Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Fear Less

Happy New Year from California. This is my first New Year's Eve on the West Coast - and I was looking forward to watching the ball drop at 9:00pm and going straight to bed until my wife told me I couldn't.

Still, I am having a nice evening. As a bike blogger I am obligated to present a list of resolutions but instead I'll present just one.

Maybe two.

Other than 'drive less and bike more' I will simply say this: in 2016, fear less. Don't be 'fearless' since that can lead to the emergency room...just fear less. A year ago today I was afraid of 2015. I knew I was moving, I knew I needed to sell my house and shop for another in California. I knew I'd have to say bye to my family. But it occurs to me that I have a lot less to fear in 2016. So I will fear less. Hope you do too. Thanks for reason, thanks for riding, and happy new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#GiftsForCyclists 2015: Give The Gift of Helping Someone

I want to tell you a story about a young guy I met while volunteering at Good Karma Bikes in San Jose. His name is Dontae. I won’t be able to tell his story up to this point as well as San Jose Mercury News’ Bruce Newman did in the excellent Holiday Wish Book series, so I’ll tell a story that hasn’t happened yet.  

I can do that, you know. 

Sometimes I know how a story ends before someone finishes telling it to me. Years ago, I thought everyone who thought print books would shrink to a tiny share of publishing (while digital books were taking off) were wrong - and I said so publicly. I had the ending right.

When Barnes & Noble proposed that it wanted to split off its e-book business I told the Associated Press it was a mistake. The company plowed ahead anyway. Three years, millions of dollars and a CEO resignation later, the company backed off from that blunder. Again, I had the ending right. 

So with my credibility to predict the future solid, let me tell you a story. 

Years from now, Dontae is going to be standing in front of a crowd. Giving a commencement address, accepting some kind of award, I’m not sure. Probably both. 

And he’s going to be telling a story about his life. How he was born into foster care. How often he’d have to pack up and move to another family. How he burned down his own house to escape a violent stepfather when he was five. How he got involved with gangs. How he saw his friend get shot. 

How he turned his life around. 

How he got involved with Good Karma Bikes and their Traditional Age Youth program that helps foster kids aging out of the system. How he’s been doing since he stopped selling drugs and started being valuable to everyone he comes in contact with - in and out of the bike shop. How he's inspiring others. 

When he’s giving this speech let’s not have him skip over the part where a community of cyclists from around the world pitched in to help him raise his family after his mother recently died -  and get him where he’s going to be when he's standing behind that podium. 

As a gift to a stranger if you don’t know him - or to use money to help a stranger as your gift to someone else - you can help Dontae with this GoFundMe page and through the Wish Book. It’s a gift he’ll remember - and you will too. And your gift to the person who isn't opening a physical item is that you'll be able to tell that person Dontae's story. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Monday, December 21, 2015

DIYBIKING.COM Presents; #GiftsForCyclists 2015: Park Tool School at Good Karma Bikes

If you’re a cyclist in the Bay Area and you haven’t finished all of your holiday shopping, I’m here to help. If you aren’t a cyclist in the Bay Area and you haven’t finished all of your holiday shopping…what’s wrong with you? Go buy a nice bicycle for yourself that you can ride safely. Then come back to DIYBIKING.COM. Then I can help.

Since I don’t have a lot of time until Christmas Day I want to head straight to the summit of the Difficult People to Shop For List: the cyclist who has everything. As it happens, that category has a place of overlap with the polar opposite: a cyclist who has nothing but is home from college visiting his or her parents for Christmas break.

It is for these two groups (and more) that are perfect recipients for Park Tool School, which is an 18 hour education program taking place at Good Karma Bikes beginning on January 12 and ending on January 21. The full schedule can be found here. 

This gift of wrench smarts is $250 and includes a copy of Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of cycling repairs, a 20% off discount of GKB’s retail items during the month of the session, and a Good Karma Bikes T-Shirt. 

So if you’re giving a gift that falls in that Venn Diagram zone between the person who has everything and the college student who has nothing - look to Park Tool School at Good Karma Bikes - their retail shop is open today and tomorrow between 2:00pm and 6:00pm if you need other gifts as well. And if you want to exchange gift ideas on Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtag #GiftsForCyclists. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

All I Want For Christmas is for Drivers to Slow the F*** Down

    Ghost Bike on the Corner of Monterrey Boulevard and Lewis Street in San Jose two weeks ago.

I had to assist in the birth of two ghost bikes recently. 

You know what a ghost bike is: it’s a bicycle painted entirely white chained to a location where a cyclist was killed by a person driving a motor vehicle. And yes: the word you want to use is ‘killed.’ I’m not going to call these things accidents. Dropping a 15mm wrench on my foot is an accident. These are more.  

Anyway, the way both events happened was I learned someone wanted to build a memorial while volunteering at Good Karma Bikes. The searches began with me scouring the racks of recently donated bikes. 

Good Karma Bikes does not want bicycles that are beyond repair or  bikes that originate from a department store - the former for obvious reasons and the latter because they’re made of cheap materials. But some make it inside anyway, and my eyes find them first. Stupid questions enter my head. Did this person like mountain biking more than road biking? Were they short or tall? Would they be insulted that they are being memorialized by a rusty Roadmaster instead of the classic - but irreparable - Schwinn?

   Ghost bike spotted on my most recent visit to London

In the end I just pick out the largest bike I can find. Hopefully drivers will notice it and remember to slow down and cyclists will see it and remember to take as much ownership as possible over their personal safety. 

I also hope motorists reading the subsequent news coverage - if there is any - will ease off the accelerator as well. But the stories, like the one about the killing of Jeffrey P. Donnelly in Palo Alto and the the killing of Rosamaria Ruminski in San Jose - are short and almost never venture into the bicycle user’s life or the emotional aftermath of their death. I have yet to see reporters interviewing shattered families a year or more after a needless traffic fatality, or hold city leaders accountable when a deadly intersection remains unchanged months or years after the blood has been washed away from the pavement. 

  Ghost bike in New York City. 

But the news stories about driver error appear quickly forgotten. A reminder of that was seen this week another San Jose Mercury News article: California now wants a licensed motorist to be behind the wheel of all self-driving cars so they can take over if something goes wrong. I can only shake my head and ask: why isn’t this the other way around? I want self-driving technology in every car ready to take over from any human driver who stupidly doesn’t slow down when facing the sun, who chooses to blast through an advance green, and who chooses to go ten to twenty miles an hour over the speed limit. 

I’m still hopeful the days of the angry driver, the distracted driver, the careless driver, the tired driver are numbered. But until the clock really starts running down, motorists need to drive slower. You’re not a professional driver on a closed course. You’re an amateur driver on a crowded course - and your vehicle is a whole lot deadlier than mine.

   My fixie (switched to a single-speed freewheel and bearing a sign bought from Staples)

So remember: if you’re driving so fast that you don’t see the cyclist or pedestrian you’re driving too fast. You can wait an extra four seconds to get where you are going. Use the gas pedal less and your eyes more and maybe everyone can get home to their families this holiday season. And if you're riding in the car with someone with a heavy foot - call them on it. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cyclists and Giving Tuesday: How & Where to Give

Welcome back from Thanksgiving! I'm digging out holiday decorations at my house - including this favorite that hasn't seen the light of day since I left Connecticut. 

It's Giving Tuesday and I highly recommend you take part if for no other reason to squash the images of people Thunderdoming* at department stores over Thanksgiving Weekend. Here are some places you can give: 

Good Karma Bikes: You can text GoodKarma to 50155 to or use their website to donate to Good Karma Bikes. Also, since it is now December GKB is having a lot of nice promotions: buy one tube get one free, buy a child’s bike and get a free helmet, and if you wear a Good Karma Bikes shirt (which you can buy there as well) when you shop you get a 20% discount on your entire purchase. They are at 460 Lincoln Avenue in San Jose and are open weekdays from 2pm to 6pm, Saturday from 10am - 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 3pm.

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition You remember they unveiled their VisionZero toolkit this past summer at their annual summit. Even though creating roads that don’t kill people doesn’t sound like a tall order in a civilized world, it unfortunately is and the more that is done to promote VisionZero the fewer bicycle and pedestrian deaths we’ll have. The link to donate is to SVBC is here. 

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition San Francisco is a special place to bike. So far I’ve only been able to appreciate it in bits and pieces - like the other day when I went to Mission Bicycles and was struck by the work of art that is created each time they make a work of art.

Sadly, I am not the ‘Michael’ the white board is referring to. But let’s give ‘Michael - whoever he is - and everyone else who lives and works in San Francisco better streets for cycling. The donation page for SFBC is right here.

There are too many great cycling-based organizations for me to list but this is where to start. It’s giving Tuesday, so give a little before you mount up. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

*I just invented that term. Use it freely.