Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Taking a moment to get back to the roots of this site: builds and travel and this is about a little bit of both.
As you know, I bought my 1998 Bike Friday New World Tourist in 2011. Since then I've ridden it in too many U.S. cities to count and have traveled with it to Spain, Brazil, Dominican Republic, UK, France, Germany, Singapore, Portugal and Japan.
The Bike Friday New World Tourist gets all the glory in my posts, but the Samsonite suitcase is the unsung hero.
Hear me out: I'm lucky if I can bike 150 miles on in a few days on one of these trips but the suitcase travels thousands of miles each time I get my passport stamped. The case is to the Bike Friday what Kevin Costner was to Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard. The eggshell to the omelet. The Kit-Kat wrapper to the Kit-Kat bar. The Pez Dispenser to the Pez.
Okay - bad example.
My point is, No matter the trip, the weather, the terrain or even my budget I've kept on top of keeping a now 20-plus year New World Tourist running. It takes a lot of abuse and is made with parts that can be replaced in almost any bike shop in the world if the situation called for it.
But I neglected the hard shell Samsonite suitcase. I noticed it was protesting when I packed it for Chicago two years ago. It wasn't until last year the latch wouldn't catch at all, so I began taping it down. It got so bad I expected the "Hey-we-opened-it!" notes I usually find from the Transportation Safety Administration* to include a page from a suitcase catalog with suggested replacements circled.
With months till my next trip and not thinking about it at all, I hit paydirt at a thift store not far from San Luis Obisbo.
It did not come with the tools. Those are mine. But check out that amazing 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS that is made in the USA. A steal at five dollars.
This case is too small to fit the Bike Friday. But it does share all of the components. A couple minutes of rummaging found the proper bits to detach the coveted left suitcase latch.
Set next to the one I removed from the original case I could see that it broke in two places...and the one from the 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS looked to be in pristine shape. I had it changed in less time than it took me to find the screwdriver bit.
I didn't stop there with the $5 case.
The Wall-E tendencies I picked up in 2014 forward are still with me today. I have a right latch, a center latch, a handle, and two wheels - ready for service if necessary. As of an hour ago they are in a box labeled "Bike Friday Suitcase Parts" on on a shelf.
It will possibly never be opened again - my Samsonite case may not fail me ever again. But the moral of the story to you Bike Friday owners is: respect the case. And keep your eyes on tag sales for a 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS or whatever other model matches your own. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
*Be nice to them. With or without this ridiculous, Trump-caused shutdown, they work hard.
Friday, January 4, 2019
As you know, I've been in a position to pick out ghost bikes. I've stood in silence as names of dead cyclists and pedestrians have been tonelessly read aloud. Every time I read the news of a cyclist being hit by a car, I quickly look for the name of the victim to see if it is someone I know.
I got that on January 1, 2019, when San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was hit by an SUV. From the description of the crash I can easily imagine what happened: a driver turned into his path at an intersection and collided with the mayor of the 10th largest U.S. city. It's part of why Beryl invented the Laserlight - to avoid the 'right hook' - but the mayor was hit in the daytime.
The mayor of San Jose - a place I've called home for almost four years - could have witnessed his last sunset on December 31. Instead on January 1 he got two broken vertebrae and sternum because the driver "just didn't see him" which is Car-patriarcy (or 'Cartriarcy' as it were) talk for "I was driving so fast I didn't bother to look and see if other humans were on the same road as me."
So this seems like a good a time as any to talk about sharing the road, which a lot of motorists - especially those in the comments section of the news stories of this and other crashes - don't seem to understand.
While fighting and beating Proposition 6 with other bike advocates, I've gotten used to the idea that there is an entire class of drivers out there who don't think cyclists matter. People like Carl DeMaio and his ilk made that very clear in his mean-spirited and stupid Yes on 6 campaign. But we exist. We choose to ride for one reason or another. We get fewer parking options than drivers, fewer places to travel than motorists (see 40,000+ miles of interstate highway cyclists are forbidden to ride on), fewer safe passages to ride in, and someone who gets to work on a $100 bicycle or even a $1,500 and up bicycle is just not taken as seriously as someone who drives a $100,000 Tesla to work and enjoyed a fat taxpayer subsidy* from day one of owning the car.
So we ride on whatever scraps of pavement we can find and we put our lives at risk a hell of a lot more than motorists do making the same trip - our chalk outlines are on the streets at a much greater proportion than our numbers riding on them.
|Cyclist on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, not far from The Off Ramp bike shop. Cars have three travel lanes and cyclists just get whatever's left over.|
That's us sharing the road. Our lives are at risk more and as long as whoever hits and maims or kills us stays at the scene and cooperates with the police, that driver will get to drive off into the sunset the next day without any punishment whatsoever.
You sharing the road - and I'm talking only to motorists right now - means you have 3,000 pound boxes of climate-controlled air surrounding you as you travel in cushy comfort. A low-speed impact for you sends you to Maaco. The same impact at the same speed will send me to the hospital or morgue.
|I've had it with people saying "why wasn't the cyclist wearing brighter clothing?" or things of that nature. If you are driving at 40 miles an hour and see a cyclist from a distance of 70 feet, the cyclist is hit no matter what they are wearing.|
You get to travel at higher speeds with less effort than me. You get mass and the benefit of appearing menacing. You get a loud horn. I get a bell.
You get to deduct every mile you drive for work or for your business. A cyclist does not.
If there is a serious accident between us, you get to tell your side of the story to the police. I get to lie in a pool of my own blood clinging to consciousness.
The aftermath of a crash for you is only as serious as your conscience. I, on the other hand, may spend years relearning how to tie my own shoes or staving off an addiction to painkillers.
Sharing the road means neither of us get what we want. So I need you, the motorist, to respect the power you have and ease off the gas pedal. Look around. Drive slower. Stay off your phone and refrain from smoking marijuana in your car (an infraction I've seen twice in the past year).
Sharing the road also means some changes need to be made to the roads themselves so people aren't punished for not driving a car. Some of this involves building more housing near transit. Some of this means protected bikeways, and the city of San Jose has installed several miles of it recently - Mayor Sam Liccardo has been a champion of these.
Unfortunately, changes made to streets so cyclists will be less certain to face death aren't always taken well. A bewildering article about this was on KPIX 5 San Francisco: San Jose's 10 miles of protected lanes involved moving the on-street parking spaces several feet from the curb and the protected bike lane would go in.
|Protected bike lane in downtown San Jose|
This arrangement allows cyclists to travel on blocks with less fear of being hit and killed and doesn't cost drivers any parking spots since they are just moved a few feet further from the curb. But a few of the motorists interviewed for the KPIX 5 piece said they do not like having to open their car doors with traffic being there.
If these drivers would pause for just a moment and think about what they are saying: I don't want to be at risk being hit by a motor vehicle. Even though it is the last twenty feet of their 3 mile car trip or a stop at Starbucks to buy a Frappuccino with whipped cream. But reporters are notorious for creating a false equivalency about things - and one of these things is the concept of sharing the road. 10 miles of protected bike lane is all about the safe motorists inconvenienced - not people feeling more comfortable to ride a bike to work. Protected bikeways and bike lanes are necessary infrastructure and should be covered in the news fairly.
But as I've said before, infrastructure is only half of what a city needs. The other half is acceptance. This was part of why I was hard on Mayor Liccardo a few weeks ago (and also mocked him in the parody I wrote where the city banned cars instead of scooters) when complaining about the speed governor on shared scooters. In an empty warehouse or parking lot, a slower speed will make the scooter safer - what vehicle couldn't that be said about? - but the mayor and the city council didn't think about the relationship scooters have with the infrastructure, and their unfortunate decision to keep the cap in place makes scooters not accepted on the sidewalks and not accepted on the roads - a stance which is breaking micromobility.
If people accept people ride bikes (and yes, scooters) for work or for fun, they'll look out for them more. If drivers are trained to look out for bicyclists again and again they'll do it. And if they drive slower, they'll be able to react to the slower-moving bicyclist faster.
|A good number of strip malls in San Jose do not have bike racks but they have jammed up parking lots. The two are related.|
The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition - based just a few blocks from San Jose City Hall - put together a virtual 'get well' card of sorts for the Mayor. Please send Mayor Sam Liccardo good thoughts - we need him to return to work and look at biking in San Jose with new eyes and hopefully keep making sure the city gives even more infrastructure and acceptance to cyclists. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
*Hopefully the electric vehicle tax incentives will go away soon.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
CARS BANNED FROM SAN JOSE
Controversial 'Dockless' Vehicles Must Cease Use by Dec. 31
"Enough is Enough,"
For Immediate Release (San Jose, CA) Dec. 19th After a lengthy meeting yesterday, San Jose's city council, led by Mayor Dan Liccardo, voted unanimously to ban motor vehicles from the city.
Controversial since their initial rollout over 100 years ago, motor vehicles, led by a secretive industry that has fought against safety and environmental regulations, have until December 31 to pull their 'dockless' vehicles from the city.
"We've given these companies time to innovate and make their vehicles safe for our streets, but at the end of the day we reached an impasse," said Mayor Dan Liccardo. "Motor vehicles have killed 50 people in the city in just the past year - 22 of which are pedestrians - and it is time for this reign of terror on our street to end."
The motor vehicles are notable for their ability to be stored anywhere with little if any repercussions for the end user. Complaints about the motor vehicles blocking sidewalks, driveways, access ramps, and intersections have been rampant since the century-old rollout but motor vehicle companies complained they have been 'misunderstood' and 'misrepresented' through the entire process.
"We provide a product that is very convenient for the end user," said Brad Travis, CEO of BMW. "Demanding that they be governed to city speed limits and that they have technology installed so they cannot be stored in a bike lane is a bridge too far for us."
Travis also complained of the recent, "Butt-Out-Of-The-Bikelane!" campaign which, over recent weeks, been attaching tiny dog-butt refrigerator magnets to dockless motor vehicles stored in the bike lane in an attempt to shame the user in changing his or her behavior.
The entrenched bicycle, pedestrian and scooter industries in the city applauded the San Jose city council's decision.
"There are cities that have changed to accommodate motor vehicles, but it isn't enough," said Camille Wallace of the Northern California Chapter of CCBBPP. "We know of several that have actually permitted 25% of their surface area for on-street storage of unused motor vehicles and the arrogant users of these motor vehicles keep complaining it still isn't enough. The streets have to be used for people instead of motor vehicles."
Because the decision made by the city council opens up thousands of acres for building affordable housing, non-profit home builder Leo Levin also applauded the decision.
"City land is valuable and it should go to people, not dockless motor vehicles," he said. "Now that all of this land has opened up and taken back from motor vehicles we can finally build affordable housing which is so desperately needed in the city."
As the meeting continued, a man identifying himself as Thorton Cornelious proposed an idea called "Closed Streets" in which motor vehicles would be permitted to use up to six miles of San Jose streets one day a year. City Hall is considering the idea in the next meeting in January.
NOTE: the above is a parody and not to be taken seriously (but San Jose city hall is bringing up e-scooter regulations tonight!)
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
|Lime Scooter (pre-recall) as spotted in downtown San Jose Nov. 8, 2018|
Last week I began the unpleasant task of returning the prizes that were donated by sponsors of Cranksgiving San Jose. As most of you know, the Camp Fire smoke made the air in the Bay Area unhealthy to breathe so I made the unhappy decision of cancelling the bike-based food drive.
I needed to go from my office on Santa Clara Street to La Dolce Velo on The Alameda and then to 947 Park Avenue to Be The Change Yoga & Wellness.
That day (since the air was still smoky and I had a car-based errand after work) I drove to the office - like most people in the Bay Area do.
With limited time for both tasks but not wanting to use the car, I opened the Lime App on my phone, unlocked a scooter that was parked in front of Chromatic Coffee, and set off slowly down Santa Clara St.
And I do mean slowly: the scooters are now governed to a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour. This was put into place a few months ago - after pedestrians complained the scooters were too fast.
Being passed by a 30 pound scooter at 12 miles per hour while you're walking on a sidewalk isn't nice, but using a scooter that can't go any faster than 12 miles an hour on a city street is downright stressful.
For the first time probably over a year, riding on San Carlos Street, I was honked at - by the driver of a blue Chevy sedan.
Before a public hearing in June, the city had done research on scooters and found that when there is a bike lane most riders of scooters use it. A huge chunk of the route to La Dolce Velo doesn't have them, and several motorists were giving me the 'angry pass.' I scowled at them but they couldn't tell because I was wearing my N95 mask.
|Be The Change Yoga - 947 Park Avenue in San Jose|
When returning to work, I had to make another left turn onto Alameda. I followed the rules and stayed in the left turn lane, and when the light changed, I moved through.
The white Mitsubishi sedan behind me wasn't having it. It honked at me and tailgated me in mid-turn - apparently unaware I couldn't go any faster and not caring that moving further to the right would put me in the path of the cars on the other side of the street turning left.
Back on San Carlos Street (right turns are always easier on a bike or scooter) a filthy late 1990s Corolla tailgated me for half a block and then passed me with less than 3' of space. It also did it slowly, possibly because the driver wanted to make sure I would hear her shout the words: "Get off the road!" at me before (you guessed it) accelerating fast before turning right on Market Street - putting her out of range of any kind of response from me but endangering pedestrians crossing Market Street.
I finished the ride not far from where I started and took a screen shot of the results.
I had traveled 3.6 miles in just under a half hour. Because it costs $1 to start and $0.15 per minute to use, the low speed hit my wallet to the tune of $5.35. I removed my N95 mask and my helmet (yes, I was wearing one the whole time!) and returned to work.
I sadly concluded scooter share is truly at risk of being micromanaged out of existence. By adding the speed governor (I traveled on a Lime scooter that maxed out at 18 or 19 miles per hour in San Francisco several months earlier) we have officially created a vehicle that is too fast for the sidewalk and too slow for city streets. If I had taken my car I would have spent less money, experienced less stress, and have been done with my errands sooner.
The San Jose City Council will soon consider regulations on scooter share. People everywhere were caught off guard when they first showed up on the streets - and even though San Jose has killed and is killing more people with cars that remains in our blind spot as we punish scooters for the unpardonable sin of having the potential to disrupt transportation.
|At the World Day of Remembrance for traffic victims event at Akiyama Wellness Center on Nov. 18th.|
Motor vehicles are bigger, faster, and deadlier but nobody seems interested in adding a speed limiter to those.
I understand the pressure from some people - some of which, I should point out, have never used a shared scooter that is limited to 12 miles an hour - to make these things slower, but If I could speak to Mayor Liccardo and the members of the City Council, I would ask the following question:
Do we want micromobility to succeed?
Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Note: Please do some good - register for the San Jose Turkey Trot (which is tomorrow/Thanksgiving Day
I did not have a bad day on Friday.
What I did that morning - not 30 hours before Cranksgiving San Jose was supposed to start - was put on a N95 mask before heading into my garage, finding a roll of masking tape, and drawing the word 'cancelled' with an orange Sharpie across it before taking the photo you see above.
I used the homemade bike trailer frequently to promote Cranksgiving - even lashing 'Wally' - the decoy turkey bought from a hunting supply store - to the top as a decoration. I had a plan to get sponsors. I had a plan for social media. I had a plan for the manifest, the weigh-in, the volunteers (and did I have some great ones and am forever grateful to them).
I had found the perfect venue, too: San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose.
I didn't have a plan for wildfire smoke.
|Early morning on November 10, 2018. San Jose/Morgan Hill Border|
Last week I kept one eye on the smoke levels and another on the remaining tasks. When I learned even the most hardcover riders I knew weren't even taking short trips by bike - even with an N95 mask - I knew it was looking unlikely by Wednesday. The next evening, San Jose Bike Party cancelled their monthly Friday night ride - the first time they've had to do that in 11 years.
So early Friday morning I went to my workshop, flipped my trailer on its side, made the sign (since I had no other ideas on how to convey the message Cranksgiving was being cancelled) and dutifully put the word out. I managed to return the bike racks I rented from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition the same day and I'm returning the prizes to the sponsors this week. And wow, the sponsors this year were great:
Beryl - the bike light company in London I've had a long relationship with - donated both a Laserlight and their Burner tailight (they used to be known as Blaze) just like they did last year. They do have other products and new ones coming out - their latest Kickstarter campaign for Laserlight Core started last month and blew past $135,000 when their goal had been $50,000 - and it's still going.
Ford GoBike - they're the bike share company in the Bay Area. I own a membership and even though I don't use it a lot I like that I have it. A bike share membership is the confidence that comes with carrying a folded umbrella when walking under an angry sky: knowing a bike is there when I need one, I walk taller.
Be The Change Yoga & Wellness - moving here three years ago and little to put my back up against, I met Be The Change Yoga & Wellness - a nonprofit yoga studio. They just moved to 947 Park Avenue and donated T-shirts and gift certificates for free classes. If you want to manage stress and just be in better shape, visit them. They're amazing.
Good Karma Bikes - This is a nonprofit bike shop on 460 Lincoln Avenue in San Jose. They sell a few new bikes and parts but they also sell used bikes and parts. Just thinking about it the Mystery of South Norwalk, my City Bike and my California Cargo Bike all have hard-to-find or interesting components on them thanks to frequent shopping at Good Karma Bikes. A must for a maker on a budget.
|Retail Extraordinaire Francois, at left, with Good Karma Bikes founder Jim Gardner|
Community Cycles of California This is another bike-based nonprofit in San Jose that gallops in the same direction as Good Karma Bikes but isn't in the same harness. They work in
La Dolce Velo - This full service bike shop in The Alameda (not far from Recycle Bookstore) is probably one of the most well-curated I've ever been to. They also offer spin classes now that is it winter in California - even though California's definition of 'winter' differs from my own.
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition - if you ride a bike in the Bay Area get a SVBC membership. The bike lanes and traffic improvements that appear don't appear on their own and not without a fight. I borrowed five bike racks from them to use at San Pedro Square Market and they even gave me two helmets and two water bottles to use as prizes. Right now they're gearing up for #GivingTuesday so make sure you donate to Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition here.
Gemellos Murals - Lila Gemellos is a local artist who has painted murals you have seen if you live in or around San Jose. I didn't know who she was until she showed up at last year's Cranksgiving San Jose without explanation and painted faces (and also my left forearm) while people were getting registered. She made the process feel more like a party and the cards she makes are beautiful thank-you notes that accompany the prizes being returned to sponsors.
As I write this, I'm looking out the window of a VTA light rail train on my way to work. My home is standing. My family and friends are healthy. I am not living in a tent in a parking lot. I'm not waiting to find out if a loved one is dead or alive.
Canceling Cranksgiving San Jose doesn't mean there aren't other ways to get your good on this holiday season, and in the coming days I'll post some ideas. In the meantime you can register for the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot which takes place in downtown San Jose tomorrow. It helps a lot of great area nonprofits, including Second Harvest Food Bank, which can use funds every bit as much as it needs good donated by bicycle.
I took this picture this morning of the sunrise in San Jose. The AQI is under 50 and the air doesn't smell like my college roommate's car. We were only inconvenienced by smoke but didn't have to run from the cause of it.
I feel pretty lucky and hope you feel lucky with me. Thanks again to everyone who supported Cranksgiving San Jose - and thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
First off if you live in California vote No on Prop 6 (gotta lead off with that - it's kinda my brand for at least the next seven days. You've hopefully by now read and shared my No on Prop 6 post and LTTE. Also in San Jose vote Yes on V and Yes on Prop 1 and Prop 2).
But this morning I don't have time for long posts but I wish I had since I have good news on Cranksgiving San Jose to share - still on for Nov. 17th at 1:00pm at St. James Park. Cyclists will get together, get shopping lists, fan out across the city, and meet up at San Pedro Square Market for the weigh in, totals and prizes. Community Cycles of California and Ford GoBike have both stepped up as new sponsors this year - will have more about that; just follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook for the updates.
There's one sponsor in particular I want to single out for the moment: Be The Change Yoga & Wellness. My backstory with these people started at the tail end of the summer of 2016 which was about 3/4 of the way through the most difficult year in my adult life (and those of you who have known me a long time: yes, it even beats the summer of 2002 in New Hampshire).
I started doing yoga during the free 'yoga in the park' events to try to make peace with myself since I at the time, one year into living on the West Coast, I felt pathologically rejected by California. I felt like I was planting things, tending crops and everything would just die in a frost. Freelance work ground to a halt, hundreds of job applications went unanswered, and I felt like I had no tribe.
But I met up with Be The Change and doing yoga once a week - or, rather, clumsily attempting to put my body through the poses once a week- was a good way to bring some light in. I made friends and just enjoyed talking with the people I'd meet - both the teachers of the class and the students in the class.
One student I met was a woman at least ten years older than me who was - and still is - very bubbly. We'd talk bikes often since I'd ride my bike to the yoga in the park. Once, I noticed a strange scar on her forearm and asked what had happened.
Matter-of-factly she responded that a rat had bitten her while she was sleeping in the tent that she lives in.
Be The Change is donation based and they're all about making yoga accessible to those who can't normally take an expensive class. People like my homeless classmate. Doing yoga classes once a week became a guiding force for me - I found that yoga would often help when I was in a creative rut.
When I got a part time job last year (that, happily, was a couple of blocks from Be The Change) the first meeting I had with my boss about my hours factored in me taking a 90 minute lunch hour one day a week so I could attend class. The job eventually went full time and I still keep that schedule whenever I can.
Be The Change sponsored Cranksgiving San Jose in 2017 and months ago, before Cranksgiving 2018 was on my radar, I asked the manager of BTC if they'd sponsor again and she immediately agreed.
Sadly, something happened between that day and this morning: the rent, as it only seems to do anymore in downtown San Jose, skyrocketed and BTC won't be across the street from my office anymore - they have to move to 947 Park Avenue - and they are doing it soon.
You know what else? Even though this is a difficult and expensive time for them they are still stepping up to be a sponsor of Cranksgiving San Jose.
I don't easily get floored by kindness or impressed by people, but the women and students of Be The Change are Those People (I also include the teacher in training who I startled last week when I fell asleep at the end of a restorative class - that I am not used to taking - and she tried to correct my posture. Sima: please tell her again I am so sorry about that!)
This is where I'm going with this: Be The Change needs help with their move and I want this to be the feel-good story you see on Bay Area Proud. A lot of people have already stepped up to help them with their expenses and I want you to do the same. Here is the link to their GoFundMe page:
That's really all I've got - value the businesses and organizations that are your neighbors and let's help a neighbor out. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
Monday, October 22, 2018
I don't want to write what I am about to write. I want to tell you about a short mountain bike ride I just did near Lake Tahoe. I want to tell you to follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook and to take part with Cranksgiving on November 17th. I want to write 10,000 words about how important it is to donate to help my yoga studio - the nonprofit Be the Change Yoga & Wellness - move to their new location.
Instead, I'm writing about how important it is for you to vote and defeat Proposition 6. Again. I know, I know - I've been railing against Prop 6 since before it was even a number back in June.
What I did (and I urge you to do this too) was listen to Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group debate Carl DeMaio on Proposition 6 on KQED Forum. Guardino kept his cool going over why it is important that Prop 6 fail, while DeMaio spewed a lot of anger - and he gave some to cyclists at least twice when he said the gas tax shouldn't fund bike lanes - and both times he sneered "bike lanes" as though it was a slur.
Later I took a listen to Carl Guardino debate Proposition 6 with Harmeet Dhillon - this time on KALW San Francisco and she dismissively said creating bike infrastructure amounts to 'social engineering.'
That left me baffled. The only 'social engineering' that is taking place is the work done over a period of generations to create a 'cars only' world where streets are unsafe and hard to cross on foot or by bike by design. It's as though California is that hot club everyone wants to get into but you're kept behind the velvet rope if you don't have a 3,000 pound, wallet-draining, air-polluting motor vehicle as your ticket.
But her words are a symptom to a disease of blindness - and selfishness - inherent in the Golden State. There is infrastructure in California that is seen as normal here but is odd to me since I've lived in other parts of the country. Expressways - those three-lane mini-highways through neighborhoods? That's a California thing. Flyovers for what would be garden-variety intersections in other states? That's a California thing. Metering lights that regulate the flow of automotive cholesterol onto a highway? A California thing. The fact the highway is five or six lanes wide and still crowded? Also a California thing.
It's as though California is that hot club everyone wants to get into, but if you don't have a 3,000 pound motor vehicle, you're kept behind the velvet rope.
The final straw was a Yes on Prop 6 Rally that featured California State Senator Pat Bates, who was talking about how awful a world with slightly fewer drivers would be and had this to say: "We will be forced to walk, ride our bikes or take a once in a while bus that comes our way."
I considered Carl DeMaio, Harmeet Dhillon, and Pat Bates together. This isn't the normal kind of random yell you get from a motorist or an 'angry pass' you may get from a car that had been waiting to overtake you. This is something...else. This is a group of bullies picking on the weaker kid not just for their own enjoyment but as their way to bond as a group.
We are the weaker kid in this scenario.
And it's actually worse than that. To them, we don't exist and nothing we do matters. Our jobs, our families, our friends, how we partake in commerce - none of it matters. If you leave your car at home, you are an unperson.
They don't notice the extra parking spot they get when they drive to work and we ride. They don't see us winning a successful battle with our weight, they don't see us as happier citizens, they don't think it's important for streets to be safe for anyone except drivers of motor vehicles. They literally go crazy when someone suggests that car taxes should only go to car things even though the geometry of both the cities, the streets and the suburbs shows that we don't have room for everyone to have a car. Not only that, but the last time California spent a ton of money on car-only stuff, traffic got worse (Google "405" and "$1 billion" or just click this link).
Today's Republicans are great at exactly two things: making ordinary people feel swell about getting pennies to rub together while being relieved of their dollars - and building an infrastructure that outlasts their time in office. Prop 13 in 1978 did that. Last year's deficit-exploding tax cuts did that. Confirming Brett Kavanaugh did that. And Prop 6 gives them a chance to do it again.
And if Prop 6 passes - if cars are really kept on a pedestal and untouchable with any new taxes going forward - don't think they'll ever invite cyclists into this club. No, no, no: it won't be enough that cities will have to use tweezers to find funding for bike lanes - they won't hesitate to push a tax on bicycles, bike shops, or both. They won't answer your cries of hypocrisy.
They'll just go on ignoring us. Because to them we don't matter.
This is a serious time for the state of California. Other states look to this state to set an example. What kind of example do we want to set?
To do this we have to fight and we have to win. To do that we need to do a couple of things. First off: donate to the No on Prop 6 campaign even if it just a few dollars.
Also, you have a voice and it needs to be heard by people other than other cyclists. We need to get through to people that don't ride. We need them to know how important it is this measure does not pass. One way to do that is to write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper. I wrote one the other day for the San Jose Mercury News. You can read it here.
One of the things I noticed when I first moved to California is how fragmented the cycling culture is out here. We kinda follow one another, have some kind of vague awareness, but you don't often find us in the same room. This is a time we need recumbent riders with the Felt carbon fiber set. The Strava and the Non-Strava. The custom lowriders with the off-the-shelf mountain bikers.
Stand together but spread out and speak.
Your words have weight and the outcome of this election is important. We are nonpersons to the people who are backing Prop 6. Let's show them who we are and educate 39 million Californians on why Prop 6 has to fail and while bicycle commuting in this state has to succeed. Get involved but leave the Twitter trolls alone and write a letter to the editor (links for some CA papers are below). Thanks for reading and thanks for voting.
Links to write Letters to the Editor against Prop 6:
San Jose Mercury News
San Diego Union Tribune
East Bay Times
Los Angeles Times