Urban Cycling Project’s Inaugural Cycling Ride a Big Success

Instructions

Raul Giving Ride Instructions

Saturday was the Urban Cycling Project inaugural cycling ride in downtown McAllen and it was a big success. Event coordinator, Raul Reynoso, was extremely pleased with the turn out and the good time everyone had. various head counts puts the participation lever between 30 to 35 cyclists from the surrounding area. We had cyclists from Mission (me), McAllen and the Edinburg area all with different skill levels of urban cycling.

I rode in from Mission taking the Business 83, Main St, La Vista route. After the event I planned on heading back via the Buddy Owens Blvd. The day was another beautiful sunny day that started a little cool in the early morning but warmed up nicely. When I arrived at the La Vista park there were people getting their bikes out of their van and a local TV news station was setting up. We spotted the main group where Raul was at chatting with the Bike Edinburg club.  Part of the event is the social aspect where people greeted one another and talk bike. This continued as the rest of the cyclists rolled in.

Cyclistas Urbanos rolled up with a large group of cyclists including some new faces. That’s great to see. New faces and new bikes to look at and opportunities to help new people to urban cycling. Another thing that I noticed was the number of kids that were going to take part of the ride. This is something that I miss seeing, the junior cyclists that will carry the torch to new generations to come.

A local TV station (Fox 48) was there to cover the event and take interviews with the event coordinator, Raul and Mark from Ciclistas as well as Ruben from Rio South Texas Cycling Coalition were able to chime in and advocate for cycling safety and better conditions in the community.

After everyone showed up Raul went to the next phase of the event, education and riding rules. With the help of a translator, he was able to explain what the ride is all about and go over how the ride is going to be handled. Ride safety being the paramount issue for a large group, the kids and their guardians will ride up front, followed be the less experienced riders all the way down the line to the most experience riders being in the back. In addition there are ride marshals that will cover the front and back of the group with one person riding between the front and back blocking traffic at intersections. Pretty much what Sheriffs do during a funeral precession. Raul also went over some whistle signals that will be used between the ride marshals to communicate with each other.

This was an excellent way to educate the new cyclists and help them feel better that there is a structure for them to follow. Most of the time when you show up at a cycling event or club ride there are no instructions. Just general things like obey traffic laws and etc.. The rest you are to figure out on your own or expect to know already. Here, Raul took the time to explain that we are riding two-by-two and that the most experienced riders are in the back while the least experienced and kids are up front with the ride leader. He also gave an explanation about why this style is used. The education aspect is very important for beginners and helps everyone understand that the group has to ride as a unit, to increase safety for all riders.

After the introduction and rules of the ride, it was time to ride out and put what we learned to good use. The first stop was Oliver’s French Bakery for their scrumptious baked goods. Two-by-two we cycled the one or two miles to the bakery and stampeded their door to the shop. In the mean time I noticed that my rear tire was out of true so I took the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments. It’s usually the same spoke all the time. Mental note to myself, redo that section of the wheel to correct the problem. Ya, it’s already forgotten.

Not to be left out, I got myself a nice peanut butter based pastry that hit the spot along with some OJ. By the time I was able to finish my meal it was time to head out to the next destination, the Farmers Market at Alhambra. I’ve wanted to go back to stock up on some honey that I like and perhaps find some other goodies that I can get. After all that is one of the reasons I bought a beam rack and bag for the bike, to be able to carry stuff.

On the ride over there I took notice of bike tire and it seemed as the wobble is now gone. Yay! A job well done.It’s amazing your rear end can detect a wobble in your tire.

Arriving at Alhambra was an event in itself. All the onlookers checking out all the cyclists rolling on by, some smiling, others waving and others unimpressed or indifferent. At this point I checked up on some of the new riders and they reported that they are doing great but with a little sore bottom. Otherwise ,they are in good spirits and having a great time. This style of riding makes it easy for them to follow and feel comfortable with riding out on the streets and off the sidewalks.

While at the market, i picked up some tasty Salsa and my favorite honey from the people at RGV Honey. I also took in some nice freshly squeezed grapefruit juice to complement the vegetarian wrap that I had there. Everyone else was busy shopping for some vegetables to take home and others trying some tamales. The place was pretty busy with people coming and going through out the time we were there. In fact, every time I go here it’s pretty busy.

The ride back to La Vista park went well. Everyone maintained the two-by-two cycling formation and had little trouble getting back. At some point he group split as some lived near by and others took a different route back to Edinburg. After the ride Raul and several others stayed behind to talk about the ride and get feedback as to how thing can be improved for the next event. After that, I took off to make my way home.

I had to stop again to tighten that same spoke again as it got loose. Other than that the only other thing that happened was my bike computer had a hiccup and stopped recording for several miles before I noticed it. Ugh! I hate that! Miles that I will never get back again. Luckily, it is a rare event and I’m not too concerned about it.

At the end of the day, i would say that the Urban Cycling Project was a very successful event. Plans are to have the event in Edinburg and Mission to promote cycling in those towns and hopefully get more people cycling in their home towns.

New Cyclists

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Some of the new cyclists

Mapping Mission-McAllen-Edinburg Bike Routes on Google Maps

After a couple of days being rained in, I decided to start on a project to put my bike routes onto Google Maps. You see, if I Google my area (Mission, TX) and looked for any bike lanes or routes, there are slim pickings. The only one that shows up is the Hike and Bike Trail on the out skirts of town. This appears as if  the trail is the only place where you can safely ride your bike, but that is not true. Many streets in town can be safely cycled, even if there is no official bike lane marked or shoulders. I have many routes in the Mission area that I ride constantly that I want to add to the maps. Aside from the neighborhood streets, the main arteries in the city are quite good for cycling. Thus begins my project in adding bike routes to Google Maps.

My first street is a section of Griffin Parkway that has dedicated Bike lanes but does not show up in Google Maps. After figuring out how to mark the road and indicate that it has bike lanes, the hard part of submitting it for review had to be done. it took sometime and false leads to figure out the workflow process. They sure don’t make it easy to find the proper flow of the process. Apparently, you not only need to submit the changes but you need to join a forum for North America and request that someone take a look at your change requests and approve them.  Some requests take more than one approval and that could delay things as each one can reject your request.

Once I got that figured out, I went ahead and added bike routes that I use around town. They are mostly the major arteries, but that’s OK. They will get you from one part of town to another. That took about one afternoon to map them all out and designate them as suitable for cycling and get them posted in the correct forum for approval. At this point I figured it could take weeks or months before I hear something, but I was surprised to get a response in about two days! After a few emails back and forth my efforts were published except for one, the road with actual bike lanes. I figured that one would need additional approvals.

A quick review of the map shows my additions as green dotted lines indicating a bike route but with no Bike Lane markings. Solid green line are roads with designated Bike Lanes. Cool! I now need to add routes that connect the Mission-McAllen-Edinburg metroplex area. More work to be done.

Since I’ve lasted updated this draft, the official bike lane on FM 495 (Griffin Parkway) has been approved and published. I’ve also continue to add more routes and I’m waiting on the Shary Road bike lanes to be added. My Ultimate goal is to show a path from Mission to McAllen and Mission to Edinburg that commuters can use to cycle from town to town. It is surprisingly easy to map out, but it can be a little tedious at parts. Just depends on the road you are mapping.

Here is a link for the Mission area bike routes. Check the link often as I continue to add more routes.

 

Happy Cycling!

 

Another Group ride with Ciclistas Urbanos

I have been falling behind on my November 225 mile challenge so I figured the ride that Cyclistas Urbanos was doing was a good way to pack in some miles in one day. I contemplated on riding my bike to Edinburg as a way to pretty much double my miles but I decided against it. Perhaps another day.

Today’s ride takes us to the Farmer’s Market at the Alhambra in downtown McAllen followed by a trip to Marco’s Burgers and Fries in Mission (Sharyland). Afterwards, a stop a Bike Masters for eye candy before heading back to Edinburg. Usually, we ride on out from El Patio Cafe at 8 am but this time we pushed it back an hour and took off at 9 am.

Ciclistas Urbanos had a good turn out for this ride as the suspected reason was to try Marco’s Burgers. Today’s gathering turned out to be thirteen cyclists of all skill levels. Despite the wind gusts, the ride to McAllen was fun as you can hear the chatter of people talking and good spirits over coming the strong wind. As with all good group rides, you go as fast as the slowest cyclist. The pace was at about 8 mph with a stiff wind in our face. There was some seperation between the front and the back of the group so we waited for them at one of the corners. I took this opportunity to snap a pic of them riding.

The first stop was a quick breather at the community garden in McAllen. I had no idea this had existed until now. Next to a fire substation, the garden is thriving with a variety of plants and vegetables. The garden is well maintained and is completely hidden from the street. Very nice. As far as I know, there are no community gardens in the Mission area where I live.

Working our way through downtown McAllen’s busy streets, we arrive at the Farmer’s market at Alhambra. This was also my first visit to the market. Walking in you are greeted with many local farmers and distributors promoting their wares. Anything from organic vegetables to grass feed lamb chops. I bought some delicious Orange Blossom Honey and some Walnuts. That honey is going be great with my Peanut Butter sandwiches! Lots of open space with a large enclosed room for beverages. A juicer was on hand to create fruit juices of your choosing. I tried out a Watermelon and Cantaloupe drink. Very delicious and refreshing!

After mingling and purchasing a few items we mounted the bikes and headed out for lunch in the Sharyland at Marco’s Burgers. It was only a four mile ride to the burger joint and more chatter was present during the ride. I believe it was due to the wind being on our backs giving us a good push. Nothing like a free ride.

Marco’s Burgers was a great stop for some good burgers, converse and an opportunity to replenish expended calories. After a while we got on the bikes for the short hop over to Bike Masters bicycle shop.

Bike Masters  was only one block away from Marco’s Burgers. After parking the bikes we went in to look around. Wow! they had a lot of bikes and tons of accessories to look at! The owner of the shop came out to greet us and show us around. He gave us a quick demo of carbon bikes that Trek are making and how they are made. Very interesting on how the bikes are made. The parts of the frame are extremely lightweight and strong!

Refreshments as well as patch kits were passed out to us as we mingled and looked around. One of us even found a bike they are interested at purchasing and will come back for a second look. Many road and mountain bikes and a few urban bikes to look at as well as a large selection of accessories and parts. The staff was nice, friendly and helpful. This was certainly a good stop and appreciate their hospitality.

After the stop we headed on back to Edinburg using a new route. Actually there were two different routes back that we could have chosen from. A few took one route while the majority took the route that went around McAllen. The wind was on our backs and there was only one mechanical problem that was quickly fixed.

We rolled back to the El Patio at about 4 pm on what was a good long ride. For some it was the longest ride that have cycled but they made it. Memories to file in our memory banks for later retrieval. Overall the pace was at 8 mph, slower than I would like to have ridden, but we did have someone who had their personal best for distance. That’s awesome!

Now I need to ride on Sunday to catch up for the week, but after the Cowboy game.