Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My feature on Good Karma Bikes is in Urban Cyclist Magazine!

Great news from San Jose! Not only did the Willow Glen Road Diet pass unanimously (and is now permanent) a feature I wrote about Good Karma Bikes has been published in Urban Cyclist magazine.

Buy the May/June issue at your local newsstand and read about Good Karma Bikes - and marvel at the outstanding photos by Forest Parker. And read about Vince, who is both a homeless man and a volunteer at Good Karma Bikes I interviewed for the story (and am thankful to the editor my sidebar about him made the cut). 

Urban Cyclist is a UK magazine so it may not be available everywhere - you'll probably find it at Barnes & Noble - which is a good bookstore despite the fact they ignored advice I gave them four years ago that would have saved them tens of millions of dollars.

I hope the piece inspires people to think about who they share the road with and maybe, just maybe, create a way to use bikes to help homeless people in their town. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Will the Willow Glen Road Diet be Made Permanent?

Right now I am sitting in city hall in San Jose, waiting for the city council to vote on the Road Diet in Willow Glen who will hopefully make the change permanent.

I am unfortunately dealing with an uncomfortable situation: I have to leave in an hour and may not have the chance to speak - much less stick around for the vote.

Just in case: here are the comments I plan to say - all written in and among the 3+ hours I've been here at this meeting.

I timed it so it would take 1 minute to read which is the amount of time each person who ops to speak publicly at the meeting to be at the microphone.

"Hello, my name is Michael Norris and I live in San Jose."

"Demographic trends show young people are getting drivers licenses later and driving less overall."

"Technological trends point to a future led by car sharing, autonomous vehicles, and pay-per-trip."

"Crash data and common sense shows that the slower a car is moving when it strikes a cyclist or pedestrian the greater the odds that person will survive."

"During the lunch hour I rode my bike to Willow Glen to get a coffee milkshake at the Willow Glen Creamery because I knew I could get there quickly, safely, and is have a place to lock my bike, so I am part of the reason bike traffic and restaurant receipts are both up in Willow Glen."

"Reversing the road diet and reinstating travel lanes for cars would be a step backward. I hope the city votes to make the road diet permanent and continue to empower residents to drive less and bike more. Thank you."

And there you have it. Fingers crossed I'll be able to say that aloud in the next hour. Just in case I can't please share this on Twitter and the like so the mayor and city council will hopefully get to see it. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

UPDATE: I didn't have a chance to speak before I left. Equally to my dismay, the bike rack I was using in front of City Hall was devoid of other bikes when I left. Hope others put on your helmets and make your voice heard tonight!

Monday, June 27, 2016

What a Kid Killed by an Alligator Can Teach the Media About Covering Bike/Ped Accidents

Unless you’ve been living under Boris Johnson’s Brexit campaign bus*, you probably know that a kid was killed by an alligator in Florida a couple of weeks ago. 

At first I dismissed the story - it just seemed to be a part of the media’s love affair with ‘disproportionality of fear’ stories; meaning, telling us with a straight face what we should be afraid of when what we should really fear just goes by unchecked. 

For instance, about 400,000 people have died in car collisions in the United States in the last 14 years. But we don’t hear about that kind of thing the way we should since the news is often a filler between car commercials. But the rare roller coaster accident? The rare child dragged around by a gorilla? The rare kid being snatched by an alligator? The network news has a graphic ready by the 5:00pm broadcast. 

The kid that was killed by an alligator in Florida teaches us both about the disproportionality of media attention and the disproportionality of fear (I talked about both in a piece I wrote recently for Blaze when I came across a rattlesnake while mountain biking…and found out how insanely rare fatal snake bites are). 

So even though the story seems to have been dragged from the media news cycle** we can actually talk about the coverage the poor child received and what the media can learn from its own coverage - and that is this: I want the media to cover bicycle/car collisions exactly like the way they covered the Alligator Kid. 

Stay with me: if you walk through the timeline of the Kid-Killed-By-Alligator news cycle, you’ll see several parallels to how we wish - no, how we need - news coverage of bike vs. car crashes to be. 

So here we go: reporters of all ages please take note.

1) Don’t Blame the Victim 

Kids move freely in an environment. So do cyclists. We think it inappropriate to blame the kid for what happened. Let’s think it inappropriate to blame the cyclist.

Classic example is when the media has more information about whether or not a pedestrian hit by a car was in a sidewalk than any other detail about the crash that killed or injured him or her. The sidewalk detail is important as a detail but as I’ve written before, we can’t ask about whether or not a pedestrian was in a sidewalk in a sneering, blame-the-victim fashion. 

So, instantly, do not blame the victim.

2) Ask ‘What Could Have Been Done to the Environment to Make This Safer?’

Intersection in Stamford where a pedestrian was killed in 2014. The media covered the immediate aftermath but moved the coverage elsewhere quickly afterward. (From: How Complete Streets Can Save Lives) 

With the attention off the blaming of the kid (and the alligator but I’ll talk about that in a minute) the next thing that news stories have to have is an examination of the environment. In the case of the Alligator Kid: there was a ‘No Swimming’ sign but the tone taken by the press was that wasn’t enough. 

I saw a horrendous lack of discussion about the environment in a recent Stamford Advocate story about a cyclist who was killed by a  car on Tresser Boulevard - the stretch of Route 1 in Stamford I know has just about no infrastructure for cyclists. “Without Helmet, Stamford Bicyclist Never Had A Chance” was the headline. Nothing about how God-Awful that road is for people who do not use a car to go from one place to another. 

3) Make it a Dangerous Time to Be An Alligator (Motorist) 

At least six alligators were killed in the hunt for the one that grabbed the kid. Obviously that’s just terrible and shouldn't have happened. I don’t condone the killing of animals that aren’t ordinarily found at a New England BBQ place, the killing of motorists, the murder of everyone in the phone book named Sarah Connor, and so on. 

But what if - in a The Far Side sort of way - alligators could read, watch TV, and owned smart phones? 

In the event of someone being snatched by an unknown reptile or killed from a hit-and-run, make sure every alligator/motorist knows that heaven and earth will be moved so the guilty party is found. If everyone knows the guilty will be hunted for, found and punished severely, it will hopefully sear into the minds of innocents not to do what the alligator (or dangerous motorist) did. 

4) Cover the Redesign of the Environment 

One aspect of a Road Diet involves reducing the width of a travel lane from 12' (or even more) to 11'. The cars tend to drive slower and the move makes room for a bike lane. 

The journalists in Florida just wouldn’t shut up about the lack of infrastructure that, if it existed, would have decreased the odds of the incident happening. They had a story about it every day. They showed footage of the area in the days that followed the incident. They asked concerned people how they felt about the fact the environment hadn’t changed. And the media asked the people who controlled the environment why they weren’t making it safer immediately.  Over and over. The news media seemed to ask themselves what would make Disney take out a restraining order and took away a teaspoon of the effort needed to get to that stage.

That’s the way the media needs to work. Are you reading this, CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, The Hogwart's Gazette and the rest of you? Follow-up. Keep the pressure on. And annoy. You may not win any Pulitzers but you’ll save lives. 

So there we have it. For all the Jimmy Olsens and Tom Brokaws out there: it is never too late to apply some Alligator Coverage Logic to deaths and injuries on our roadways. I look forward to reading and viewing your coverage from now on. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

    A bit of context: This graphic was made when I was making a point about the whole issue of cyclists running red lights. That it is a problem but the stakes are a lot different when a cyclist does it rather than a motorist since the aftermath never, ever looks like this. 

* Watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver if you don't know what that is. If you do know what that is, watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver anyway. 

**too soon?

Friday, June 24, 2016


Was planning on making a scale-model parking lot this morning to talk temporary car storage.

The mood didn't strike.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

XtraCycle is Hiring (Not Me, But They're Hiring)

    Bike at San Jose's 2015 Cargo Bike Festival converted to a Cargo Bike via XtraCycle Kit

If you’re a cargo bike nerd* like myself, you got an email this morning from Xtracycle - the cargo bike company based in Oakland (who inspired the very design of the first cargo bike I made myself as well as the second one I made when I moved to Silicon Valley - which is proudly pictured below). 

I would have used my car to pick up my new energy efficient shop light from Lowe's but that would have looked strange.

Anyway - the email said they are still searching an Online Marketing and Sales Manager. 

I applied to that job myself a week ago…and the subject of the email I got this morning was…We’re still hiring! (exclamation point theirs). 

You cut me deep, Xtracycle. You cut me deep.

But anyway: I’ve been rejected from enough jobs over my lifetime to know not to take it personally and I really want them to have the right person doing this job even if it isn’t me. 

A perk of getting the job is a free Leap Basic Kit which allows you to convert your own ordinary bike into a cargo-carrying force to be reckoned with. But the nice part is: if you refer someone to the Xtracycle job and they get it, you get a leap kit too. 

So if you live in the Bay Area and want to give Xtracycle your application, mention DIYBIKING.COM as where you heard about the job. I want that Leap Kit. Not for myself, though: If I get it I will donate it to Good Karma Bikes here in San Jose so they can sell it in their retail shop and use the proceeds to fund their programs to help the homeless and at-risk youth earn bicycles. 

Xtracycle takes applications until June 30th, so apply and mention DIYBIKING.COM today. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

* easier to spell than ‘aficionado’  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vote Today, California

Writing this just now I realize I have voted in Presidential Primaries in New Hampshire, Connecticut and now California. 

In all polling places I have been to it is always easier to ride a bike instead of take a car because of parking confusion and, well, general principles.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thoughts on G.O.A.T

Muhammad Ali died yesterday at age 74.

When he was 12 years old, he had a bicycle stolen from him. The anger he felt after and the chain of events that followed led to him becoming the Greatest of All Time.

No matter how one feels about boxing he taught us all how to channel and transform loss into something greater than ourselves. I've known a few people who have felt a lot of loss lately (stolen bikes among other things) and know they can follow Ali's example and use the emotion that follows toward constructive and inspiring ends.

I haven't a clue what the other side looks like but I want to believe he got his stolen bike back and is taking a nice ride with Prince, Garry Shandling, my Uncle Wayne and Bowie. And they'll have my grandmother's coffee cake at the start. And Chester The Guinea Pig will be hanging out there, too (If you know my sister and my niece, you'll know Chester).

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

If The Google Says It, Then It Must Be So

I am on location in San Francisco researching new posts for and watching car traffic on Folsom.

In the time it took me to write this the same Toyota Prius remains in front of me.

This devotion to driving here is so mind-bogglingly weird I am convinced that if extraterrestrials were watching this out the window of their flying saucers with a spyglass, they'd never visit earth.

"Look Lewis," one would say to the other. "They still haven't discovered cycling.lets move on and share our intelligence with another planet instead."

Please, San Francisco: look to the heavens and look at yourselves: this driving thing ain't working and meeting an alien beats sitting in traffic. Have a close encounter of the cycling kind. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Spare the Air Day Tomorrow

You should ride your bike to work tomorrow since it is a Spare the Air Day - a decree by the Bay Area Air Quaility Management District.

Please #choosethebike and leave the car at home, Silicon Valley. Rest assured you can resume treating the Bay Area like an ashtray come Friday.