Saturday, February 29, 2020

If Not Great, Then At Least “Grand”

This is my 1,000th post on the Bike Washington County blog. I wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary for this occasion, so I waited until today, February 29. We get a February 29 only once every four years, and this one is extra special because it’s also the fifth Saturday this month. Squeezing five Saturdays into February is possible only in a leap year, and not even every leap year: it happens at 28-year intervals. I might be tired of blogging by 2048, so this seemed like a good date for a personal milestone.

When I started this blog almost 10 years ago, I imagined I would have a little bit to say every day. That idea lasted just one month! If I had continued on that pace, then today’s post would be number 3,585. Can you imagine? The only way I could have managed that feat would have been to opine on every piece of news from the cycling press, however insignificant. And perhaps not every post here has been a gem, but in giving you new content every 3.585 days on average I hope I have been more engaging than overwhelming.

There is weight, though, to 1,000 blog posts. It’s a big body of work. Take out all the training log entries and race reports—take me out—and it’s still a decade of the history of cycling. Yes, there has been opinion, but I have never misrepresented it as fact. I have always been honest with you, even when doing so shone a less than flattering light on my own performance or behavior or appearance or … you know, you can stop me anytime. Most people see self-deprecation for what it is: pushing you away weakly with one arm while drawing you awkwardly but inexorably to an embrace with the other. Bike Washington County has not changed the world, but it has influenced the cycling scene locally, across Wisconsin, and maybe even farther afield. My ideas and observations have been shared and debated on other social media platforms and have been seen here something like 175,000 times. So, yeah, I’m proud of what I have done.

Thanks for allowing me to be a little self-congratulatory today, but thanks even more for continuing to visit Bike Washington County. There’s more to come.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Brief Relief For Cabin Fever

(Jeff Wren photo)

This was a nice weekend for February. The last time we had a matching Saturday and Sunday above 40° was December 21-22, and this weekend we had lots of blue sky and bright sun to add to the cheer. I rode for more than an hour yesterday and for about an hour and a half today. But that’s all until March; there won’t be any rides for me in the week to come.

Monday will start with a meeting between Bike Friendly West Bend and Jessica Wildes, the new Marketing and Communications Director for the City of West Bend. BFWB wants to build a closer relationship with the city to bring bicycle tourism to the area and, of course, to develop new amenities for local riders.

Monday will continue with a 12-hour shift at work, the first of five consecutive 12-hour shifts. That’s 60 hours total, and the 20 hours of overtime pay will be very welcome. But it’s going to be a challenging week. On a normal week it’s all I can do to get enough sleep to keep going, and in the week to come there will be fewer hours in which I can make my feeble attempts. Whatever may come, I will gut it out at work. I have no other choice.

The wildcard is the weather. We may receive several inches of snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that would add significant hardship for me. I’m rooting against it, of course, but if it does come then I might be back on the snowshoes next weekend.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Save The Date: April 18

In conjunction with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s nationwide Opening Day For Trails celebration, our own Eisenbahn State Trail will be getting lots of love on Saturday, April 18. Washington County, Bike Friendly West Bend, The Hub - Social Good Brews, and the Volunteer Center of Washington County will co-host. Here’s a preliminary schedule:

 8:00 AM -  9:00 AM -- Volunteer Check-In and Registration
 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM -- Trail Cleanup
11:00 AM -  1:00 PM -- Tailgate Event
11:30 AM - 12:00 PM -- Presentation
 1:00 PM - ??:?? PM -- Bike Rides

Show your support at the Facebook event page and watch for more details as we get closer to April 18! Who knows? If the weather is nice, then maybe I'll lead one of those bike rides ...

Monday, February 17, 2020

Shaking Things Up

There’s a new Adventure Cycling Association initiative to improve safety for cyclists by identifying unsafe rumble strips on roads across America and recommending a set of design and implementation criteria. It’s a very reasonable framework, and Adventure Cycling wisely has chosen not to begin the conversation as another episode of Cars vs. Bikes. The recommendations don’t say rumble strips never have a useful place on our roads; they do say that the needs of cyclists must be taken into account.

Here in Washington County, rumble strips are uncommon. We have a few examples of perpendicular rumble strips whose purpose is to warn drivers of upcoming intersections, but the Adventure Cycling Association is principally concerned with the shoulder rumble strips whose purpose is to stop inattentive drivers from drifting off the road. Last weekend I looked at three examples of shoulder rumble strips in Washington County and found that they are not uniform in their execution, and in no case do they come up to the Adventure Cycling Association standards.

Here’s State Highway 167 (Holy Hill Road) in the Town of Erin:

In this case the rumble strip and the fog line occupy the same space, leaving 32 inches of additional paved shoulder on the right. It’s not badly done; it’s just too narrow to meet the Adventure Cycling Association criteria.

This is the situation on State Highway 28 east of Kewaskum:

There’s a total of 5 feet of paved shoulder to the right of the fog line, but only 40 inches to the right of the rumble strip. I can’t tell you why the rumble strip wasn’t carved out closer to the fog line. The space between them is effectively useless. Still, I travel this section of road frequently and I feel perfectly safe between the rumble strip and the edge of the road.

The rumble strips on Highway 28 come closest to the Adventure Cycling Association standards. They even include periodic breaks to allow easier movement from one side of the strip to the other. That’s important to a cyclist who sees debris or an obstruction ahead and wants to move back to the left. Centerline rumble strips are a feature of that same section, but in my experience they have not had the effect of directing vehicles closer to the fog line and, therefore, closer to me.

Finally, here’s County Highway I (Decorah Road) east of West Bend:

This very short rumble strip section occupies the entirety of the 9-inch paved shoulder. You won’t be riding on this, and you have to question how effectively it would serve its purpose. How would an inattentive driver hitting this rumble strip react in time to stay on the road? I remember riding on the newly-repaved road before the rumble strip was carved out, then shaking my head in disbelief on my next visit. This section feels like the answer to a question no one was asking.

It will be interesting to see how the Adventure Cycling Association initiative fares. Plenty of good ideas attract support in principle but fail to materialize in the real world of budget constraints. But regardless of whether these recommendations become nationwide standards, they at least deserve consideration in Washington County as our new bicycling master plan moves toward implementation.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

That Satisfying Crunch

(Nathan Patton photo)

Snowshoeing remains my one true winter sport, but this winter’s conditions have been unfavorable: not much snow to start with, and too many melt days between new accumulations.

Today, though, conditions were pretty close to perfect: 35° and partly sunny, with just a hint of a breeze. Last Sunday’s snowfall was significant enough that a groomed base of several inches is still present at Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Royal Oaks Park on the north side of West Bend. My 3-mile / 70-minute lap there was my first snowshoeing adventure since March 2, 2019. I would go more often if there were more opportunities … tomorrow, perhaps, when another 3-inch snowfall arrives. But if the forecast is correct the new window of opportunity will close quickly: we could be somewhere around 40° next weekend. That would put me back on the bike.