Bike Tour, Astounding Google-Maps Feature
Gaetano alerted me to a recreational bicycle event in Newark today that, in itself, is great. But it was designed to promote a despicable event which Newark should no way participate in, much less promote. A frequent reader sent me a note and the pix I use today to illustrate that event.
On June 28th about a hundred riders converged on Newark to tour the city with pedal power. The tour was escorted by the NPD, with financial support from the Reagan family of Montclair. Volunteers from the Major Taylor Bike Club led the ride on Saturday and helped block off streets. The Major Taylor club isn't a Newark biking club per se, but they do a lot in Newark.
We met in front of City Hall, rode through the Ironbound including Ferry Street, then Bloomfield Ave, then Branch Brook Park, then South Orange Ave, then Bergen Street, then Chancellor Ave and Elizabeth Ave in Weequahic.
The good part of today's event was described in a Star-Ledger article before its start. This reminds me of the origins of the five-boro New York Marathon, which was suggested by a guy I worked with, George Spitz. George was a runner. He was also a proofreader in a law firm I worked in as a word processor. I'm pretty sure it was Cahill Gordon & Reindel in Downtown Manhattan, where Floyd Abrams, frequent media guest on First Amendment issues, was a partner. I'm not sure I ever saw Abrams, tho, because George and I worked evening or graveyard shifts. In any case, this may turn out to be the first of many recreational bicycle tours of Newark.
a non-competitive bike tour of the city today at 9 a.m.
The ride, which is free and open to all, includes a 5-mile and a 15-mile "Family Fun Ride," as well as a 25-mile ride for skilled cyclists. Rides begin on Broad Street in front of City Hall and end with a health fair, live entertainment and food at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center, 211 West Kinney St.
The first 100 children and 100 adults to register will receive a free bike helmet. The first 500 registrants also will get a free T-shirt. Rest stops, food, and beverages, and full police escort will be provided along the route ... .
The City of Newark is launching "Team Newark," a city bicycle team that will compete in next year's national Race Across America.
The Team Newark website trivializes the appalling arduousness of the Race Across America:
Created in 1982, the Race Across America (RAAM) is now the longest running ultra-distance bicycle endurance competition in the world. This is not a stage race like the Tour de France, where each day a set distance is covered. In RAAM the gun fires somewhere on the West Coast (Oceanside, CA in 2006) and the finishing line is over 3000 miles away, on the other side of the continent.Let's make clearer what that means. Wikipedia says (emphasis supplied):
the clock runs continuously from start to finish. The winner of the race usually finishes in eight to nine days, after riding approximately 22 hours per day through the varied terrain of the US [including mountains and deserts]. Each racer has a crew that follows in one or more vehicles to provide food, water, and other supplies. [What about showers???] A crew vehicle fitted with flashing lights is required to follow closely behind the rider at all times to ensure they are visible.
Having to ride continuously for days with little to no sleep places tremendous strain on RAAM's participants. As many as 50% of solo participants drop out of the race due to exhaustion or for medical reasons. The race takes place on open public roads, forcing its participants to deal with traffic. Since 1982, there [have been] two fatalities in the race.
We went up SO Ave and then down SO Ave. I didn't like the backtracking.That makes no sense to me. They could have gone up (that is, west on) SOA (the main east-west drag of Vailsburg), then south on Sandford Avenue (the main north-south drag of western Vailsburg) to 18th Avenue (the western corner of my super-long block) and back east on 18th Avenue, thru a corner of Irvington and then past West Side Park to Springfield Avenue. Springfield intersects Bergen Street at the Applebee's, so the cyclists need merely have made a right there to head down to Weequahic.
How does any of that square with the stated goals of Team Newark (emphasis supplied):
Raising funds while having fun.What, tho, lies in the minds of people egged on to insanely self-destructive, extreme behavior?
Raising health awareness through actions.
Building community through personal responsibility.
Building strong hearts, minds, and spirits, through inspiration.
In the hearts of healthy individuals lie the seeds for healthy communities.
There are many stupid people who can be influenced to do things that are hugely destructive to them, thru the infamous phenomenon of "peer pressure". Team Newark is creating a peer group that will egg people on to potentially catastrophic dangerous behavior. I regard the Race Across America as a criminal enterprise that should be out-and-out forbidden by law. Its organizers, and the teams created to participate in it, are equivalent to the slime who notoriously have gathered in mobs on the sidewalks opposite people standing on ledges of high buildings and chanted, "Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!"
If the United States cannot have a civilized long-distance bicycle race like the Tour de France, it should have NONE. Newark should not in any way encourage the kind of extreme behavior that the Race Across America incites. What next? A Team Newark to emulate the stunts in Jackass movies? How about encouraging kids to lie down on the yellow stripe in the middle of highways, as has actually happened, and actually killed stupid teens. Young people are easily influenced to do incredibly stupid things, some of which might truly kill them. The City of Newark should in no case participate in the encouragement of madness.
"The Bicycle Tour will restore the history of cycling back to its historic site, Newark, and will also propel our city to become environmentally-conscious and family-fit, leading the race in America for healthy communities," said Recreation Manager Zaid Braswell[.]
"In the 1920s," wrote Peter Nye, author of "hearts of Lions: The Story of American Bicycle Racing" and historian of the U. S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, "Newark was to bicycle racing what the Yankee Stadium is to baseball." Bicycle racers, wrote Charles Cummings, Newark Historian (in New Jersey Monthly, Oct. 2003) "from all over the nation and around the globe made the pilgrimage to the Newark Velodrome." The Newark Velodrome, of course, was the center of Newark bicycle racing. It was located at 701-711 South Orange Avenue, between Devine Street and Munn Avenue.
The creators of the Prudential Center didn't forget that history. I showed here January 11th a foto of a race underway in the Newark Velodrome, in my part of town, Vailsburg. (The second foto there, of a sign showing a caption, may not look like a foto, since the font of the sign is the same as that of this blog, except larger in that picture.)
There apparently no longer is a Devine Street. Mapquest suggests that 701 SOA would be on the north side of SOA opposite Vailsburg Park. I then went to Google maps to make sure of that and was ASTONISHED to find what I thought must be a new feature: a panoramic view of that location in fotos! Check it out. A foto will appear in a box superimposed on the map, with a "Street view" hyperlink. Click on it, and you will see a foto of that location. Place your cursor somewhere in the picture and drag, and the vantage point of the foto moves, to show you the entire area around. This truly amazed me. It is the most astonishing thing I have seen in a long time, if not the single most astonishing thing I have ever seen on the Internet. I feel like one of the "natives" in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby classic comedy, the Road to Zanzibar, or some such comic movie of the Forties, astonished by a flame magically popping out of a cigaret lighter.
OK, the fotos are not completely up-to-date. The construction of a new school has started in what is, in the foto, an enormous vacant lot. The far end of that lot is where the burned-out office building that long blited the entrance to Vailsburg just west of the overpass carrying the Garden State Parkway used to stand. (To see what used to be there, click on the last foto in the Newarkology tour of South Orange Avenue.) Zounds! That a company based in Mountain View, California (where my brother Brian lived for a while, decades ago) would have a panorama of this part of Newark, NJ, on the opposite side of an entire continent, is astonishing to me. Why wasn't I informed?
I had to experiment. I plugged in "edison place and mulberry street", the location of the Prudential Center, and found a 360° panorama of the area during the construction of the Arena! There also appeared an "Explore this area" option, where, oddly enuf, I found something I was looking for earlier, some info about the Newark Arts and Music Festival at Halsey Village. I didn't know if it has already been held (it occurred on the same weekend as the Portugal Day street festival last year) or was yet to be held, for a second year, in that the first event, last year, was only sparsely attended. The maps that popped up, created by "Sebastian", were uploaded "May 14" and updated "Jun 4" — no year, so presumably 2008. But a regular Google Web search turned up nothing for 2008. Anyone??
I then plugged in my own address, on a quiet side street in an out-of-the-way semi-suburban area, and, lo and behold, a "Street view" foto did come up. The street address was off a bit, but I recognized houses up the street. So I plugged in a number 30 higher than my actual house number and, jeez, a street view of my house did come up! Un-f(asterisk)ing believable!
I thought I was going to have to venture out with my videocamera to create panoramic videos of key parts of Newark for my TourismNewark.org website, like those that Newark, England has put onto its website. Now, however, all I have to do is plug in the specifications for Google Maps' "Street view" panoramas (e.g., Broad and Green Streets, the City Hall area), and Google will supply not just a panorama for that immediate area but also all kinds of additional information, including fotos and even videos, for many Newark sights in the vicinity. If you click on one of the fotos shown to the left of such a "Street view" panorama, another window may pop up with another panorama. Unbelievably fabulous. (Or, in that I am sometimes inclined to lapse into (my little bit of) French or Spanish: "Incroyablement fabuleux!" or "Increíblemente fabuloso!")
I love it when other people do some of my work. It almost never happens. Were I to win the lottery, I would hire a LOT of help, in all kinds of areas of life. When I was a child, people hired "help" (with the housework, with a business, with whatever) at a reasonable price, and got a lot more done with a lot less stress. Today, in our supposedly enlitened but actually benited age, everybody has to do everything himself/herself. We are overworked and overstressed, and our houses and other areas of life are a mess. What ever happened to that fundamental principle of civilization, "division of labor"?) Today, however, somebody did my fotografy for me, and it turns out that Google Maps is going to do my TourismNewark panoramic-foto work — and more — for me too, well into the future. Terrific.