Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Crashes and Complications

Wednesday's WeMoRi was relatively sane, a key indicator of which is always me actually sprinting at the end. I'd put a TPU inner tube in my front tire after flatting on Tuesday, mostly as an experiment, but also because that tire has a couple of slashes in it, one of which I fixed with a sewn-in boot. I figured the TPU tube might handle all of that a little better than the latex tube I'd just patched. We'll see. At any rate, I'm pretty sure that the 30 grams or so I saved hasn't made me any faster.

Downriver end of the levee closure

I went out Thursday morning to meet the 6 am group at NOMA. The weather seemed particularly nice, and the ride was, as it typical, mostly just steady paceline. Then on Friday we had a pretty good sized group on hand for Friendly Friday. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to ride on Saturday because I was scheduled to help with Tulane's Commencement ceremonies at the football stadium, starting at 3:30 and running until a bit after 8:30. With the Saturday morning forecast promising steady heavy rain, squeezing in a ride just wasn't going to be in the cards. Friday evening the weather was still pretty nice, though, so I took the opportunity to hop on the 'cross bike for a few miles on the levee. I also wanted to see how the work was going where they closed the bike path about a month ago. The storms that had come through the night before had knocked down the temporary fence they'd put up there, but there was absolutely no sign that any actual work had begun, at least at that end of the 2-mile segment. I've noticed that a fair number of riders have been making the detour around the work area via River Road. I haven't tried that yet, but I could see doing it on a weekend day when traffic is presumably a little lighter.

Saturday morning, as predicted, was a complete wash-out. I might have been able to squeeze in an hour or so on the bike before reporting for commencement duty, but it just didn't seem worth it. So at 3:30 I walked over to the stadium where they had a big spread of food laid out for the volunteers, not that I was particularly hungry at 3:30 pm on a day when I'd been mostly sitting around. I headed down to Gate B for 4:15, and was quickly re-assigned to Gate C, which turned out to be nice because there was a nice breeze blowing through the Reily Center breezeway there. I spent about two and a half hours there with a few other volunteers, handing out programs and telling people where the bathrooms were, or where to sit without being in the sun. We eventually ran out of programs shortly before the ceremonies began, at which point I went back to the volunteer room and had something to eat and drink before going back out to the Gate B guest services table. When the ceremonies were about to wrap up I went over to Gate A where all of the ADA people would be exiting through the Athletics building to help direct people. That got to be a bit of a chore because everyone was trying to leave at exactly the same time, so people were sneaking through the ADA exit. I finally walked back home around 8:45, happy that it was over and that there hadn't been any protests or demonstrations, unless you count the airplane that flew overhead for a while towing an Israeli flag.

Sunday morning warmup

So with relatively fresh legs I headed out Sunday morning with the idea of doing what I'd done before - starting out with the Giro group, but looping around on Lakeshore Drive to meet the training race group coming up from NOMA. The first lap of the race got quite fast, and most of the group was chasing a small break until the gap finally closed as we went around the traffic circle at Bayou St. John. Then, coming out of the traffic circle things bunched  up and somebody zigged when somebody else zagged that three riders went down near the middle of the group. Fortunately, I was a few riders behind that and was easily able to skirt the pile-up on the right before turning back to make sure everyone was OK. No broken bones or bikes this time, as far as I know. The front few riders had continued on, so the rest of the group rode relatively easy before turning around out past Franklin to regroup. The rest of the race was a little slower. I guess the crash kind of took the psychological wind out of the psychological sails. Afterward, as I was just following wheels expecting the group to ride out along the lake trail to Kenner, I was surprised that they looped around on Canal Blvd. and did another fairly conversational lap of Lakeshore Drive. Just as well - I still got in the usual 60 miles for the day, including a bit of badly needed intensity.

Mellow Monday - Regrouping on Canal

Mellow Monday had a big group which, as it often does, resulted in a somewhat less mellow pace. This morning, Tuesday, everyone headed home after the lap of Lakeshore Drive except Matt and me. I had a 9 am meeting, so I turned back a little early, at the last outfall canal before the Casino. Fortunately I soon met up with Howard and a few others for the ride back into the wind to Bucktown before commuting back home.

Meanwhile, we finally heard back from the Stoney Point church about using the property to stage the Tour de La road race on June 29, and the news was bad. Somehow that date wasn't available either. So now we are waiting to see if we get a response from the other little church on the route, the one on Sunlight road. It's not the best place for a finish, and we'd have to come up with a new TT route, but at least we wouldn't have to re-do maps, distances, start times, etc. If that doesn't work out in the next day or two, I may opt to switch everything to the Tulane course, assuming we can get the OK from yet another church, this time the Oak Grove baptist church on Lee Road. So many complications this year.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Unexpected Developments

The rides last Thursday and Friday were predictable and routine. Of course, I should have known that some sorts of unexpected developments would soon materialize, if for no other reason than to maintain the cosmic balance and re-center the pendulum. Friday's Friendly Friday ride had a nice turnout and collegial atmosphere, just as it should have. I had recently updated the Tour de LA website and set up the BikeReg registration site, and was just holding off on making announcements and such because we still had not received the official OK from the church where we have staged the road race for the past couple of decades. It always takes weeks to get in touch with the church, and then even more time to get a reply, so this wasn't all that unusual, even though things were running a bit behind this year. I knew it was unlikely there would be a problem, but just to be on the safe side I set online registration to open the following Monday. Well, that evening we found out that the church had another event scheduled for that Saturday and we would not be able to use the venue. This was a huge problem because there is only one other possible staging site on the loop, which is a smaller church with limited parking, that is on the narrowest and bumpiest road on the entire course. Also, the time trial that was to follow the road race would have to be re-routed, and needless to say, we had never contacted the other church and had no idea if it would even be available. There is another course that we have used before for the Tulane race that would work pretty well, but with the race scheduled in barely more than two weeks it would be a real fire drill to make that happen. So it looks like we will have to re-schedule for the last weekend in June, which of course means re-doing all of the other arrangements - the criterium course, website, registration site, USAC permit, calendar postings, etc., etc. At the moment we are waiting to see if the original church will even be available on the 29th. If not, then Plan B goes out the window and we move on to Plan C. So basically, SNAFU. In the meantime, the Tour of Hernando, way up on the northern edge of Mississippi, will host the LAMBRA criterium championship. That will all be the week prior to the, hopefully, rescheduled Tour de La.


So with all those complications in mind, I headed out Saturday morning to meet the Giro group at Starbucks, and then split off and meet the training race group for a little intensity, followed by some Z2 out to The Wall and back. It was a plan. Well, in yet another unexpected development, when we got to Franklin Avenue we found that they had Lakeshore Drive closed for some festival involving beer and fried chicken, which doesn't really narrow it down at all in New Orleans. That meant that the normal training race route would not be possible. So having no idea if the race would or would not happen, or what route it might use even if it did, I decided to stick with the Giro group. That turned out to be a good ride, although of course somewhat lacking the sharp bits of intensity I'd been seeking.

It had been my plan all along to do the Sunday Giro, so I expected that to be basically a repeat of Saturday, and that's exactly how it all started. As I was having my pre-ride coffee at Starbucks an unfamiliar rider showed up and introduced himself. Josh was from the northshore, and I could not figure out if I'd ever ridden with him before or not. He had a nice new Trek with him. Soon the other riders started filtering in, and we headed out with 12 or 14 riders, I guess. As Giro rides have been lately, the pace was relatively moderate compared to the normal pre-bridge-closure Giro rides, which led to a handful of riders taking long steady pulls at the front, no doubt in an effort to substitute duration for intensity.

On the way back a few people went for the Goodyear Sign sprint, but then a couple of them kept the pressure on as they headed for the turn onto I-510. I found myself in-between, so I put my head down and started closing the gap. Behind me, the rest of the group also realized what was going on and they started to re-group to catch up. There was about to be another unexpected development. 

I was just about to turn onto the on-ramp when I heard the unmistakable sound of carbon and aluminum sliding across asphalt somewhere behind. Matt and Chris, who had been ahead of me didn't hear it and kept going. I hit the brakes and turned back to see three riders on the ground - VJ, Josh, and Jason. Fortunately the cars behind them had all come to a stop, because Jason was sitting in the middle of the left lane and the rest were in the right. I think Josh unexpectedly hit a small heat buckle in the asphalt and lost it, with VJ and Jason right behind. We collected the bikes and bodies and moved to the shoulder to assess the damage, and indeed there was damage. Fortunately, no bones were broken (update - VJ later found he had broken a rib), but the same could not be said about the bikes. Jason escaped with some minor road rash and a twisted brake lever, but Josh's practically brand new bike looked like someone had taken a belt sander to the entire right fork blade, and broken the carbon handlebar to boot. He was pretty scraped up, but otherwise OK. My post-crash analysis leads me to believe that VJ probably body-surfed on top of him and his bike as they went down. Although VJ's injuries were amazingly minor for someone who had landed on the road at 28 mph, it was clear that his bike had taken the brunt of the crash. Both fork blades were broken up near the crown, and the crank spider and chainring were bent and smashed up against the downtube. The front wheel also had at least one broken spoke.

So we were going to need to transport two people and their bikes. Josh called someone in town to come out and pick him up. VJ got in touch with Matt, who was still riding back with Chris, so Matt was going to ride back to his house and then come back to pick him up. The rest of the group eventually continued on, it being Mothers' Day and all, which by the way reminded us of another crash in the same place, also on Mothers' Day a couple of years ago. Anyway, I decided to hang around until Josh and VJ were picked up before cruising back  home solo. We were pretty lucky that the injuries were fairly minor, I think.

Tuesday along the lake

Monday night and into Tuesday morning some big thunderstorms came through with lots of rain and wind, but as expected, most of it had moved off to the east well before my usual 5:45 am ride time. I headed out to NOMA on damp streets and through the occasional puddle wondering if anyone was going to show up for the Tuesday ride. Not unexpectedly, only Charles did, so we rode a lap of a fairly deserted Lakeshore Drive, at which time Charles had to head back home for carpool duty, and I continued on to the lake trail. Fortunately, the bike path was essentially dry thanks to the fact that it hadn't really rained in well over a week. If the levee had not been so dry, there would definitely have been a lot of water still running off across the bike path. As usual, I was not very motivated riding alone, but at least I got the miles in, arriving back home a good ten minutes later than usual thanks to the combination of my own slower pace and the fact that, being alone, I was stopping at all of the red lights on the commute back through town.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Quick Getaways

Friendly Friday

The past week has felt decidedly like summer. Granted, the pre-dawn temperatures haven't yet risen into the mid-80s, but they've been consistently in the mid to upper 70s. Naturally, that has been accompanied by essentially saturated relative humidity. While some riders consider such conditions to be somewhat oppressive, I have to admit that I really don't. For some reason I just seem to function a little better when I'm nice and warm, or hot, as the case may be. The other reason I like this time of year, though, isn't so obvious. The warm morning temperatures mean I don't have to fuss with all sorts of wardrobe decisions in the morning. I can grab whatever summer kit happens to be on top of the pile, throw it on, and therefore make a much quicker getaway. In colder weather I often find myself running late for the early morning rides. Right now, though, I find myself showing up unexpectedly early. Of course, you have to take "early" in its weekday morning ride context, which is to say, "more than 60 seconds before rollout time."

Last Wednesday's WeMoRi was one of those where a 2-man break was already well off the front when I met up with it. I have learned to jump onto those when that happens, rather than wait for the rest of the group, because sometimes the rest of the group is in tatters from crosswinds or something. Jumping onto the tail end of a 2-man break is not as easy as it might sound, since for me it usually means going from 18 mph to 27 mph in a time span of about two seconds, which of course results in four or five minutes of being on the verge of blowing up. Fortunately, this day Eddie and Rob were trading pulls smoothly, and by now they know not to expect me to be disturbing that rotation as I smoothly make my transitions from one wheel to the next as they drop back and slot in ahead of me. I could probably teach an advanced class on tailgunning. Anyway, as we approached the turn from City Park Avenue onto Marconi, Rob peeled off for home as he often does, leaving just Eddie and me. Looking back, I could see that the rest of the group was still a long ways off. Eddie probably considered dropping back for a minute, but if he did, he didn't slow down very much. The ultimate result was that I spent the rest of the ride on his wheel. It was practically like motorpacing, and I guess the rest of the group had already given up the chase. It was a totally sufficient workout for me, despite having never taken a pull.

Thursday's ride was pretty normal. Out on the Lake Trail we picked up Kerry, which was nice because there was a pretty good east wind in our faces on the way back and we needed all the help we could get. For the record, we changed the return route to take Fleur de Lis down to Harrison, which eliminates a fair amount of traffic complication. It would be even better if we could turn onto Canal from Harrison, but they are doing road work on that section and it's pretty much of a traffic nightmare, especially since we get there when people are dropping kids off at the nearby schools. Also, for the record, the cats are still hanging out at the rocks on the lakefront just past Bonnabel like they were back around 2015 when we were doing the same route for the same reason.

Time Trial riders awaiting results and awards.

Friday's Friendly Friday ride had a good turnout, the result of which was a faster than normal pace. By then I was already feeling preoccupied with the upcoming Time Trial that we were putting on that Sunday. Later that afternoon I drove out to the LaPlace TT course with Candy and the dog to freshen up the turnaround paint and make sure there weren't any major road surface surprises. My plan was to mark the 5, 10, and 20 km turnarounds and then continue over the Highway 51 bridge for lunch at Middendorf's. The old bridge, however, was closed for repairs. We ultimately decided to go back to Ruddock and then take I-55 to the restaurant, which worked out OK. I knew they had a whole outdoor seating area that could accommodate people with dogs, but when we got there we found that they had it closed. Fortunately, they also have a nice air-conditioned "porch" area where Charley was welcome. I had some nice catfish. Charley had a lot of hand-fed french fries, which is how we keep him occupied when we eat out like that. On Saturday I went out to Starbucks, leaving with the small Giro group at 7, and then turning back on Lakeshore Drive to meet up with the training race group for 4 laps of the traditional course. That was a pretty good workout even though a small group got off the front. Also, there was a surprise appearance of Kenny B who I assume is getting back in shape for another cycling trip to the continent.

Sunday, I was up at 5 am and on the road around 5:30 to head out to LaPlace to set up for the TT. This is probably around the 15th year we have done the time trial on that course, and in that time about half of the road has been nicely re-paved while the other half has deteriorated. It's not that there are potholes or big cracks or anything, it's just that it's lost its smoothness and so just feels slower than it was when the asphalt was new. I'd brought the big PA system as usual so we could have some music, but ran into a couple of problems. First, we discovered that the fuse had blown. I did a quick non-OSHA approved fix involving a bent paper clip and got it working again, though. Then I tried an adapter I had to go from the USB-C plug on my newer laptop to an audio patch cable to the PA system, which did not work. After I got home I discovered that although the laptop has only USB-C plugs, it also has a regular earphone jack that would have worked perfectly if I'd known it existed! This year was about the lowest turnout we've ever had, with just under 40 registered. I had posted the race numerous times to the LAMBRA and NOBC facebook pages, had emailed to the NOBC Google Group, and had even emailed to all of the 2023 USAC license holders in LAMBRA, and naturally the event had been on the LAMBRA and NOBC calendars for a couple of months. Go figure. Anyway, things went quite smoothly, and there was only one error in the initial results due to me mis-reading a hand-written digit from the finish sheet that gave someone a time about four minutes slower than reality, which of course he immediately noticed. Barrett L, who is now 81 or 82, was there on his old Mercian, and we had three young Juniors on hand as well. Fastest time of the day was a 51:43 by Ben Hall. There was a significant headwind on the way back, so that was an impressive time.  

After we broke everything down and stuffed it all into the Volvo, we decided to go over to the Waffle House since we'd finished up a little too early for the restaurant we usually use. I was pretty hungry by then, so it was fine. With Eddie's sponsorship we came out about $300 ahead for the event, so we didn't actually lose money despite the low turnout. Most of the cost is for the police ($600) and insurance.

This morning I rode the usual WeMoRi, or at least that part of it that I normally ride. Rob and JP came past with a gap, so I slipped in behind them, but the group, what was left of it, closed it down eventually. After the Backdraft sprint a few riders split off the front and for some reason nobody left in the group seemed interested in chasing. Eventually, I think it all came pretty much back together, though. When the early sprint sagged as a couple of riders opened a gap about 400 meters from the finish, Eddie came flying past on the left, which I had been fully expecting, but at the time I was on the wrong side of the paceline, so I just followed wheels. It was a good workout anyway. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2024


The weekend seemed a little longer than usual this time. After a nice Friendly Friday ride on the lakefront, I wrapped up work early so I could head up to Hattiesburg for the Farm to Fork criterium that evening and ride the following day. I was holding out just a little bit of hope that I might be able to jump into the masters criterium, the second of three races that started at 6:30 pm. 

Packet pickup was the entire second floor of a local bank building, and with a criterium, ride, and foot races on tap there was lots of activity. The day before I'd received a copy of the pre-registration list, and knew that things were going to be a little more complicated than usual. The list was basically just a list of names indicating which race the riders were registered for. I immediately noticed a couple of problems. There were no USAC license numbers, gender wasn't indicated (there were prizes for both men and women), and I could see that there were people registered for the Master 35+ race who I knew were not old enough. In fact, one was 16. I'd emailed the promoter about it and so at packet pickup they were writing in license numbers on a printout of the registered riders (scratching through the bib numbers of those who showed up!). As I was leaving, I heard them tell someone that numbers should go on the right. I headed over to the start finish, arriving at exactly the same time as Ricky and Cole, the other officials. The race crew had already set up a low stage for the officials -- on the left side of the course -- along with one of those big generator powered lighting units. As I was getting the computer and printer set up for results, I noticed riders starting to warm up on the course, and of course they had their numbers on the wrong side. I stood out in the road for a while yelling, "numbers go on the left," which should have been obvious to experienced racers since that's where the officials were. Meanwhile one of the event staff was trying to contact the riders who had registered in the wrong race(s). Neither of us was particularly successful. We should have held up the start and made everyone re-pin their numbers where we could see them, but inexplicably we didn't. The first race went off fairly smoothly except, of course, for the unidentifiable riders, which made it particularly difficult to keep track of the multiple lapped riders. 

Friendly Friday

By the time the second race started it was getting dark. This race was an open-category masters race combined with elite women. As a result of the registration system not enforcing age or category restrictions, there were a couple of under-35 men, and a Cat. 5 women. This wasn't the world championships or anything so we didn't worry about it, although it could have become an issue when it was time to hand out the 3-deep prizes. 

Finish of the B race. One readable number, one semi-readable number, three unreadable numbers.

I spent this entire race at the laptop trying to straighten out the start lists and plug in license numbers that I was trying to read from an image sent as an email attachment on my tablet. By the time I had all of that straightened out, the second race had already started, so I started scoring the laps along with Cole and Ricky. We had two finish cameras set up that were working OK under the circumstances (darkness and lighting flicker rate issues typical of night races), but the big problem was the number of riders whose bib numbers we, and the cameras, could not see. This race had a wide range of skill levels, so despite the course being a bit over one kilometer, riders were being lapped all over the place and things at the judging stand were getting very messy. By the end we were reasonably confident about the first five or six places, but it wasn't until Tuesday that the rest of the places were assigned, some a bit tentatively, and thanks in no small part to some crowdsourcing of placings. Fortunately, the Cat. 1/2/3 race had a small field and despite the fact that half of them had numbers we couldn't see, it wasn't too hard to get those results right. I hadn't eaten a thing since about 4:30 when I finally headed for my hotel room around 10:30, reluctantly stopping at McDonalds along the way.

Past and Future all in one photo.

Saturday there was a 60+ mile ride that I knew was going to get fast. In fact, the average speed was a hair over 24 mph. There was initially a pretty big front group, but after forty miles or so we started losing riders, ultimately ending up with around 20. Then, maybe ten miles before the end, the group split for reasons unknown, and of course I was on the wrong end of that split. I figured we'd just roll in as the second group, but the gap just hovered at around 45 seconds, I guess. After turning onto the Longleaf Trace, it looked like the front group eased up, at which point some of the second group started to chase in earnest, finally closing the gap just before the end. Anyway, it was fun, and kind of a hard ride, even though I had mostly kept my nose out of the wind.

So Sunday Lisa had planned this ride starting on St. Claude right before the bridge and heading out to the newly paved 40 arpent canal bike path, and then down to Hopedale. That meant 81 miles for me, and as if my somewhat sore legs weren't bad enough, there was a brutal 18-23 mph headwind all the way down there. I immediately knew I wouldn't be taking any pulls, and wouldn't be contesting the two planned KOM segments either. The first planned fast segment was about 5 miles straight into the wind, so I didn't even try to stay with the group. When I came up to Steve, he got onto my wheel and I took a long pull and a nice moderate speed, only to pull off and discover he was MIA. I later learned that right after he'd gotten onto my wheel, all the stuff fell out of his saddle bag, so he stopped for a long while to collect it all. That was the last we saw of him. As it turned out, he had continued on but turned around at the bridge crossing before Hopedale. Then, on the way back, it looks like we passed him when he stopped at a gas station or something. Anyway, at the next intersection the group waited for me and then Dave, who said he thought Steve must had turned around (he hadn't), so we continued on. There were about a dozen riders, so although staying in the draft into that gusty headwind was no walk in the park, it was at least manageable even in my suboptimal state, and we made it to the end of the road where we stopped at a store that was a converted cargo container set about 20 feet above the ground, or water, which were basically the same. 

Tuesday morning Dawn Patrol ride. 

With the way the road curved, I knew that there would be a strong crosswind for the first few miles back before we'd feel the tailwind. Unfortunately, the way back started with a 10-mile KOM segment. I knew that starting at the back there would be zero draft, so Devin and I were never really with the group once it started. Eventually we saw riders getting dropped from the group ahead, first Mike, then Charles and someone else, and we got pretty close at the bridge crossing, but we didn't catch them before the next re-grouping. After that, I thought the pace would settle down a bit, but when we hit the highway with that 20+ mph tailwind, things quickly got out of hand. I dropped off when I saw the computer registering 36 mph, and again found myself with Devin and Mike and Charles. After that it was just the bike path and a commute back. Actually, I enjoyed the ride, and felt like it was a good time of year for a couple of back to back hard rides. It wasn't until a few days later that I learned that Dave, who had been on the ride, had suffered a heart attack a day or two afterward while at the gym. He was apparently scheduled for heart bypass surgery the following week.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

So I Went to a Meeting

It all started back in 2014 when the local bicycle advocacy organization pushed a plan that would turn Lakeshore Drive into a 2-way bike path plus a 2-way narrow-lane roadway. For fitness and competitive cyclists, who have called Lakeshore Drive home for over fifty years because it has been the only unobstructed five miles of road in the city on which to train, it looked like a major disaster. We rallied the troops and, thanks mainly to a lack of funding I think, things settled down. Then, in 2021, two things happened without any input from us that made parts of Lakeshore Drive more dangerous and less useful for us, while also revealing a shocking lack of understanding about how cyclists like us ride. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East (SLFPAE), which really should not have any authority at all over Lakeshore Drive, but does by claiming they need it for flood control transportation, together with, I have to assume, the Regional Planning Commission, put up a big sign showing how they were going to re-make Lakeshore Drive from Canal Blvd. around to Lake Marina Drive. That was the first we heard of it, and by then the contracts has been signed and the work was ready to start in about two weeks. Fait Accompli. I contacted them about it and was told that it was all about pedestrian safety around the restaurants and the curve because of speeding cars. About the same time, the City, which strangely has control of the Elysian Fields traffic circle because it is on the city side of the levee, with some participation from SLFPAE, installed the crazy bike path that hugs the gutter there, reducing the 2 lanes down to one, and putting in a million random flex posts and road striping pretty much where the bike lane should have been if you were intent on putting one there in the first place. That bike lane puts whatever na├»ve cyclists who use it in a situation where traffic turning out of the circle have to cross the bike lane. It was better, and safer, when cyclists continuing through on Lakeshore Drive could just take the right lane to prevent cars exiting the circle from cutting across their paths. 

So since then we have eliminated any actual training west of Canal, and now have to merge into the left lane at the traffic circle while avoiding the flex posts, aka "death spikes," because there is no way a group of 25 riders going 27 mph could possibly survive the debris-laden bike lane, not to mention the survival of any casual riders or young children who might have been lured into it. Since then, I'd been waiting for the other shoe to drop, since the West End work was called "Phase 1."

Fast-forward to April 17, just 7 days ago, when I was scanning posts on "formally Twitter" that I loosely monitor for work. There, I found a post by City Councilman J.P. Morrell, that consisted of a screenshot of a Public Meeting notice regarding "Phase 2." Fearing the worst, I contacted the SLFPAE to see what the plan was, but was politely told they didn't have anything to share with me until the meeting. So fearing the worst even more, I posted it to the NOBC FB group and elsewhere. Bike Easy didn't know about it (for the record, nobody there now was around back in 2014), the NOBC didn't know about it, pretty much nobody I knew knew about it. It had apparently been announced in the newspaper (remember those?) and their social media page.  Why would anyone expect something about bike lanes on Lakeshore Drive to be on that Facebook page? Anyway, the meeting was yesterday evening at 6:00 pm, at Lakefront Airport. It took me 45 minutes to get there, since it was basically rush hour, and the Seabrook bridge has been closed for over a month, and various other roads I tried were also torn up for road work. Although clearly they didn't want actual input into their plans from actual cyclists, either through ignorance or design, I felt obligated to attend to at least explain what was going to happen when it came to things like group rides, or just individual riders going more than 10 mph. A few of the other people who I often ride with were also there.

The motivation for all of this proposed work appears to be entirely focused on reducing the speed of cars on Lakeshore Drive. The bike lane seems like more of an afterthought to justify eliminating two of the existing traffic lanes. This will, of course, be nice for casual cyclists looking at the scenery, enjoying the 20 mph winds, and navigating around the inevitable runners, baby carriages, dog-walkers, young children, and others who will be attracted to the bike lane, at least the 1.2 miles of it that will result from Phase 2. Riders like us, however, are being basically, perhaps even literally, thrown under the bus in the name of vehicle and pedestrian safety. It's not quite as bad as it sounds, at least for now. 

The main focus of Phase 2 is a continuation of the 2-way bike lane and narrow traffic lanes from Canal, where it currently ends, east to the Orleans Canal, which is essentially Marconi. That is a distance of about 2,000 feet. Past that to the east, it will be back to the normal two lanes in each direction, until you get to Elysian Fields where you hit the existing clusterfrack of ill-advised debris-ridden bike lanes in the gutter and flex post obstacle course where we are forced to merge into the left lane while simultaneously negotiating the traffic circle. 

The other part of Phase 2 involves some as-yet undetermined road striping or flex posts or something between Elysian Fields and Franklin that may have us remaining in the left lane, depending on what they actually do. So from the entrance to the traffic circle where the two lanes go down to one, that's a distance of just under a mile (like 4,000 feet). Part of the goal there is to do something about the lack of visibility for cars coming down the levee from Franklin and turning onto Lakeshore Drive. That might result in some kind of push-out at the intersection. Frankly, the problem there is not so much a lack of visibility. As we all know, it is a problem of not stopping at the stop sign. Beyond that, there is no plan from there to the Armory loop. So all of this will, obviously, make it a little more dangerous for us, and given the piecemeal sections of bike lanes I seriously doubt the number of cyclists using Lakeshore Drive will increase very much. We will be switching from right lane to left lane multiple times over the remaining 8-mile out-and-back. As we all know, the way that some of the bike lanes are laid out in this city defies logic, unless you assume that the designers don't actually ride bikes, in which case it makes perfect sense.

North end of Norman Francis.

So at the meeting I took the opportunity to, as diplomatically as I possibly could, explain to Stacy, the Public Information Officer, Ryan the Engineering Manager, and the two East Bank Levee police officers in attendance why it was unsafe for us, and others, to be riding in the bike lane at 20-30 mph, usually with a group, and that we would therefore be forced to ride in the remaining roadway lane, and that we would undoubtedly be blocking traffic when we do so. I also  took the opportunity to point out that putting in what is a crosswalk as the way for cyclists to cross over from the right lane of the roadway into the 2-way bike lane that basically heads into oncoming traffic was kind of stupid and that no actual cyclist was ever going to do it that way. Apparently they don't think we are capable of moving from the right lane into the left lane to make a left turn like we do everywhere else. This is typical of some of the other stuff coming out of the NORPC, like what they just did where Norman Francis meets Moss, and where Fontainebleau meets Broad, and the unbelievable thing they did on the northbound side of the Broad Street Overpass, not to mention the flex posts that are in the way at the overpass exit onto Poydras, or the corner of Toussaint and Wisner. 

Surprisingly, all of this did not seem to be a cause for concern to the administrators in attendance, I guess for a few reasons. For one, the speed limit in the areas with bike lanes will be lowered to 25 mph. For another, our presence in the traffic lane will turn us into de facto human traffic calming devices. Granted, it will no doubt incur the wrath of motorists stuck behind us who may or may not, intentionally or otherwise, murder us, to which the authorities will then be able to say, "well, we did provide them with a nice little bike lane, so it's their fault." We, as a group, also suggested lowering the speed limit for all of Lakeshore Drive rather than having it go back and forth from 35 to 25 mph, although I should point out that it would mean that we ourselves might sometimes be speeding. 

How this will all play out remains to be seen. I did not hear or see anything about a timeline, but as we know from prior experience at West End, this kind of stuff can be done pretty quickly and I expect that those wheels are already turning.

There were, of course, some motorists in attendance (I'd say there were probably about 25 people on hand for this meeting) who were leery about the single-lane sections and speed limit and various other motorist problems unrelated to the subject of the meeting. Interestingly, there were people there from Blue Crab restaurant who were not too happy about some of the apparently ad hoc road closures the police occasionally set up around West End when things get really busy there. There were also a couple of people from Bike Easy, the Ghost Bike guy, and one or two casual cyclists.

So to summarize:

  • There will probably be another 3,000 feet or so of single-lane roadway from West End, increasing the total length to around 1.2 miles.
  • There will be a 25 mph speed limit, at least in the sections where there is a bike lane.
  • The police are expecting to receive in-car radar to help with the speeding problem.
  • The purpose of all of this appears to be to reduce vehicle speeds since apparently they can't otherwise enforce the speed limit and are tired of picking up the pieces and sending people to the hospital and getting sued.
  • The competitive and fitness cyclists like us are basically collateral damage.
  • I don't actually think this will cause us too much of a problem for our early-morning rides.
  • We should be worried about where this is going in the future.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Conspiracies and Evolution

Tuesday on the Lake Trail

It's a season of transitions here in New Orleans. One day it's 80° and the next it's 55° with a 25 mph north wind. So - situation normal. The evolution of the Tuesday - Thursday morning rides have been slowly picking up more people since the move from the river levee to the lakefront. Tuesday was pretty breezy, and turnout was a little slim, but once we finished the lap of LSD and got out onto the Lake Trail we were easily cruising along at 24 mph. Of course, that meant that the ride back to the east was a bit of a slog and mostly at speeds in the 18 - 20 mph range, but that's not unexpected along the lake where the wind always seems to exceed the official forecast by 8 - 10 mph.

A big group for Friendly Friday

The next day's WeMoRi was a good workout as usual, still with a significant SE wind but far less of a factor with the larger group. By Thursday the wind had died down a bit more, which made for a nice ride. Friday morning was even better, with a starting temperature in the low 70s and only a very light breeze. That resulted in an unusually large Friendly Friday turnout that, remarkably, did not feature a blistering pace.

On Saturday I once again opted for the lakefront training race rather than the Giro, although I did start out with the Giro group at 7:00, looping back around on Lakeshore Drive to meet the 7:30 group as it headed up Marconi. This week the training race, which basically has a rolling start heading east after the bridge, blew apart almost immediately when someone, I think maybe Rob, attacked. I was dragged along briefly at 29-31 mph until I went to seek shelter, which as it turned out was farther back than I'd expected. A second group formed up fairly quickly and for the next fifteen miles or so we weren't losing much ground on the small lead group that was around a minute ahead, but the chase kind of lost it's motivation on the last lap, of course. Afterward, we had a good sized group that headed out to The Wall and back, leaving me with around 70 miles for the day. 

My plan was to do the Giro on Sunday. It had rained overnight as a cold front came through, leaving the streets wet and the radar unpromising. I rode out to Starbucks anyway, and as I sat there drinking my coffee there was a brief rain shower that ended just as VJ rode up. Of course, nobody else showed up, so VJ and I rode a lap of Lakeshore Drive. He peeled off to go home and I continued down Marconi. It still wasn't raining, so I thought I'd cut across City Park and maybe do another lap of Lakeshore Drive. Naturally, that's when it started raining again, so I aborted that plan and headed back home before I had a chance to get too chilled. Mellow Monday's ride featured a 20 mph northeast wind and a temperature in the 50s, which of course meant that just a few showed up. It was 15 mph heading east and 25-30 heading west.

The potholes on Marconi become so bad that the locals had to take matters into their own hands.

This morning we had a nice group for the Tuesday ride that featured almost no wind, a clear sky, and a starting temperature around 57°. It was nice. Even nicer, we found that the huge potholes along Marconi had been patched (I'd reported them to NOLA311 a week or so earlier, complete with photos), and the final layer of asphalt overlay had been put down around the Bayou St. John bridge. So that was nice. 

Total crap for us

This evening I'm going to have to go to a Public Meeting called, almost in secret, by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority and Lakefront Management Authority so they can tell us how they will completely screw up Lakeshore Drive for us. I swear, it's like there is a regional conspiracy afoot to screw up every single route we use. Lakeshore Drive, Seabroook Bridge, and the Levee bike path. Anyway,  nobody, and I mean nobody, in the cycling community would have known about this meeting if councilmember Morrell hadn't posted an image of the announcement on his (formerly) Twitter feed that I happen to subscribe to for work. There was no involvement or notification by or to the local cycling clubs or, amazingly, even Bike Easy, which had actually floated a plan like this back in 2014 that we collectively opposed. I sent that around to everyone I knew, and then emailed the Flood Protection Authority contact for more information, which they refused to provide until the meeting. I also sent an email to our two at-large City Council members. As far as I can tell, the Flood Protection Authority answers to nobody and does whatever it wants, and this public meeting is just window dressing for a project that is already a done deal. Later, someone with contacts told me that the plan is, as I'd feared, to continue the 2-way bike lane in the gutter and road diet and road furniture clusterF that currently exists at West End for the full length of Lakeshore Drive, which will make the multiple daily group rides there even MORE dangerous while concurrently causing us to hold up motorists who will hate us even more than they already do. I hope I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt they give a damn about us and just want to try to force the cars to go slower by making it too dangerous and inconvenient to do otherwise. Of course, we will end  up in that narrower traffic lane with oncoming traffic on one side and probably flex posts on the other, since riding 30 mph in a two-way bike lane occupied by young children and beach cruisers and probably also runners and walkers would be even more dangerous for all involved.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Ripple Effect

Mellow Monday Morning Sunrise

A long, long time ago, while discussing the Tour de La, a teammate summed up the entire situation with the words, "Bikies are like sheep."  He was not wrong. Rides are always better with a larger group, so riders tend to follow each other and stay together the same way Sheep do. 

Over the past month or so that fact, combined with a certain ripple effect that began almost a year ago when the La Dept of Transportation plunked the first little pebble into the placid waters of local training rides, has created a level of chaos that is only now beginning to subside. That first pebble was the closure of one lane of the Seabrook bridge, which is the main route over the industrial canal that the Giro Ride uses. That wasn't too terrible, but it did screw up the final sprint that had traditionally been to the top of said bridge, and required negotiating a little gap between the curb and the concrete barricade at the entrance to the bridge. 

Then, not too long ago, a much larger rock was unexpectedly plunked into the water when, rather than finally begin the long-awaited repairs, they completely closed the bridge for a, thus far undetermined amount of time. That resulting ripple precipitated numerous weekly Giro Ride experiments aimed at finding the least bad alternate route across the canal via the Danziger bridge and Almonaster, or Chef, or Hayne, or France, or some combination of the above. Regardless of the route du jour, the warmup segment was extended quite a bit, a few additional complications like unrepaired road sections, water features, railroad tracks and traffic signals were added, and in general the warmup became longer, the fast part became shorter, and as participation understandably dropped for all of the above-mentioned reasons, the pace became just a bit slower (which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a lot of riders). It's still a workout for sure and most of the route is great, it's just the complication of getting to and from and over the Danziger bridge that has thrown a monkey wrench into the works.

Friendly Friday ride

As if the disruption of the weekend rides wasn't bad enough, the levee district and Corps of Engineers almost simultaneously closed off two miles of the levee bike path from the upriver Jefferson Parish line to St. Rose in order to raise that section of the levee, requiring the Dawn Patrol cyclists to fend for themselves on the narrow shoulderless River Road along a stretch that carries a fair amount of distracted and speeding early morning traffic that includes trucks coming and going from the Vulcan Materials operation.

Thursday morning

So the 6 am levee ride has changed, and is now meeting at NOMA and doing a lap of Lakeshore Drive plus an out-and-back on the Lake Trail to and from the Casino. The ride itself is fine, and is in fact what we did the last time a portion of the levee bike path was closed back around 2015-16. The only issue is that the additional commute out and back to the lake adds about 10 minutes to the 40+ mile Tuesday/Thursday ride. The other ripple effect is that lots of people haven't quite figured out all of the when and where information, so turnout for that particular ride, which would normally be in the 6-12 rider range, is still low. Hopefully that will change and we will pick up some of the lakefront and Metairie riders, which will make the ride better and faster.

Heading out Saturday morning with the Giro before meeting up for the training race

Two weekends ago a Saturday training race idea was floated around, largely as a replacement for the usual two or three Saturday morning rides that had traditionally done some version of the Giro route. That ride looks like it has some legs now. It starts at 7:30 am at NOMA for a warmup out to Lakeshore Drive, and then begins a 4-lap training race on the old 6-mile training race loop between the Bayou St. John traffic circle and the Seabrook loop, finally finishing with a sprint up to the top of the BSJ bridge. I did it last Saturday, for me starting from Starbucks at 7 for a preliminary easy lap of Lakeshore Drive, finally meeting the group on Marconi on its way to the lake. Aside from all of the flashbacks to the famous Tuesday/Thursday training races of yesteryear, it was a great workout with a good sized group. Afterward, those who want to can continue out to the Lake Trail at a more moderate pace. Last Saturday we had I guess eight or so who continued around to the Levee, which made for a 70+ mile ride for most, I think. That may be my default Saturday morning ride if things remain as the are. Hopefully, we can continue to have a decent enough turnout for the Sunday Giro as well. 

Local citizens have taken to making their own warning signs since the city is too dysfunctional to do simple pothole repairs

Last Sunday we had I guess a dozen for the Giro. I think that the route that has about achieved consensus is LSD to Franklin to Leon C. to Press to France, across the bridge, left and around to Jourdan to Almonaster to Chef to Venetian Isles. The return is like the usual route, Chef to the interstate, to Lake Forest, to Hayne, but then a left at the end of Hayne to Dowman, then back over the bridge and back to France, Leon C., Franklin, and Lakeshore Drive. I think it adds a couple of miles to the Seabrook Bridge route, but all of that is basically warmup or cool-down pace.

The weather around here is finally getting warm, although I admit I have still been wearing a base layer and, often, arm-warmers for the early morning rides. I hope those days will be coming to and end soon, though. This morning's Mellow Monday ride had a nice group. It's still dark enough that I need my headlight to ride out to NOMA for 6 am, but it's getting light earlier now and by the time we turn off of Canal back onto Lakeshore Drive we're looking at the sunrise. This morning there was almost no wind and a nice steady pace, which was good. I've been over 270 weekly miles for the past four weeks, and am finally feeling like adding in some more intensity, so looking forward to the WeMoRi and Saturday training races. I'm scheduled to be in Hattiesburg the weekend after next for the Farm to Fork criterium on Friday and ride on Saturday. I'll be helping with officiating for the criterium, so it's questionable whether I will be able to race as well. I can just play that by ear. It will depend on who else is helping with scoring and how big the fields are. There will be three criteriums, with the first starting at 6:30 pm, so the final one will be in the dark, which always complicates scoring and makes the camera a bit less useful depending on the lighting situation at the finish line.