Friday, April 24, 2009

Oil City Bicycling

(News-Herald, April 23) I have discovered one more reason to be jealous of Oil City.
I don’t mean merely their politics. Oil City has been on the move the last year or two, and I don’t think it’s because of any clever marketing. The growth of the arts initiative has been great and one or two other pieces are falling into place, but mostly I think Oil City has managed some interesting, robust politics.
I mostly blame the mayor. Small towns are at their best with interesting mayors. It’s true that interesting doesn’t always sweep or patrol the streets, but cities have paid employees for that. It’s a mayor’s job to keep the city interesting, to put a good public face on it, to give it a personality.
Goy Mammolite and Bob Olson certainly gave Franklin an interesting face in their day, and I suppose that I am bitter that none of the interesting people I suggested as mayoral material stepped up. We don’t even have a race for mayor in Franklin, and while our single candidate may be competent, I have no idea if he’s interesting. Certainly a one-man race is not interesting. I mention this now only because there is still time for a write-in campaign, if we can just come up with someone willing to be written.
But that’s my old reason to be jealous of Oil City.
I discovered my new one last weekend when I ventured out on the bike trail. The trail was, as always, a pleasure. The Allegheny Valley Trails folks have given us one of our greatest recreational assets, a long winding stretch of placid pavement that provides a window on some of the greatest scenic splendor in all of Pennsylvania.
I was so energized by the ride upriver that I decided to check out the marked extension of the trail that runs through town.
I do this kind of adventure carefully. I am not a Serious Biker. Bicycling offers a chance to get Really Serious by buying special accessories and toys and clothing in various shades not ordinarily found in nature. I don’t own any of that—I have reached a point in life where I have no illusion that any sort of athletic gear could ever make me appear either cool or hot. So I settle for comfort.
I have several friends who are Serious Bikers. There’s Steve, who rockets down the back roads of Venangoland at speeds that make me uncomfortable in a car, and Paul and Terri who have logged enough bicycle miles to travel to Peru and back 147 times, or Mike who uses biking terminology that sounds like space shuttle parts. They all have great biking stories, though I notice that many of these stories include phrases such as “and then I hit the yak” or “when I woke up in the hospital” or “the doctor said that with therapy I’ll be good as new in a year or twelve.”
So I’m not a Serious Biker. And I am happy to report that even a non-serious biker can navigate the Oil City bike environs with relative ease.
Unlike Franklin, which asks cyclists and pedestrians to battle it out on the sdiewalk, Oil City has actual bike lanes in the street. There are drawbacks to this—Oil City streets include potholes large enough to have their own zip codes—but for the most part it makes navigation easy and uncomplicated.
The signage is good, though in one or two spots it’s an advantage to already know one’s way around Oil City. And the bike paths provide a biker’s version of the Oil City one-way maze.
But (ignoring hilly parts) it is much easier to navigate through Oil City by bike than it is to pedal about Franklin. It may even be easier to get around Oil City by bicycle than to get around Oil City by car. (It should be noted, however, that in both cities your troubles begin when you decide to get off the bicycle and park it somewhere.)
The Oil City leg only takes you to the top of the North Side; the next adventure will be to orienteer my way to Oil Creek park and on to Titusville. This summer’s goal is a Titusville to Emlenton ride.
In the meantime, if you love the bike trail, too, remember to support the AVTA folks with some cold hard cash. Anything worth having is worth paying for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds awsome. I've only done the trek from FTown to "the OC" and back, but not into, or north of the city. I'm very interested in the southern trek, (past where venturing at one time ment you may never be heard from again) with it's train tunnels etc.

We're back for our 20th (sorry Mr Greene!) at the end of July. Joel S., Dave S. and I are talking on facebook about a morning run...

Thanks for the inspiration...

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