of the fun of The Grand Budapest Hotel is that it is film style you rarely see anymore except perhaps at film festivals or at an art theater. If for no other reason, go see the movie to experience the film’s “atmosphere.” I think you will come away appreciating its artistic and cinamatic qualities as much as I did.

A word of caution. The R rating is deserved and there are several scenes not appropriate for youngsters…or the squeamish.

A most practical bicycle invention

Source: trampe.no/

Source: trampe.no/

This is what I call a most practical invention – the world’s first bicycle lift for climbing steep hills. While many of us bicyclists like to think we are physically fit, even the best of us has difficulties climbing steep terrain, especially when you cannot get momentum going ahead of time. Leave it to the Norwegians to come up with a practical solution. The Trampe Bicycle Lift (or CycloCable) helps cyclists reach the top of 130 meter/428 foot high Brubakken Hill in the city of Trondheim.

Source: lkv.no

Source: lkv.no

Below is an interesting video about the lift that originally opened in 1993 and was updated with a more advanced technology in 2013 followed by some photos. Kudos to the City of Trondheim, Norway and its amazing bicycle lift. Hopefully, a few other cities around the globe will latch onto this gem of an idea – just here in the United States a bike lift would come in handy in hilly cities like San Francisco, Duluth, Pittsburgh, Roanoke, Chattanooga, and Asheville. It is certainly one of those inventions where we all say to ourselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Source: trampe.no/

Source: trampe.no/

Source: exviking.net

Source: exviking.net

 

USA’s most exciting mid-sized cities

Below is a list created by the Movoto Real Estate Blog of its top ten most exciting mid-

Source: blogworld.com

Source: blogworld.com

sized cities (120,000 to 210,000 people) in the United States:

  1. Providence, RI
  2. Charleston, SC
  3. Fort Collins, CO
  4. Eugene, OR
  5. Syracuse, NY
  6. New Haven, CT
  7. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  8. Pasadena, CA
  9. Grand Rapids, MI
  10. Salt Lake City, UT

(Pasadena and Grand Rapids tied for eighth place)

A total of 117 cities fell into Movoto’s population range as being considered mid-sized. Then, the following six criteria were used to determine the top ten most exciting ones.

Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)

Live music venues per capita

Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)

Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)

Percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better)

Percentage of young residents ages 20 to 34 (the higher the better)

To this urban planner, the criteria is missing a key element that I believe would lend itself  to creating a more accurate calculation — a vibrant and diverse multicultural population is critical to a city being exciting. The music, artistic, and cuisine options grow exponentially as new cultures are introduced. While the fact that they didn’t include that factor does not diminish the interesting aspects of their list, it would have made it a more inclusive study.

Art and architecture of Boston/Cambridge

Here are a few photos of art and architecture from our weekend trip to Boston and Cambridge. Enjoy!

IMG_1798

Stata Center by Frank Gehry

Arthur Fielder

Arthur Fielder

At the Boston Pops stage

At the Boston Pops stage – photo by Kathy

Downtown Boston in the distance

Downtown Boston in the distance

Make Room for Ducklings - photo by Kathy

Make Room for Ducklings – photo by Kathy

Cigar store dude

Cigar store dude

Photo by Kathy

Photo by Kathy

General Patton surveying the scene

General Patton surveying the scene

Which way do we go?

Which way do we go?

Twilight ride of Paul Revere

Twilight ride of Paul Revere

A hilarious evening of improv.

A hilarious evening of improv.

Charlestown street

Charlestown streetscene