Sunday, April 22, 2018

What Is It this Time, California? An Earth Day Post

What is it this time, California? 

It's the plastic straws, isn't it? Or is it the woodburning fireplaces? Let me guess: it is something - anything - but your own personal motor vehicle. 

Yes, I am disgusted that SB827 - a measure designed to build more housing near transit in CA - died in committee last week. But I shouldn't be surprised. California puts on a good show but it is really a red state disguised as a blue one in that it preserves the suburbs as though they were an endangered owl or a giant redwood. The fact that this state, which does so many things well (up to and including allowing bikes on trains) is so far behind the curve when it comes to building a car-lite world is really disheartening. 

So in the lead up to Earth Day 2018 I tried to think to myself - what would it take Californians to see just how absurd the car culture is? 

I went to work with my miniatures - first showing a place where unused motor vehicles are stored (it's important because around 25% or more of a city's land is used for storage of an unused motor vehicle and it should be easier to house a human being than it is to store a machine).

Eagle-eyes followers will note I have upped my game: yesterday I rode a cargo bike to Staples to buy black poster board and a white paint pen (as a habit I take a photo of my bike, no matter what I'm riding or where I'm riding it to, so that if it is stolen I have a most recent shot).

That is the rack I used.  I should point out that when this photo was taken I was returning a Rug Doctor I had rented from the nearby grocery store. I picked it up and returned it by bike because you don't have to make the air dirty if you want your carpets clean. Both ways I was transporting it I wanted to catch up with a Stanley Steemer van at a red light and pull the Robert DeNiro "I-am-watching-you-move" from Meet the Parents but no such luck. 

But back to the minatures. With the garage door open I made my streetscapes completely to scale in the hopes that California motorists (and street designers, government officials - Hi, Jerry Brown! - pretend environmentalists, etc.) would actually see their world - which causes about 1/3 of pollution in this state - for the first time. 

"A car rack? I think if you go around the corner of the building you'll find one on the sidewalk next to a sign that says 'Cars Not Allowed on Sidewalk'. You're brave to be driving a car here! Be careful!"

"Dammit! There's always a bike parked in the car lane!"

"Officers he just came out of nowhere. I don't know what he was doing driving at night. He and his car should have been painted a brighter color!"

"Don't worry, sir. He's dead but it's totally not your fault. No charges will be filed. You're free to go."

"Dang. I keep forgetting what side of the bike the gas cap is on."

"I have bad news. The little plastic wire tie that holds the brake cables together has come loose. It'll cost $1,200 to fix it but you can pick it up Friday. Next Thursday at the latest."

"Officer it was so horrible! He just accelerated his bicycle and plowed right through the crowd! All I could hear was screaming! Why would anyone do anything like this?"

"Terrorists use bicycles as weapons all the time, ma'am. But the cyclist was elderly and I think he just got the brake lever mixed up with the pedals. It happens all the time.*"

"Yes, I'll have a Double Double with fries and a Diet Coke. And extra onions."

The last one was a bonus to anyone following me on Twitter - I posted several of these yesterday under the hashtag #IfCarsWereBikes since that was when the mood struck.

So anyway, California: please let me know if I am getting through to you at all because this whole thing of keeping people living in one place and making them drive to another place for work is quite tiresome. Acknowledge that the young people living in crummy rented rooms and trapped in a car-centric system are going to want this state when you draw your last breath (and thanks to the fact the Bay Area now has the sixth worst air in the country every breath you take between now and then may feel a bit more labored than usual). 

Hope everyone had a good Earth Day. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

*This is actually a point that has to be talked about more. When people age in a car-centric system they age out of being able to care for and transport themselves. We owe it to ourselves and to every generation (even the Boomers) to endure some short-term disruption of the world - like what SB827 would have done - to get some long-term benefits.

Friday, February 9, 2018

"We need another Bay Bridge"? 1970 Called. It Wants Its Column Back.

At I read an opinion piece that made me feel like I had traveled back in time. The days of leaded gasoline. Nixon was in the White House. Elvis was alive. 

The headline was enough to conjure images of time travel: "Time to face reality: We need another bay bridge."

It was written by Roumen V. Mladjov, who's byline only said he is a structural and professional engineer. A quick look on The Google shows he's also a contributing writer at Structure (not surprising since it is a well-written piece) and he has over 50 years of experience in engineering.  

It's the last part that made me wince. 

Mr. Mladjov, if you're reading this: I do not insult your profession, age, or experience. If anyone needed a bridge built, your five decades of wisdom would be of incredible use. 

My problem with a Baby Boomer writing about this (and yes, I am going to have to Go There) is the lens from which they view the problem - and by lens I mean windshield

Where to start: the column begins with a complaint about Bay Area traffic and then he asks us to "consider the statistics" in that the region's population has risen by 27.5% since 1990. It's a compelling argument but it quickly turns to Structural Engineer Fan Fiction when he leans on projections, saying the "300,000 vehicles per day (on the bridge) will increase to 363,000 vehicles by 2040." 

It won't. 

As I said in the video I posted the other day: one parking space is 168 square feet. If 63,000 additional vehicles cross the bridge we'll need over ten million square feet on the other side. Where are the cars going to park?

That's not a bridge builder's problem. It's yours.

The bigger issue I have with the casual projection is it ONLY talks about car travel. As though the are NO other alternatives on the horizon and NOTHING will change about how we get around. As though Millennials are just as crazy about cars as their Boomer parents and grandparents were. They aren't.

As if to bolster the "let's-give-a-new-bridge-to-cars! Yay!!!" argument the piece includes some statistics about how people currently get to work. His stats are probably right (though cyclists are, confusingly, completely absent) but I just want to scream like I do at the horror movie where the person goes upstairs to escape the killer: OF COURSE MOST PEOPLE USE CARS! THE WORLD WAS MADE FOR THEM! IF I LEFT 99 TWINKIES AND ONE SALAD IN A ROOM OF 100 PEOPLE, I WOULDN'T CONCLUDE THAT TWINKIES ARE THE MOST PREFERRED FOOD!

Now that I've taken a deep breath and have removed CAPS-LOCK I will say this as well: not only are younger people not as interested in owning cars as the Boomers, but they also don't have any...what's that Why? Because they are crushed by student loans and spending a lot of money in the Bay Area on rent. 

And that is the most damning problem with this piece. It makes no mention of housing, which, as I've written about before, is part of the of the same transportation and traffic problem. Build entities far away from work with no transit options (and with dangerous, bike and pedestrian unfriendly roads) people will get in cars and drive. Throwing money at a bridge in the Bay Area without thinking about housing in the Bay Area is criminally wrongheaded thinking.

Mr. Mladjov - and I say this with respect and only guessing your living situation - not everyone had the opportunity to buy a house in San Francisco before Prop 13 took effect which can now be sold for millions. Most people around here spend $2,500 a month or more on rent and are frozen out of buying. The inventory of homes is insanely low and the prices just keep rising. With so much out of pocket costs for housing there is little money left for Millennials to build any kind of wealth.

CalTrain. We need more of these. 

We're fine with the bridges we have. All we need to do is reallocate space from single-occupancy motor vehicles and people will get to where they need to go faster. 

All we need to do is reallocate space from single-occupancy motor vehicles and people will get to where they need to go faster.*

Between biking, walking, trains, zoning changes that encourage walkable places, smarter buses and (sigh) self-driving transport down the line there will be fewer cars and more room for housing - which would be a better place for the $3 billion Mr. Mladjov suggests would be needed for a new bridge to go.

We have played this game far too long. We dump billions into car infrastructure, and the traffic gets worse.  If building more infrastructure for cars was going to work, we would have seen the results long ago. A lot of great things need to be built and are going to be built - but not all of them will have a huge ribbon and giant scissors for the unveiling. That's fine. It's what we need. 

What we don't need is a 50 year old answer to a 50 year old problem. Don't build a new bridge. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*That wasn't a mistake: I put that sentence in there twice to make sure it would be read.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

All About Parking

Here's a short film about parking and about space. Not space in the cool Neil DeGrasse Tyson context - space, on this planet - and especially in cities. Give it a look and a share. Thanks for watching and thanks for riding. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Biking (Again!!!) In New York City

New York City, Dec. 22, 2017

"This is the year we spend Christmas alone at a Denny's in Witchita, Kansas.

This is what I tell myself every time the trip from California to Connecticut begins. There are so many interconnected stages of the journey barely holding on to one another that if just ONE thing goes wrong it can be chaotic - and if that one thing is the flight, that's it. 

In the span of 25 hours, I took one overnight cross country flight, three Lyft rides, three New York City cabs, a Metro North Railroad trip, a two-hour Amtrak trip, and two car rides from friends and family just to get from San Jose to a small house in Mystic, Connecticut where my parents live. This is where I learned how to kayak when I was a kid. 

Worth the trip. 

But as I started to tell you in my last post my relationship with Christmas has changed since I moved to the Bay Area. If you host a Christmas gathering at your house your relationship with Christmas - when does everyone arrive? Where do they sleep? What do we eat? - is the same no matter what happens to your guests before. But if you have to spend two hours in late November trying to figure out how to travel two hours of a 25 hour journey, your relationship with Christmas is going to be affected.

Mine sure was, and I was feeling it as I was groggily wandering New York City around ten in the morning on Friday, December 22nd. 

Because of the way the day was structured, about two hours after the plane landed (In New York and not Wichita! Woo-hoo!) I had about two hours to myself near the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th Street. It was cold and I was wearing a wool coat I had mashed into my carry-on and a hat with matching gloves that only sees action when I visit the East Coast. 

After a long red-eye flight all I wanted to do really was sleep. But as I wandered up 8th Avenue I soon came to a CitiBike bike share rack. 

I normally dislike biking without a helmet (like the talented writer Karen Kefauver, I believe one should bike in the world we have, not the world we wish we had) but I looked at 8th Avenue. It had a protected bike lane that stretched as far as the eye could see. 

My jet-lag addled brain hatched a plan: I'd get a bike, ride up to NYCeWheels (a bike shop I used to blog for that specializes in folding bikes and urban scooters) and do some shopping.

As you know by the white paper I wrote a few years ago about Bike Share in London, I'm well versed in how to use a bike share bike when you don't have a membership: stick in a credit card, follow a few dodgy prompts, and unlock a bike. It's easier than I remembered, and unlike London I knew where I was going. 

At least I thought I did. NYCeWheels had changed locations since I had last been there - they are now on 58th St. between 1st and 2nd. A little closer than I thought but still over three miles away. 

So I pedaled north.

It was the longest period of time I've spent on a protected bike lane, and this was a pretty good one. I've never liked bike lanes that keep me corralled in such a way I can't get back into traffic easily (like when I want to make a left turn) but this one worked pretty well.

I also enjoyed being outside in a city I still feel more at home in than I do now in San Jose. I briefly thought of the ten Five Boro Bike Tours I had done and wondered if there'd ever be an eleventh. 

Never mind. 

I made it to NYCeWheels a little after 11 in the morning. Lucky for me their new location was easy to find. And the little ramp they had outside leading into the shop seemed inviting. 

With no docking station nearby I simply rolled the bike inside where I got to see NYCeWheels' new digs. 

They had definitely moved up. Their old location was tiny and this one had the room for plenty of Bromptons and quite a few accessories. I've admired these bikes for years - and my admiration only went up when I got to tour the Brompton factory in London a few years ago. 

I bought about $200 worth of stuff that I couldn't find in the Bay Area - and I reasoned it was worth having to carry this stuff the rest of the entire Christmas journey.

First I needed to bring it back to 16th and 8th. Luckily I easily latched my complimentary plastic bag* to the front rack. I checked my watch. I could just about make it if I hurried. 

Sufficiently warmed up at this point I definitely pedaled faster to get back. Not in the relative safety of the bike lane for a chunk of the way I shared the road with cars and felt the kind of pleasant, Premium Rush-ish "I'm home" feeling I hadn't felt in a while. Almost no electric cars, no Access OK stickers. Just potholed streets, ornery drivers, mysterious vapors rising from the street. New York delivered a cycling experience that only New York can - and I was thrilled to be a part of it. 

I returned the bike to the docking station and walked briskly to the meeting point at 16th and 8th with minutes to spare, holiding my bright green plastic bag. I ended up stuffing the contents into a suitcase and later made it up to Level 5 of Luggage Tetris to make everything fit to go home. 

Now this may just sound like a nice story, or a good way to pass time, but I like to think it's more than that.

You see, The New York Post recently published a column by Steve Couzzo titled This is the Single Biggest Threat to Progress in NYC. Couzzo correctly cited traffic as a huge problem facing the city but, like so many others who defend cars, is pounding nails into his own forehead and blaming others for the headache.

Read his piece (as well as the other cringeworthy article from the Post editorial board bashing congestion pricing). 

Cities have outgrown cars. We need people to drive them less. Our lungs, bodies and financial solvency depend on it. 

Congestion is caused by car traffic and productivity is lost. Part of how to combat that is by creating safe bike lanes (like the one I enjoyed) and giving people more opportunities to use a bike in the first place (like bike share). 

Think for a moment: $200 went to a small retailer in New York City I never would have gone to since a taxi or Lyft would have been too expensive and slow. But the city provided infrastructure and means for me to stimulate the economy. 

Couzzo and those like him probably just defend cars out of habit - or because they drive one themselves and just want to get to where they are going faster. So they peer out of their windshields and make checklists of things that should go away to enable them to do that. But nature abhors a vacuum, and cars will take up any space that we give to them. So taking away bike lanes will only make car traffic worse. 

The city is moving in the right direction. Yours might be too. Some streets are being taken away from cars altogether, which is what needs to happen more often, not less often, going forward. We also can't deny congestion pricing will help NYC even more. 

So keep moving forward, New York City and other cities. Ignore the naysayers who don't understand the concept of induced demand. Take more from cars, give to cyclists and pedestrians. And I will make damn sure I'll visit more shops again even when busy travelers like me only have a narrow window of time to shop in New York. 

I have no ending for this, so I will show you a picture of where I biked on the West Coast on New Year's Day: Fort Ord.

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*you can't get that so easily in California. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Five Ways To Feel the Holiday Spirit

Something I haven't told that many people: I have a really hard time feeling the Christmas spirit like I used to. 

It's been like that a few years, actually: the last time I really felt the buy-me-the-biggest-goose-in-all-of-London! feeling was the morning I took the bike ride I took to different toy stores on December 14, 2012.

And on the way back I found out about the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary.

One of the twenty pictures I posted a few days later - one for each of the child victims - this one summed up the feeling of Christmas in Connecticut at the time.

The following year the division I led at my then-workplace which studied consumer books was closed and I was laid off in the most unceremonious and maddeningly polite way imaginable. Today I do take some comfort knowing I was right when I predicted the resilience of print books and independent bookstores and I predicted the disaster that would ensue if Barnes & Noble tried to separate their e-book business from the rest of the company. 

But still, it stung.

My point is it can take a while to move past the derailments that can sometimes take place around the holidays - or you just aren't feeling the Christmas vibe. Either way, I got a few suggestions at ways to try and feel the holiday spirit.  

Here goes: 

5) Watch the Cranksgiving San Jose video shot by Tanner Marcoida

Yeah it has been a while since I've written, hasn't it? Cranksgiving San Jose took place on Nov. 18th. It was harder to do this year since I was running it - and I'm not just referring to my painful lack of leadership skills but my inability to drum up volunteers to replace the ones who moved out - or were priced out - of San Jose between the first Cranksgiving San Jose in 2016 and this one. 

Still I'm incredibly happy with what was done: we had 61 riders gather 891 pounds of food to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. And the other day Tanner released the video and it is really difficult to watch without smiling. 

4) Donate to Housing Trust Silicon Valley

If you've got year-end charitable contributions you want to make before the year comes to an end, please donate to Housing Trust Silicon Valley. They do a lot of great stuff to help people who are impacted by the cartoonishly high home and rent prices out here: financing affordable homes, down payment assistance for buyers, programs to help homeless move into a place they can afford. They do important work, and as of two months ago, I am happy to say I help them do it.

3) Take a Yoga Class and donate a class at Be The Change Yoga & Wellness

Three days before Cranksgiving I was in for a shock: TechShop closed suddenly. While my anger at their Chapter 7 filing and sadness that it couldn't stay open in an area revered for its innovation is still with me, it was a reminder that in order to support local organizations you have to pull out your wallet. 

When I started doing yoga a few years ago I looked at it as a chance to be in a room full of beautiful women once a week while gaining the flexibility necessary to repair a kitchen sink with the aid of a spinx pose. But it's turned into more, and I felt a lot less unanchored in San Jose when I found Be The Change Yoga & Wellness

This is a very well organized pile of clothes and supplies Be The Change gathered in order to help the homeless. They allow students to take something if they can give it to a homeless person they know but I think they'll be eventually giving them out at St. James Park (which was the starting point of Cranksgiving San Jose this year). 

So when you donate to them and support BTC by taking a class as a student this is the kind of thing you're supporting. They just rock. Support them and, even better, also take a class since it's a great way to de-stress this time of year. They also have a tree right now that you can decorate by writing something you like about yourself and hanging it on a branch.

2) Volunteer

That's me with my new creation: a towable bike workstand made from the skeleton of the child's bike trailer someone in my neighborhood was throwing away. It made its motion debut at the Turning Wheels for Kids Big Bike Build that took place on December 2nd. 

Thousands of bikes were assembled by hundreds of volunteers. I put together eight of them. I wasn't in the most Christmasy mood at the start. "Ugh!" I said to myself more than once, "If they play Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You song again she'd better show up with an apron and a spanner to help!"

But something happened during the day. I started smiling more - and it wasn't just because strangers kept coming up to me to admire the workstand. I began to realize that little kids will grow up into adults and will always remember the Christmas morning where they came into to the living room and saw it near the tree. 

The bikes were all built with incredible speed. By the time everyone left mid-afternoon I was in a better mood. I even caught myself mumbling/singing "I don't care about the pres-ents under-neath the Chris-mas tree" to myself quietly on the way out. 

Find a place you believe in and donate money, time or both.

1) Ride a bike at night

Before you take a ride at night make sure you take ownership over your safety and get a light yourself - a Blaze Laserlight if you can.

There's not a lot of time toward the end of the year for leisure rides, but you can take miniature bikeations around your own neighborhood at night and look at all the Christmas lights. I did this a lot more in Shippan Point in Stamford and am just starting to get back in the habit of doing it again out here. It's a good way to absorb some Christmas through your rods and cones - and silently criticize the decor of others, if you choose. 

So that's what I've got. If you are a long-distance holiday traveler, I feel your pain. If you are welcoming a long-distance holiday traveler: they just want to see you and everything else is just details. No matter what, enjoy your time with family and friends. Ride together if you can but make it a no-drop ride with an asterisk: drop grudges, drop attitudes, drop regrets, drop stress and drop the general extracurricular ridiculousness. Enjoy the holidays. And if you don't feel the the-goose-that-is-as-big-as-me?! excitement rest easy. You'll get there. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Riding the Ferris Wheel at Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Can We Be Enraged When Cyclists Are Killed...All The Time? and other post-NYC questions

Picture I took biking just after the Five Boro Bike Tour, 2014.

A pretty nerdy thing I am proud of is some work I did on the Connecticut Bike & Pedestrian Advisory Board a few years ago. I worked with a small number of people in the state DOT to reword a few things in the driver's ed manual - a document that probably hadn't been updated since before I got my license in the Nutmeg State a long time ago.

Going through the manual with a red pen was kinda gratifying in that I could make edits that would be seen by thousands of Connecticut teens who would, the hope went, learn about driving in more of a share-the-road style. One thing I distinctly remember was a passage in a section about aggressive driving behavior. It started like this: "When a driver, bicyclist or other road user does something to anger you, do not retaliate..." 

My suggestion was to replace the word "to" with "that." My reasoning was that actions that annoy or anger road aren't always done to get that result. For example, the guy who passed me too closely on Market St. in San Jose (he broke the three-foot law as he sped by...only for me to easily pass him at the next traffic light) didn't say when he left work that day: "You know what? I'm gonna piss off a cyclist on the way home."

I thought changing the word "to" to "that" might be a good step in creating a road culture that recognizes that things that anger you are things that are often done unintentionally, and should just be let go. I have no idea if this change works or not, but it is still in the Connecticut Driver's Manual to this day (you can find it on page 25).

Another part of my reasoning was that not matter what I am riding, any kind of a fight between me and a motor vehicle that outweighs me by twenty or thirty times I am going to lose. 

So when I hear people talk about how awful it is that cyclists were mowed down by a truck on a bike path in New York - one that I rode on frequently when I lived out there - I have to ask a few questions.

Have you been standing with us as we've been trying to build safer streets? If not, can you stand with us now?

I've been to many a town hall meeting where motorists gripe when cycling infrastructure of any kind is on the table. The disproportional anger I see is bang-your-head-against-the-wall irritating. In fact, the Mercury News' Mr. Roadshow column just ran a letter from a motorist (one who, no doubt, complains incessantly about car traffic without realizing he is part of the problem by driving) whining about a new $35 million bike and pedestrian bridge being built. Yet this area seems to routinely spend $1 billion or more on one highway interchange and nobody bats an eyelash.

                    View of the Freedom Tower from the bike path in 2013

And that's not even the worst part - the worst part is these massive car-oriented projects do not work. In 2014, NBC ran a story showing that after spending a billion dollars, commute times went up one minute after widening a ten-mile stretch of the 405. Of course, once the public and elected officials realized this, they decided not to build any more highways.

I am, of course, kidding. Just last month I saw the headline: i-405 Improvement Project Aims to Shorten Commute Times. The project, funded by Measure M, is expected to cost about $1 billion. 

The only way to improve highways is to have fewer people driving on them. That happens when big, effective bike/ped/train infrastructure is built and people leave the car and take the bicycle. Even if it doesn't happen overnight, cities and states can change their metrics over to Vehicle Miles Traveled from the outdated, car-friendly Level of Service and build roads as Complete Streets. 

Would your response to the NYC attack be the exact same if the angry person behind the wheel was white and wasn't motivated by ISIS?

Like I wrote in the Connecticut Driver's Manual, people on the road don't always do something intentionally to anger someone. But let's talk about those who do. Not just the terrorist in New York, but the one in the pickup truck in Marin, who, the very same month of the NYC attack,  intentionally rammed cyclists on a charity ride before taking off. He was eventually found and a lot of cycling advocates were at the arraignment

There has been very little coverage of this since then. 

If the driver in Marin wasn't white screamed something in a foreign language while attempting murder, what would the coverage be then? 

You know the answer to that already. 

You also know how angry I can get when journalists do the color-by-numbers coverage of a crash that involves a bike or pedestrian. It's not a sexy, click-baity topic like terrorism. 

The reporters often use words that assign blame (such as asking "was he in the crosswalk?" in an accusatory tone) and almost never follow up with the people affected by tragedy. It's long past time to talk about the design of roads and the use of motor vehicles to begin with. 

Cause, you know, we take off our shoes at the airport because of some dolt fifteen years ago and you don't see news stories of someone going on a rampage and running people down on a cargo bike, do you? 

                    View of the Freedom Tower from the bike path, 2013

Are you ready to speak up and ban cars from cities altogether for national security reasons?

This kind of question and conversation that will follow is going to make a lot of people really uncomfortable and possibly angry.

I don't care. It still needs to happen.

We're wading toward it now - and someone more famous and more articulate than me (that is a really big pool) needs to take this up. One kid gets killed by an alligator in Florida and nets go up all around the ponds. A tiny number of lithium batteries burn and talks of banning them from flights engulf us all. Four planes are used as weapons and cockpit doors of thousands and thousands are fortified. 

Can we harness that kind of reaction when cyclists and pedestrians are killed instead of shrugging? And can we do something other than making it illegal to look at a phone in a crosswalk? 

    Avert your eyes, Honolulu (also your ordinance won't make pedestrians safer) 
Cyclists and pedestrians have to share space everyday with machines that weigh thousands of pounds and can do an incredible amount of damage in the wrong hands. This is already in addition to the fact that cars cost a lot, pollute, are bad for our waistlines and take up space in cities that can be better used to build affordable housing. 

The time is now for city engineers to take several steps to not just do more to separate cars from bikes and pedestrians, but separate cars from cities altogether. 

I know these questions may not go anywhere and in a week ADHDmerica may have moved on to something else. I can tell you one thing though. Bicycles were in cities before cars and before terrorists. And we will be in cities after both of those are gone. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Cranksgiving San Jose update -  It is happening on Nov. 18th. Like Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook and learn how you can help feed hungry Bay Area families this season!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Five Things the Bay Area Should Know for the Weekend

5) Mt. Umunhum is Bike

Sept. 21, 2017. Rode Bike Friday (w/ Cranksgiving San Jose trailer in tow) 5.5 miles up to Mt. Umunhum where I listened to Eminem and ate M&Ms. Really.
I took the day off yesterday and rode my Bike Friday up Mt. Umunhum, which just opened a few days back. I would have ridden straight from my house but I opted instead to park my car at Almaden Quicksilver County Park across the road (side note: the Santa Clara County Parks annual parking pass is the best value in the Bay Area) and ride about 5.3 miles. Up.

Five years ago I swapped out a triple chainring on the Bike Friday for a larger double and I remember wondering if I'd regret it later. Half a mile in, I did. 

Still it is a beautiful ride up Mt. Umunhum Road, and when you get to the top you can skip the parking lot on the left and turn right to pedal further to the old radar installation - also know as the rectangular thingy in the Santa Cruz Mountains visible from most highways.

Here at the top there is handicapped car and van parking available BUT there is a bike rack. The views are every bit as great as you'd expect and it is satisfying to get there by bike. 

The #ThirteenWords apply big time: If you have a bike and can ride it safely, please ride it. If you must drive to Mt. Umunhum to see it please fill your car with people, drive slowly both up and down, and give cyclists three feet of space when you pass. I had a few cars cross the line between "annoyingly close" and "dangerously close." 

Be courteous AND thankful, motorists. Because of me, you get an extra parking spot to choose from when you get to the top. And we all get a buffer between now and the inevitable news story from motorists wrongly complaining that there isn't enough parking there. Cars: you're already ruining National Parks. Don't ruin Mt. Umunhum too.

4) Suma CM's Sketching Class is Live

Artist Suma CM, sketching Viva Calle SJ 2017 from a Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM
Suma CM - a Bay Area artist who sketched at the Bay Area Proud blood drive the other day, rode in a Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM for Viva CalleSJ 2017 so she could sketch while I pedaled. It's always fascinating that one doesn't realize how much space is given to cars until that space is given to people.

It's also fun to ride a cargo bike and look down to see Suma's hat.

Having her sketch in the bike was cool - but what is even more cool is that she is now teaching a sketching class on Craftsy called Urban Sketching in 15 Minutes a Day. So if you have ever wanted to learn how to draw or learn how to improve your drawing technique you should take her class.

3) Yoga Teacher Training in San Jose

Yoga instructor Sima Chomicz Velez at St. James Park just after teaching a class.

All of the yoga teachers at Be The Change Yoga & Wellness are amazing people but the instructor I've known the longest is going to start yoga teacher training in a couple weeks. If you live in San Jose (or anywhere in the Bay Area, for that matter) and want to be a yoga instructor visit to learn more about this 200 hour class. 

As most of you know I've been a big fan of yoga for years and am convinced yoga has made me a better cyclist - and some days I am convinced I'd be in Nerf Hilton without it. 

You can sign up for classes at BTC on their site and if you want to be the person in the front of the class with the calm expression and the soothing voice, now is your chance: visit and sign up. 

2) Cranksgiving San Jose is Coming!

Another reason to love Be the Change Yoga & Wellness is they are one of the sponsors of Cranksgiving San Jose this year. Speaking of Cranksgiving...

By now you have probably seen the NBC Bay Area news story on Cranksgiving San Jose last year so you know what it is about. It is coming back on Nov. 18 this year, and we want to get even more riders together and collect even more food for Second Harvest Food Bank. Remember: If you can ride a bike and can feed yourself, you can ride a bike and feed others in need. Please like Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook and help spread the word in the South Bay!

1) Speak Out Against Banning Cell Phones While Walking
I recently wrote about how terrible it is that Honolulu and my original home city of Stamford, Connecticut are seriously thinking of passing ordinances so pedestrians can't use cell phones while crossing the street.   can absorb more blame when they are hit by cars.

Mr. Roadshow (Gary Richards) of the San Jose Mercury News has taken a letter or two from entitled motorists who are annoyed pedestrians don't stop what they are doing to worship at the alter of Tesla and GMC when crossing the street. In this column, Mr. Roadshow has opened the conversation about banning cell phone use while walking giving motorists an extra tool in the blame-assignment utility belt so please let him know if you don't support a ban on texting and walking. His contact information is at the bottom of his column and, as always when I ask you to do this: no foul language and stay polite. 

That's all I got for now (not that this is of interest in the Bay Area but David Martin's Cycling With Candidates ride in Stamford was postponed this week because of the rain - more on the new time/date later).

Today is the day summer spills into fall (apparently this is happening at exactly 1:02 pm) so make it count. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.