Messenger Archive: Spring 2003

Bicycles and Nature

By George Edwards

From the Gainesville Cycling Club newsletter, January 2003. George Edwards is president.

SOME THINGS SEEM to have an inherent association with bicycling. Food is one, but that’s a story for another time.
Another is an appreciation of the natural world. I used to call such appreciation "environmentalism," but in the last few years that word has acquired an initial capital letter and a huge load of political baggage, not to mention a very high charge of emotional miscomprehension.

So I guess I have regressed to being a naturalist, which is where I started out as a Boy Scout a few eons ago when the world was young.

Bicyclists by necessity tend to be naturalists, in tune with their surroundings—at least to some degree.
This must follow naturally (obvious intentional pun) from the fact that, one way or another, we get exposed to a lot of environmental influences while riding: wind, rain, ambient temperature, beautiful views, interesting plants, birds and so forth.

There are some other influences in the environment that we wish were not there: cultural detritus...exhaust fumes. We should notice these and ponder how they can be reduced.
If you cycle through mountainous terrain you cannot help but notice that the substrate isn't the same everywhere, and if you have even an ounce of intellectual curiosity you will ponder why those rocks over there seem to be bent into folds, while the ones a few miles back were straight and level.

There are reasons for these differences, and they do impact human life directly, even if we don't notice sometimes.
For instance, people tend to build their cities on rivers or other bodies of water. Rivers follow courses which are largely dictated by the underlying geology:
The Mississippi follows the trace of a major (major as in tectonic plates) fault zone. So where folks live is guided by geologic factors.

While riding through the less dramatic geology of North Florida you may not find the bones of the world you are riding on so obviously set out for view, but the rocks under your wheels are no less interesting.

Everyone has seen those Chinese pictures of a river winding through a rather improbable-looking landscape of nearly vertical-sided mountains with rounded tops.

Improbable but real—that's the Li River Valley, and it really does look like that.

It is a karst topography (just like North Florida), uplifted and eroded, from which the loose soil has been stripped away to expose the solution-excavated limestone substrate.

Those pictures are what North Florida would look like if some deep-seated tectonic force lifted the ground a few hundred feet and exposed it to rapid erosion. Neat to think about, eh?
But more immediately around you is the living world of North Florida.

Wildflowers abound, in great variety. So do birds and other animals, and we see them frequently on our rides, more so on trails than on highways due to the noise of the motor vehicles.
A friend once sent me a map contouring species diversity in North America because he observed that the Alachua County area formed a notable high point on this map—a species-diversity promontory.

Alachua County is a remarkably rich area in terms of the number and kinds of plants and animals living here.
So on your next ride look around and wonder. Don't be so fixated on your cadence, pulse rate, caloric burn, and all that stuff that you can’t stop to find out what that funny-looking plant is.

If you are in the natural world but not aware of it, you might just as well be down at a fitness center churning away on one of those stationary bikes while watching Judge Judy until your brains turn to mucous and run out your ears.
Bicyclists get out in the world more than the great majority of the population. We have a greater opportunity to appreciate it.

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Executive Director’s Report...
Highlights from the 2003 National Bike Summit®, March 5-7, 2003

by Laura Hallam

The League's 2003 National Bike Summit®, Washington, DC, was a resounding success, showcasing the strength of the bicycling community and its ability to unite for positive change on the reauthorization of TEA-21 and other critical education and advocacy issues.

As Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said, "I don't think a national movement with more trajectory and momentum with a more diverse group has ever come together
this quickly."

Participants met with 90 Senators and over 300 Representatives or their staffs to urge Congress to ensure that the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill focuses on supporting a balanced transportation system that embraces bicycling.

The Summit brought together nearly 400 bicyclists from 47 states and abroad to share important concerns and best practices and educate Congress. Overall participation in grew by 45% over the 2002 Summit; bike industry participation more than doubled.

Among participants was three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who also took part in the Congressional Bike Caucus Ride that toured major sites on March 7, and Linda Armstrong Kelly, mother of four-time champion Lance Armstrong.

Ms. Armstrong Kelly was also among the featured speakers, who included Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and John Burke, President of Trek Bicycle Corporation, President of Bikes Belong Coalition, and a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Balanced transportation system

Participants urged their Members of Congress to ensure that the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which authorizes over $200 billion in support for transportation, including bicycling projects, provides for a balanced transportation system that embraces bicycling by

  • Strengthening Transportation Enhancements, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Recreational Trails, and other TEA-21 programs
  • Creating a bicycle-friendly transportation system
  • Providing a Safe Routes to School program to promote bicycling and walking
    In addition, Members were also encouraged to
  • Support the Bicycle Commuter Act, introduced by Reps Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Mark Foley (R-FL), to give people who bike to work the same financial incentives as those who use transit or participate in a qualified parking plan under the Transportation Fringe Benefit
  • Support the Conserve By Bike Act, introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), to promote energy conservation and improve public health
  • Join the Congressional Bike Caucus or the Senate Bike Caucus

Key achievements

  • Some key achievements of the 2003 Summit include
    The America Bikes message was hand-delivered to almost every single member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and all but one Senator on the Environment and Public Works Committee. These committees have most of the jurisdiction for the reauthorization of TEA-21.
  • Greg LeMond and Linda Armstrong Kelly helped carry bicycling's message to key meetings, raising the profile of bicycling on the Hill.
  • Five new cosponsors were added to H.R. 1052, the Bike Commuter Act.
  • Fourteen new members "officially" joined the House Bike Caucus as a direct result of meetings. Numerous others indicated that they would also join.
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 542, the Conserve by Bike Act. Members in the Senate and the House expressed considerable interest in this measure. Co-sponsorship in the Senate is expected to grow rapidly. The League is working for companion legislation in the House.
  • A tremendous amount of interest was generated for the Senate Bike Caucus. Senator Durbin's staff is following up with more than a dozen Senators who expressed an interest.
  • Summit attendees generated overwhelming support in Congress for Safe Routes to Schools programs, designed to make bicycling and walking to school a safe and valued activity for children.
  • The League honored Senator Durbin by presenting him with its National Bicycle Leadership Award.
  • The Northern Georgia Bicycle Dealers Association received the League's State Bicycle Leadership Award. All but two of the organization's members attended and as a result Georgia brought one of the largest delegations to the event.

Educational panels

Summit attendees presented and attended a wide range of educational panels on important elements for bicycling, including

  • America Bikes' policy goals for TEA-3
  • the role of the bicycle industry in TEA-3
  • several different sessions on bicycle friendly communities (www.bicyclefriendlycommunity.org)
  • the public health benefits of bicycling
  • bicycle networks, using statistics
  • the agenda for national mountain bike access
  • educating professionals (planners, engineers, and teachers)
  • issue and advocacy training
  • working with state agencies
  • state and local advocacy success stories
  • safety and education initiatives
  • livable communities
  • implementing routine accommodation
  • state and local trail and path initiatives
  • innovative state and local programs.

Sponsors abundant

The League's Summit Sponsors were Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and Bikes Belong Coalition.

The League's Summit Partners included: Adventure Cycling Association, Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, America Bikes, Bikes Belong Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association, National Center for Bicycling and Walking, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Surface Transportation Policy Project, and Thunderhead Alliance.

National Bicycle Dealers Association and Bicycling Magazine were Programming Sponsors.

A great deal of follow-up work continues on legislative initiatives. To keep abreast of ongoing work, subscribe to the League's e-newsletter at www.bikeleague.org.

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Tosohatchee Preserve

by Lindy Moore

For years I've heard about a ride on Power Line Road and the Tosohatchee preserve east of Orlando. Since it's near our home, my husband Don and I decided to check it out.

We ventured over there on a Sunday and, being good citizens, picked up all the pamphlets at the kiosk, signed in, paid the fee and obtained the rear view mirror pass showing we had paid.

The area map shows designated parking areas for cars, which trails are for foot traffic only and which permit cars, camping, horses and other use.

Excited about trying something new (I’m a committed “Roadie” with only a couple forays off the pavement) we headed north at the first turn and arrived at Power Line Road. Logically, it runs right under one of the two sets of east-west power lines that head out to the St Johns river and beyond.

The intersection presented our first challenging maneuver, as it was mostly loose sand.

The sand behind us, and birds and turtles all around us, we meandered gingerly along through a mine field of cow patties.

I don’t know what they feed those cows out there, but there's quite a bit of evidence they are not going hungry.

Most of the metal towers looming over us held hundreds of vultures at any given moment. We were glad we weren’t on their menu that day.

After about two miles, we had to stop and wait for a huge cow to move so we could proceed. She looked us squarely in the eye for a few minutes before deciding we were harmless.
Come to think of it, she left quickly after Don mooed. I wonder what he said.

Whatever it was, she got the point and we got on our way.
Our next close encounter was with a huge black pig. Wow! Was that ever cool. I’ve never seen a pig that close up that wasn’t in a pen at a zoo.

And all my life I've heard about crooked roads in Alabama that are that way because “they were laid out by a pig.” Now I know why: as it ran away from us it did not run in a straight line.
It traipsed along a wet portion splashing as it went, probably wanting to play in the mud a while longer were it not for those horrible humans nearby.

Several sections along the way were quite deep with mud and standing water, and forced us to maneuver along the edge. This made me uncomfortable. With marshes on each side of the elevated road, I was sure if we slid off the road, we'd land somewhere near an alligator and that would be all she wrote.
Slowly, we made it past the last road where we could turn back, ending up at a turnaround at the St John's river. Airboats droned like giant insects over the shallow water and marshes.

A house in the middle of nowhere perched on stilts.

Using our binoculars, we could see even more birds. When the airboats were no longer nearby, the sounds of nature reasserted themselves— sounds of silence punctuated by cicadas drumming and birds calling.

After a few minutes, we headed back, crossed Jim Creek and turned south on another long, winding dirt road.
We stopped several times to observe the wildlife and just listened and looked and breathed the fresh air.

Heading back toward the entrance, we passed several other couples that were out that day.
Some had binoculars and drove from site to site to look at birds; one couple had a kayak they were going to launch; another family was hiking and had stopped to take a break along the way.

Being good citizens and not wanting to worry the ranger, we signed out so that he/she would know we were not lost forever in the park and headed home.

Now we knew why so many people enjoy taking their mountain bikes out to these preserves and wildlife areas to ride. The real Florida is indeed beautiful and something that everyone should experience. We were glad to have spent our day at this wonderful Florida management area. And yes, we decided we'd do it again soon, and actually bring our bikes the next time and ride them through the area instead of experiencing it all in our SUV!

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2003 Croom 35

by Rudy Miller

The Croom 35, held on Saturday, February 22 this year, was an absolute blast.

About 160 registered riders gathered at the trail head on Croom Road in the Croom section of the Withlacoochee State Forest north of Brooksville.

Cars started arriving around 7:30 a.m. although the ride start was two hours away.

Riders renewed friendships, told lies and shared breakfast under a big tent before checking their tire pressure and tweaking their bikes in final preparation.

The non-competitive ride is sponsored by the SWAMP Club from the Tampa Bay area. Wes Eubank (SWAMP's "Grand Pooh-Bah" and our new state representative for the International Mountain Biking Association) gave last-minute ride instructions.

It’s always a good idea to listen to Wes. He noted, among other things, that the day’s marked route diverted riders from the usual trail to avoid two yellow jacket nests.

Dark, rain-threatening clouds swirled ominously overhead as we hit the trail; however, the rain held off until after 3:00 p.m.
By the time the heavens let loose most of us had finished the ride.

Temperature stayed in the 70s all day and it was quite windy. But since the all single track route is mostly through the forest, riders were offered merely a mild breeze.

Croom had received more than two inches of rain during the previous two weeks so the sandy portions of the trail were firm, smooth and conducive to increased riding speeds.

The lead “non-competitive” riders finished the 35 miles in just under three and a half hours, including stops at all three SAG locations to snack, visit and refill hydration equipment.

Croom is always a beautiful place to ride but this time it was also very fast, adding to the fun.
The well-marked trail offered numerous alternative, more difficult options.

The SWAMP Club has created and maintains more than 50 miles of single track in Croom. This time, the trail boss had some new routing in the northern part of the loop.

Included were several short, curvy assents and descents that mountain bikers just love. While most of the route could be ridden by beginner riders, there were intermediate-level technical sections every few miles.

The difficult options were appropriate for riders with advanced skill levels. As Wes Eubank warned, “If you don't know how to get your butt back behind your bicycle seat, you'd do best to avoid the difficult options.”

Marc Alton and his crew of SWAMP volunteers had a BBQ dinner awaiting us under the big tent as we returned to our starting point.

Chicken was served with corn on the cob, pasta, salad, toasted garlic bread and strawberry short cake with whipped topping. After a great ride, having a delicious meal with friends rounded out a perfect day.

Riders saw a few deer during the ride, but if you ride Croom when there are fewer riders present—and if you are relatively quiet—you'll usually see lots of wildlife.

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Alafia River State Park trails join list of IMBA 'Epic Rides'

by Randall Williams

A 17-mile central Florida trail system recently joined the list of Epic Rides selected by the International Mountain Biking Association, putting Florida on the map for off-road bicycling adventure.

The "Epic" designation was celebrated March 15 and 16 by a visit from IMBA's eastern Subaru/IMBA trail crew, Scott Linnenburger and Aaryn Kay joined, in a "special guest appearance," by IMBA's Sprockids coordinator Brandon Dwight.

Approximately 45 volunteers, most of whom were from the Tampa Bay area SWAMP Club, spent Saturday refurbishing trails. A Sunday ride completed the weekend.

The Alafia area is familiar to SWAMP club members. They designed and maintain the trail system there.

The park, southeast of Brandon in Polk County, approximately at the corner of CR 675 and SR 39, is on the site of an abandoned phosphate quarry, once known as the Lonesome Mine.
Mining company Cytec Brewster Phosphates, Inc. deeded the land to the state in settlement of the state's claim of damage to state-owned river systems.

During mining operations the land was stripped clean of vegetation as mammoth draglines cleared away the topsoil to get at the phosphate ore 15 to 50 below the surface. Since 1975 mining companies have had to restore the land so that existing ecosystems might reestablish themselves.

The Alafia site is a mix of pre- and post-1975 mining. The unrestored, pre-1975 mining sections provide some of the most technically challenging mountain biking south of the Florida state line.
In spite of the name of one of its advanced trail areas, Alafia is no moonscape of barren phosphate spoils. Nearly 30 years of growing seasons have resulted in densely wooded areas canopied by mature trees, low hammocks crowded with palmettos and a terrain reminiscent of North Carolina, minus the Smokey Mountain vistas.

You can get to the trails from a day-use area or a newly opened campground. Drive about 20 miles south of Plant City on State Road 39 to the park entrances.

Check out the website at www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/district4/alafiariver

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Riding to the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

by Dwight Kingsbury

On the maps I studied in my parents’ house in Lakewood, Washington, last July, the riding distance from Lakewood to Seattle did not seem far.

Lakewood is about seven miles southwest of Tacoma. The state highway map distance from Tacoma to Seattle is 32 miles.

In Seattle I would cross the ship canal to the University of Washington campus, where the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (“198.9 miles”) would begin before dawn on Saturday.

With a few detours for scenic or otherwise recommended bicycle routes, I estimated the distance to the UW campus to be no more than 50 miles. I'd be there by early afternoon.

The blackberries that grow along country roads in the Puget Sound region were not ripe, but conditions were otherwise favorable for mission initiation at H-Hour on Friday morning.

With a final reminder to the home forces not to worry, I set off.
The plan was to avoid heavy traffic along the I-5 corridor by riding east to Puyallup, then to travel north on rural roads and paths in the Green River valley.

Crossing South Tacoma Way, I entered the terra incognita of southeast suburban Tacoma. I stopped to consult the Pierce County bicycle map. This map is a Mondrianesque composition of colored horizontal and vertical line segments.
Green means “off-road multi-use paved trail”—but there weren’t any in the vicinity.

Blue segments (“lower traffic road”) ran here and there, but staying on a colored route to the east required occasional jogs to the north and south, or venturing onto purple (“moderate to heavy traffic road with wide lane or paved shoulder”) or red sections (“moderate to heavy traffic road without wide lane or paved shoulder”).

Many streets appeared to provide through connections, but had no color ratings.

The operation—pulling off the street, taking off my hydration pack, pulling the map out of the mesh pocket, studying it, putting it back, etc.—was time-consuming and seemed unnecessary as long as one could make steady progress in an easterly direction, which was easy enough.

Descending a long grade into the Puyallup valley in mid-morning, I was disappointed not to find Puyallup.
I found it farther on, shaded by the trees that line its streets. I somehow overshot three north-south routes over the Puyallup River.

Eastbound inertia was arrested at a T-junction in the truck farms east of town, where I turned north onto the highway to Sumner.

Jogging back to the west, I picked up the two-lane West Valley Highway ("VOLCANO EVACUATION ROUTE") and entered King County.

It was satisfying to reflect that, if any volcanoes erupted, one was at least headed in the correct direction.
The King County bicycle map's radically different color scheme required a mental adjustment. For the King County cartographers, who evidently didn't see eye to eye with their Pierce County colleagues, red meant "on-street bicycle lane"; a red line with white borders indicated "paved regional trail."

The Interurban Trail, built on the right-of-way of an old tram line, appeared to offer a straight shot north to Tukwila.
Small wetlands and strips of trees partially muted the roar of traffic on the parallel freeway to the west. The trail corridor had been replanted with native shrubs-dogwoods, crabapples, salmonberry bushes, willows-to provide refuge for avian sojourners.

Taking care to avoid walkers, joggers, and the wooden bollards that guarded trail entry at every intersection, I rode north to South 277th Street, where the path was closed for construction.

I rode west to the freeway, a high-speed limited-access facility which is open to cyclists. From the overpass, the paved shoulders looked ample, but the map showed a color-coded rural highway with paved shoulders a little further west.

When I reached it, though, it was also closed for construction ("LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY").

The next route to the north, according to the map, was a mile further west. It wasn't until I reached it that I realized it required ascending nearly to the top of the valley's forested western ridge.

From there, another road returned down a plunging ravine to the valley floor, where I found the Green River Trail tucked between the river and a golf course.

Detouring around golf carts that blocked the path, I followed the meanders of the Green River, except in short connecting links where the path debouched into county roads.

In Tukwila the path seemed to terminate for good in a small gravel parking area along a heavily trafficked, undivided four-lane arterial. Turning south, I rode through a business park to a signalized intersection, where I was able to reverse direction.
The arterial was fast and direct, but shoulders were narrow.

Glancing to the left, I noticed people riding bicycles on a path on the opposite river bank—evidently another leg of the Trail.
Five minutes later, I was again on the path, which narrowed to follow the river's tortuous windings through a series of business parks.

It was early afternoon.

In south Seattle, the river straightens and becomes the Duwamish Waterway. I stopped to order pastries at a drive-thru café housed in a small trailer at a gas station.

I tracked the ever more elusive path, more or less for the sheer challenge of the thing, until it terminated in a construction zone.

I picked up speed on the Fourth Avenue South bridge, passed the Boeing plant, and turned onto Airport Way. A city-wide maximum speed limit of 30 mph (except on limited- or controlled-access highways) makes all of Seattle's streets reasonably comfortable for cycling.

At a signal, three riders caught up with me. They had ridden from Portland that morning, and planned to ride back next day in the STP one-day option.

We climbed the hill to the International District, where we said so long; I had to ride through downtown to find the REI store on Yale Avenue (there were two Yale Avenues on the map) to pick up my registration packet. Having lost the STP letter with directions, I didn't find the STP dormitory on the UW campus until nearly 6:00 p.m.

I no longer remember how far I rode that day—68 miles? It was my longest day at STP, and the ride hadn't even started.

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This Issue:

Bicycles and Nature

Bike Summit Highlights

Tosohatchee Preserve

Croom 35

IMBA Epic at Alafia

Portland-Seattle Ride

South Florida Odyssey

 

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