Thursday, May 19, 2011

Find the Best Bike Routes in New York

Even if you're very confident about getting where you need to go in New York on foot or by subway, I wouldn't be surprised if you're not so sure about the best bicycling routes. Fortunately, a group of web-savvy cyclists built Ride the City, an online interactive map that steers riders towards the safer bike lanes and greenways, avoiding highways and major thoroughfares whenever possible.

Just type your current location and desired destination into the "Where from?" and "Where to?" fields on their homepage and you'll instantly get a printable map with step-by-step directions. If you need to share the route with friends, you can grab a link to embed the map elsewhere on the web, or you can email it directly to your friends. Create an account if you want to save routes that you plan to take again some day. If you do register, be sure to rate the roads you love or hate so Ride the City can adjust the routes to match your comfort level.

Ride the City has apps for both iPhone and Android, so you don't need to print a copy of your map to stay on course. Plus, the website covers more than just New York—they've mapped more than two dozen cities around the world, and they're working on adding more.

Visit Ride the City's blog or FAQ page to find out more.

Images: thisisbossi; Screenshot from

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Building Around Awkward Spaces In a Room Makeover

Have you ever had the perfect plan for renovating a room when some ill-placed original detail threw a wrench in the works? That was the case with the den remodel in our 19th-century home in Northwest Connecticut. A cobbled-together plumbing enclosure was smack in the middle of where we wanted to put our old bookcase. Hiring a plumber to move the pipes didn't seem worth the hassle, so my wife and I decided to build a custom wall of shelves around the pipes.

We knew that we needed a place to put our computer, and we figured, since we were starting from scratch, we might as well include an integral desk in the plan. After determining a good height for the desk by sitting on a stool we already owned, we laid out a grid of bookshelves from floor to ceiling. I used a trick that I have seen in Shaker cabinetry where you gradually reduce the shelf heights as you go up, to give the illusion of a taller ceiling in the room and to give a harmonious feel to the overall design.

In the end, an assembly of simple plywood boxes, some classic-but-understated trim, and a fresh coat of paint turned this once-disjointed space into the most inviting room in our home.

Images: Rob Wotzak