|Summer good. Winter bad.|
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
Moments ago the Common Council of the City of West Bend approved Bike Friendly West Bend’s proposal for a signed and painted bike route. Known at least for now as the “orange loop,” this route will take shape in 2021 and will serve as a model for a larger network of routes that the city will consider if the orange loop proves popular with riders.
Saturday, December 19, 2020
|The route includes a spur to serve Ridge Run Park and UW–Milwaukee’s Washington County campus.|
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Today was the first 50° day in almost two weeks, so I rode my bike for the first time since November 9—yes, a full month ago—and kept alive a streak of riding at least once per month that began in February 2014. The ride wasn’t fast or far, but it was fun. I plan to ride again tomorrow on what could be another 50° day before winter weather returns for the weekend.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
If you follow pro cyclists like Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter on social media, then you’ll see them employing a massive array of cross-training techniques to target very specific muscle groups. Abdominals, for example. No amount of cycling will give you strong abs, but having strong abs will make you a better cyclist. Kate and Nino work on their legs in the gym too, but it’s their dedication to the “little” things like balance, stability, and flexibility that I find inspiring.
Over the last 13 months I added a weighted rucksack, resistance bands, and a Garmin Forerunner to my arsenal of exercise tools. I’m kind of proud of that, as it demonstrates a willingness to try new things in pursuit of greater fitness. I will have done something like 25-30 ruck marches by the end of this year and now that I’m into my winter strength training program I am using the resistance bands three days per week. But it’s the Garmin Forerunner that really could be a game changer.
Pardon the pun.
By uploading all of my walks, hikes, ruck marches, and snowshoe treks to Garmin Connect, the Forerunner allows me to quantify what I couldn’t quantify before. And because I can quantify those activities, I can compete against my own numbers or against other people. I haven’t yet joined the Strava and/or Zwift craze to make a game of my cycling activities, and although I have used my Garmin Edge to access Garmin Connect for years I have used its game features only incidentally. When Garmin Connect has informed me that I earned an achievement badge, my reaction has been something like, “Um, OK.”
Garmin Connect badges are little rewards for meeting challenges and they have point values based on difficulty. Some badges can be earned only once while others can be earned as many times as the challenge is met—e.g., your first 5-mile bike ride is worth 1 point while every 100-mile ride is worth 8. Points allow for competition between users, and here’s how I stack up against my friends right now:
There’s definitely a whimsical videogame quality to this system and I never took it seriously as a cyclist, but now I’m reconsidering it. For me, cycling is its own reward. My other activities are too, but not to the same extent. I could use a little motivation and Garmin badges are exactly that. So, for the first time ever, I am actively pursuing one:
And Garmin Connect gives me an easy way to track my progress:
That’s kind of neat, isn’t it? It’s kind of silly too, but I don’t pay anything to use Garmin Connect and if the pursuit of badges gets me to exercise more and/or in different ways, then what’s the harm? I hasten to add, however, that I won’t be giving myself credit for normal daily activities. I could wear my Forerunner all day and capture my steps through the aisles of the grocery store or behind a lawnmower or in any number of mundane situations, but that’s not what I bought the device to do. The idea is to do more than what is required by daily life and become better than I was before. So, game on!
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
We’ve reached the final month of 2020. I can safely predict that in these 31 days we won’t see any major changes to bicycling infrastructure in West Bend. And that means the city’s 2020 Park and Open Space Plan—a lengthy set of objectives, guidelines, and recommendations adopted way back on March 17, 2008—will have missed many of its targets. Now, municipalities make long-range plans all the time, and in this case the completion of the plan was necessary to keep the city eligible for certain state and federal grants. It’s hard to say how much of the plan was expected to reach implementation and how much was just pro forma busywork. But let’s not get stuck on that; let’s simply look at what might have been for bicycling in West Bend versus what is.
In the 2020 plan, a section called “Bicycle and Pedestrian Route and Trail System” proposed one big idea that lives on: a partnership with Washington County, other adjoining governments, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. That partnership led to the creation of Washington County’s master bike plan in May 2019. Of course, the new Washington County plan itself is only a plan. In a few years I might be poking fun at it for not going anywhere. But at least for now I can hope that it will fare better than the city’s gaze into the future. Flipping through the 100+ pages of the city’s 2020 plan, the first really tantalizing thing we see is Map 27:
The Eisenbahn State Trail, shown in purple, was already the centerpiece of local bicycling infrastructure by 2008. The Riverfront Parkway is there too … shown in yellow and somewhat hard to pick out from a yellow background. All those wonderful red lines are bike routes that the city imagined we would have by now.
Solid red lines represent off-street routes, and just think about how amazing they would be! Imagine a 4-mile trail connecting Park Site O and Quaas Creek Park, intersecting with the Eisenbahn and with the Riverfront Parkway. Imagine filling the small gap in the Riverfront Parkway between Brookview Drive and River Road. Imagine a Milwaukee River Parkway extending eastbound toward Newburg and Ozaukee County. Imagine a Four Lakes Parkway taking you through Lac Lawrann Conservancy, where bikes are not welcome on the existing trails. Imagine a Wingate Creek Parkway as an alternative to busy River Road and Trenton Road, providing safe and enjoyable riding on the city’s east side. We got none of it.
Broken red lines represent on-street routes, including portions of Rusco Drive, 18th Avenue, Decorah Road, University Drive, Chestnut Street, and Park Avenue, all of which were incorporated in the plan Bike Friendly West Bend presented to the Common Council in December 2017. Appendix A, Objective 5 of the 2020 plan even suggested route markers for bicycling. Bike Friendly West Bend wanted the same thing, but the bike routes initiative failed to find enough support.
We got a few improvements the 2020 plan didn’t anticipate, things like bike racks throughout the city and a few well-placed bike repair stands, but those efforts were driven by Bike Friendly West Bend and a handful of dedicated private citizens, not by city government. The most notable bike/ped achievement of government since 2008 was the construction of a sidewalk on River Road between Sand Drive and the high school parking lot. That’s a nice safety enhancement for the kids, but it’s hardly a network of non-motorized routes connecting every part of town.
So, now what? Should we forget about the 2020 plan when 2020 expires, or should we double down? It’s a very different looking Common Council than the one from December 2017, with new members eager to build trust and goodwill with their constituents. Will 2021 be the right time to make another push for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?