Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What If The Waterslide Kid Had Tied Up Traffic?

Most people are good. But sometimes you are just going to see a horrendous display of humanity made even worse by the everydayness of it. 

I see it several times a week, but it was absolutely turned up to 11 today. What happened was someone climbed up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and threatened to jump. Here's what NBC Bay Area had to say in a tweet:

The video itself is 20 seconds of traffic moving at a crawl. Nothing you don't see everyday. 

I get it. I've seen traffic reports and traffic reporters work. If you're stuck in traffic for a long time for seemingly no reason you'll want to know why. But the traffic isn't the angle that should be front and center. The question should be who is this person and what can we do to help him? 

But the tragic thing is, we don't. If you are sitting in a car it seems that everything is about you and how best to move you forward. Someone's son/father/daughter/wife is up on a ledge threatening to jump? Dang it! I am late for my Crossfit class and don't have any more podcasts to listen to! Shove this loony over the side so I can get a move on!

If a UFO lands in the Bay Area I expect the headline to look something like this: 

Also an alien has crash-landed in Redwood City blocking the third and fourth lanes on 101. That's a real mess there. 

NBC Bay Area wasn't alone in this traffic-first angle. Man Sitting on Bay Bridge anchorage snarls westbound traffic was KTVU Fox 2's headline (that changed slightly but, as I said a couple weeks ago, they had the picture of the traffic and had the story filed under 'Traffic Stories').

Tomorrow morning we're going to wake up and some of us are going to watch television.  I'm asking everyone reading this to please watch how the context of a story is different when it has an impact on traffic. 

Traffic, which is ONLY caused by too many people driving, is explained away by, among other things, a motorcycle crash on 101, a tractor-trailer rollover on the 87, or construction on highway 85. Red lines on the map signify traffic problems and even though about 80% of Bay Area drivers travel alone and distracted driving is a serious problem NBC Bay Area wants you to join the Bay Area Wazers "to help viewers avoid traffic jams". (Laura Garcia-Cannon: you've said a couple of times after the traffic reports that people should not use their phones while driving and I am appreciative of that.)

So we have to ask ourselves some interesting questions about this car-centric world we live in. What if the waterslide kid had tied up traffic? What if that commuter train crash from years ago didn't have gory footage but instead tied up the commute? Would we be talking about safety issues, interviewing NTSB personnel? Asking why these things aren't better regulated? Car accidents outnumber waterslide issues by the tens of thousands and yet I don't see parents pulling their kids out of driver's ed. 

So please: for those in the media who are reading this please put car accidents on the same footing as the waterslide kid and let's try not to make everything about a more comfortable car commute. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Images of Car Traffic The Go-To Picture to Symbolize Pain, Dysfunction

Note to Editors: Feel free to use this image, copyright free, to accompany any negative headline

Hope my cycling brothers and sisters east of here had a great Bike to Work Day.

I live in Silicon Valley. That means two things: traffic (which is caused ONLY by too many people driving) and that I read The San Jose Mercury News

It's the local newspaper (and if you haven't had the chance to read reporter Ramona Gwargis' live tweets of San Jose City Hall meetings you are truly missing out on some of the finer things the universe has to offer).

I have noticed a few patterns lately - particularly with the headlines I see on the San Jose Mercury News Facebook page: There have been several negative headlines accompanied by a shot of traffic (and not necessarily the ones that are about traffic).

More Bay Area residents say they want to leave. Where do they plan to go?

San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco job markets will cool: forecast

The Bay Area could be in for some nasty gridlock this evening 

Okay the last one is a bit of a no-brainer for use of an image of traffic. But still. 

It doesn't end there. Look at this headline from today: Job losses battered Santa Clara County in April (headline is a bit different on their homepage).

As I wrote not long ago when talking about how the traffic problem and the housing shortage are really symptoms of the same problem instead of separate issues, I got to thinking that the very image of traffic is just such a universally understood symbol of pain, dysfunction and just things-that-are-wrong one could use an image of traffic to accompany any negative news story.

Could be anything. 

Report Indicates Fewer Americans Reading Books

IBM Ending Benefit of Working at Home

That isn't a joke: it is a real headline and a real story. Nice work, IBM! Whatever 'spreadsheet blindness' that led to this decision isn't going to take into account the amount of energy, creativity and time sucked out of people when they drive to work.

Another bad headline:

Yoga Class Is Cancelled

Now on the flipside of this I want you to notice how often images of bicycles are used when the headline (or, as often is the case, an advertisement) wants to convey something positive. I do want a new rule: any company trying to cash in on the greatness of bicycles has to have outstanding bike parking in front. I'm talking to you, Home Depot. I didn't chain my California Cargo Bike to a handicapped parking sign just to walk in and see...

But still: the image of bicycles is positive, and it works with any positive headline - just look:

Kardashian Family Moves to Faraway Country With No Internet Access.

Larry Wilmore Gets New Podcast - Return to Television Inevitable

That's real - and I when I make a list of all the things that went wrong in 2016 The Nightly Show going off the air makes the top ten.

IRS Announces Plan for Mileage Reimbursement For Bicycles

VivaCalleSJ, Scheduled for Sept. 17, Releases Route Information

That last one is real - and pretty awesome. VivaCalleSJ is San Jose's open streets event where streets are closed to cars and you get to rediscover your city without cars. It's a wonderful thing.

So now that we are on the same page see if we can reduce the images of traffic by reducing traffic. Leave the car. Take the bicycle. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bay Area Bike to Work Day is Tomorrow (May 11)

Sorry this reminder is coming so late - I would have posted yesterday but I misplaced my James Comey figurine. Luckily, I found it where I expected.

So now I would like to thank everyone who showed up at the Silicon Valley Bike Festival on Sunday; I was there with the first complete Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM and loved the feedback I got from everyone who got to try it.

The most pressing news right now is Bay Area Bike to Work Day is tomorrow. Remember the thirteen words: if you have a bike and can ride it safely, please ride it

If you don't have a bike available there is time to go buy one at Good Karma Bikes (which just changed their evening closing hours from 6pm to 7pm, so you have time to pick one up after work. 

Also the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is having a really cool incentive this year: if you sign their Bike to Work Day Pledge you can enter to win a cycling vacation from Exodus Travels that allows you to bike from Thailand to Vietnam.

I can speak to the transformative power that comes from biking in other countries. It's allows you to look at our current world through the lens of others and also tell great stories.

As of today, including the U.S., I have ridden a bicycle in sixteen. I just added Mexico a couple of weeks ago after a short weekend in San Diego involved biking 20 miles to the Tijuana border and walking my bike through customs - all so I could ride a bike - first bought at a tag sale in New Hampshire for $5 three years ago before being converted into the perfect city bike - for less than a hour in Tijuana.

Biking across a border and marveling at the parking lot/car checkpoint was a treat (I did have my cargo box searched by a fellow at the border crossing, but he mostly wanted to know where to get a bicycle cargo box and how to make one

The other cool part was using Pesos I had brought with me, leftover from a non-biking trip to Mexico I had taken about eight years ago, and buying churros so I'd have something to eat while waiting to cross the border on the way back - made me miss Lorca's churros. 

Anyway: back to Bay Area Bike to Work Day: Please take part in it tomorrow and take the SVBC pledge. Hope to see you on the road tomorrow - and if you DON'T ride: watch for bicycle commuters, do not honk at us, and give 3' of space when you pass. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

The trailer is not for sale, but the new, handmade Box Bike in the photo is. like Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM on Facebook and message me for pricing details (also free delivery anywhere in Santa Clara County, CA).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

See Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM at the Silicon Valley Bikes Festival on Sunday

The 3rd annual Silicon Valley Bikes Festival is coming to History Park in San Jose on Sunday - and not only am I going to be there, but a Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM is coming with me so find my booth

Underneath the booth you should find me, a bike, a table, some of my artwork (both photographs and welded artwork). I'll also have a fun thing like the 2x2 matrix I had for the Cargo Bike Festival last year. 

I will also be taking the time to remind you to like Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook because we're going to be planning the next one - and we're going to make it bigger. I'll explain later (or at the festival, if you have time).

See you Sunday - Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.