The sights of New Brunswick’s Ciclovia

Here’s what I saw at Ciclovia and what I discovered in Johnson Park across the river.

Today was a chance to explore a bit of New Brunswick and Johnson Park in Piscataway, as New Brunswick shut down a few miles of street to traffic and turned it over to the people in one of the year’s three Ciclovias. We — a group of five — arrived just as it began, and by the time we left after  ice cream, er lunch, kids had taken over with their bikes and trikes, found the bouncy castle and were cooling off with a temporary fountain:

ciclovia little girl

ciclovia water splash

I got a smattering of that spray and oh did that feel good in the day’s heat!

A colleague took us beyond Ciclovia and guess what I found:

ecg mileage sign in new brunswickecg nj sign

Yes, New Brunswick wants to make one of the river crossings more bike-friendly!

What else did we discover off the bike-friendly trails in Johnson Park?

We wandered around the East Jersey Old Time Village and saw a man going around the racetrack with a horse and carriage. We glimpsed a cricket match:

cricket in johnson park

and rode under the railroad bridge:

johnson park rr bridge

And if blogs could smell, I’d share a whiff of sun-ripened fresh strawberries at the pick-your-own place we cycled past on the way home.

Back-to-back-to-back, plus a bit more

I really could call this one the power of ice cream.

power of ice creamI really could call this one the power of ice cream.

For me, it was three days in a row of 30 miles, plus a fourth of 5 miles to work, and another 5 back. Nothing too crazy.

This was the big weekend camping trip with some neighbors, and I knew I was combining it with some biking.

Three of us set off before 1 p.m. for Allaire State Park, where we were camping. Given that everyone else was coming by car, we were spared having to haul our gear and food. (No shortage of food!) We took it easy — one rider was the 16-year-old daughter of a fellow Week-a-Year rider and had been promised breaks every five miles. I slowed down, the breaks were short — all good.

And the 16-year-old voluntarily joined me and the Brit for a ride to the Shore the next day, though I don’t think she was expecting quite that long a ride. But she was away from her parents. All good. (The route was in part on a rail-trail that was supposed to be part of the Capital-to-Coast route. But unlike the East Coast Greenway, this one seems to have run out of steam. Too bad.)

No, the truly impressive day was the ride back. The 16-year-old was on board again. Her third straight day of 30 miles. Another neighbor joined us. And so did his son. This kid turns 8 in October. Yes, a 7-year-old biked the 30 miles of back roads with us.

Yes, the kid is an energizer bunny and particularly athletic. (No, the 16-year-old is not.) Yes, we stopped more often. And once the kid realized we’d be biking through a town where he knew there was an ice cream shop and dad agreed to take him, there was no way he was going to get sagged home by mom. So yes, that kept him going from mile 20 to mile 25.

And restored by ice cream, he biked the rest of the way home. Two hours later, I looked out the window and saw him on his bike again.

As I said, the power of ice cream.

And some other shots from the weekend:

yurtThe yurt, above, and some of our grilling, below:


shrimp on the barbie

bacon and kale


A weekend of back-to-back training rides

Sunday’s 30-mile ride left from Burlington City, NJ

Today we headed to Burlington City and met up with friends to do this ride, mapped out by NJDOT.

Burlington City claims a number of New Jersey firsts, but I am looking forward to the day the Delaware River Heritage Trail gets this far south and eventually connects to Philadelphia via Palmyra as an alternate route on the East Coast Greenway.

One cool highlight of our 30-mile loop: The factory town of Smithville, where the American Star bicycle was built in the 1880s. In that era of penny-farthing bicycles, this one apparently had the small wheel in the front, rather than the back, apparently to prevent you from tipping over. Not that the sculpture in the front reflected that.

smithville nj

But with the World Cup finals beckoning, a tour of the mansion and the truth of the design will have to wait for another visit.

Another fun site, this one in Mount Holly. Cute name, huh?

Mount Holly NJ

The bottom line from this weekend: Heat and back-to-back days is a tough combination. Last weekend I did two spin classes and a 30-miler. Thankfully a weeklong ride in October won’t be as hot. But I need to build up that endurance.

A bike ride to New Brunswick

My take on New Brunswick’s summer Ciclovia

New Brunswick is on the East Coast Greenway, but we took the road, not the towpath (and ECG), for this ride to check out New Brunswick’s Ciclovia (more than 3 miles of streets shut to motorists and opened to people to bike, play and more). While we knew the first few miles, we’d never been to East Brunswick and Milltown even by car. So the bike option on Google maps it was.

And it was a nice route on generally quiet, flat roads well to the east of U.S 1. On weekdays, a few spots might be a bit hairy, but Saturday traffic was light, even by shopping centers. We crossed U.S. 130 at a light — easy. And when we finally did encounter U.S. 1, the overpass over it was straightforward, and on the way back, the driver of a white Mustang on the off ramp slowed and waved us in front. Sometimes New Jersey drivers surprise you.

Total miles, including wandering around New Brunswick: 42.

Random people at New Brunswick's Ciclovia
Random family at New Brunswick’s Ciclovia

As for Ciclovia … it’s not Manhattan’s Summer Saturdays, but then New Brunswick doesn’t have the density of New York. It was great to see little kids on their bikes, and there were some cool spots, like a rock-climbing wall and a skateboard trick park, and of course a fire hydrant turned into a sprinkler. There was a dance contest for little kids, a repair spot from New Brunswick’s Bike Exchange and a mobile New Jersey Hall of Fame that I thought was cool (and not just because of the air-conditioning break on a hot, cloudless day). But it felt too spread out for the number of people we saw, and you found stuff more by chance, such as the Hall of Fame that was hidden at the end of a side street.

New Jersey Hall of Fame
Lots of Jersey roots

Ciclovia went beyond “downtown”, and it lacked a block party atmosphere in the neighborhoods.

So here’s my outsider’s take, fwiw: Ciclovia needs to be marketed more widely in the region, to get it filled up with people from neighboring towns, as happens with Communiversity is in Princeton, and to work with New Jersey Transit and New York bike groups to get the word out there and people coming down by train with their bikes. I’d open up space to every nonprofit that wants to be there, no matter where they are from, to help fill up the quieter spaces. I’d encourage downtown merchants to have sidewalk sales or bring restaurant tables outside. Actually, I’d have had it kick it off Restaurant Week, which we inadvertently discovered was also starting. Or play on the range of ethnic groups in New Brunswick and create a list of participating food stops and pitch it to the foodies. Honduran specialties, anyone?

And at one end, have a spot for teenagers and their bands, or high school bands, all of which would bring in their friends and families. It certainly works for our local farmers market. (Too bad there’s no Saturday market in New Brunswick that it could brush by from the side.)

But it’s also early days. New Brunswick’s first Ciclovia was last October, and this was the second of three planned for this year. Maybe it’s more crowded when Rutgers is humming with 41,500 students. And maybe it’s just a matter of time.

At any rate, it certainly was more popular than what we saw of Princeton’s Ciclovia in May, which took over a long stretch of underused roadway.

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