Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Be The Change You Wish to See in San Jose

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

When Cyclists Don't Matter

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

Sacramento Bee

San Diego Union Tribune

East Bay Times

Los Angeles Times

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The House, The Car, The Vote...and California

The 800 pound hammer in Healdsburg was stolen. Police are relying on unconventional means to find the culprit.

Before I begin I need to remind readers of two things: if they live in the state of California they must Vote No on Proposition Six...and that the 800-pound hammer that was part of an art exhibition in Healdsburg, California is still missing.

Anyway I was looking through old copies of Sunset Magazine I had bought at Recycle Bookstore in San Jose. Specifically the February 1955 issue. 

The pages of these old magazines are kind of the original blueprints for the 1955 American Dream - the kind that today looks like every house you see on the first few minutes of Flip or Flop

The advertisements in old magazines are always entertaining to look at - usually more so than 63+ year old articles, and especially the ones that sell us a product that no longer exists.  

The ad that sticks out the most for me is the one with two huge 1950s cars. Dad and son are happily washing one while mom is pulling up in another, and two dogs are just looking on. I can just picture Don Draper responding positively to being shown this image at an ad agency meeting. 

This ad is telling readers that two cars are becoming a "must" so you should buy two cars - and why not make them both Fords!

Ads like these aren't just selling a product, they're selling a lifestyle. House, lawn, and at the center of it all: cars the size of small public libraries. And oh yeah: you need two of them. 

That part makes me smirk. I've been married for 13 years and my wife and I have had only one car between us the whole time. Between bikes, VTA (even though I'm still sour they killed the express train), Caltrain, ride share, bike share, scooter share we make our world work - by the skin of our teeth. We'd like living in California more if we didn't need a car at all.

But California was designed for a world like the one in the Ford ad - one where two adults would own two big, lead gasoline cars that you would drive guilt free and not think twice about it. The trouble is the infrastructure for 1955 California (which had about a third as many people in it back then) is mostly still with us today - save for the occasional $1 billion spent on highway upgrades that just make traffic worse

An unfortunate contingent of Californians are fighting tooth and nail to keep the romanticized, normalized world of driving and suburban life intact. They want to keep selling us on the house and the car and all that comes with it. California 1955: cheap gas, heavily subsidized roads you never quite see the bill for, and distance between your home and all the things you love that can only be covered by a car.* 

But like "The Surprise Car of the Year" California 1955 is a product that no longer exists. 

This November, we can decide if we want to vote for the California preserved in a specimen jar or a new one that recognizes that a new one can be made.  Please do not vote for Proposition 6, which keeps gas cheap and auto infrastructure baked in California's DNA - and please do vote for Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 - which makes housing less expensive.*

Also if you're in San Jose, please vote Yes on Measure V - it's an affordable housing bond measure that'll bring $450 million to help build more affordable homes and that has the potential of making a lot of people's commutes shorter - short enough to potentially bring additional cyclists into our ranks. 

The election is in 27 days and it's not enough just to promise to vote - you have to promise to convince others to do the same. Do that with me and let's not let the NIMBY contingency win this time. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

P.S. - if you're in San Jose and have a bike, a lock, about $20 to spend on groceries and want to spend Nov. 17th taking part in fun bike-based food drive, follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook!

*I'm stuck by the fact that some prominent people are in favor of Prop 6 but against building more affordable housing. "Yes, let's keep gas cheap so poor people can get to the jobs we give them from the neighborhoods we assign them to that are far away from ours!"