Thursday, March 28, 2019
A Fender Bender in San Jose
Note: Please donate to help send my yoga teacher's stepdaughter to NASA Space Academy - and ask your friends to do the same. Like the rest of you I am thoroughly embarrassed the all-women spacewalk was cancelled due to a lack of properly sized spacesuits to go around. Let's send Zhea to Space Academy and we'll make sure there are EVA suits that fit her when the time comes. Thanks.
Sticking with my promise to ride a bike home from work - about 11 miles away - at least once a week hasn't been the easiest thing to stick to this Bay Area winter. My city bike has put up with a lot of abuse being out in the rain - and apparently I have too.
I have a Pearl Izumi rain jacket I bought quite a few years ago for the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York. Even in the slightest amount of San Jose rain I look as though I was commuting from my office to my home by being dragged by a wild pig.
For the longest time I assumed the rear rack on the city bike was doing double duty as a fender. It was not. The Novara bag on the back also persistently looked like I had picked up on while beachcombing at low tide.
So I needed a fender, and as usual I thought the clearest path to get one consisted of rummaging through boxes in my shop until I found the one filled with them. In the past - either when I misplaced the box or was inspired by a piece of found material - I've made fenders.
I do hope the Tesla driver whose car droppings I found swept into a pile on Santa Teresa Boulevard wasn't hurt badly when he or she crashed, but the I-am-good-for-the-planet-hear-me-drive-off-silently 'brag tag' I found was put to good use on my California Cargo Bike.
Good job, Elon Musk: those really are made from high quality plastic.
Anyway: despite my assurances this past weekend that a large box of fenders existed, it did not - but my shop has been in such sorry shape lately it still seems possible to be in there somewhere.
What I did have was a piece of 1/4" foam PVC about 4' long and almost three inches wide. Foam PVC is a useful material that is available at Tap Plastics on The Alameda (not far from ACE Hardware). Its pretty strong for its light weight and can be bent into different shapes with the aid of a heat gun.
I reached for my coping saw. Unable to find it (the shop really is in bad shape) I used my ornery single-speed jigsaw to make the sloppy-looking cuts you see before you.
Stuck in the tab behind the kickstand, I found a screw that would hold it in place. With that done, I tried bending the PVC into more of a fender-shape.
The brake was in the way so I notched out a space to make the fender thinner so it could fit underneath. When I did this I was careful to make sure it wouldn't affect the brake in any way once it was finally in place.
A spring clamp held it in place on the aluminum rack while I carefully drilled through it with a rather dull drill bit. Not wanting to break my year-plus long streak of not getting a flat on the city bike, I put another scrap of PVC between the fender embryo and the tire.
Next was the bending. My $40 heat gun sprang to life for this bit. I protected the tire from the heat with a shop towel as I waved the gun a few inches from the PVC - focusing on the top section where the mounting point was.
Before long I had something that looked kinda almost maybe like a fender. I finished the look with a few red reflective stickers and felt like I was done.
Granted the rain has been spotty this week - and I was caught in the space between annoyed and amused when I rode home the other day and it started raining thirty seconds after I pushed the bike into the workshop. But there have been enough puddles for me to ride through to test the fender out. Here are the results.
And there we have it. So the moral of the story is if you have a box of fenders, try not to lose it. Otherwise, you may be forced to make a fender yourself. Ride on - and help send Zhea to space while we wait for the weather to improve. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Murals, Space Academy, and How to Request a Bike Rack
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.
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.
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.
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