Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hoopla Hoop Article

http://www.hooplahoop.com/2010/06/22/unicycling/

Vol. 2, June 2010: Cycling NYC

Unicycling
by Dakota Kim

Fourteen guys with hockey sticks are pushing a puck around an empty lot on a moonlit Friday night. It might be a scene just like any other except all 14 guys are on unicycles.

“The skill level is getting to where what we do looks like real hockey,” Jason Kahn, a member of the Hell on Wheel unicycle group, said. “It started out as a way to just do something on the unicycle, and it’s become a real event every Friday.”
Bizarre a sight as they might be at first, the unicycles are coming! With a unicycle festival being organized for this September, unicycle sports gaining new devotees, and clubs forming across the country, unicycling is experiencing a renaissance from its previous heyday of the 50s to the 80s.

No reliable source exists as to where the unicycle was invented, or by whom. A popular theory posits that the pennyfarthing of the late 19th century, a bike with a giant front wheel and tiny back wheel, would often lean forward to the point where the back wheel was off the ground. People started taking the little back wheel off. É voila! A unicycle.

The unicycle has long been a family member of the circus. Though it may have played the funny-looking little sibling to the shining star of the trapeze, everyone from the early to mid-20th century Valla Bertini Troupe to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus has had unicyclists. An especially notable group was the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey’s slam-dunking King Charles Troupe, known as “The Harlem Globetrotters on Unicycles.” Whether riding across a highwire or juggling circles around each other, unicyclists often unexpectedly steal the show.

Michael Richter is one such unicyclist, who received a unicycle as a present when he was 12 and never stopped until he reached the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus as a unicycling clown. Whether leading parades on a 6-foot-tall giraffe unicycle or riding on a highwire, Richter makes it look easy, when in reality, many years of practice have gone into it.

The passion for rolling on one wheel just for fun is particularly vivid in New York. This is a perfect amusement park of a city to unicycle across, under, over and inside of, with all of its public spaces and structures. Half-pipe? Check. Hockey arena? Check. Mountain trails in the outer boroughs? They’re all over that.
 
Mountain unicycling is one of Kahn’s favorites. Kahn, a responsible 8th grade science teacher by day, morphs into a wild unicycler by night, roving around mountain trails and hockey fields.

“You’re using the unicycle as a pogo stick, trying to weave up the trail sideways and hop up onto logs,” Kahn said. “Going downhill, you just kind of let the unicycle run but not too fast or you’ll lose control.”

Riding on a 24-inch-high model with a 3-inch-wide tire with low inflation for better traction and less bounce, mountain unicyclers sometimes even have brakes.

Unicycling seems to have an addictive quality. Once riders get it, they don’t seem to want to stop.
“I’ve been totally obsessed for about a year and a half,” said Keith Nelson, co-founder of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. “I had 2 unicycles hanging on the wall for ages and once I started couldn’t stop.”

There is a strong aspect of community for unicyclers, with regular meetings at Grant’s Tomb on the Upper West Side.
“I came for the novelty, in that it’s odd and I find that attractive, but I stayed for the people,” Kahn said. “As a community, it’s very social and non-competitive, not serious and very chill.”

There are steps to mastering this sport, ten skill levels that take you from a 50 meter ride and graceful dismount at Level 1 to being able to do ten types of mounts and riding backward one footed in a figure eight at Level 10.

Kyle Petersen, who performs as a unicyclist at the Brooklyn Cyclones games, started at age 12 and can do tricks from levels five, six and seven.

“I’ve got a pretty decently strong wheel walk, a one-footed wheel walk, I can jump rope, and I can do a lot of tricks that are combinations, such as wheel walking while juggling,” Petersen said. “Pirouettes are what I’m getting into right now, but the problem is I get very dizzy.”

Kahn is working on his hopping, trying to get over large obstacles on the trail while mountain unicycling. “I tend to ride over things better than I hop over them,” Kahn said. “With hopping, you got to jump, land and stand still, then hop again. More than three hops and you lose your center of balance.”

As for distance rider Nelson and trick rider Richter, synchronized pairs figure unicycling is a goal. While it might never become an Olympic sport, the process has been “similar to pairs ice skating or a circus bike,” Nelson said.

“When you have two or more unicycles, you get to do tricks together such as grabbing hands and spinning in a pinwheel, or if we held onto each other in a certain way, we can stand totally still without rocking back and forth, and someone could sit on our shoulders or do some acrobatics off of us,” Richter said. “It more than doubles the amount of tricks we can do. It’s a cross between dance and partner acrobatics.”

There are so many more types of unicycles than imaginable. From ultimate wheels with no seat post, to impossible wheels with two platforms so that you jump on and balance, to giraffe unicycles that are 6 feet high, there are so many more ways to unicycle than there used to be, indicating a rising level of interest.

“The numbers of people are going to go up,” Petersen said. “People have a lot of preconceived notions about what they can and cannot do. Once you see people doing it, you think you can.”

Distance riding is becoming a new challenge, as long amounts of riding can be painful and exhausting on the core and the crotch alike.

“I’ve been totally obsessed for about a year and a half,” said Keith Nelson, co-founder of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. “I had 2 unicycles hanging on the wall for ages and once I started couldn’t stop.”

Nelson and Robert Hickman, a sculptor and art professor at Hunter College, have decided on a new challenge to try to unicycle all the bridges in New York.

“We thought that would be 70 or 80 bridges, a one year project,” Nelson said.

There are 2,078 bridges in New York City.

“This includes Department of Transporation and MTA bridges and ones that span roadways as well as water,” Nelson said. “We are going to start crossing skybridges as well, which are bridges that connect buildings.”

It all depends on what you call a bridge, but if that includes anything that goes over a road, railway, body of water or even a footpath, the project will take much more than a year.

“It’s fun because it’s like collecting,” Hickman said. “Every bridge is unique and we take a lot of notes, video and photographs, which we blog about at http://unicyclenycbridgetour.blogspot.com/.

“We’re even going to ride across some of the skybridges at Hunter College, and involve my students in a public art project,” Hickman said. “In a way, a unicycle is a moving public sculpture, a roving public art project.”

As part of the quest, the group recently rode in the 5 Boro Bike Tour, which is the only legal way to cross the Verrazano Bridge. The group has also gotten big cheers from the Hasidic community in South Williamsburg, where public opinion of bikers has been less than positive.

“It’s a very disarming vehicle. Bikes and cars yell at each other, but the unicycle charms everybody,” Hickman said. “The Hasidic community is pro-unicycle, and we want to try to get some of them riding unicycles if we can.”

Hickman sees the potential for community outreach and public art through the unicycle.

“I’d like to reach out to the communities we ride through, such as Flushing, where hundreds of guys came out in front of shops to cheer us on,” Hickman said. “I can see us doing youth programs, teaching kids to ride.”

“We thought that would be 70 or 80 bridges, a one year project,” Nelson said. There are 2,078 bridges in New York City. As part of the quest, the group recently rode in the 5 Boro Bike Tour, which is the only legal way to cross the Verrazano Bridge.

So how do you find your very own unicycle and join in? There are many manufacturers and types, depending on your goals. According to Nelson, Nimbus offers reasonably priced unicycles in many wheel sizes, Semcycles are great unicyclist-designed freestylers, and Koxx makes good trial, stunt and mountain unicycles. According to Petersen, Dube Juggling may be one of the only brick and mortar shops in Manhattan where you can just walk in and buy a unicycle.

In an age of increasingly complicated machinery, the unicycle is a simple machine that inspires cult-like fervor for perhaps the same reasons as fixies.

“The unicycle is basically a completely stripped down bike, no frills,” Petersen said. “This machine basically does whatever you tell it to. If the wheel goes a little faster, you have to shift your weight a little forward a little faster. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. On a bike, I think the bike is doing all the work, and it’s boring. The unicycle is really kind of very zen, and because you’re concentrating so hard, it’s very relaxing and very peaceful.”

For more information on unicycling, please visit these sites:
New York Unicycle Festival
USA Unicycle Society of America
Uni Magazine
Dube Juggling
unicycle.org
newyorkunicycle.com

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

East 177th Street Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx














East 177th Street Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson

Started: Jun 22, 2010 11:47:58 AM
Ride Time: 1:58:40
Stopped Time: 0:00
Distance: 4.54 miles
Average: 2.29 miles/hr
Fastest Speed: 6.72 miles/hr

East 177th Street Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx














East 177th Street Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Shuan Sim, Rob Hickman

East Tremont Ave. Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx














East Tremont Ave. Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson, Shuan Sim

East 174th Street Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx














East 174th Street Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman

East 174th Street Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx














East 174th Street Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson, Viveca Gardiner

Westchester Avenue Overpass (over Bruckner Expwy. I-278), Bronx














Westchester Avenue Overpass (over Bruckner Expwy. I-278), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson

Westchester Avenue Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx


















Westchester Avenue Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson, Viveca Gardiner, Shuan Sim

Westchester Avenue Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx














Westchester Avenue Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson, Viveca Gardiner, Shuan Sim

Eastern Boulevard Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx














Eastern Boulevard Bridge (over Bronx River), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Shuan Sim


From Wired New York:
The Eastern Boulevard Bridge carries the Bruckner Expressway (I-278) over the Bronx River. It links the Hunts Point and Soundview sections of the Bronx. The Bruckner Expressway essentially runs northeast-southwest, beginning at the Triborough Bridge and ending at the New England Thruway, near Co-op City. The bridge consists of two parallel structures orientated east-west.
The Eastern Boulevard Bridge is a dual double-leaf trunnion bascule bridge with a span of 36.2 meters (118 feet, 6 inches) center to center of trunnions. Just west of the bridge is a fixed bridge that carries I-278 over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line.
Each of the two bridges carries three expressway lanes on a 10-meter (34-foot) roadway, two service road lanes on a 6.7-meter (22-foot) roadway and a 2.3-meter (7'-6") sidewalk on the outside of each service road.

Bruckner Blvd. Overpass (over Metro North RR - Bronx River spur), Bronx


















Bruckner Blvd. Overpass (over Metro North RR - Bronx River spur), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson

Bruckner Blvd. Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx


















Bruckner Blvd. Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Shuan Sim, Rob Hickman

Bryant Avenue Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx














Bryant Avenue Overpass (over Metro North RR), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Shuan Sim, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson,

Eagle Avenue Bridge (over East 161st Street), Bronx














Eagle Avenue Bridge (over East 161st Street), Bronx, June 22, 2010
Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Shuan Sim


From bridgesnyc.com
Location: Eagle Avenue over East 161st Street,
The Bronx [satellite map]
Carries: 1 vehicular lane, 2 pedestrian sidewalks
Design: girder bridge
Date opened: 1936

Traveling south on Eagle Avenue in the Melrose section of the Bronx, instead of reaching an intersection at East 161st Street as a street map would lead you to believe, your line of sight on this narrow road suddenly opens up and you find yourself crossing a little-known bridge with a view of the imposing Beaux-Arts Bronx Borough Courthouse (built between 1905-1914, abandoned in 1978) to the west. That the Eagle Avenue Bridge is almost never marked on as being a bridge on maps is not a new development; maps contemporary to its construction do not note is as a bridge either, maintaining the idea that one could turn from Eagle Avenue onto East 161st Street. The need for a bridge becomes apparent though when taking the area’s geography into account. Eagle Avenue is located on what was once part of the Morris Manorlands, a tract of almost 1,920 acres formerly owned by Declaration of Independence signer Lewis Morris. This area of the Bronx is full of rocky hills necessitating steep streets, stepped walks, and unexpected bridges. Before the streets in the area were given standard number designations, East 161st Street had been known by several names, including Grove Hill and Cliff Street. The hill at East 160th Street and Eagle Avenue was known as Hupfel’s Hill, after the Hupfel Brewery, which started brewing beer in the area in 1864. Eagle Avenue was laid out in 1891 between 149th and 163d Streets, and the first bridge over East 161st Street was built then of steel, with stairs allowing pedestrians to travel between the upper and lower levels of the crossing.

The current Eagle Avenue Bridge is at least the second bridge at the site, and was opened in 1936. The stone abutments supporting the span appear to be leftovers from the earlier structure. It is a steel girder bridge painted a bright Federal Blue, one of the seven colors used to paint bridges by the Department of Transportation’s Division of Bridges, and is 53.8 feet long. It has been cleaned and repainted by the DOT twice in recent years, in 2003 and 2008. It was built under the authority of Bronx Borough President James Lyon and designed by Arthur V. Sheridan (1888-1952), Lyon’s chief engineer. Sheridan later went on to design highways during the reign of city planner Robert Moses, and is the namesake of the Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bedford Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Bedford Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, John Wyffels

















Started: Jun 17, 2010 10:44:51 AM
Ride Time: 1:42:21
Stopped Time: 0:00
Distance: 4.27 miles
Average: 2.50 miles/hr
Fastest Speed: 7.85 miles/hr
Climb: 348 feet

Lee Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Lee Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Keith Nelson, John Wyffels, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner

Division Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Division Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, John Wyffels, Keith Nelson

Marcy Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Marcy Avenue Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, John Wyffels, Keith Nelson

South 4th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














South 4th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, John Wyffels, Keith Nelson

South 3rd Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














South 3rd Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, John Wyffels

Borinquen Street Overpass (south span) over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Borinquen Street Overpass (south span) over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, John Wyffels,

Borinquen Street Overpass (north span) over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Borinquen Street Overpass (north span) over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, John Wyffels, Viveca Gardiner

South 5th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














South 5th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Viveca Gardiner, John Wyffels, Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson

Broadway Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














Broadway Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, John Wyffels, Viveca Gardiner

South 9th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn














South 9th Street Overpass over BQE I-278 Brooklyn, June 17, 2010
John Wyffels, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman, Viveca Gardiner

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

East 233rd Street Bridge - Bronx River














East 233rd Street Bridge - Bronx River, June 8, 2009
Keith Nelson, Viveca Gardiner, Rob Hickman, Caleb Hickman

Bronx River Parkway On Ramp at East 231st Street - Bronx River














Bronx River Parkway On Ramp at East 231st Street - Bronx River, June 8, 2009
Caleb Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman

East 241st Street Bridge - Bronx River














East 241st Street Bridge - Bronx River, June 8, 2009
Caleb Hickman, Viveca Gardiner, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman

East 238th Street Bridge - Bronx River














East 238th Street Bridge, June 8, 2009
Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson, Viveca Gardiner, Caleb Hickman

From bridgesnyc.com
Crosses: Bronx River, Harlem and New Haven Metro-North tracks
Connects: Woodlawn and Wakefield, The Bronx [satellite map]
Carries: 4 vehicular lanes, 2 pedestrian sidewalks
Design: supported deck arch
Date opened: April 23, 1931

The East 238th Street Bridge is a concrete arch viaduct crossing the Bronx River and the Harlem and New Haven lines of Metro-North, connecting the Bronx neighborhoods of Wakefield and Woodlawn. On today’s maps, East 238th Street is called McLean Avenue in Woodlawn and Nereid Avenue in Wakefield.

Proposals and Delays
A bridge at either East 241st Street or East 238th Street was first proposed by the Public Service Commission in 1915, to eliminate a grade crossing of the New York Central and New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroads. The railroads, not wanting to foot the bill but under obligation to pay for grade eliminations, argued that since the proposed bridge would also cross the Bronx River, the Public Service Commission had no jurisdiction and the matter would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments also persisted as to the location. In August of 1918, a crossing at 238th Street was approved by Commissioner Charles Bulkley Hubell, who found that the Public Service Commission did in fact have jurisdiction over the Bronx River and any bridge to be built there. The Bronx Parkway Commission put forth their opinions on aesthetics in the same year, stating that a bridge at either location needed to be a reinforced concrete arched viaduct, as a steel structure would “mar the beauty of the Parkway” (1918, p. 30). Still, no conclusions were reached.

On August 8, 1925, the Transit Commission ordered the railroads to build the bridge at East 238th Street, with the City of New York paying for the portions that did not cross the railroad tracks. However, the railroads continued to resist. An agreement was finally reached on February 2, 1927: the railroads would build two vehicular bridges at East 238th and East 241st Streets, with work on East 238th Street to start immediately.

“Immediately” turned out to be over two years later. Ground was broken by Mayor Walker on June 27, 1929. At the ceremony he talked about the importance of making Yonkers and Westchester County more easily accessible to vehicular traffic.

Construction
The Corbetta Concrete Corporation began construction on July 1, 1929. Corbetta used a 600-foot conveyor belt to place the structural concrete for the viaduct. This was the first successful use of the method, one that grew in popularity thereafter. The viaduct was originally estimated to cost $1,000,000, but wound up costing only $781,200. The completed bridge consists of ten arches built of 92,000 tons of material, is 822 feet long and 80 feet wide, and carries four vehicular lanes and a sidewalk on either side.

Opening
Albert Goldman, Commissioner of Plant and Structures, presided over the opening ceremony on April 23, 1931. A ribbon in the center of the viaduct was cut by Marion Corbetta, the eight-year-old daughter of Roger H. Corbetta, co-owner of the Corbetta Concrete Corporation. Ground-breaker Mayor Walker was unable to attend the ceremony.