Safety for cyclists

Photo DB Leonard

Kingston biking buffs battle oblivious motorists for a place on the streets

 

It’s not easy being a bicyclist in Kingston. To hear cyclists tell it, drivers behave as though they were the masters of the universe. They want two-wheelers with whom they are supposed to share the road to get out of their way.

“It’s very difficult biking the city. You need to be an adult, with pretty aggressive and strong biking skills,” said Kristen Wilson, who until becoming pregnant commuted between her home in the Rondout and her office at Kingston Plaza by bike. “The scariest thing is people in cars hollering for you to get on the sidewalk. People drive down Broadway at 40 miles per hour.

Another frustrating thing is that there are so many stop signs, including on some of the side roads, that people don’t respect them. “People run them all the time,” said Wilson. A friend who lives in the Adirondacks was recently visiting, and she said, Everybody is crazy around here. I can tell I’m in the city.”

Michelle Elise, who lives and owns a small business Uptown, said she was riding her bike on Main Street a few years ago when somebody opened their door into her. “It’s called ‘getting doored,’” she said. “He banged me up.” When the police arrived, the driver of the car tried to turn the situation around and make it her fault. The officer corrected him: ‘You can’t open your door in traffic.’

Cyclist Arthur Zaczkiewicz, who also works Uptown, said uneducated drivers were his biggest beef. They turn and cut cyclists off. Zaczkiewicz said once he broke a knuckle after jamming on the brakes and going off the road when a driver turned in front of him.

Seeking to give city bicyclists a voice, Wilson, Elise, and a handful of other cyclists have formed a bike advocacy group called Bike-Friendly Kingston, which started meeting monthly in January. Their goal is to make the streets friendlier for bicyclists by creating bike lanes or shared road space, installing bike racks at strategic locations in the city, and educating both bicyclists and motorists about the rules of the road. (Tom Polk, another member of the group who bikes to his office in Midtown from his home in the Town of Ulster, said some bicyclists in the city also break the rules, riding without helmets, weaving in and out of traffic, and riding against the traffic or on the sidewalk.)

The group has been researching ways to make the streets friendlier to the pedaling set. It has concluded that “sharrow” markings, a term for painted road signs that designate a roadway as shared by both bicyclists and drivers, are far less costly than building dedicated bike lanes. (Many cities, including San Francisco, Baltimore and Paris, have adopted them.) The group found that the cost of creating a sharrow — carefully placed signs that incorporate a symbol for a bicycle and are painted on the right-hand lane of a roadway, well away from the reach of a door of a parked car — is $250 (for labor and materials) versus $5000 or more for a mile-long bike lane.

The group plans to submit a proposal to Kingston’s Common Council for the creation of sharrows along two intersecting routes, Lucas and Washington avenues, a project that would entail the painting of 19 sharrow markings at a cost of $4750. The sharrows would be placed about 250 feet apart. Bike-Friendly Kingston is currently collecting signatures to build up support for the proposal.

Network of pathways

Working with the city of Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Council, the group has compiled a map showing several bike-friendly pathways. The routes have been devised to connect with popular destinations, such as Kingston Point Park, Forsyth Nature Center, and the Kingston farmers’ market, as well as with links such as two rail-trails. Member Kevin Young has printed out a Google map showing the inventory of bike racks in Uptown and Midtown. The map also identifies places currently lacking racks that Bike-Friendly Kingston thinks should have them, including Bailey Middle School, the Kingston Plaza Hannaford and Cornell Park.

Steve Noble, an environmental educator involved with the group, said Bike-Friendly Kingston has applied for funding for bike racks from an organization called Bikes Belong. Approximately $10,000 in grant money would pay for the equivalent of five to ten bike parking spots in each of eleven parks.

Polk is chair of the city’s Complete Streets Advisory Council, which is working on improving the design, signage and infrastructure of city streets and sidewalks to make them more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. Besides advocating for the creation of sharrows or bike lanes, the council would like city notification whenever there is upcoming redevelopment or repair of a street, bridge or intersection. Such projects could then be made friendlier to cyclists, Polk said.

Polk is also chair of the bicycling committee of the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County, which is sponsoring its third annual “Bike to Work Breakfast Energizer” on Friday, May 18. Registration is at the YMCA, 507 Broadway, between 7 and 9 a.m., with free coffee, bagels, juice and fruit. A raffle for bike-commuting prizes will be held. The event celebrating National Bike Month has been timed to coincide with a “casual Friday.”

Pedal potential

Polk and Wilson both support a current study for improving the intersection of Albany Avenue, Broadway and Colonel Chandler Drive. Project consultants Fitzgerald & Halliday have suggested replacing the current intersection with a roundabout, which Wilson said would serve to move traffic through the intersection more quickly (plus accommodate an expected increase in traffic in the future) besides improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project “also has some design elements that would make the intersection a gateway to the city,” said Wilson, noting that the roundabout would be nothing like the roundabout at the other end of I-587.

While residents, perhaps haunted by the trauma of the Thruway traffic circle, have expressed misgivings about the roundabout plan, Wilson said she was sold on the idea when she visited North Carolina and walked through a whole bunch of roundabouts by the same designer. “It was just amazing,” she said.

As it is now, the crossing is extremely difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate. “Just last week I was trying to get across,” Wilson said. “I got halfway through the crosswalk before the light turned and I had to go back. You have to be very cautious as a pedestrian.”

Bike-Friendly Kingston members said that Kingston could be a great biking city. “There’s a lot of flat ground in Uptown and Midtown that enables you to get around without working too hard,” said Polk, whose two-mile daily commute by bike takes approximately 20 minutes.

“Kingston has an amazing potential to be a very bikable city,” Elise concurred. ‘It’s pretty concentrated. People live, work and recreate here. In Midtown, there’s not a big grade difference. It’s easy to get to the rail-trails. We want to focus on bikes as an everyday form of transportation.”

Spring trimming

Why is it so much easier to lose weight in the spring? And what’s the best way to keep the momentum going?

I admit it, I pack on some pounds over the winter. It’s not hard to do when you are a fan of comfort food and cookies. It happens to me almost every year.

I knew a pragmatist who said there was no use fighting it. “We’re packing on insulation for the winter,” he said. “It’s instinctual. You’ll drop it in the spring.”

And that seems to be true. As the days grow longer (and this year summer’s arrival seemed for a while to have started in March), my taste buds crave salads and fruit. Consuming heavy stews and pasta are as appealing as eating wet concrete. The outdoors beckons. A five-mile walk which had been a painful ordeal becomes just a good stretch of the legs. Sometimes I even run. The extra insulation is melting away painlessly.

But this year, I’d like to push the process along. If I can use that spring momentum to propel me to a truly optimal weight, why not? And that’s led me to look for shortcuts.

Many years ago, I faithfully followed a low-carb diet. It worked. But there were two problems. One, it’s not a diet I would continue forever, which means some of the weight came back, albeit slowly. Second, it’s heavy on meat. For a number of reasons, I prefer to avoid meat.

So what else can I do?

There’s the liquid fast in its many forms. That will not be happening. I enjoy eating too much to give it up entirely.

I recently stumbled across Natural Healing, a book written by chiropractor, nutritionist and local health legend Jack Soltanoff back in 1988. In it, he suggested a two-day-a-week diet of nothing but grapefruit and celery, a combination he claimed would help detoxify the body and enhance weight loss. I bought the grapefruit. Forgot to buy the celery. Haven’t tried it.

An acquaintance who is maintaining a new, slim and styling physique swears by the eat-for-your-blood-type diet. That’s a problem if you don’t know your blood type.

Another friend said, “Raw food. You’ll drop a pound a day. That’s how the models do it.”

I could almost do it. But no Brown Cow maple yogurt? No peanut butter? At all? I don’t think so. Plus how can you possibly lose weight if you can scarf down almonds and walnuts a fistful at a time? They may be healthy, but they are not low-fat.

I went to the one place you can be certain to find authoritative answers to almost any dilemma: the hair salon.

“What’s your best weight-loss plan?” I asked.

I was disappointed to hear rational, reasonable ideas.

“Weight Watchers.”

“Portion control.”

“Exercise.”

What? No maple-syrup and lemon-juice fasts? No cabbage soup? What about the metabolism diet: a cup of black coffee and one water cracker for breakfast? What about the Russian Air Force diet, the bread-and-butter diet, the chicken-soup diet or that golden oldie, the Scarsdale diet?

“Bottom line,” said the salon experts, “you have to cut down what you eat and rev up your metabolism.”

Drat.

Perhaps I will surrender to common sense. Eating less and eating well is probably the answer.

I am convinced that the correct mental attitude is the key to successful weight loss. When you are determined to drop some pounds, it happens. Without the right attitude, self-sabotage is inevitable.

So far, I’m not tempted by Russian rye, chocolate-chip cookies, maple-walnut ice cream, lasagna with 16 kinds of cheese. Okay, I admit the melted cheese sounds kind of wonderful.

 

I find myself watching food porn. The show that takes me to diners and dives across the country, showing incredible, fat-laden inventions that look so darned easy to make, is nearly irresistible. But I’m not snacking while I watch it. That’s not cheating, is it?

In my opinion, a Buddhist diet is the answer for me. That doesn’t mean meditating every time I dream about a spoonful of peanut butter. Rather, it’s about paying attention. Buddhism demands mindfulness. Notice what you’re doing. Much of my overeating happens when I’m distracted by watching television, doing email, looking at pictures of puppies, or dreaming over online tours of romantic Italian villas and Caribbean cottages. Even a good book can be enjoyed while snacking; and before I know it, the bag of walnuts is empty, the embarrassingly massive tablespoon of peanut butter gone.

If I pay attention to every bite I take, taste everything as I’m eating it and check in with my body to find out when it’s had enough, I’ll be doing my body a big favor.

But I’m still a bit curious about that grapefruit-and-celery thing. It couldn’t hurt, right?

Rail trails on the run

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association will host a 5K race and walk celebrating National Trail Running Day on October 8. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Several communities in Ulster County have turned old railbeds into multi-use linear public parks. Residents walk, bike, jog, horseback ride, ski and travel sans vehicle from place to place. Ulster County is blessed with a number of old railbeds, and now there’s even talk of connecting them with each other.

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail (the HVRT, the abandoned part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford line that includes 2.5 miles of paved railbed from the hamlet of Lloyd to Tony Williams Park) will connect through another 1.2 miles of rail-trail acquired by Lloyd to the Walkway Over the Hudson, the state historic park that spans the Hudson River on a renovated railroad bridge 212 feet tall and 1.28 miles long. This historic landmark opened to the public in October 2009. And the HVRT Association is working to connect the rail-trail in Lloyd westward towards the Wallkill Valley Rail-trail in New Paltz — another 2.5 miles.

Meanwhile, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) is poised to double in length and by early fall will connect Gardiner and New Paltz to Rosendale, Ulster and Kingston via the 940-foot-long Rosendale Rrailroad trestle, perched 150 feet over the Rondout Creek in Rosendale.

According to Alan Bowdery, vice president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT), a not-for-profit organization that partnered with the Open Space Institute (OSI) to purchase 11.5 miles of rail-trail in 2009 and 65 additional acres, “The work on the trestle has begun and is expected to be completed by August 13,” Bowdery told the WVLT annual meeting.

The approximately $1.2-million project involves repairing the 114-year-old bridge’s steel infrastructure, installing wooden decks and railings, and doing drainage work. “If they don’t finish on time, it costs them $1300 a day,” said Bowdery. “So there is great impetus to stick to the deadline.”

You may have noticed new fencing and workers on the Rosendale railroad trestle. The bidding process for the fabrication and installation of new railings for the trestle is complete. Work has begun!

The railings are made of Cor-ten Steel, a natural weathering steel that will have a weathered look and still be durable. In preparation for the installation of the railings, existing railroad ties will be turned 90 degrees, and ties that are deteriorated will be removed. The new orientation of the ties will provide a larger surface area upon which to install the decking. Once all the ties are flipped, the railings will be installed in sections and attached directly to the steel of the trestle.

The Rosendale railroad trestle. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Future maintenance will be simplified. Because the decking timbers will be installed after the railings, replacement of weathered boards will be simple. The railings will remain in place to protect the safety of anyone working on the decking.

On Friday, April 13, a small fire popped up among the existing railroad ties after the construction company had left for the day. Thanks to the quick work of the Rosendale and Tillson fire departments, the fire was quickly addressed.

The Wallkill Valley Land Trust is working closely with the fire departments and the project engineer to establish additional fire prevention measures as this project continues. With unseasonably dry conditions, appropriate precautions are being taken.

Work is also needed on the recently acquired miles of old railbed trails, including re-grading and widening. Rail-trail users will then be able to go from the hamlet of Gardiner north through New Paltz, Tillson, Rosendale and Ulster into the City of Kingston without having to get off the linear trail. The route is varied and interesting, passing through scenic woodlands, open fields and farmlands along the Wallkill River, over the Rondout Creek and past Rosendale’s old cement mines and Binnewater lakes.

WVLT and OSI have been working to secure easements along portions of the trail. “North of Williams Lake, there was a property owner who is a big rail-trail fan and user who gave us an easement without hesitation,” reported Bowdery. But another property owner just north of the Thruway wanted to put in a swimming pool and shed along the easement. “We’ve just filed a lawsuit, and they’ve yet to respond,” he added.

Ruth Elwell, longtime president of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association, said her group was hoping to partner with the various municipalities along the new section of the rail-trail, just as it has further south. The group agrees to care for and maintain the trail through volunteer labor and donations, and the various municipalities provide assistance in maintaining the trails.

Bowdery said that WVLT’s goal was to have the trestle and the 11.5 miles of trail “ready and open for the public by early fall.” The partnership has raised approximately $750,000 towards the $1.2-million project.

To learn more about this effort, follow its progress, or make a donation, go to www.trackthetrestle.org.

Two other significant old railbeds should also be mentioned. Ulster County government owns 38 miles of Ulster & Delaware Railroad right-of-way from the shores of the Hudson River in Kingston west to Highmount in the northwestern tip of the county. And much of the former Ontario & Western Railroad roadbed from Kingston down the Esopus and Rondout valleys are now in use as rail-trails. Finally, portions of the former route of the nineteenth-century Delaware & Hudson Canal, including some of the historic locks, are used for recreational purposes.

Lose weight, feel great?

Photo by David Plakke

Experts on intuitive eating, strengthening the brain, exercise for kids, and other health topics will be presenting at the twelfth annual Women’s Health and Fitness Expo this Saturday, May 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Miller Middle School in Lake Katrine. The focus this year will be on weight loss and the lifestyle changes to maintain it. It will also focus on the impact a healthy lifestyle can have on preventing illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to presentations by speakers on weight control, the main-stage speakers will address the benefits of maintaining an ideal weight for overall health. Two Harvard Medical School physicians, neurologist Marie Pasinski and cardiologist Malissa Wood, will discuss the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including weight control, on heart and brain health. Experts will be available to answer questions.

The annual event will offer more than 20 health screenings, over 75 speakers, workshops, fitness demos, chef demos, spa services, a healthy food court and some 125 exhibitors. Expo participants will receive complimentary bags filled with health and wellness products and information.

The expo is moving from TechCity to the nearby Miller School in Lake Katrine, where the sponsors say the increased space and layout are better suited to main-stage needs, cooking facilities, weight and fitness rooms, and the ever-growing number of participating professionals and exhibitors. Admission is $7, and tickets may be purchased in advance at http://womenshealthexpo.com/.

Dr. Debra Karnasciewicz is founder and director of the not-for-profit Women’s Health and Fitness Foundation, which sponsors the expo.

This year’s theme was developed with the nation’s alarming obesity rates in mind. The state health department’s most recent statistics indicate that 59.6 percent of Ulster County adults and 62.6 percent of Dutchess County adults are obese or overweight. Though excess weight is often accompanied by chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and maintain weight loss can be challenging.

At any point in time, one in three women and one in five men in the United States are on some kind of diet, according to registered dietician and nutrition expert Mary Hartley, one of this year’s main-stage speakers. “These diets produce short-term weight loss, but two or three years later 95 percent of traditional dieters regain the weight,” she says. Hartley will discuss the concept of intuitive eating, a non-diet approach to weight loss that “shifts the paradigm from weight loss to wellness, from food fear to food pleasure, and from body dissatisfaction to body trust,” she states.

Neurologist and author Pasinski believes the key to changing our lives for the better involves improving the brain. She will present what she believes is a program for keeping the brain in peak condition, training it with the same intent as elite athletes train their bodies.

Jessica Smith, author of Thin in 10 and the person depicted on boxes of Special K cereal, will speak about her 10-minute exercise program, touting it as a way of improving health that fits into the modern lifestyle.

Other main-stage speakers include weight-loss blogger Diane Carbonell, kids’ exercise promoter and The Biggest Loser contestant Bernie Salazar, and Woodstock dentist Michael Tischler. A panel of speakers will be moderated by Liz Neporent, author and ABC News reporter who has covered diverse health topics including the psychology of barefoot running and obesity in fruit flies.

Eight workshops on a variety of topics will be offered during the day, including: Myths and Facts of the Supplement Industry, Living Well in Spite of Endometriosis, and You Have The Power to Heal Yourself. Eight fitness demonstrations will also take place, among them: Body Flow, Zumba and Zumba Gold for Seniors, Smart Bells, Dance Like No One is Watching, plus others in cooperation with the YMCA and Mac Fitness. More than half a dozen chefs will offer cooking demonstrations.

It’s a hybrid

Chad Foti of the New Paltz Climbing Cooperative at 91 North Chestnut Street. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz has taken rock climbing to even greater heights. The recently opened “climbing cooperative” occupies a 2000-square-foot post-industrial space in the heart of the village which was converted by climbing enthusiasts into a 24-hour indoor rock-climbing gym and community space.

Located in the back of Mike Rizza’s auto-body shop and car dealership at 91 North Chestnut Street, bordering the rail-trail and Huguenot Street, the New Paltz Climbing Cooperative has been a labor of love. It has surpassed the goals of its founder, Chad Foti, an active climber as well as a New Paltz High School teacher of earth science.

“It was a community effort,” said Foti, who refuses to take credit for the climbing gym. “So many people contributed. It blew my mind. All of the holds [rock-climbing holds that simulate rocks and crevices] were donated. All of the wood [to build the walls] was donated, the labor, the couches, the mats, this incredible art work,” he said. The walls are bursting with pop-art painted in a day by Paul St. Savage, a good friend who is a street artist in New York City. “I mentioned something to him,” said Foti, “and he came up and all I did was feed him and he did this in one day. It’s amazing.”

As Foti gives a tour of the gym, there are numerous people laboring up and down walls, hanging off of faux-overhangs, stretching, chatting on the comfortable couches, or utilizing the free weights and punching bag — all donated to the cooperative.

Their goal was hopefully to get 20 to 30 memberships the first couple of months and 50 by the year’s end. “But everyone came out of the woodwork to support us and be part of this cooperative,” said Foti. “We opened in December and met our goal within the first two months, we had 120 visitors our first month and now we’re up to 60 year-round memberships. I’m shocked and relieved and just excited. It’s such a great place and used by so many great people.”

A year-round membership, which gives the individual access (via a code key to the gym) every day of the year 24 hours a day, costs $350. A day pass is $10. Members can bring two guests free of charge and for liability’s sake members must be 18 years or older. “If a member wants to bring their children in for the day that’s fine,” noted Foti.

There are six walls, all of which are curved, bowed, some with steep angles, others with complicated overhangs and dozens of routes mapped out by color-coded tape — offering many beginner routes up to professional-level routes.

“We have a community night every Tuesday where people can map out their own routes,” he said. “We have movie nights, pot-lucks, parties … and it’s very local. Almost all of our members are from New Paltz, Gardiner and Rosendale.”

The idea was to create something that would cater to local climbers and those that wanted to learn to climb but who could not make it to the cliffs every day, and those who wanted to work out and keep their climbing skills sharp during the winter months, after work, during inclement weather.

“Who does it cater to?” Foti asked himself. “It caters to people who like to be on their own schedule, which rock climbers generally do. It caters to individuals, which climbers definitely are. And it caters to our community where we all want to play an integral role in and offer something healthy and organic. It’s part hang-outage and part working-outage. It’s a hybrid.”

Foti admitted that he felt very nervous when he began this endeavor. “I had some moments when I was like What am I doing? I’m going to be shackled to this.” Instead he discovered that people from all walks of life loved the community-cooperative aspect of it and put in sweat equity, donated, painted, created routes, brought in lights and tunes and helped turn those six walls into works of art with wild color schemes, challenging holds, and irregular forms.

“Even on an off day there could be seven or eight people here, or 30. Part of it provides a great workout, and the other part just allows people who enjoy climbing to get together and have fun.”

Foti said he could not have done it without Mike Rizza. “He was instrumental in making this happen,” said Foti. “Every time I ran into a stumbling block or needed something he was right there to help me out. He’s been so supportive as a landlord and as a wonderful New Paltz person.”

The people behind the enterprise are not in this for money. “Any bit of money we make beyond paying our rent and utilities will go right back into improving the gym, creating more climbing walls, purchasing necessary equipment,” said Foti. “We’re already designing a new wall that should be up in a few weeks.”

Foti is there three to four times a week to work out, see friends and manage the co-op. But the space largely runs itself. “This kind of thing keeps honest people honest,” he said. “They clean up, they tend to the books, they treat it like it’s their home, their space, which it is, and that’s what I love about it.”

To learn more go to their Facebook page at New Paltz Climbing Cooperative or go to www.npclimbingcooperative.wordpress.com or email [email protected]

“The best way to contact us is to just come by,” said Foti. “Every Tuesday night we have a community night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and you can check out the space, talk with people and learn if this would be something you’d be interested in. We work out, but we also socialize and have a great time.”