Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Video: Ode to Silicon Valley Traffic

Traffic moves slowly because people choose to be in it driving a motor vehicle. But there's a better way to get to work and you'll never guess what it is. 

Also: no animals were harmed in the making of this film - one just happened to be traveling along my front walk this morning so I quickly made a set for it to go through (and added a passenger the animal didn't even know was there) before it could reach the dead plant - offscreen - that it was heading toward.

Thanks for watching, thanks for sharing and thanks for riding. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Video: Don't Park in the Bike Lane

This happens way too often in way too many cities. 

I haven't created a compilation of offenders but I have created an ideal world: where people who park in the bike lane are swiftly punished and where the community comes together to bring the punishment. 

Oh: and a 1973 Lincoln can be dismantled by half a dozen cyclists in 30 seconds. 

Thanks for watching, thanks for sharing, and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Biking Nations: In Manchester, UK with the USK

I got over the jet lag from my trip to Japan about fifteen minutes before I boarded another intercontinental flight. Those Urban Sketchers - the passionate pen and paper people - were the reason my wife and I were making this trip. 

Portland, Oregon was the site of the first Urban Sketching Symposium. That was the only one my wife didn’t attend (which obviously means I didn’t attend it either). But each summer since then I got to go along with her and go biking while she’d sketch and attend helpful workshops and seminars: I basically owe the USK the Biking Nations series of posts since I got to do Portugal, Dominican Republic, Spain, Brazil and, last year, Singapore because of them - I also always learn something new each time I’d have one of these adventures. 

This year the symposium was held in Manchester, United Kingdom. I’ve biked in the UK many times but only in and around London

We did stop briefly in London before heading to Manchester by train. Still in the clothes I wore on the plane and functioning on 93 minutes of sleep, I went up 311 steps up The Monument to the Great Fire of London (called ’The Monument’ for short) because nothing quite diminishes the effect of jet lag like going up 311 steps to look out over London. 

We also did a side trip to Oxford where, unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to ride. But if you are a cyclist and go to Oxford, you should stop at Bike Zone and go to The Handlebar Cafe & Kitchen.

Bike shop on the first floor. Cafe on the second. It’s a beautiful thing.

No trip to London is complete with riding a bike share bike. Since I hadn’t ridden this essential, wonderful and imperfect bike share system in over a year the bikes were now labeled Santander. Well-versed in how to use the system (and already carrying my helmet with the little rearview mirror mounted on the non-U.S. side) I took a short ride - admiring a staircase with a little ramp on the side.

My warm-up, pre-Manchester ride originated in Canary Wharf - which was where my wife made a warm-up, pre-Manchester sketch.

By the time we got to Manchester, I was raring to take the Bike Friday out of the case. It had been in Japan only two weeks earlier and I only had a couple of days between trips to get it back up and running again - which I did by replacing the rear tire and giving it a brand-new tube. 

Manchester is a beautiful city even though there are still some Brexit scars visible.

As usual, the urban sketchers captured the city better than I did this trip (See my wife’s beautiful sketches as well as ones belonging to Rita, Orling, Jessie, Fernanda and Amber - and do a social media search for #USKManchester2016 and offer to buy the originals from these and other talented artists). 

I have an excuse for taking a smaller number of photos than usual: it was raining. A lot. After more than a year of living in precipitation-starved Silicon Valley, I forgot how annoying it is to bike in the rain. But if one is cycling around Manchester there are plenty of bridges you can hide under when the skies open.

We stayed at Innside Manchester, which had a comfortable room, a convenient location, a breakfast buffet made for hungry sketchers (and cyclists) and a short walk from Harry Hall Cycles - the perfect place to buy a patch kit (more on why I did so later) and admire, yet again, Bromptons.

I found that riding around Manchester was a little easier than London: not quite as dense and at a pace that wasn’t turned all the way up to eleven. Infrastructure was scattered (but to Manchester’s credit a light rail is being built and that was the cause of a lot of the construction I had to contend with).

A particularly memorable moment when infrastructure did make an appearance was the Manchester Cycleway: a protected bike lane (learned more about why these matter from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Bike Summit the other day) with its own traffic signals.

I’m not going to say I got bored biking around Manchester but I did want to really aim high this trip and bike to Liverpool - about 35 miles to the east. On my second day of biking in Manchester, I made a go by using the Trans Pennine Trail

This wasn't the ideal terrain for 115 psi road tires. 

Very quickly, I discovered that a lot of the trail wasn’t paved. That’s fine, I thought. I’ll just ride anyway like I did up the mountain roads in Paraty

Unlike Paraty, I got a flat almost right away. I set the bike upside-down beneath an bridge to get out of the rain and quickly realized that horses use the trail as well since I could see (and smell) horse excrement that was sitting just a few feet from me. 

In spite of the omen, I pedaled on...and got a new flat barely a mile later - just as the rain was picking up. I stopped beneath another bridge to again get out of the rain to change a tire. A few mountain bikers (who were undoubtedly smarter than me as they were all riding pedal-powered versions of the Christopher Nolan-era Batmobile) offered to help but I had all the tools I needed. 

An old man walking alone on the trail stopped under the bridge to get out of the rain himself, and he and I talked while I mended my tube. His name was Patrick and was born in Ireland. I appreciated his company but just like The Washington Post said not too long ago I ended up having to answer his concerned questions about Trump - and also about mass shootings.  I couldn’t give him a good rationale as to why the U.S. has both, and when the rain subsided he headed off on his way. I never saw him again.

Hopefully, the next time I am in the UK I will be instead asked about happier subjects like, say, for instance, Lorca

Soon after the tire was changed, I headed off and the rain began to pester me once again. Just as I was wishing I had fenders, I stumbled across a front fender that looked like it had fallen from a mountain bike. I picked it up, broke it in half and fastened it to the Bike Friday in the hopes it would at least keep tire water from hitting my butt. 

Soon after attaching the fender - which I’d end up taking back to San Jose with me - I  became confused at a detour sign. 

Then I became lost. 

Or at least I think I did. Despite the international phone chip I put in my iPhone that gave me access to Google Maps I wasn’t sure I was even on the trail anymore. All I did know for sure is there wasn’t a chance I’d be able to make it to Liverpool and back without my wife and her sketching friends launching a search party. So I abandoned my effort and searched for pavement. I found it by crossing (what I later discovered) was private property. 

After stopping at a random fast food restaurant for a late lunch (that was so late I was bordering on ‘early dinner’ territory) I headed back to Manchester by trying to ride along the canals. 

Again, not all of it was paved but it was nice to look at. 

When I returned to the hotel I discovered, to my dismay, that my rear tire had gone flat for a third time. It was irksome. I didn’t understand how I could ride up a mountain and back in Paraty and only get one flat for the entire trip (in the hotel room, no less) but a brand-new tire and tube in Manchester, UK already had this many punctures. 

Before meeting up with my wife and her fellow artists I headed to Harry Hall Cycles for another patch kit. I had brought two new ones with me (lesson learned from Barcelona, Spain) but at this point I was worried I’d run out. I ended up purchasing the glue-less kit from Park Tool - and hoped I wouldn’t have to use it. 

The next day it was raining again, but I decided to bike to Liverpool. This time, I was going to use the A5 and I stretched a hotel shower cap over my helmet before setting off. Soon after finding my way to the A5 in the rain something odd happened: I nearly hit a human head that was in the road. 

Well it wasn’t a real human head: it was the kind of head one would find at a hairdresser school or it was broken off of a department store mannequin. But for a quarter of a second I thought it was real. I picked it up and decided to take it with me until I found a trash can for fear another cyclist with worse eyesight would see it and lose balance. 

However, motorists along the A5 began giving me noticeably more space when overtaking. So I decided to carry the head with me for the rest of the day. 

Motorists of Great Britain: meet the woman who cut me off with her Ford Focus! Don’t let that be you!

Soon after picking up the head, I noticed a wide, paved path running alongside the A5. Almost immediately after noticing that, I got another flat tire and stopped yet again to change it. 

Even though I had once again found a dry place to mend the tire (the Park Tool patch kit worked quite well, I have to say) I was still getting annoyed at the frequency of the flats. 

“You’re not even a Beatles fan!” I growled to myself as I pumped the tire back up. “Why are you even going to Liverpool?”

The head - staring at me through the mesh of my CamelBak - declined to answer. 

I pedaled on and without even realizing it at first: the rain stopped and I had nothing but open trail ahead of me. 

Aside from negotiating the occasional traffic circle (and thus having to mingle with cars that would either gaze upon my backpack with fear or amusement) there’s not much of interest along the route to Liverpool but it was nice just to go fast. Miles dropped away one by one. 

I stopped at a convenience store for a sandwich about seven miles from the town The Beatles are from. When my odometer pushed past thirty miles I had to leave the bike path on the A5 and hop on secondary roads to get to Liverpool - passing by some unremarkable buildings to get there. Heading toward what I thought led to downtown I came to a couple of backpackers juggling at a red light; a sign was nearby explaining they were seeking tips to fund their travels. I tipped them.

A few blocks after leaving the jugglers I headed down a ramp that looked deceptively like I was about to get on a highway. But instead I was greeted by the following sight. 

I had made it to Liverpool. And the sun was finally out for real. 

I noticed my rear tire was going flat yet again so I stopped in front of The Fab Four Cafe (which is exactly what you think it is) to change it once more. 

By now I pretty much needed to do an about face and head back to Manchester, so I bought a cookie from the Fab Four Cafe, ate it, and turned around so I could return the way I came.

Before getting to the bike path that was separate from the rest of the road I had to, of course, ride in the street and thus take a photo that I have taken in just about every country and every city and every small town I had biked in: a clear path for a clumsy American cyclist with no sense of direction while cars are backed up at a near standstill.

Thankfully, the tires stayed intact and the sun stayed out. Even though there still wasn’t a lot to look at the clear skies meant I could actually see Manchester when I got to within ten miles of it. 

Not exactly tired and liking the way the sun looked this time of day I headed back to the canals, where I ran into two artists I’ve met at previous symposiums: Fernanda and Jessie. They were enthused to hear I had made it to Liverpool and back and laughed at the mannequin head that was still on my back (having been there, rain and sunshine, for about seventy miles). 

The next day I packed the bike up and headed on foot to the Museum of Science and Industry. There’s a great building there with a lot of cars and planes on the first floor…and a fun exhibit on the second. 

Shortly after, I met up my wife and the other sketchers at the closing event of the 2016 Urban Sketching Symposium. There, I learned that the 2017 Urban Sketching Symposium was going to be in Chicago. I’ll be able to ride on the right side of the road and unlike the last four out of five USK events, probably won’t have to deal with a language barrier when ordering lunch, but I’ll find a way to make another cycling adventure out of it. 

As for the head I found in Manchester: I put it in the hotel fridge and wondered if I should leave it there for my wife to discover later. 

In the end, I did as one of our sketching friends had advised me to do and put it in her side of the bed (But I ended up just showing her this photo since she had already gotten word about the head before we caught up with one another the day of the Liverpool ride). 

What I didn’t do is bring the head back with me to the U.S. - it stayed in Manchester, but I promise that whatever obscure item(s) I find on the road I will tell you about and keep. And if I find another head I’ll make either a Halloween decoration or a diamond lane buddy - not sure which. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer (and, if you find yourself fixing punctures frequently, check the tire to make sure there isn’t a tiny piece of glass lodged in it - and try to do it when you get the first flat and not when you get home from a fun bike trip in the UK - told you I always learn something new). Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

New Video: DIYBIKING.COM Presents: How to Park Your Car

This video isn't just about the fact I haven't made a video in a while. I actually shot it in January and finally got around to writing and producing it this afternoon.

Please watch, please share and please think about the oceans of space we give to cars in the United States and what glorious things we could do if we didn't need so much of it. (The organization Strong Towns has written about and is taking steps to rid the world of the notorious 'parking minimums' many businesses are subjected to.)

Thanks for watching and thanks for riding.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Low-Stress Bicycle Networks" & Other Wisdom From SVBC Annual Summit

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition had their annual summit yesterday. If you live in the Bay Area, missed it, and use a bike to get around you should go. And if you use a bike to get there you have to take part in the Bike Pool - which took us through the Stevens Creek Trail. New friends get made.

This year the meeting was held in Mountain View. At some point while the SVBC was planning this event, Microsoft popped up and said: “It looks like you’re planning a bike summit. Need some help?”  and they generously offered space in their beautiful building. I was tempted to roam the halls searching for a Clippy costume that I just know is in a forgotten storage room somewhere but I chose to respect their space (and valet-parked my homemade cargo bike outside),

During the well-organized day-long presentation (split by a nice lunch of sandwiches, salad and sun-warmed chocolate chip cookies just outside the building) I got to hear about the state of bicycling statewide - as well as see the breathtakingly complex Caltrans org chart that can easily be mistook for the Periodic Table of the Elements. The most important part of that panel was hearing directly from Caltrans personnel and knowing who to call when I ride through a ghost-bike-waiting-to-happen intersection and want to suggest a change.

I must admit I tuned out during a good chunk of the panel talking about protected bike lanes. That was until I heard a phrase I won’t forget anytime soon: low-stress bicycle network. 

I’ve ridden a bicycle in fifteen countries (most recently Japan) and too many U.S. cities to recall. I was stumped when someone yesterday asked me what my most favorite place to ride is (I eventually gave her the Alfa Romeo of cycling cities: Cleveland) but my least favorite place in the world to ride a bike is Greenwich, Connecticut: that Trump Tower in suburbs-form ranks dead last on my horizontal scale of ‘infrastructure’ (no bike lanes and no sharrows) and are at the bottom of my vertical scale of ‘acceptance’ (save for Porsche 911 drivers, who nearly always give a wide berth, motorists in Greenwich seem more likely to actively close a 3’ gap before opening one).

The reason I’m telling you this is that as someone who has made a career* biking in less-than-optimal environments I’m indifferent to what kind of environment is provided for me. I’ll ride anyway. Passionate cyclists build up their immunity to stressful environments quickly - and need little more than a bike and gravity.

From the biking trip in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Still better than Greenwich, Connecticut. 

But the panel was a great reminder that the people who idle their Prius’ for 20 minutes at the In-N-Out Burger a mile and a half from home don’t think like us: if we want them to leave their cars at home, we need to create a low-stress cycling environment. That is done via a variety of means including protected bike lanes, lane dieting (reducing the width of motor vehicle travel lanes to make motorists drive slower), road dieting, and safety campaigns. 

Speaking of the latter, I sat tall in my chair and mostly stayed off The Twitter when Laura Wells, the Deputy Director of Transportation from San Jose spoke about Vision Zero. While there is a lot of infrastructure in my city that needs updating, arguably the most important change has to take place in people’s heads. Toward that end…

Get used to these images and visit and share what you read about on the San Jose Vision Zero site. Also, when driving your car pretend there is an egg between your foot at the gas pedal and a cyclist is in your blind spot at all times. Choose not to kill your neighbors when behind the wheel.

I’ll come up with something catchier eventually. 

One of my favorite parts was the ‘People Powered Placemaking’ panel at the end. I don’t want to give away too many details since I want you to go to these summits instead of just reading DIYBIKING.COM write-ups the day after, but it featured ordinary citizens doing amazing, MacGyver-esque things to make their communities better for cyclists and safer for everyone - see the fantastic Safe Mountain View for an example.

My least favorite part of the day was the evaluation survey. Just like last year I had no problems with what the SVBC was asking, but I don’t understand why they don’t use SurveyMonkey. They could have gotten more data and evaluated the findings in less time (they did exchange the paper surveys for raffle tickets but I would have stayed at the networking event either way - it’s a great place to mingle - and this year it was a great place to mingle and learn more about bike share organizations like Zagster and Social Bicycles).

So there you have it. Whether you attended this worthwhile event or not show some love and give some thanks to the SVBC summit partners (and give a special thanks to Clif Bar - I think the one I got is melting on the dashboard of my car; as soon as I’m done posting I had better run out and eat it) and, if you aren’t yet a member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, join up: your dollars will go toward a better cycling community. And don’t forget their annual dinner is coming up next month…and so is something called the Tour de Coop, which is another thing I need to look into. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

* made you look.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Biking Nations: Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan

Four weeks ago I was able to put wheels down in a new nation and make Japan the 15th country I’ve ridden a bicycle in. 

A small side note: even though this post is mostly about Tokyo I actually began the ride in Kyoto after I found myself there (thanks to the beautiful, why-don’t-we-have-these-in-the-U.S.? Shinkansen - the bullet train) with a few hours free - plenty of time to take the Bike Friday out of the case, set it up, and hit the road.

Kyoto is a beautiful city. And there was something I loved about it that I couldn’t put my finger on until later: I wasn’t The Only there. Japan was the 15th country I had ridden a bicycle in and in other countries I often felt like The Only. But in Kyoto, I wasn’t The Only cyclist:

* on a folding bike
* riding for fun
* wearing a helmet
* wearing ordinary clothes or Lycra shorts bought on clearance

And the rule of The Only applies to the cyclists you run into as well. In the U.S. you might find a random woman with a child on the back of her bike, but in Kyoto (and later, Tokyo) you’d often see two or three in a row - often carrying two kids.

There’s just something truly welcoming about a cycling culture that has such a wonderful mix of people and equipment riding around. Bike equivalents of minivans and sports cars were everywhere. And I also noticed another truism: the more a business loves cyclists, the more cyclists love that business back. A lot of places had tiny parking lots just for bicycles right in front.

Another one I adored was at the Kyoto Zoo - spotted after closing hours. Made me think how much I want parking minimums for cars to go away in the U.S.

While I was marveling at the bike parking lots I realized nearly all of Japan’s cyclists had something I didn’t: a kickstand. Yes, the much mocked appendage of the American cycling world was actually in high demand in Japan. Most of the time I wanted to shop somewhere, I’d flip the bike over like I was changing a tire and lock it to itself. 

This may look odd to my U.S. cycling friends. But that is how it is done as bike theft is apparently rare. To show you how rare here is a photo of a lock display at a bike shop. Unlike shops such as, for instance, NYCeWheels in Manhattan, you don't need a spotter to get any of these off the shelf. 

I also love checking out the different cycling signage when I visit a new country. For instance, I just loved the sharrow symbol in Kyoto. The bicycle has a basket! I even said it out loud as I was biking by. They actually want and expect cyclists to ride around the city and participate in commerce! Japan: I want that stencil.

One thing I had to do was buy a bike bell since I read somewhere that all bikes in Tokyo require one. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and in a bargain bin at a R’s Cycle bike shop, Japan delivered as only Japan can. 

I was only in Kyoto for about a day and a half. Far too little time to spend in a city where they shot the bamboo grove scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The lovely ride in Kyoto was good practice before I unpacked the bike again in Tokyo. It was also going to be very humid and raining every day (or parts of every day) during my time in Tokyo and I was glad I didn’t have to get used to riding on the left before I checked in to the beautiful Keio Plaza Hotel to unpack my bike once again. 

Three days I pushed the bike in and out of the hotel and only got smiles from the staff - the way it should be. In addition to having a Hello Kitty room (that I did not stay in) they also have a fantastic convenience store on the ground floor and in-room coffee.

This style coffee maker - which I had never seen before - is actually very common in Japan: tear open the pouch, pull apart the little paper arms, rip the perforation, set it on the cup and pour hot water in. This is the coffee from Kieo Plaza Hotel. The artwork is mine. But I’m getting off the subject.

Tokyo is not like Kyoto. It’s yet another city on this planet that is choking itself to death with cars and isn’t realizing it. The traffic lives up to the legend. 

I don’t know if the rain or the added stress of riding on the left was affecting me but I found Tokyo to be a confounding city. Roads twist, turn and go under and around each other. And when it appears a road is closed to bikes the shared sidewalk doesn’t always follow the same route the cars go. Even though I had one of those pocket wi-fi things that you rent at the airport that gave my iPhone access to maps, I still managed to get lost several times. 

I also noticed something I didn’t care for: the sharrow symbol - when you could find one in Tokyo - looks like this:

Obviously, it is a lot narrower than the one in Kyoto but my other beef was that if the stencil was any further than the left it would be on the sidewalk. 

And that, as it turned out, was directly related to the other different thing about Tokyo compared to most other places I’ve ridden: the shared sidewalk culture: bikes are invited and encouraged to ride…there.

My first day was riding aimlessly around Tokyo to figure out how the city breathed. It reminded me a lot like New York but it was a lot harder because of the whole ‘riding on the left’ bit. Years ago, in London, I found that when making a turn on a bike share bike I’d absently drift over to the right side of the road only to be in the path of a Reliant Robin or something. So I made it a habit of always bringing my own helmet with me when traveling and moving my helmet mounted rearview mirror from my left side to my right as a visual cue to pedal on the left. 

Still, my American brain, shaped by pedaling on the right for decades, would instinctively look for dangers that weren’t there and I had to second-guess every ordinary move I’d make (like looking over to where a nearby motorist would be but seeing an empty seat, a baby or small dog because all cars are right-hand drive) It was like patting your stomach, rubbing your head, and doing your taxes while reciting the Greek alphabet. 

But still a lot of fun - especially when I’d notice people who looked like they were commuting to work or going to on a formal dinner date. Yes, America: you can ride in your normal clothes and shoes.

I soon discovered that like many other cities I’ve ridden in: the faster you ride, the less stressful it is. I did end up having to visit another bike shop for a rather peculiar reason: thanks to the wind noise the little pink, smiley propeller made on my new bike bell I bought in Kyoto, I missed the rattling sound that came from the Bike Friday’s stem in Tokyo: the nut that held it in place fell off and was lost forever. I found Flame Bike - a helpful little shop - and replaced the missing nut. 

I decided to get out of the city on my last day. Drenched by the rain biking through the traffic-choked streets of downtown Tokyo (and not willing to join the masses that ride bicycles while holding an umbrella) I decided to pedal west towards Tama Lake - hopefully along a bike path I read about on TokyoByBike.com

But before I made it that far, I was already thankful for choosing to leave the middle of Tokyo: with fewer cars on the roads and not as many stoplights, I was able to open up the throttle.

In keeping with Biking Nations tradition, I didn’t have a plan for lunch. Lucky for me I didn’t have to subsist on popsicles like I did when riding in Delhi and Gurgaon because I found a noodle place. Signage featuring pigs on a tandem (w/ the last stoker eating noodles) got my attention. 

Inside, I waited for my order and drank water while Meghan Trainor’s No and other fine U.S. exports played on the restaurant sound system. Thanks to the wi-fi device, I went over the map on my phone: just 7.1 km to go to get to the lake. And I was going to get properly fueled. 

As usual: when you don’t speak the language you can rely on the international language of money and pointing, and that language didn’t fail me. I ate well. I also drank well: even though I had a Camelback I discovered, completely by accident, Pocari Sweat which is a well known sports drink there. At one of the numerous vending machines all over Tokyo, I put in some Yen and chose what I thought was water but it was a product called Pocari Sweat. 

Discovering it was good, I ended up buying a bottle almost every time I stopped. 

Pocari Sweat: Bought By Accident. Awesome on Purpose (Fly me back there and I’ll film a commercial like Bill Murray did in Lost in Translation). 

My satisfaction at the restaurant wasn’t even dented when I discovered the rear tire of the Bike Friday had gone flat. I found shady spot nearby and changed it out (while humming No) before pressing on - and reasoning I should replace the aging tire before my next trip. 

Completely by accident, I ended up finding the bike path.

This is a beautiful path and, as advertised, it led me to Tama Lake. I don’t know very much about it but the silence of being there was the perfect counter to the noise of downtown Tokyo I had experienced the day before. 

After resting, taking photos and just enjoying the moment I left Tama Lake and followed the bike path to Rt. 5, which I followed most of the way back. I stopped at a bike shop I neglected to photograph to check it out and buy a tube and noticed a lot of clouds coming in. My streak of riding in the rain was about to come to an end - but I was still having more fun and moving faster than these people. 

Pretty soon I heard something I hadn’t heard in well over a year: thunder. Cyclists on both the sidewalk and the road began to ride a lot faster, and I did the same. I did get a few sprinkles on me but managed to get back to the Keio Plaza Hotel around 3:00pm with about 41 miles on the odometer. Minutes after I got the bike to my room, the sky opened up (the rain was so bad it caused local flooding that made the evening news)…and my rear tire had gone flat once again. Since I wasn’t planning to ride the next day anyway and the tires have to be deflated before going on the plane I decided not to fix it until I returned to San Jose. 

The next day I got to visit the Mori Art Museum and head up to the top floor so I could have a good look at the city I had spent a few days biking in.

It wasn’t until I looked almost straight down that I realized what was amiss: there was a lot of car traffic - a lot. And try as it might Tokyo can’t clever its way out of it - it actually needs to change the infrastructure to give more to cyclists and less to motorists. 

And it brings me back to the shared sidewalk thing: by putting cyclists and pedestrians together in the same space, they have to negotiate with one another to get around while cars get more of the streets for themselves - and I was in Japan before Pokemon Go was released. Meanwhile, on the streets, it seems ‘share the road’ means electronically retracting the rearview mirror of your Honda Fit as you blast by a cyclist and have it slowly slide back as you accelerate away.*

This philosophy isn’t just flawed, its deadly. More cyclists die per capita in Japan than in the U.S. So if there are any urban planners in Japan who are reading this: your high-speed trains are beautiful enough to make me weep. Your space shuttle-complicated toilets are sublime. And your umbrella management systems are thrilling

So I’m sure you can handle road diets and just use your collective brilliance to redesign your streets in such a way that people will use their cars less, use their bikes more, and get more people to where they want to go faster and alive. Thanks for everything, Kyoto and Tokyo (especially the little pancake sandwiches sold in convenience stores that have butter and syrup in the middle. Nitrous oxide for my legs, they are). And to all: thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

* That actually happened on the ride back from Tama Lake.