Friday, March 15, 2019

Murals, Space Academy, and How to Request a Bike Rack

Before I begin I have two important requests for two friends-of-Cranksgiving: the first is that you make a donation to the Hamman Park Mural Fund because #ArtLiftsCities and it's fun to have murals to ride your bike to. Right now the fund is halfway to its $10,000 goal and I just know we can push this over the top if you donate. 

The second request is that you make another donation so a space-loving little girl can go to NASA Space Academy. Sima, a San Jose yoga teacher at Be The Change Yoga & Wellness, put this GoFundMe together. Many of us talk all the time in the abstract about how we should have more women in STEM and now is our chance to do it. That donation page is here. All I ask. Thanks!



As some of you know I'm building a couple of bike trailers for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition as an in-kind donation. It's a really fun and interesting build (and I will write about it soon) and it is pretty much done backwards: I've had to figure out how to design the trailers while building one, then - and I mean this literally - reverse engineering the first trailer in order to build the second. Then when I'm done I need to write out the instructions on how to build them.

Because of the first step I've had no idea what kind of materials I've had to stock, which means running out to get more. And because I work full time and can only work on this at night and on the weekends, I've had to make special trips to stores during the day to get what I need.

Last week, for example, I took my City Bike - often called a 'Beater Bike' to the new Ace Hardware store on The Alameda - not far from Diridon Station. I was in a rush and did not see a bike rack in front of the store. With brazen body language but a meek expression, I pushed the bike inside.

The customer service I got was fantastic: the person behind the counter greeted me with a smile. Do you mind if I bring it in? I only need to grab one thing. No problem you can leave it here. Thank you THANK YOU! 

I got several packs of 1/4" #20 bolts and headed back to the register. A minute later the bolts were in my pockets and I was wheeling my bike out the door. It was like a well-planned bank heist even though I didn't break or steal anything. 

In posting the photo above and thanking ACE on Twitter, I got some replies - one of which came from the City of San Jose's Department of Transportation.

The person managing their page - who may be someone I know but I honestly am not sure - deserves just as much credit as ACE because they shared the bicycle page on the City of San Jose site

If you click on that link and scroll directly to the bottom, you can request a bike rack. 

Really. 

The city also mentioned they were installing racks along the street. It  was a nice exchange on social media - which is a pretty rare thing.

A week after (this week) I had to return to Ace to buy something else, so I raced off on a lunch break. The front of the hardware store looked different. 



I knelt down and pinched the dust. Sniffing it, I could tell it was fresh - a Quickrete mix that had been set before the rains.



Okay I may not have sniffed the dust, but yes: new bike racks that are on The Alameda are appearing - and this morning still another showed up. It would be great if a business owner could request an on-street parking space be converted into a bike parking space like in Palo Alto but I'll take what I can get. 


Still, this is a positive and inspiring sign - and I strongly urge San Jose businesses and residents to use the city's resources to request bike racks - and I also suggest you write Letters to the Editor to the San Jose Mercury News asking for more bike infrastructure and more bike acceptance. Thanks to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and the city's DOT, a of cool things have come to San Jose and we shouldn't stop. And if your city doesn't make it easy to request bike racks ask leaders why.

That's all I've got - don't forget to donate to the Hamman Mural Fund and send Zhea to NASA Space Academy. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

How To Attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Environment


Over the past week it came to the attention of Republican operatives that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's staff seems to use rideshare services a lot even though her office is close to the subway. 

For those of you who have trouble keeping track: The score is now as follows in the GOP vs. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mash-up:

GOP: 1 point
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 6,392 points

The GOP has a point - one point - with the recent New York Post story about AOC's serial use of rideshare.

One. Point.

I am not an AOC worshipper or serial retweeter. I think the Green New Deal is a joke for a very specific reason I'll get into in a moment. But let's strip away the fact the GOP desperately wants to bring AOC down because she hails from the generation The Party of Reagan has given the middle finger two for nearly four decades - and go to the core of the story through the lens of a person who wants to make more environmentally-friendly choices when getting around.

Yes, I am sure there are opportunities for AOC and her staff to use transit, walk and even bike for meetings, appointments and assorted constituent services (In fact, if they want to jump on the e-bike craze, there isn't a better place to do it in New York City than NYCeWheels - a shop in Manhattan far from my home but close to my heart).

Everyone is free to write their own New York Post attack story about themselves and their own travel habits. I could write one about myself. You could write one about yourself. No matter how many bumper stickers with pictures of the planet on them one owns, everyone has an opportunity to better their environmental footprint with transportation choices. 

But here's the rub: I've ridden a bicycle in the Bronx. I'm familiar with using a Rube Goldberg-style system of public transit that robs one of time to get where you want to go. I am aware that cars are regrettably often the fastest way to get a lot of things done - and sitting down and calculating how to use this train or that train or if you can bring your bike on Metro North during this hour or not is a time-consuming exercise that takes much longer than punching your destination address into Google Maps or Lyft. 

Let's suppose Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez decides to issue e-bikes or Bromptons to her entire staff (the photo op if she did the latter would be breathtaking). They'll be places they can get to easier, cheaper and faster than a rideshare, sure, but how much bike infrastructure is between her office and her destination? How many streets are what I call Ghost-Bike-Waiting-To-Happen? How many buildings refuse entry to bikes - even folding ones? How many roads don't even allow bicycles passage in the first place? How secure is bike parking where her staff goes?

The GOP has scored one point against AOC using this angle - but they are forfeiting the rest of the game with their follow up - this time attacking her for using a 'gas guzzling' minivan (that gets 17 miles per gallon) to get to a destination. 

That's a gold medal jump-over-the-shark for me. I own an SUV that causes the Tesla-worshipping class of California to frown but I am far better for the environment than any Tesla or any Prius because I don't use it a lot

No, GOP - the way to attack Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is to throw your support - including taxpayer dollars - behind more frequent transit, high speed rail, complete streets, tax credits for bike commuters and post photos of yourselves and your staffs riding on newly minted bike lanes and hanging the bikes on buses and trains as you merrily move cheaper, faster and easier to your destinations. At the same time, you publish all of the hidden subsidies cars get with the same toddler-tantrum vigor you use to scream at AOC.

After you have done those things, after you have invested in transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure and acceptance, then check back with AOC's staff on their Lyft and Uber usage. If it is at the same levels as now, then you can attack her and not look like a child upset that he has to put on his pants at the table and eat his boiled vegetables. 

Attack the Green New Deal for doing absolutely nothing to wean Americans off car usage. Attack it for not being bold enough to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it is no longer a great idea for single-family homes be the ideal image of an American Dream. Attack it for not disrupting the status quo of bizarre and car friendly zoning laws that sentence Americans to a life of begging and insecurity for the unpardonable sin of not owning a car. 

And yes, attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today on her staff's probably excessive use of rideshare - but if you're not following up with some ideas on how to make it easier for people to make the transit choices you insist her staff makes, you can just hold that one point you made - and hold it close - because that's the only one I see you scoring for the foreseeable future.

That's all I've got - but before I forget be sure to go see the #100BlockSJ murals that went up last month - and make a donation to have Gemellos Murals paint a mural at Marijane Hamman Park. Remember that #ArtLiftsCities and when this rain ends, let's be sure to have colorful places to go.

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.





Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Suitcase: The Unsung Hero of the Bike Friday



Taking a moment to get back to the roots of this site: builds and travel and this is about a little bit of both. 

As you know, I bought my 1998 Bike Friday New World Tourist in 2011. Since then I've ridden it in too many U.S. cities to count and have traveled with it to Spain, BrazilDominican Republic, UK, France, Germany, SingaporePortugal and Japan.

The Bike Friday New World Tourist gets all the glory in my posts, but the Samsonite suitcase is the unsung hero. 


Hear me out: I'm lucky if I can bike 150 miles on in a few days on one of these trips but the suitcase travels thousands of miles each time I get my passport stamped. The case is to the Bike Friday what Kevin Costner was to Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard. The eggshell to the omelet. The Kit-Kat wrapper to the Kit-Kat bar. The Pez Dispenser to the Pez.

Okay - bad example. 

My point is, No matter the trip, the weather, the terrain or even my budget I've kept on top of keeping a now 20-plus year New World Tourist running. It takes a lot of abuse and is made with parts that can be replaced in almost any bike shop in the world if the situation called for it.

But I neglected the hard shell Samsonite suitcase. I noticed it was protesting when I packed it for Chicago two years ago. It wasn't until last year the latch wouldn't catch at all, so I began taping it down. It got so bad I expected the "Hey-we-opened-it!" notes I usually find from the Transportation Safety Administration* to include a page from a suitcase catalog with suggested replacements circled. 

With months till my next trip and not thinking about it at all, I hit paydirt at a thift store not far from San Luis Obisbo.


It did not come with the tools. Those are mine. But check out that amazing 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS that is made in the USA. A steal at five dollars.

This case is too small to fit the Bike Friday. But it does share all of the components. A couple minutes of rummaging found the proper bits to detach the coveted left suitcase latch.


Set next to the one I removed from the original case I could see that it broke in two places...and the one from the 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS looked to be in pristine shape. I had it changed in less time than it took me to find the screwdriver bit.

I didn't stop there with the $5 case.


The Wall-E tendencies I picked up in 2014 forward are still with me today. I have a right latch, a center latch, a handle, and two wheels - ready for service if necessary. As of an hour ago they are in a box labeled "Bike Friday Suitcase Parts" on on a shelf. 

It will possibly never be opened again - my Samsonite case may not fail me ever again. But the moral of the story to you Bike Friday owners is: respect the case. And keep your eyes on tag sales for a 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS or whatever other model matches your own. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*Be nice to them. With or without this ridiculous, Trump-caused shutdown, they work hard. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Part of 'Share The Road' You Don't Understand


As you know, I've been in a position to pick out ghost bikes. I've stood in silence as names of dead cyclists and pedestrians have been tonelessly read aloud. Every time I read the news of a cyclist being hit by a car, I quickly look for the name of the victim to see if it is someone I know. 

I got that on January 1, 2019, when San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was hit by an SUV. From the description of the crash I can easily imagine what happened: a driver turned into his path at an intersection and collided with the mayor of the 10th largest U.S. city. It's part of why Beryl invented the Laserlight - to avoid the 'right hook' - but the mayor was hit in the daytime.


The mayor of San Jose - a place I've called home for almost four years - could have witnessed his last sunset on December 31. Instead on January 1 he got two broken vertebrae and sternum because the driver "just didn't see him" which is Car-patriarcy (or 'Cartriarcy' as it were) talk for "I was driving so fast I didn't bother to look and see if other humans were on the same road as me."

So this seems like a good a time as any to talk about sharing the road, which a lot of motorists - especially those in the comments section of the news stories of this and other crashes - don't seem to understand.

While fighting and beating Proposition 6 with other bike advocates, I've gotten used to the idea that there is an entire class of drivers out there who don't think cyclists matter. People like Carl DeMaio and his ilk made that very clear in his mean-spirited and stupid Yes on 6 campaign. But we exist. We choose to ride for one reason or another. We get fewer parking options than drivers, fewer places to travel than motorists (see 40,000+ miles of interstate highway cyclists are forbidden to ride on), fewer safe passages to ride in, and someone who gets to work on a $100 bicycle or even a $1,500 and up bicycle is just not taken as seriously as someone who drives a $100,000 Tesla to work and enjoyed a fat taxpayer subsidy* from day one of owning the car. 

So we ride on whatever scraps of pavement we can find and we put our lives at risk a hell of a lot more than motorists do making the same trip - our chalk outlines are on the streets at a much greater proportion than our numbers riding on them.

Cyclist on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, not far from The Off Ramp bike shop. Cars have three travel lanes and cyclists just get whatever's left over.

That's us sharing the road. Our lives are at risk more and as long as whoever hits and maims or kills us stays at the scene and cooperates with the police, that driver will get to drive off into the sunset the next day without any punishment whatsoever. 


You sharing the road - and I'm talking only to motorists right now - means you have 3,000 pound boxes of climate-controlled air surrounding you as you travel in cushy comfort. A low-speed impact for you sends you to Maaco. The same impact at the same speed will send me to the hospital or morgue.


I've had it with people saying "why wasn't the cyclist wearing brighter clothing?" or things of that nature. If you are driving at 40 miles an hour and see a cyclist from a distance of 70 feet, the cyclist is hit no matter what they are wearing.

You get to travel at higher speeds with less effort than me. You get mass and the benefit of appearing menacing. You get a loud horn. I get a bell. 


You get to deduct every mile you drive for work or for your business. A cyclist does not.

If there is a serious accident between us, you get to tell your side of the story to the police. I get to lie in a pool of my own blood clinging to consciousness. 

The aftermath of a crash for you is only as serious as your conscience. I, on the other hand, may spend years relearning how to tie my own shoes or staving off an addiction to painkillers.

Sharing the road means neither of us get what we want. So I need you, the motorist, to respect the power you have and ease off the gas pedal. Look around. Drive slower. Stay off your phone and refrain from smoking marijuana in your car (an infraction I've seen twice in the past year).

Sharing the road also means some changes need to be made to the roads themselves so people aren't punished for not driving a car. Some of this involves building more housing near transit. Some of this means protected bikeways, and the city of San Jose has installed several miles of it recently - Mayor Sam Liccardo has been a champion of these.

Unfortunately, changes made to streets so cyclists will be less certain to face death aren't always taken well. A bewildering article about this was on KPIX 5 San Francisco: San Jose's 10 miles of protected lanes involved moving the on-street parking spaces several feet from the curb and the protected bike lane would go in. 

Protected bike lane in downtown San Jose

This arrangement allows cyclists to travel on blocks with less fear of being hit and killed and doesn't cost drivers any parking spots since they are just moved a few feet further from the curb. But a few of the motorists interviewed for the KPIX 5 piece said they do not like having to open their car doors with traffic being there. 

If these drivers would pause for just a moment and think about what they are saying: I don't want to be at risk being hit by a motor vehicle. Even though it is the last twenty feet of their 3 mile car trip or a stop at Starbucks to buy a Frappuccino with whipped cream. But reporters are notorious for creating a false equivalency about things - and one of these things is the concept of sharing the road. 10 miles of protected bike lane is all about the safe motorists inconvenienced - not people feeling more comfortable to ride a bike to work. Protected bikeways and bike lanes are necessary infrastructure and should be covered in the news fairly.

But as I've said before, infrastructure is only half of what a city needs. The other half is acceptance. This was part of why I was hard on Mayor Liccardo a few weeks ago (and also mocked him in the parody I wrote where the city banned cars instead of scooters) when complaining about the speed governor on shared scooters. In an empty warehouse or parking lot, a slower speed will make the scooter safer - what vehicle couldn't that be said about? -  but the mayor and the city council didn't think about the relationship scooters have with the infrastructure, and their unfortunate decision to keep the cap in place makes scooters not accepted on the sidewalks and not accepted on the roads - a stance which is breaking micromobility.

If people accept people ride bikes (and yes, scooters) for work or for fun, they'll look out for them more. If drivers are trained to look out for bicyclists again and again they'll do it. And if they drive slower, they'll be able to react to the slower-moving bicyclist faster.

A good number of strip malls in San Jose do not have bike racks but they have jammed up parking lots. The two are related.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition - based just a few blocks from San Jose City Hall - put together a virtual 'get well' card of sorts for the Mayor. Please send Mayor Sam Liccardo good thoughts - we need him to return to work and look at biking in San Jose with new eyes and hopefully keep making sure the city gives even more infrastructure and acceptance to cyclists. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

*Hopefully the electric vehicle tax incentives will go away soon.