Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mapping open space in Massachusetts, including private parcels

I have been thinking about access issues since I first noticed the signs in Estabrook Woods, warning trail users that the trails may be closed if people don't follow the rules (which are reasonable rules, in my opinion).  I have been walked, running, skiing, and biking in Estabrook since I first discovered the trails in 1998, not long after I moved to Boston.  I knew that the land there was largely private and I would love to have these trails remain open for the long term.

Someone recently asked me if a map or data of Chapter 61 exists and I looked and found one, held by MassGIS, the state agency charged with maintaining and distributing public geospatial data for the state.  (Find the links to the data and explanations at the end of the post.)  The map below uses this data.

Estabrook is primarily private land.  If you know where to look, it's a big patch of yellow on the map (P, for Private for profit) and outlined in blue.  A lot of that land is owned by Harvard University.  There is also the Pippen Tree Farm (L for Land Trust, color is sort of orange, depending on your screen), which has been the most emphatic about limiting which trails can be used on their land.  All of the private land is protected, and open, under Chapter 61, the Massachusetts law that gives favorable tax reductions if the land is managed for forestry and/or open to passive recreation.  Also see this explanation of the Chapter 61 regulations.  And the Town of Concord owns some parcels in the area.

After looking at Estabrook, I added my GPS track from the 2016 Diverged Ride out of Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  You can see this as a red line on the map that turns into red dots as you zoom in.  You can see that the ride largely stays on public land and sometimes on land protected by Chapter 61 (P and L among other categories - a full list of categories is below the map in this post).  At other times it is on roads or public right of ways.  I've been on several of their rides:


and always wondered what land we were on and how legal is was to be there.  The short answer is that the rides were either well researched or lucky in that they all seem to follow public or otherwise open land.  Check out the map.

One thing to note is the many small parcels that make up Minuteman National Historical Park.  Any guesses as to why the Park Service had to buy many small parcels to make this?

Another oddity: The land that the Reformatory Branch Trail runs on is public.  But the Bedford section of the Minuteman Path is owned by the town.  And the Lexington section is privately owned, at least according to the map.

The codes (FEESYM) in the map are likely to be unreadable on their own.  Here is what MassGIS says in the metadata (see link below):

F- Federal
S - State
C - County
M - Municipal
N - Private Nonprofit
P - Private for profit
B - Public Nonprofit
L - Land Trust
G - Conservation Organization
O - Other / None of the above (e.g.joint ownership)
X - Unknown
I - Inholding (a piece of unprotected property surrounded on all sides by a protected property or a recreational facility)
Unconfirmed:
1 - EOEEA or alternate state agencies
2 - EOEEA or non-profit
3 - EOEEA or municipality
4 - EOEEA or private landowner

You can download this data from MassGIS here.  And here is how they constructed the data model.  It isn't new data - I found a 2008 version that has fewer private parcels in the Estabrook area.  It is nice to know that his data is available to plan mixed terrain rides, if you aren't like Vandermark and have all of them memorized already.

And you should be aware that the final arbiter of boundaries are the survey descriptions and not these lines on a map.  As MassGIS said in the download/metadata page:

"These data are very useful for most statewide and regional planning purposes. However, they are not a legal record of ownership, and the user should understand that parcel representations are generally not based on property surveys."

And I will add that your GPS tracks are from an instrument with an accuracy of 3-5 meters and less under dense foliage.

The map on this page was made with Carto.  It is pretty easy to use although I couldn't see how to make layers transparent on the free version (please let me know how to if you know how to do this).  I can make a better map using Qgis but I don't have access to a server to make it public.  But you can download Qgis and export your Garmin tracks to GPX format and make custom maps at home.  Let me know if you want some help doing that.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

So where do you coffeeneur?

It's back, the communal coffeeneuring map.  It's the only coffeeneuring map that I will make in 2018 so please check it out and, more importantly, add the coffee shops where you drink coffee, or other approved beverages, this year.  First, the map, followed by information about how to add to the map and how to copy the map.  Zoom into the map and click on a marker to see who drank what and how they liked the shop.



So this is how it works ...

Anyone interested in adding their stops to the map should email me directly.  Find my email address in the About Me section of the right column of this blog.  Please send me your Gmail account, which seems to be the easiest to work with.  I will give you editing privileges via email.  If you have added your stops in the past, you should be all set.  Open Google Drive and look for tables that have been shared with you.  It is called Coffeeneuring Stops.

Notice that you will have editing privileges, which means you can add rows of data but also accidentally delete or otherwise edit another person's data.  So you you will have to be careful.  This is what the table looks like so far:


If you want to add a coffeeneuring stop, you go to the Rows view (note the tab for Row, Cards, and Map of Location) and then in the Edit menu, select Add Row.  You might select Delete Row by accident, which will delete all of the rows and end this experiment.  The Add Row interface looks like this:


You need to fill in the coffee shop name (Shop), which is a simple text field.

Next, add the address (Address).  The address could be something like "1720 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420" (the Ride Studio Cafe address), or it could be "Concord, MA", which would be less precise.  It's best to check the address in Google Maps.  For instance, something like "Starbucks in Lexington, MA" yields the less helpful (in this instance) map of all of the nearby Starbucks.  "Ride Studio Cafe Lexington, MA" works since there is only one Ride Studio Cafe in or near Lexington, MA.  An address could be a latitude, longitude pair, like "33.023513, -113.049178", works.  Try this one in Google Maps.  I've had lunch at this place, but didn't get there by bike.  If you think you don't have access to where you visited in spherical coordinates, simply open Google Earth and zoom to where you had coffee and look at the bottom of the Google Earth window.  Google Maps likes Decimal Degrees and not Degrees Minutes Seconds, which is the Google Earth default.  Change this in the Tools menu under Options.  In the Options window, look for Show Lat/Long then click on the Decimal Degrees radio box.

Now add a link to the coffee shops website (Link).  This is a hyperlink, if that term is still used, which take the map reader to the website and will hopefully help other coffeeneurs figure out if they want to visit the shop as well.

You can add notes about the coffee shop, or your visit in the Notes field.

The last field, Coffeeneur, is meant to identify you, the person entering the data.  And by identifying you, I mean your online presence, if you have one.  For instance, you could put in a link to your Twitter page or a blog post about a coffeeneuring trip.  You could have put in a link to your Instagram account.  Anything works but it should be a legitimate web address or leave it blank and leave your first name in the Notes field.  Once you added a row and saved it (see the above image) then you need to click on the Map of Locations tab.  This geocodes the address, making it possible to put a pushpin on the map representing the shop and the data about it that you added.  Doing this may change the map extent.  While it is presently centered around Lexington, MA, adding a point in Finland, where there is an active coffeeneur, will center the map over the Atlantic and scale it so that both the eastern United States and Europe are in the map.

So be brave and contact me and I'll give you permission to edit the map and soon you will be adding to the map on this page.  A word of warning: I work a full time job during regular-ish business hours and have two children.  That means it might take a day or two after you send me an email to invite you as an editor.  If I seemed to forget, don't worry about pinging me.

Duplicates?

Apparently there are only so many coffee shops - people are visiting the same shops that others have been to on this year's coffeeneuring challenge or last year's, when we started this map.  And this is a challenge for the those adding their coffeeneuring stops to the map.  I have an interim measure to deal with  this, although not gracefully.  There is now a new column in the data: Older visits.  For now, if you see that the shop that you want to add is already in the map, you can do two things, depending on the year the shop was last visited:

1) If the information is from the current year, put your name/twitter feed/blogpots into the More Coffeeneurs 1 2 3 columns.  If you run out of columns, let me know.  Add anything you want to the notes but write that a second coffeeneur is adding the notes.

2) If the information is older, feel free to add to the notes before the older notes and put your name/twitter feed/blogpots into the More Coffeeneurs 1 column (or 2 if 1 is filled in or 3 if two is filled in).  If you run out of columns, let me know.

These extra columns aren't showing up on the map now but I'll fix that this evening.

Making the map your own

Having a group map is great but you might want to include a map of your stops on your blog.  You can do this easily.  First, when looking at the map view, use the filter to find only your entries.  If you did this with single entry, like I did last year (with "https://twitter.com/NEBicyclist"), you can easily find your data by clicking on Filter, then Coffeeneur and then clicking on the checkbox for you name.  You might search for your name, as I did in the example below.


Or you might have added your stops with a blog post for each entry, which I am doing this year.  In this case, you need to scroll down through the list and check off each of your entries.  Remember that this list is alphabetic and where how you entered a link matters.  For instance, some of the twitter links are http:twitter.com and others are https:/twitter.com.  Therefore all of the https links are after all of the http links


Once you have your stops selected, you can publish you maps.  Publish is under the Tools menu.  You will get two options: a link like this one for my map or HTML so you can embed your map using HTML as I have done here:




The form that you pull the link and HTML looks like this:


You may have to mess with how the map is centered as long as  your stops are in the center of the map but it is mostly a trial and error process.

It should be put before the last DIV in the HTML in Blog

Once you have your map all set, go back to the original fusion  table and delete your filter.  The link and embedded code still have the filters.


Friday, August 31, 2018

D2R2 2018


Another D2R2 happened a couple of weeks ago and I got to be there.  I didn't actually ride the D2R2 per se.  I rode the Green River Ride and added some extra stuff with some help.   I ended up starting the 100K with Joe (@geojoek on Instagram) and his friend Nancy.  We rode the brown route on the map at the bottom of this post.  We bailed from the main route maybe 18 miles in and Joe knew the roads to take down (as in losing elevation) to the Green River Tour.

For me, it was a pretty fabulous day.  I was hoping to ride with Joe and Alex and Carla but I was early and they were late and the rain was threatening so I was eager to get out so I could get back and avoid the thunderstorms that were in the forecast (but never materialized).  After getting an early start out of the house, I arrived at D2R2 headquarters by 7:15 and picked up my registration materials, found Joe, and ate breakfast.  After changing and getting my bike out of my car, we all met up and left with a slightly bigger group with some faster riders who soon left us behind.  The first challenge was Old Albany Road, something I heard about conditions there, thanks to Pamela Blalock:



As my comment on her posts suggest, it was time to get a second set of tires for the Surly.  That was part of the plan when I first started using Compass tires 2 years ago (and was delayed when the bike with those tires was trashed in a collision with a car).  I had Clement (now Donnelly) USH tires, which were pretty good for commuting and road rides and pretty good for dirt.  To meet the demands of this year's D2R2 (15 inches of rain fell on the area in the month prior to the ride), I got the 40 mm Donnelly MSOs.  They got me up Old Albany and made me feel pretty comfortable on the rest of the dirt roads we encountered, particularly on the descents.  I kept the tires on for the next week or so and enjoyed a late evening ride on the Reformatory Branch Trail and Battle Road and appreciated the stability on sandy stretches of trail and on the muddy sections.  They are off now for the commutes when I can look my bike up securely (the bike cage I use is temporarily out of commission).

Without going into details about the rest of the ride, let's just say it was pretty nice.  I loved the views from the high elevations and also loved the dirt sections along the Green River (but the views up high are the best).  Joe was able to get us on nice alternative roads on our way into Greenfield and we followed the official route back to finish.  Rain came but wasn't overwhelming and I saw some pretty cool bikes en route, at lunch, and at the finish.  Joe and Nancy are about my speed and it was a great social experience - a rolling conversation punctuated with some substantial climbs and quick descents.

Like my experience in 2009, the narrow roads were busy and I saw people passing others on narrow sections of dirt roads.  The crowds thinned out on the way to the Patten Hill rest stop and it was quiet on our private route to the Green River Tour.  Lunch, on the other hand, was out of hand.  There was a law enforcement officer at the lunch stop using his loudspeaker to try to get people off of the bridge and the road.  He was largely unsuccessful.  I wonder if the rain caused this by making people less interested in getting back on their bikes in the rain.

I'll end this with pictures and captions.  The rest of the Instagram posts are from Joe, who is an actual photographer.


I knew it would be raining on my morning drive to Deerfield so my bike was loaded into the car for a dry start to the day.
Some people camped and some of them camped in style or didn't pack light.
Damp morning at the food and registration tents.
Kind of a nice road, if you ask me.
I don't know this cyclist but he was working hard to get up the hill, as were most other cyclists I saw as I waited for Joe and Nancy,  This was the first big one north of Route 2.  Most everyone stopped to catch their breath here.  Peter Weigle passed me on this hill and proved to me that not only does he make some of the best bikes around but he can power up hills on his Weigle.
Even the paved roads are scenic.  That's Nancy in the light blue jersey.
A panorama of the snack stop at the little big house on Patten Hill.  This is where we decided to shorten our ride and head  to the Green River Tour.

Joe heard there was a good view from the top of the hill just west of the snack stop and it didn't disappoint.  We eventually were overtaken by rain that you can see falling here.  We had it for about the last 15 minutes of the ride to the lunch stop and through lunch but it was light and I didn't melt. I did wear a rain coat for lunch, which was better than getting cold.

A pair of matching Ebisu bikes.  I've heard of these but never saw one of the east coast.
A Firefly at the lunch stop, just thrown into the bushes, as one does with a $6,000 or $8,000 bike.
A Indy Fab at the lunch spot.
Joe lives around here so he knows all the swimming holes.  There was a fabulous series of swimming holes in a gorge above where the bikes are parked.  Swimming wasn't a priority on this year's D2R2 but would be on a hotter day.

From Joe:





A post shared by GeoJoeK (@geojoek) on

That's me on Old Albany Road.  This is a pretty nice section of road.  It got worse, particularly in the steeper sections.




A post shared by GeoJoeK (@geojoek) on

Nancy and me at the top of Patten Hill.

The route and timing from Strava.


To Nancy and Joe: thanks for the ride and the great day!


So this is what the Green River Tour looks like. Maybe. These are the roads I used over the 5 times I rode the Green River Tour.  Orange: 2014, Green: 2015, Blue: 2017, Brown: 2018.  2013 (the basic GRT) is a thicker line covered by the other years.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The 2017 coffeeneuring season

It's over, apparently.  I saw the Daily Randonneur's post for his last coffeeneuring trip of the season and thought, "uh oh, maybe time's up, I should have paid more attention to the schedule."  He should know as he is married to Mary, the Chief Coffeeneur.  So I went back to the announcement and, sure enough, it ended on November 19, the evening I saw the post.  So I narrowly missed it but here is my report for the history (of coffeeneuring) books.

My first coffeeneuring trip was an early morning ride, starting in the fog, with remarkably little traffic.  You say there shouldn't be much traffic at 5:30 AM but there is some and there wasn't any that day.  Full report is here.  In case you don't follow the link, here is what sunrise looked like:



My second coffeeneuring trip was a weekday trip, taking advantage of new rules as of 2016:


My third coffeeneuring trip was a ride from Concord to Harvard with my friend Carl.  Concord is approximately the midpoint between our homes and starting there made for a pretty short ride to Harvard.  We had very cold weather to start but the day warmed up so we could enjoy coffee outside.

On the way up the hill - time to remove some layers.

Bike parking at the Harvard General Store.

Coffee, outside.  But not a coffees shop without walls. We even sat on one.
Coffeenneuring #4 was also a weekday coffeeneuring with a shop relatively new to me:


Coffeeneuring #5 was a nice dirt and paved road ride, including the Reformatory Branch Trail and Battle Road along with a great latte at Ride Studio Cafe.

Side trail in Concord.  It was a bit rooty but I made it on 28 mm tires.

At Ride Studio Cafe.
Next, I used the "friend's house as a coffee shop" rule and rode to East Cambridge for a coffee and a great long conversation with Paul, who has joined me on a least one coffeeneuring trip, although he doesn't join in the challenge.  I left just in time and made it home in the dark and as the rain was about to get me really wet.


And, finally, I missed the ending date but still made time for an espresso at NOCA (North Cambridge) Provisions, which was worth the stop:



Coffeeneuring maps

Mary asked me to make the maps again and I happily worked with her on the maps.  Mary adds the data and I've been hosting the maps here.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017 Coffeeneuring Finishers

When Mary of chasingmailboxes.com asked me to make the maps for the Coffeeneuring Challenge again this year, I jumped at the chance.  Who, after all, wouldn't be interested in helping this fun challenge?  I am actively working on finishing the challenge this year, taking advantage of the mid week rule (new last year).  Mary contacted me this weekend after she received a number of people sent her their submissions and wanted to see them on a map.  So I made the maps and gave Mary editing rights.  As of this writing, the maps are filling in quickly  So with that said, here are the maps.  Mary updates the maps and I am hosting them, although you may see the maps on her blog as well.

Finishers by state:



And the same map, zoomed into the DC/Northern Virginia area, where it all started:



And the cities where people are coffeeneuring.  Click on a city to see if someone from the city shared a link to their blog/instagram/twitter sites where they documented their travels:


Here is a link to show how I made the maps using Google Fusion Tables.

I will be adding the coffeeneuring destination map in this evening.

The long awaited coffeeneuring destination map:



Please read this post if you want to add to the destinations map.  Your stops will be in green, old stops are in blue (depending on your screen).

If you want to see how to deal with duplicates and how to make this map your own (all of the stops or just your stops) see read this post.

Lit up like a Christmas tree


Just bright enough or needlessly bright?
Yesterday I had a conversation with Emily O'Brien of Dill Pickle Gear about bike lighting, as we were standing next to my lit up bike.  She is of the opinion that one ought to ride with the required lighting, which ensures that anyone paying attention, and even those not paying complete attention, would notice.  Here is the text from the online Massachusetts General Laws:

(8) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display to the front of his bicycle a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet, and to the rear of said bicycle either a lamp emitting a red light, or a red reflector visible for not less than six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A generator powered lamp which emits light only when the bicycle is moving shall meet the requirements of this clause.
(9) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display on each pedal of his bicycle a reflector, or around each of his ankles reflective material visible from the front and rear for a distance of six hundred feet, and reflectors or reflective material, either on said bicycle or on the person of the operator, visible on each side for a distance of six hundred feet, when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps of a motor vehicle. This clause shall not prohibit a bicycle or its operator to be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by clauses (8) and (9).
I feel pretty safe with the above standards when out of town on unlit streets and on the Minuteman Path.  I don't feel it's enough when riding down busy streets with a lot of lights competing for drivers' attention.  So I up the lighting for my bikes a bit:

  • Small helmet light, high enough to get a driver's attention when they can't see the lights on my bike.
  • A second taillight, in slow (non siezure inducing) flashing mode.
  • A second headlight, aimed down and centered 10 feet in front of my wheel.
  • Spoke reflectors with integrated lights.  They are bright but not overpowering.

I also wear one of Emily's reflective sashes and have reflective bands on my arms and around my gloves.

Emily makes a great point that all of the extras that I use may cause a new cyclist to wonder about whether it is actually safe to be riding at all.  There is no small expense if getting all of the extras I use and I spend a decent amount of time and effort ensuring that I have the reflectors with me and put them on and take them off, along with all of the less permanently mounted lights.  I also have to admit that I use a lot less gear when I simply ride down the Minuteman and feel pretty safe even when I get on streets as I wind my way home.  And she also correctly pointed out that all of the lights and reflectors won't make an impaired driver see me.

She is right about all of this but I still feel exposed on a bike at night in the city so I will continue doing what I do.  What is your strategy?


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Commuting stories: "Yes, I am entitled" edition

#1: I was riding home on Friday and was a bit in a hurry but not riding fast, being in traffic and all.  I was on the Somerville Avenue bike lane, passing by Ibbetson Street, heading west.  I saw a couple of cars waiting to turn left, towards the car wash.  I was in the bike lane and had the right of way but you never know when someone might use the bike lane to pass stopped traffic.  I proceeded with caution and no one got in my lane.  At least no one in front of me.  As I passed by stopped traffic I sensed something behind me.  Cautious looking back, I saw a woman driving her SUV on my rear wheel.  She was moving slowly but she was right on my wheel.  I guess she felt entitled to take the bike lane to pass some cars on the right and save a few second and risk injury to me in the process.  She stayed right behind me as I headed into Wilson Square.  I felt like she was too close to move out of the way so I just stopped at the stop sign and got on Elm Street heading toward Davis Square.  The SUV followed me and passed me, a pretty too quickly for my tastes.  But, hey, she owned an SUV and was entitled to do what she wanted to do.  I wish I had a rear facing video camera to show Somerville Police.

#2:


On the other side of  Davis, I saw another great human specimen.  I was waiting on the bike light at the bike path Mass Ave crossing at Cedar Street, next to an older guy on a Specialized mountain bike.  A cyclist ran the red on Mass Ave and the guy on the Specialized said, "all those liberals on entitled."  Huh?  I responded with, "like those cabinet secretaries who take private jets, cause they are entitled?"  Boy, this guy had hate and lies ready to burst forth.  "I bet you like President Clinton." (I wish we had President Clinton.)  "What do you think of President Clinton selling uranium to the Russians, I bet you just ignore it."  All spewed out with venom and a pretty loud voice and many other words that I can't recount completely.  He sped off and I followed, only to keep an eye on where he was.  With such hate foaming at the surface, I wanted to know where he was going and make sure it wasn't near me.  After Alewife he went north on the Alewife path and that was it.  I was suspicious of this hateful guy and stopped at the Lake Street Crossing and looked back to make sure he wasn't following me.  I worry that there are people who consume lies that fill them with hate and I can cross paths with their insanity, again.  Even if I don't meet them in person, they seem adept (along with the Russian bots) at poisoning the public sphere with their racism and misogyny.