Monday, December 28, 2009

Like shootin' fish in a barrel...

1200 Plus Arrested During Bay Area Anti-DUI Campaign

Yes, another reference to the "cyclists need to obey the rules too" meme.

A minor enforcement effort snags 1291 drunk drivers in the Bay Area in 10 days. 129 per day, and it's not like the cops were stationed outside every bar in the Bay Area.

I'd be very interested in the stats - 1291 arrests out of how many went through the checkpoint? You can't exactly extrapolate that percentage to the number of cars on the road during those time periods, as the police are probably stationed at roadways that would be expected to have a higher number of DUI infractions going on - near bars, etc... but that's a "sobering" stat.

Unfortunately, there is the story of the one that got away...

There has been one death attributed to an impaired driver on Bay Area roadways during the campaign, which will continue through Jan. 3.

The article did not indicate if the victim was wearing a helmet, or indicate the number of pedestrians killed by stopsign running cyclists.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3rd Ave San Mateo, Maple in Redwood City, Steven's Creek Trail in Mountain View

Today I had the "pleasure" of crossing 101 4 times on my bike between San Mateo and Santa Clara. 3rd Ave, Whipple, Maple, and Steven's Creek Trail. Whipple deserves a separate post so I'll start with the other three. Feel free to add in the comments and I'll integrate them.

Let's start with 3rd Avenue. 3rd has a separated bike path that goes down the middle of the overpass, a similar sensation to the bike path on the Dumbarton Bridge. You are protected while ON the overpass, which is good. The problem is that you have to get onto and off of the overpass itself.

3rd ave bike crossing, San Mateo on Twitpic

Looks pretty straightforward, right? Wrong.

View Larger Map

The approach to the bike path is actually on 4th St (3rd is one way the other direction) and if you are riding on the right side of the road, you must cross three lanes of traffic, one of which could be going either way. A block back at the intersection of Humboldt and 4th, I decided to cross to the left side of 4th. There is a white line that creates a "chunk of separated space" there - it's not a bike lane, who knows what it is. I guess it's where San Mateo hopes you will ride to approach the bike path. I ended up jumping onto the sidewalk, with more experience I might take the "chunk of separated space". You are allowed to ride on the left side of the road on one way streets, but this thing is just sort of ugly.

Once you get on, you are onto the "onramp" of the path, there is an "offramp" going the other direction towards 3rd. Both "ramps" are bidirectional, I actually saw a cyclist approaching the main pathway from 3rd. I assume they rode on the sidewalk down 3rd since 3rd is one way the other direction.

At the East End, more strangeness.

View Larger Map

The path ends in the middle of the street, at an intersection. You are in the middle of traffic going either direction around you. My thinking is that the official position is that at this point you are supposed to walk your bike to the appropriate side of 3rd Ave based on where you are headed, when you get a crosswalk signal to cross 3rd from the middle. This is what a pedestrian would do, and it's what the cyclist in front of me did, I followed. I then got back into regular traffic on "J Hart Clinton" which was no fun quite frankly, then left into Ryder Court Park to get on the bike path to join my friends. Looking at Google Maps, it appears I made a mistake. The left into Ryder Court cannot be made by cars, as such there is no real provision to make a left hand turn there (turn pockets) but there is a light. Turns out the pro move is to go South on Norwalk after exiting the bike path, then make (a somewhat difficult) left onto a bike path, which then ends in the crosswalk into Ryder Park.

From the reverse direction, the best approach to the 3rd St Path is from Norwalk, in the left turn pocket (taking the lane) and then turning left directly into the bike path instead of the travel lane (or right from Norwalk the other way, and god help you if you are on J Hart Clinton).

Right then. Next - Maple. Maple is a piece of cake relatively speaking. From the Peninsula side, you turn right from Veterans NB or left from Veterans SB, or if you are lucky you are on Maple already, perhaps coming from Caltrain via Winslow/Middlefield. There is very little auto traffic on Maple, and no on/offramps. Coming from the other direction you are coming from either the Marina or Blomquist Road, both low traffic areas. This sort of makes Maple an "overpass to nowhere", I used it today in fact to bypass the nearby "Bridge to Nowhere" which is in a field that is currently muddy.

Next - Steven's Creek Trail.

Stevens creek trail, mountain view on Twitpic

Self Explanatory. The only rub is knowing where the access point is. On the Bay Side, take Pear SB from Shoreline, then right onto Inigo, left onto La Avenida, which dead ends into the trail entrance. The closest entrance on the Peninsula side is Moffett. This is a pretty nice trail, observe reasonable speed as there are lots of pedestrians.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crossing Highway 101 on bike between San Francisco and San Jose

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a large number of bike commuters. The geography and demography of the area is a bit unique on the Peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco - unlike "typical" cities with jobs in the center ringed by suburbs of houses, the jobs and residences are dispersed. On my ride from San Francisco to Santa Clara with the googlers there are people who peel off in San Mateo, Foster City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Cupertino, and other enclaves I'm missing. We see dozens of cyclists riding the other direction as well.

One problem is that the Peninsula is split by a chunk of asphalt - US Highway 101. There are jobs on each side, and residences on both sides. On the west side, people tend to ride along the Caltrain tracks (or actually take their bike ONTO the Caltrain). On the East side, there is a route that is somewhat more pleasant in spots, including many miles of bucolic bike paths along the bay, populated by a seemingly unending parade of Kiteboarders and Feral Cats.

The problem? At some point you will need to cross the 101. Since it's a limited access freeway, that usually means an overpass with high speed traffic merging in and out of lanes to either exit or enter the freeway. This can lead to tragic results in some cases. But collisions - I believe - are less frequent than one might expect, most likely because people either learn very quickly how to cross the overpasses, find an alternate route, or give up and find another way to get where they are going.

This blog post will be a catchall to inventory a series of upcoming blog posts on the various crossings of 101, from the hairiest and scariest (Holly, Oyster Point) to the most serene (Steven's Creek Bike Path). I'm going to list them here and build the links in as the series grows. Feel free to suggest crossings that I may have missed - the overpasses are obvious but there are all sorts of "hidden" methods of getting from one side to the other. And if you'd like to volunteer to help the project, please do.



List of 101 crossings from San Francisco to San Jose

Cesar Chavez - San Francisco
Sierra Point - South San Francisco
Oyster Point - South San Francisco
Grand - South San Francisco
S. Airport - South San Francisco
San Bruno Ave - San Bruno
Millbrae Ave - Millbrae
Broadway Bike Bridge - Burlingame
Peninsula Ave - San Mateo
Monte Diablo Bike Bridge - San Mateo
3rd Ave - San Mateo
Fashion Ave - San Mateo
Hillsdale - San Mateo
Ralston - Belmont
Holly - San Carlos
Whipple - Redwood City
Maple - Redwood City
Woodside (84) Redwood City (legal?)
Marsh - Menlo Park
Ringwood Bike Bridge - Menlo Park
Willow - Menlo Park
University - Palo Alto
Embarcadero - Palo Alto
Bike Bridge - Palo Alto
Adobe Creek Seasonal Bike Underpass - Palo Alto
San Antonio - Mountain View
Rengstorff - Mountain View
Shoreline - Mountain View
Stevens Creek Trail - Mountain View
Moffett - Mountain View
Ellis - Mountain View
Mathilda - Sunnyvale
Borregas Bike Bridge - Sunnyvale
Fair Oaks - Sunnyvale
Fair Oaks Bike/Ped Bridge - Sunnyvale
Lawrence - Sunnyvale
Bowers - Santa Clara
San Tomas Aquinas Bike Trail - Santa Clara
San Tomas - Santa Clara
Lafayette - Santa Clara
De La Cruz - Santa Clara

I think I have been crossed all of these except the following
De La Cruz, Borregas, Adobe, Woodside, 19th, 3rd, San Bruno, Airport. Some of them I am looking forward to visiting, some (De La Cruz) not so much.

Should be fun.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Texting at a red light.

In a prior post I mentioned a driver next to me at a red light who was furiously setting up her music playlist on her iPhone. Not only did she differentiate this from "texting", she also said to me "I'm not driving".

I was reminded of this while searching for texts on a cyclist killed on Hillsdale Blvd this morning. I saw the following tweet.

@dharmakate Additionally, a fatal car vs bicycle accident on Hillsdale over the freeway. I just passed it. Suddenly rethinking the bike in Spring. :'(

I got into a conversation with the author who indicated she was "stopped". I asked if this meant "parked". Is it ok to text at a stoplight?

Certainly a lot of drivers think it's ok to text at a stop light. The CHP does not agree.

Want a scare? Check This

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Today's MUNI diary

I awoke to wet roads this AM and had to assess my commute. My rain bike is currently DOA, I have yet to acquire a "better" rain bike a.k.a. a cyclocross bike, and I didn't feel like slogging it out on the Mountain Bike, so I decided to take the 48 to Caltrain today.

I remember something noteworthy from maybe 50% of my commute rides, and it's probably only that high because almost all rides that consist of riding all the way to work from SF (50 miles) are noteworthy for the ride itself, not something goofy that happened on the way (though sometimes noteworthy things happen, like the thugs in East Palo Alto passing alerts about a cop coming by on their Nextel phones). However, a MUNI ride almost always provides fodder for thought.

Nextbus is a great thing, and I managed to find a bus leaving in 10 minutes from the time I handed my son to my wife. I threw on some clothes and wandered down to the stop. On the way, I noticed that they are now making children out of sugar.

I better check my son out. Apparently they started making chi... on Twitpic

The traffic dropping kids off at Alvarado School backed up for 3 blocks on Douglass. There was probably a similar backup on Eureka, though I didn't check. There is the possibility that normally traffic splits up between Douglass and Eureka, but on a rainy day we can't have the kids walking an extra 100 yards in the rain, given they are made of sugar. But the most likely scenario is simply that more people drove their kids to school today because we had a light drizzle in San Francisco, and they were afraid their kids would melt. I certainly saw fewer than normal amounts of people walking their kids to school.

Maybe the problem isn't that the kids would melt. The kids are usually accompanied by adults. Maybe the parents were afraid that they would melt. Noe Valley has more than their share of people who bike their kids to school on the trail-a-bike, but we have plenty of softies as well.

Thinking more about *who* I see walking the kids to school on a daily basis, the problem might be even more complex. Once again, this is Noe Valley. We have a strange phenomenon - crunchy granola type-A moms. They don't drive their kids to school - their kids walk to school. And their kids are accompanied on their walk to school by their nannies, who take the bus from the Mission. Anyone paying attention to MUNI lately could see that taking MUNI has become a bit of an adventure lately. Perhaps the traffic can be explained by crunchy granola type-A moms driving their kids to school because the nanny is late because the J-Church is made of sugar.

Anywho, back to me. I looked up at the Nextbus sign on the stop - 2 minutes. Perfect. I looked back up 2 minutes later - 2 minutes. 2 minutes later, the bus had apparently progressed 1 minutes worth of distance on the GPS. Is the 48 made of sugar? Then I looked up the street at the still backed up school dropoff traffic, and made a note of the cars darting out of the double parked line into the opposite travel lane. Great. I avoided the meltdown that is the MUNI underground only to be foiled by triple parked Noe Valley moms gridlocking the 48.

When the 48 eventually arrived, it was packed. Unusual as the 48 doesn't really start to jam up until 24th and Douglass. As we pushed into Noe Valley and the bus got more crowded, it was clear there hadn't been a bus for a while. Maybe I need "lastbus" - that will tell me how long it's been since the last bus has come through, so I can go back to sleep and wait for a less crowded bus. I'm not made of sugar so I don't mind a crowded bus, but a crowded bus makes awful time and I was going to miss the Caltrain.

The bus was really jamming up and people in the front started yelling MOVE BACK. This apparently was lost on two gentlemen towards the back that were doing the Larry Craig and taking a "wide stance", filling a spot that could serve 6 people or so, and blocking an empty seat. I barrelled through and took the seat to try to allow more people on the bus (Nextbus was showing 30 minutes to the next bus). This allowed me to overhear my wide standing friends discuss the wonderful new BART connector to Oakland Airport, and how one of them worked for a contractor who was probably going to get one of the contracts. Figures - selfishly taking tax dollars for a ridiculous project, and selfishly leaving 4 people at the bus shelter at 24th/Church while they spread out in style (until getting off 1 block later at Dolores!)

Despite all the hullabaloo the 12 or so of us who were destined for Caltrain were safely delivered at 22nd St Station one minute late. About 5 blocks away from the station, people started doing their "get my 8 ride ready for quick validation" dance. It looked like we might actually make the train when a double parked kiss and rider blocked the bus from making the right onto 22nd St. ARGH. We darted out of the bus and ran down the stairs, screaming at the conductor who waved and screamed back "WE'LL WAIT, I'LL VALIDATE YOU ON BOARD". MUNI vs. Caltrain in a nutshell.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cars speeding vs Bikes running stopsigns.

An interesting comment on a prior post

I have a twist on this theory. By and large, about 99% of all speeding infractions even result in a ticket. Anyone who drives (like myself) can tell you that from personal experience. Also, only the most egregious speeders generally get whacked.

The practice of bicycles going through red lights hardly ever gets ticketed. So my theory is basically, a bicycle going through a red light is the equivalent of a car speeding. Common infractions that are sparsely ticketed and I would argue, rightly so.

Interesting. But clearly there are those who don't see this equivalency - if bikes want to be treated like cars, they must obey the rules like cars. This does not differentiate "a common infraction for a car" from "a common infraction on a bike" - an infraction is either a common one that is sparsely ticketed, or it is not. Running a stop sign - ticketable, always, no gray area. Speeding - common infraction that is sparsely ticketed - on a bike or in a car. Ergo, stop running the stopsigns, but feel free if you are on your bike to go ahead and speed.

Or perhaps not

Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of the Portola Valley: Brookside Park neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Today I passed a bicycle doing more than 35 mph down Alpine Road - speed limits apply to bikers too. Can the police please cite people who speed on bikes or break the traffic laws in other ways?

My all time favorite internet forum post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cyclists don't get ticketed like motorists.

An amusing sight on Airport Road in Millbrae this AM. First, I saw a cop by the side of the road up ahead. Then, I saw a car whizz by me fast enough that the cop decided to put down his coffee and ring speedy McFly up for a speeding ticket. That got me to thinking about the old meme that the laws aren't enforced against cyclists.

I've never actually seen a cyclist ticketed, but I've heard of examples. And I've heard far too many commenters on blogs and newspaper forums complain about the laws not being enforced on cyclists.

Now, I've been known to roll the occasional stop sign. 4 way stop, sort of treated as a yield, T intersections I might barely slow. Unless of course I see a police officer. Just like any motorist blowing down the freeway at 90 MPH, I know full well that I might want to rein in my riding a bit if Johnny Law is in sight.

Here's my thinking on why motorists might get more tickets than cyclists. If your face is buried in a big mac, with a cup of coffee in one hand and your eyes on the radio dial then you, like my friend on Airport this AM, are not paying attention to the task at hand - driving your car - and therefore you are oblivious to the cop sitting in plain sight in front of you. When I'm riding my bike I am acutely aware of conditions. It's not that I'm more or less inclined to skirt a few rules - it's that I'm better at not getting caught.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Biking to Work for the win.

In my Inbox at work today.

Another laptop stolen in Calif

Dang thieves – that’s 3 in 3 weeks.

All from cars. I believe all were visible from the outside.

Out of sight – out of mind.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I referred to a product named "ZoomSafer" in the comments to a previous post, and received a follow up from the founder of ZoomSafer. Google is amazing.

Here is his comment.

In response to Murphstahoe and regarding ZoomSafer....

ZoomSafer is software that actively encourages safe and legal use of mobile phones while driving.

ZoomSafer detects when you are moving faster than 10mph and automatically activates and applies safe driving policies.

It does include the ability to exit as passenger so you can use your phone if you were on a bus or in a taxi.

The software itself is fully configurable -- and you can remove the "exit as a passenger" option if you prefer.

Parents and corporations might want this. Individuals and prosumers probably don't. It's up to you.

Matt Howard

I had to refer to the NY Times Article before I could make an accurate response - I did recall that the lead in to the story was from an individual who was using ZoomSafer. Mr. Howard certainly didn't repudiate the PR for his product that does not dovetail with his comment here. And on ZoomSafer's website - the first menu button after "ABOUT" is "PERSONAL".

Individuals buying this product is sort of akin to putting your credit card in a block of ice. You haven't really changed your behavior for good, but you get some style points. When you get down to it, we'd need a pretty gnarly technical solution in order to stop cellphone usage in cars.

I watched some of the videos on the site and while I really like the features where texts and phone calls are automatically responded to with a message saying the receiver is driving their car - this should be enough. "I'm driving, will call you back when I am not driving". But the video then goes on to show how you can override the block for "close contacts", and says "Then, with your eyes on the road" as the driver looks over to the blackberry. Improved, sure, but it sends the message that we can come up with all sorts of solutions to make an inherently unsafe proposition safe.

Howard somewhat repudiates any lackadasical use of his product in the comments, I give him credit for that. And Businesses and Parents could - if they wanted - use his product as a big hammer to completely prevent cellphone use while driving by using the "exit while passenger option", or at least monitor it closely with the email alert. Turning the phones off and sending the message "I'm driving" could be one small stone in building the mindset that "I'm driving" is no different than "I'm not home" used to be in the bad old days of landlines.

Upon review I think the product has value in creating a technical solution to a non-technical problem. I'd love to see insurance companies allow a discount for strict implementation of such a product for companies - professional drivers are some of the worst abusers of cellphones in cars (take for example Taxis - brutal). It's sad that we humans cannot simply process a bad behavior and stop it, but that can be said about several things more pernicious than texting and driving (yes, many such things exist).

Friday, December 4, 2009

I am a teabagger, and I'm proud of it.

Yesterday our fun little progressive transportation sandbox known as Streetsblog was invaded when SFGate posted a direct link to a Streetsblog article.

SFGate - the San Francisco Chronicle's online presence is known for it's rather opinionated commenters. And aside from Mark Morford, the top commented articles are always cycling related. This brings out the best commentary on Critical Mass and endless streams of "Cyclists don't pay taxes".

The "cyclists don't pay taxes" crowd was in full force now that Streetsblog had been revealed. "peternatural" agrees with my assessment.

Some SF gate commenters can be pretty vitriolic when the topic involves bikes. They generally complain about these things:

Bikers are freeloaders who use the streets but contribute nothing to their upkeep, and if you asked them too they would probably whine and comlain because they are whiners and complainers.

peternatural then follows up with the boilerplate cyclist response...

But, since gas taxes are so low in this country, general tax funds pay for a big share of the infrastructure. Most bikers do pay sales and income tax, so this point is factually wrong. In fact, motorists who drive a lot are getting a partly free ride.

There is a general thesis that the anti-cycling crowd is primarily populated by knuckle dragging Sarah Palin fans. Guns, god, and a big Ford F-150 driven on a road made by God for CARS. One would think that might not describe the SFGate commenters since San Francisco is Gomorrah, after all. But this is the internet, and many if not most of SFGate's commenters are from Red States like Texas.

I agree with the thesis that there is a large intersection between rabid anti-cyclists and the Fox News/Glen Beck crowd. But herein lies a dilemma. The whole Raison d'ĂȘtre of Fox News is "taxes bad" . Seems to me if I sold my car, stopped driving, and thus stopped paying DMV registration and gas taxes, then I am being exactly the sort of patriot they are looking for! What a conundrum. Of course, they'd probably kick me out on my Frenchie loving butt for using the term "Raison d'ĂȘtre".

I guess their rationale is that they should be able to buy gas and cars and just not be taxed on it. Of course, then they would be paying no taxes just like me, and would lose their exclusive claim to the road. Dammit, another conundrum!

Anyway, I'm going to have to thumb my nose at "peternaturals" apologist mindset. I'm thinking I'll just put a couple of teabags on the back of my bike and continue protesting taxes the old fashion way by consuming less of a taxed good. I am a freeloading cheapskate after all. I learned to be one when I read a quote from a famous Marxist who said "A penny saved is twopence dear"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Bike Box" - a.k.a. "Car Box"

Update: I rode over this spot today. The signal for the cyclists is in fact before the real stop line. So the car was parked in the wrong place, sure, but it's not a bike box.

There is however an real bike box now at Scott in the wiggle in San Francisco.

Today I was riding east down Evelyn from the Mountain View Caltrain station. Frequently on this route I will then take a left on Mary to get onto Central Expressway to head to work. The left turn there has an advanced stop line for cars with a triangular spot for bikes to set up their turns. There is a lot of value for a bike to make this left turn from the front of the queue because you need to be able to set up a proper line as you turn left, so as to be able to take a straight line over the Caltrain tracks.

This morning, I wheeled up to the bike box and there was a car pulled up past the stop line and into the bike area.

Unclear on rhe whole bike box concept - Evelyn and Mary, Sunn... on Twitpic

I sent this out in a tweet and Fritz asked "There is a bike box there?". I had to think about this - my kneejerk reaction is "Yes", but is it a legitimate "Bike Box" - e.g. is the striping done like that specifically for bikes? I thought I recalled there being a bike symbol painted there - the tiny bike symbol with the vertical line through it to indicate where the bike sensor is in an intersection, but I wasn't 100% sure. I figured I would take a look at the Google Maps and check it out.

View Larger Map

Amusing. There is a car stopped in the bike box in the Google Satellite View, on the left side of the intersection. You can see how the striping is set up if you look at the right side of the intersection showing the left onto Mary from WB Evelyn. And no, that car is not in the process of making a left...

You can look at the ground there in the streetview picture, I don't see a bike marking. I'll have to go check it out again. What is clear, bike box or not, the first line is the stop line.

Not the first time I've ever seen a violation captured by Google....

View Larger Map

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cyclists forced into deadly intersection.

Update: From Mark Simon via SVBC.

"We have received a number of inquiries from cyclists concerned that we closed a gate on Pico Boulevard, an unimproved private street that is the entrance to our SamTrans base in San Carlos. The street has been used by both cyclists and pedestrians. We closed the gate out of concern for the safety of... cyclists and pedestrians... sharing an unimproved street with buses that come in and out of our base with high frequency. Because of the inquiries, we will conduct a safety assessment of this area as it relates to our use of it and the use of it by cyclists and pedestrians. It will take several days to complete the assessment and when we are done we will report out to those who have inquired and through this venue.

The "Bayway" commute route from San Francisco to the South Bay includes a section between San Carlos/Foster City that offers cyclists a few options, and making the correct decision can not only provide a little peace, less odors, but also increase safety. From Oracle's campus to Redwood Shores Parkway, the most obvious route is to take Shoreway. This takes one past a recyling dump and forces you to spend time alongside large garbage trucks. The other option is Twin Dolphin, a four lane street with a median through an office park with little traffic(why they needed 4 lanes here is a mystery to me, but I digress). Twin Dolphin is far superior for cycling.

North to South, both roads take you to Redwood Shores Parkway. On Shoreway, you would go straight through the treacherous intersection with Holly and shortly take a left onto Skyway. Since I've been commuting this way, my handlers always led me down Twin Dolphin instead, which ends with a right onto RWS, at which point you must cross three lanes of traffic to make a left onto Shoreway.

This left is very difficult - it is controlled by a left turn arrow and the intersection does not sense bikes. I mean, it really doesn't sense them because I have stood there in a pack of 12+ bikes and we eventually ran the light in frustration after missing out on two cycles. While there isn't much cross traffic, the opposing traffic sometimes has a green while the through way shows red, so you could be running a left against a red into oncoming traffic you would be led to believe will stop. The "best" tactic seems to be to wait for cross traffic to have a green, cross left, then complete the box turn. The legality of this is tricky - the sensor doesn't pick up the bike and my understanding is you aren't required to wait forever if the light won't turn. Basically, it just sucks.

An unfortunate incident at this intersection caused some of us to revisit how to handle the Holly/RWS intersection - the death of Mary Yonkers who chose to ride from Oracle to Holly on Shoreway, and was killed by a right turning dump truck.

Mary Yonkers memorial on Twitpic

It was discovered that by going straight through RWS on Twin Dolphin, you go into a parking lot, then onto Pico Blvd. Pico Blvd is sort of a road through some SamTrans bus storage lot from what I can tell. This takes you onto Airport which becomes Skyway and you head into San Carlos, without dealing with the Holly/RWS intersection.

View Larger Map

Above is the view of Pico looking into the hotel parking lot. I would be coming from the parking lot, but this morning I saw a rider headed the direction viewed in the frame. He didn't make it very far and neither did I...

Cyclists do not pass - pico/twin dolphin on Twitpic

I'm not sure why this was closed off, but if at all possible we need to figure out how to get this route open.

Hat tip to the South Bay Cycling mailing list for pointing this out, I would have ran into it anyway, but knowing this obstacle was in play prepped me to photograph the site.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ban bikes without brakes, or cars that can go 100 MPH

There is a law being proposed in Philadelphia that would allow the confiscation of bikes without brakes. To the layman, a bike without a brake seems ludicrous - how do you stop? But a fixed gear bike in effect has a brake called "your legs" and by that I don't mean Fred Flintstoning it. Granted if you aren't very good at it, or your bottom bracket brakes, you're screwed. This applies to cars as well, and for all the rhetoric the relative risk posed by fixie riders is nominal.

Meanwhile, in the last two weeks the Bay Area has seen two incidents where a motorist killed other people while driving at a reckless speed. In Menlo Park , someone ran a stop sign at 70 MPH plus and killed a 6 year old girl. In Sonoma a mini-cooper going 100 MPH resulted in the death of 4 people in the car he hit - and the driver of the cooper.

70 MPH is way out of line on Bayfront in Menlo, but 100 MPH is beyond the speed limit in the entire US. Yes - even in Montana. If it's illegal to drive a car that fast - why allow those cars to exist? I know some people will drive their cars on the track and are allowed to go who knows what speed there - but that is by far the exception and not the rule.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chris Phipps and MUNI security.

SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty headed up a Meeting on MUNI Safety last week after a series of high profile incidents on MUNI, including a gunpoint robbery of an iPhone on the J-Church.

iPhones appear to be the target du jour for MUNI thieves. Local hard man bike racer Chris Phipps had his own response. I won't go Grantland Rice on this one, here are Phipps' tweets - unedited.

A thief just stole the iPhone of the woman sitting next to me on muni. I jumped off the train, ran after her & caught her. 3:45 PM Nov 25th from Echofon

I yelled "I'm a marathon runner, I will catch you...eventually" 3:46 PM Nov 25th from Echofon

Woman got her iphone back, called 911 & SFPD were here within 3 minutes. 3:48 PM Nov 25th from Echofon

@jeffremer I don't know about heroic. The thief was a 16yo girl. Had it been a 200 pound guy, I don't know what I'd do if I caught him 4:01 PM Nov 25th from Echofon

@munialerts N Judah @ Noe & Duboce. Around 3:40 PM 4:16 PM Nov 25th from Echofon in reply to munialerts

@Im4tun8 thanks. Several others in the park who were witnesses stopped to help detain & watch the suspect until the SFPD arrived 4:50 PM Nov 25th from Echofon in reply to Im4tun8

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Critical Mass comment

I actually liked this rant I just spewed out at SF appeal

Some percentage of the motivation for CM - not all of it - but some of it, is simply "people pissed off about getting pissed on over and over". Road raging driver points a gun at cyclist, pulls trigger, thankfully only blows up his helmet. FOUR MONTHS. Sleeping while driving deputy kills 2 cyclists. ZERO jailtime. No bike lanes or even racks in SF for 3 years. Endless close calls with inattentive or flat out vitriolic motorists. Yet it's all the rage to ask the cops to run a stopsign sting to get those scofflaw cyclists, when stopsign running cars took out a pedestrian and the J last week. At some point you simply don't care if you are "getting your point across", which is actually a pretty effective way of getting your point across.

Critical Mass is like Sarah Palin. You either love it or you hate it. You don't ignore it. Which guarantees the cyclists a spot at the dinner table because they are in the news and they are in the debate. What do the MUNI riders do? Hold a "funeral" for the 26? Yeah like anyone will give a shit. Pedestrians? What are they doing? Spewing comments on SFGate?

That's why the cyclists will get some bike lanes (finally) and MUNI is getting cut and pedestrian safety gets so little attention. That's the debate winning argument.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mr Roadshow with another home run

Gary Richards in today's Merc

Q I hate the use of cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners. I know this is a problem, but Big Brother watching is not the answer.

M. Davis


A Then what is? There are not enough traffic cops to curb this epidemic. Safety studies indicate one in three crashes at busy intersections is caused by a driver running a red light. In Santa Clara County, such wrecks lead to about 1,200 injuries a year, and 96 percent of Americans fear being hit by a red-light runner. In some cities, cameras are credited with reducing crashes by 20 percent. They aren't perfect, but get rid of cameras? We need more of them.


HT Cyclelicious

Friday, November 20, 2009

No Panniers on the Caltrain - people!

The conductor on caltrain 228 kindly allowed this breach of conduct in the @bikecar today for Alex and Meridith from Victoria, BC.

Alex and Meredith on Caltrain. They came from BC and are head... on Twitpic

They were loaded down with some sort of pickle bucket panniers - probably a bit heavy, perhaps useful because they are waterproof? They are headed down the US, through Baja, then will take a ferry into Central America. They are visiting friends in San Jose and decided to take a load off and use the Caltrain a bit while in the Bay Area.

They asked for some route information and I donated my Kreb's map to the cause. The Kreb's map used to be my bible, I would pore over it on the train, in bed, whatever. Now with the iPhone giving me mapping info at my fingertips the Kreb's map, while still permanently in my messenger bag, was serving less purpose so I figured I'd pass on some karma.

They asked about how to get to the coast, they were planning on Highway 9, I recommended Hecker Pass (and the lovely riding along Uvas that comes along with it) but then realized this would bypass Santa Cruz. How could they possibly skip Santa Cruz!

Anyway, bonne route people!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jerques Du Jour

Several candidates in the running for Jerque Du Jour. Trivia question - what was the oringial Jerque Du Jour?

Anyway, on the way home. At 17th/Potrero, pull up to Potrero. A car rolls up behind me and puts on the right turn blinker. I move left, in front of the straight going car, to let the right turner proceed on red. I looked over at the car expecting a thank you wave. I didn't get one because it is impossible to make a right turn on red without stopping while also talking on your cellphone.

Next, the J-Church incident yesterday (OK, it's Jerque du deux jours...) I got several tweets indicating that someone had run a stop sign on Church, causing a massive delay on the J-Church line. I heard that the guy was ok, so I asked "Thank god, how was his bike?" Blank Stare. Umm... he was driving his car why would a bike crashing into the J shut it down for over an hour. I was confused - this is clearly impossible because only cyclists run stop signs.

Back to the commute home. On 18th, a MUNI bus was pulled into the stop at Mission and 18th, I merged into the left lane to pass - only a maroon passes a bus on the right. Apparently only a maroon passes this bus on the left, as the driver pulled out right into my travel path. I grabbed the brakes, swerved back to the right hand lane, and proceeded. 20 yards later the bus came to screeching stop in the bumper to bumper traffic that was so important to get into. I gave him a pointless smack on the door.

I'd mention the cars parked on the sidewalk at the entrance to Whole Foods and the double parkers in front of Pasta Gina, but that's like digging on George Bush - it's been done to death and nothing seems to be changing.

So who wins - who is the Jerque Du Jour? Well, the faux french is very appropriate... the Jerque Du Jour is...

Thierry Henry

Cyclocross in Sonoma County?

We have guests coming in next week, and the group includes a cyclist. While I know about Healdsburg's Road Cycling (How Sonoma County became hotbed of the cycling world!) I know less about the off-road action. And our guest says he's bringing the cyclocross bike. He's from Minnesota, not Williamsburg in Manhattan or San Francisco's Mission District , so he's probably not one of these guys...

My Mountain Biking friends rave about Annandale State Park near Santa Rosa. I don't know how technical the terrain is so I don't know how appropriate it is for cyclocross. I also know that Sonoma seems to be a hotbed of cross racing, I went and watch my friends do a cross race, but these are usually on courses that are prepared and then taken down.

I asked Greg Durbin - a.k.a. "GregKnottLeMond" whom I follow on Twitter and he pointed me at Lake Sonoma. I know Lake Sonoma has some very difficult road terrain - Skaggs Springs Road and Rockpile Road, but didn't know about the Mountain Biking. He forwarded me a map showing trails near Liberty Glen Campground off of Rockpile Road.

Greg also pointed me at Bike Monkey magazine which appears to be the Mother Lode - cross fiends galore. I noted that there was reference to a race in Liberty Glen, so maybe that's the spot.

Any cross fiends out there have some recommendations? Please add them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The sentencing of Dr Christopher Thompson

Professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie is organizing a letter writing campaign for the sentencing of Dr Christopher Thompson coming up in LA.

Here is my letter. Click the link to Zabriskie's page to get details. Send yours.

District Attorney Stone -

I am writing with respect to the upcoming sentencing of Dr. Christopher Thompson. I commute to work on
my bicycle everyday, and am acutely aware of the general dangers posed by mixing my bike with high powered
heavy automobiles. I can accept the risk that someone - including myself - might make a mistake out on the roads
that causes an injury to myself, given that I am not protected by thousands of pounds of steel. I have analyzed the
risk and have deemed the value I get - and give to society by reducing my use of common resoursces - outweighs
said risk.

What I cannot accept is extra risk injected into the system by those like Doctor Thompson who intentionally
try to harm other human beings. The action of intentionally running a car into another person is no different
than shooting a gun at them, and should be treated as such. Being in a car has desensitized some weak people
to the point they don't realize that they are absolutely attempting murder when they attempt to run over a cyclist.

Many of Doctor Thompson's friends will point to his body of work outside of his motor vehicle and indicate that he
is a wonderful human being. I do not accept this premise. He is highly educated and a physician, and there is no excuse
for him not to understand the consequences of his actions. The assault on Peterson was not the first time he used
his car in such a manner - so there is no credibility to the thought that he didn't understand what he was doing - the
trend is clear. Many brutal murderers were wonderful people aside from their crime and they were sentenced to long
prison terms. Doctor Thompson should be no different.

This sentence is very important in that Doctor Thompson is not alone in his inhumane mindset. The perception seems
to be that driving a car into someone being akin to piloting an avatar in a videogame. The reality is
that you can kill a living breathing human being. One first step in making it very clear that society sees it that way would be
by sentencing Doctor Thompson to the maximum possible sentence for his heinous acts.

John Murphy

San Francisco, California.

More at Cyclelicious

And Amateur Earthling

Monday, November 16, 2009

49ers-Bears. MUNI fail. Niners fan FAIL. Jay Cutler FAIL.

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of stepping out for an NFL Thursday night football game. I had my bike with me so rather than jumping off Caltrain at Bayshore and walking to the game, I went to 4th/King, dropped off the bike at Warm Planet and then set about trying to find my way to the game. Via the wonder of having the iPhone along, I found out there was an express MUNI bus from 4th/Folsom, nonstop to Candlestick.

I bought a Sierra Nevada ($2.50, not bad) for the road at the Caltrain station, and headed down the street. I may be Holier than You but not too holy for public drinking. Arriving at 4th/Folsom, I spotted a couple of Niners fans on the SW corner, ran over and asked if this was where the bus picked up. They pointed to the SE corner and said "That's where it picks up, but it's not picking anyone up. The last 5 buses have gone by full, not even stopping." They pointed at a third fan chatting up a cab driver filling up at the gas station there and said "we're trying to get a cab". Their friend waved them over to indicate they had scored a cab.

Now, I am of the Caltrain ilk, where everyone helps each other out, we share a bond formed through numerous Caltrain disasters that have forced us to finish our commutes like the Israelites heading out of Egypt, where we rely on each other. The cyclists form a paceline and head to Millbrae BART. Those without bikes gather 'round the twitter and call cabs to split to various destinations, or offer rides in their own cars when a loved one comes to the rescue. This all seems very natural. And frankly, this would be natural in Chicago. But apparently my bright orange ILLINI ROSE BOWL hoodie branded me not only as a loser but as someone to be avoided at all costs, so when I said "Can I split the cab with you, hell I'll pick up the tab", the woman in the group shuffled and said "You have to ask the boys" and the guys muttered something about "I think we might find a friend". Fine.

I walked back to the bus stop, the MUNI failwhale continued as FIVE MORE buses went by packed to the gills, and I walked, defeated, back to Caltrain. Sad - this has to be a hugely profitable setup for MUNI, $5 per to send full buses to Candlestick, yet they underplan and send people scurrying to cabs. I made it to the train to catch one back to Bayshore and did a little voodoo curse that the cab would get stuck in nightmarish game traffic while I zoomed down the tracks. I got a couple more beers and split them with some Bears fans on the train. The walk from Bayshore isn't short but it's doable. It took forever to scalp a ticket but when I headed in I was sure that thanks to this annoying parochial behavior from the Niners fans that karma would smite them and the Bears would run all over the Niners.

Unfortunately, Jay Cutler has much stronger Karma. 7 beers and 5 INTs later - SF 10, Bears 6.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Missing my Bike today...

Yesterday I broke a spoke and dropped my bike off at Warm Planet on my way home. Tres convenient. But that meant I was going to work without a bike today. Let's see the impact...

I left home at 7:35. If I had my bike with me, I would grab a bagel on 24th Street and easily make the 7:59 bullet at 4th/King, probably early enough to avoid being bumped. That train arrives Mountain View at 8:44, 7 miles of riding later I'd be at my desk around 9:15. If I were unlucky and got bumped, 9:30.

Instead, I took the 48 Bus to the 22nd St Station. This bus lurches down 24th St in Noe Valley, picking up passengers at every block. Instead of some exercise riding my bike, I got an exercise in balance as there were no open seats (not that this is necessarily a bad thing - transit is being used). Most of these passengers get off at Valencia or Mission and head to BART. In the Mission we pick up a bunch of passengers who might go 5-6 blocks, and we disgorge a lot of passengers at SF General, leaving a half a dozen people headed to Caltrain and a few PoHill denizens.

The 48 then takes a winding route over Potrero Hill. This is the most annoying part of the ride, though by now I have a seat as the bus is 1/3 full. We stop at every stop in Potrero Hill, slowing the trip substantially, often picking up passengers we then drop off 1 block later. Come December 5th, they are going to have to walk up that hill thanks to MUNI cuts. Most of these passengers are low income, they will be hit by the service cut, which will actually benefit higher income passengers who are willing to subject themselves to the 48->Caltrain Boondoggle.

I arrive Caltrain at 8:14 - fortunately we made it in time for the 8:19 bullet from 22nd St. Unfortunately my company shuttle does not meet this - or any other - train at Mountain View where this bullet stops, our shuttle only services Lawrence and not this late. I get on the train and start to assess my options.

Instead of relaxing and eating breakfast, I fumble with my iPhone searching various other companies shuttles and the VTA lines. The sad conclusion is that I must get off at Palo Alto, wait for one train to pass, get the second train going by, take that to Santa Clara, and catch VTA route 60. Once in PA, with 30 minutes to kill, I wander onto University Avenue and grab a bagel and a paper. I window shop at Palo Alto Bikes, and walk back to the train station to eat and read.

The train arrives, non-stop to Santa Clara. There is only a 5 minute wait for the 60, then a fairly good bus ride to Walsh and Scott, then a 200 yard walk to nVidia. I arrive at my desk around 10:15. Not having my bike cost me an hour, and lost me 45 minutes of exercise, and made my train commute a little more of a hassle as I problem solved instead of just relaxing.

A lot of people would just bail out - I could have taken my wife's car and probably been at my desk at 8:45 or so, depending on traffic. But the winding commute was actually not that bad, in fact sort of pleasant. I still relaxed a bit on the train, walked in downtown PA, had breakfast, checked twitter and email, and "did some thinking" which is something I don't do very well in a car. I've definitely gotten to the point where "getting somewhere" is not really lost time - unless of course I am actually in a car.

But I could have done all that roundabout stuff if I were with my bike anyway. Or spent an extra hour riding my bike instead of riding MUNI and VTA. Bike = flexibility = freedom.

Unless you have a broken spoke.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today in driving...

This AM, despite running a bit late, I said screw it and got off the Caltrain at Redwood City and went for a ride. I had several encounters with my friends in motor vehicles.

1) UPS truck passing me on Jefferson, 25 yards short of the final summit. The pass was done in a blind corner and pinned me between the truck and a berm on the outside of the road. Had an oncoming motorist appeared on the other side of the blind corner, either that car or me would be in big trouble. What's amusing is that while this UPS driver was Mario Andretti going uphill, he goes downhill like my 93 year old Grandma. 25 yards past the final summit, I was stuck behind this formerly impatient UPS truck going 5 MPH below the posted speed limit.

2) Arastradero Road. 50 yards short of the final summit, two cars pulled in behind me. The first patiently waited for a spot where the road opened up and passed. The second, seeing that we had now approached another blind spot, patiently waited, then passed at an open section. Faith restored.

3) One mile later. On Page Mill from Arastradero to Arastradero, I was buzzed by a large truck hauling "Golf Accessories by Mail" or something like that. Aside from the fact I found it odd a Golf Accessories truck would be coming down from Page Mill, I was annoyed that now two personal drivers had treated me with great respect and two professional drivers had tried to kill me. At least this guy may have had an ulterior motive - you know what they say - "Cycling is the New Golf"

4) Fremont Ave, Sunnyvale. From the left turn pocket, I see a driver pull up to my right in the straight lane while I was waiting for the light, her face buried in some sort of device. Since her window was open, I decided to express my opinion.

"Don't Text and Drive"
"I'm not texting, I'm making a music playlist"
"Right then, carry on!"

The difference is subtle, but apparently important.

5) Speaking of driving like my 93 year old grandma, a woman who was probably approaching said age pulls out of a mall on Fremont directly in front of me. I screamed in horror, but she don't hear so well so she never really noticed. I wonder about people driving over age 90 even though my grandmother does still drive. Of course, she drives 3 blocks to church on Sunday, in a town with a population under 2000, and she's surprisingly spry and quick witted for her age. But she knows the trips to Joliet passed a ways back.

I didn't end up riding 53 miles but the extra calories burned from aggravation earned me this...

This looks like at least 54 miles... on Twitpic

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

53 Miles Per Burrito. A good deal?

I finally met my INTERNET CHAT FRIEND!! Kit Kohler from Zero Per Gallon today, however briefly, as he clandestinely handed me a package from an arriving Caltrain in Redwood City, I handed him some crisp US currency, shook his hand, and rode off on my bike. As I rode towards San Carlos my cellphone buzzed, checking it confirmed that Kit had thrown in a little "extra" in today's shipment.

Anyway, I am now sporting one of these...

Now, is that a good deal? I do live in California, which we all know is the "land of the epic burrito" so we aren't talking about no Taco Bell Burrito. At a decent SF Taqueria - or pretty much any Mountain View Taqueria - you can probably land a solid Super Burrito for about the same as 2 gallons of gas. When I suffer the indignity of being ducked low in the passenger seat of my wife's Honda Pilot, 2 gallons of gas will probably get us under 25 miles. Granted, from a person miles standpoint, it's probably pretty close to 60-70 person miles per the price of a burrito, depending on how much you count Liam and the dog. But as I cycle down the wonder that is the "Bike Path between the 101 and the San Carlos Airport", I'm not seeing too many people in their cars multiplying their miles by anything.

Of course, many of them are noodling along in the carpool lane. Not because they are carpooling, mind you, but because they are greenwashing themselves in a Honda Prius. A Prius probably outranks the bike in Miles Per Burrito Dollar. Since I would hate for the bike to lose the analysis, we of course must look deeper into the equation.

The added costs for the car - insurance, maintainance, easily tip the Burrito Equation in favor of the bike. Then you can look at the social equation - when you buy 2 gallons of gasoline, a tiny amount of margin goes to the local gas station, a big chunk goes to Chevron/Shell/whomever, and a big chunk goes to various hostile nations, then we spend billions of dollars to defend ourselves from. Another chunk goes to taxes, which pay for a fraction of the roads we freeloading cyclists ride on.

Of course, a burrito comes with sales taxes, which pay for another fraction of that road. And the margin on a burrito is much higher than on gasoline - that margin then becomes profit for the owner and wages for the workers, all of which are taxable and turn into another fraction of that road I am freeloading on. Beyond the margin for the taqueria, money is made by people who grow and sell food, which is ostensibly a nobler pursuit than drilling, baby, drilling.

But the real bottom line?

It's not really 53 miles per burrito. It's one burrito per 53 miles. If you are sitting in your car, you will be shortly sitting on that burrito as it becomes a permanent part of your ass. I meanwhile will be adding extra guacamole because after I rode 53 miles to work, I ride 7 miles back to Caltrain on the way home. Yum.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hopelessness caused by Critical Mass

Per the rag, I mean San Francisco Examiner

We saw visitors trying to catch a cab for the airport hopelessly stranded.

I refer those visitors to this informational website

BART shows its colors.

For the past week, the Bay Bridge was closed, leading to record BART ridership.

Now BART wants to know how to keep those passengers!

This bridge closure gave BART a unique opportunity to look at commute patterns in unusual circumstances. Who's getting on BART, where are they getting on and what do they like about it.

Perhaps they like the late night service. Maybe they like the longer trains in service at rush hour. Who wouldn't like those things? Probably not the regular BART riders. BART already has those customers and clearly doesn't really care about them. So with the bridge fixed, the late night hours go away, and the trains get shorter.

Unfortunately, that rider says he's getting back behind the wheel because it's more convenient, especially when he works odd hours. That's the kind of data BART will be looking at to see how it can improve service.

Excuse me? I'm a big fan of Freakonomics, but this is hardly "The hidden side of everything".

Here's a quiz.

1) Would you like it if BART ran later?

2) Would you like it if BART ran more frequently?

Is BART going to suddenly crack and decide to run earlier/later trains and restore the frequency in off hours, because a bunch of people who never rode BART in the first place said it was a good idea?

El Cerrito del Norte station has the highest increase of all the BART stations because of this Bay Bridge closure," Johnson said. "And that's because they're so many transit options terminating right there."

How will BART respond to this one? By working with AC Transit and County Connection to improve transit connectivity? Meld their schedules better with Caltrain? If history shows, they will prompty ignore this data and try to find funding to build another parking garage.

The ball is in your court, BART.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More on Whole Foods Noe Valley.

This photo I took incited a little rant on the SFBike Mailing list.

No Sunday enforcement equals cars stopped in sidewalk and str... on Twitpic

This picture from the parking lot of the new whole foods on 24th. The cars in the picture were not driving into the lot, they were waiting for spots. Whole Foods employs two people to man the lot, one was just to the right of this photo - moving off, perhaps deciding he didn't want to be photographed not shooing away cars from a full lot.

Before I shot this photo, I was on the 48 bus headed from the left in this photo. The 48 had to go into the opposite travel lane to go around the Honda pictured, to the end of the block, and drop me off. Then I unfolded a stroller, strapped in my son, and walked back 1/2 block to the WF. The Honda had moved from the street to the lot, replaced by another car.

This happens to the 48 a lot, and frequently it can't go to the opposite travel lane because there is opposing traffic. This seems like a "Signifigant unavoidable delay", which was the whole boogeyman argument which held up the bike plan. But the status quo doesn't have to undergo an EIR I guess.

I am thrilled that the whole foods is there - our carbon footprint is down because my wife now walks to WF instead of driving to Molly Stone's. And we're not the only ones - this store has a lot of patrons in very close proximity and I hope that the parking hassles get more people walking to the store.

Now - this photo was taken on Sunday. I see similar problems when I ride home at 7 PM, and am forced to ride around traffic backed out of the whole foods, not to mention random double parkers. But when I get home early and ride home at 5:30 PM? Not a problem. Why not? Meter enforcement stops, effectively removing dozens of spots. Certainly the free parking in the whole foods lot will be a deterrent to some from taking a street spot with the meter on, but it's sort of ridiculous that 50 cents for parking is such an issue when many WF shoppers are paying $5 for a small container of potato salad.

I got this amusing response

Ha! Busted! That is my car in the photo-I'm blocking the sidewalk
because the Lot guy didn't stop me coming in- pretty annoying for
everyone. BTW i usually walk there as do a large percentage of their
customers in noe-the parking lot usually has free spots - surprising i
know - wouldn't happen if it was a TJ. people tend not to do large
weekly shops at WF .


Now I'm off to mail the rant to my Supervisor - Bevan Dufty. Dufty was "helpful" in getting this store in quickly. He should finish the job and help extend the meter hours such that the parking and traffic problems can at least be sliightly ameliorated. As it stands, traffic can't get through, pedestrians are walking around cars stopped on the sidewalk. With the status quo, people will be more likely to abandon 24th St than to abandon their cars, but many will be more likely to pay a buck to park on the street than to circle the streets or to drive halfway across town (though I never underestimate the capability of people to spend 2 dollars in gas to save 1 dollar in parking).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

San Francisco Parking Case Study - Noe Valley Whole Foods

Parking has become a big boogeyman in the Bay Area lately. Lately? Seems like we've been dealing with this forever.

Today's Streetsblog post discusses the need to convince merchants to follow the recommendations of a 40 page study from the MTA regarding extending meter hours. It includes a quote from someone from the Noe Valley Community Benefit District, Debra Niemann.

"What they should do is give 10 percent of the profits from doing that back to the CDBs, since we're doing the services that the city should be doing," said Debra Niemann, community representative for the Noe Valley Association CBD. "The least you could do is give some of it back." While Niemann is generally opposed to extending parking hours, she said such a change would cause her to drop her opposition.

If Niemann just wants the money, and she's running a bluff, I'm down with that. But if she's actually opposed to extending the hours on 24th St, here is a case study for her to think about. The plan is to extend the meter hours on 24th St to 9 PM, Midnight on Friday/Saturday, and start enforcement on Sundays.

We have a spanking brand new Whole Foods in Noe Valley. I ride my bike home down 24th Street daily and have had a chance to witness what is going on there on a daily basis. Suffice to say it's a bit chaotic. The lot at the Whole Foods is somewhat small for the target demographic. 24th Street is metered however, which extends the available parking for patrons of the store - and the rest of the street's businesses which now benefit from having WF as an anchor driving traffic.

Whole Foods has two people working fulltime in the parking lot directing traffic.

By "directing" I mean putting up a cone that says "LOT FULL". Usually this gets put in place somewhere that still allows a car to stick its nose into the lot while keeping it's butt in the street. 24th on bike has become an urban assault run, passing cars blocked by other cars and keeping a keen eye for anyone making an unsignalled change of direction as they struggle for parking.

Note that my picture was taken at night - 7 PM to be precise - after the parking meters are no longer enforced. Back when I used to live on 24th St and had my own car, I would frequently park on 24th St rather than look for parking if I got home after 6 PM - in fact if I were driving I would specifically target a 6 PM return so I could jump into one of the many open spaces that were turning over while they were metered. Suffice to say, I didn't follow up my parking with a trip to several local businesses (this being back in the bad old days - driving to work meant "Stopping at the Grocery Store not located on 24th St, Palo Alto Bikes also not on 24th St, etc...").

The result of turning off the parking spigot at 6 PM is chaos on 24th St and a disincentive for people to come to the street (by car - maybe that's a good thing, but I digress) more than an extra couple of quarters are. And really, can people shopping at "Whole Paycheck" be complaining about paying as much as a dollar or two for parking? The gas to drive to a WF in some "non-socialist city" probably exceeds that, and the fact that if they are forced to pay a buck or two ensures that they will actually be able to find a spot rather than be gridlocked on 24th St seems like a "good thing".

Of course, this being Noe Valley, some people find their own solution. This solution is a particularly bad one...

Yes, this car - stopped in the bus stop for the 48 bus 50 yards down the street from Whole Foods, was being loaded up with Whole Foods shopping bags. Hey, at least they were the green WF reusable shopping bags!

This solution would in theory be a pretty good one...

One problem. I rode through the WF parking lot - unfettered by the "LOT FULL" sign - every day for the first week the store was open. Apparently the parking attendant is not required to put out a "BIKE RACK FULL" sign, because I saw no such sign, but the racks were full every time. My wife added a few datapoints, taken midday, and saw the same thing.

Fortunately, the cyclists still have parking meters to lock up to.

Nonetheless, I think Whole Foods would be served to put in more than what amounts to eight bike spots in their lot, given that the bike rack for 8 bikes takes up less space than one car spot. Let's see - put in parking for one - or parking for 8 or more. Sure, those cyclists don't buy as much per trip (or at least they can't carry as much - I don't put an SUV driver past a car trip for a gallon of milk and nothing more), but eight cyclists will outspend one driver, and they'll return more often, and be loyal since they are disinclined to make big Costco runs in the interim.

I'm generally concerned that this rack will see little turnover because it's probably populated somewhat by employees, which is a good thing but maybe WF could put another rack in a secure area for them to use.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's raining cats and dogs and trees.

Per SFist

Carniverous Tree

Photo by expuestosiempre

This dastardly tree, at Haight and Broderick, came tumbling down, nearly crushing this cute cyclist.

From Commenter eo36

Anyone who rides regardless of the weather is a friend of mine. Does anyone know Daniel? I'd like to start a fund to get him a new rim.

Despite the fixie nature of his bike, I have to agree. I got out there in the crazy rainstorm this AM, seeing only one other lonely figure on his bike between Noe Valley and Caltrain, despite using the Caltrain Silk Route from the Mission (Valencia/14/Division/Townsend). Though we did have an even dozen on SB 230 (Two bike cars!)

Count me in. In fact, I have a functional front Ksyrium wheel I was considering making a trailer out of (the rear was a POS so I gave up on Ksyriums) that I will gladly donate to Daniel. This will also allow him to gain street cred by having one component on his bike that is worth much more than the rest of the componentry combined (ok, maybe not, but you get my point). If anyone knows Daniel, send him my way and the wheel is his.

I ended up getting pretty soaked this AM despite wearing ski pants (not as waterproof as I thought) and an old Fraternity Football block windbreaker (more waterproof than the ski pants anyway). Tonight I am thinking I should just embrace the rain, I have an old speedo sitting in a box of junk here at work. If I am going to get wet, might as well dive into the pool.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Be true to your school, just like you would to your girl.

They have some trouble in the city of Roses.

That is too late for senior Meagan Barnard, who said she won’t be getting one of the 50 spots.

“It’s just a parking spot, but for me I was crushed because I always wanted to park there,” she said. “All the seniors hang out there. You work your way up there and you work your way up to those spots. It’s silly, but it’s important to the seniors.”

Oh, the humanity. Things really erupted in the LTTE's to come.

A tradition lost

EDITOR: For three years, I was able to experience Santa Rosa High in all its glory, through tradition. My senior year our beloved principal, Tony Negri, retired, and Jim Goddard took his place, changing the school forever.

Tradition is an enormous part of Santa Rosa’s history, and I saw it crumble right before my eyes. When I was a freshman, I dreamed of the day I got a senior spot in the parking lot and was able to paint my name on it. That did not happen the way any of my classmates planned. We, too, had the dream of a senior spot taken away. Who was behind it all? The same man you read about in the headlines of Tuesday’s paper.

Those spots are used as a fundraiser for the senior class and should be sold first-come, first-serve. There was no problems for years doing it that way. Why change it? I am so saddened to read about my high school being destroyed by this man. My heart goes out to all future Panthers.


Santa Rosa

Her high school has been destroyed by this man who had the temerity to change the assignment system for parking spots. He didn't disband the football team or the band, he didn't change the school's mascot, he didn't layoff half a dozen teachers and increase class sizes.

God forbid had they hired some tree hugger like in Los Altos

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today in Critical Thinking

I read a few interesting "deep thoughts" today that I thought I would share.

First, from the comments.

Rafael said...
@ ammon -

the problem isn't really Caltrain, it's too many cyclists all insisting on bringing fixed frame bikes on board during rush hour. Caltrain's first priority has to be moving people, not their stuff.

Folding bikes would be more compatible. There are even a few models with electric motors and Li-ion batteries on the market. While those are still expensive, they mean cyclists aren't going to board the trains all sweaty, a courtesy other passengers would surely appreciate.

Caltrain's first priority should be moving people! Why is he telling me this? He needs to go to the JPB meeting because Caltrain apparently didn't get the message.

Lots of stuff, where are the people? Apparently they aren't on the train, seeing that Caltrain has just been served a stinking heap of 12% ridership decline Aug 2008 to Aug 2009. That didn't stop me from getting bumped from 226 this morning, in large part due to all the people bumped from 324. Despite extra bike capacity, Caltrain is still seeing too much demand for the bike service during a period of sharp decrease in ridership.

Caltrain kicks butt - at getting you from one station to the next. The problem is - how do you get to the station, and how do you get from the station? Three "primary" options are MUNI, SamTrans, and VTA - all three of which recently cut service and raised fares. Caltrain itself reduced service - and if they were to lose the revenue they get from the cyclists, the cuts would be deeper. I will take MUNI/VTA/Company shuttle in a pinch - read if I am injured or going drinking after work. Otherwise I can't see adding an hour to my round trip commute by excluding my bike.

Rafael also pulls up the old canard that folding bikes are like origami ducks that fold and fold and fold and then tuck carefully behind your ear. As for sweaty cyclists, I will quote one of my favorite conductors who says "The bike car is for cyclists and their bikes. If you don't have a bike, may I recommend one of the other 534 seats in the other nine cars."

Moving on - here is some logic from SFGate that would have Aristotle spinning.

The road has rules
Drivers, beware.

It's only a matter of time before one of us kills a bicyclist flying through the Haight and Scott intersection in San Francisco. We've stopped, it's our turn to go, and as we start driving though the intersection, some idiot on a bicycle comes out of nowhere, and we just miss hitting him. (So far, I've only seen "hims" engaging in this death-seeking behavior.)

What is it about being on a bicycle that gives you such a sense of entitlement? You're on wheels, you're on a road, and you've got to follow the rules of the road. I ride my bike a lot (though not that much on city streets because having been a San Francisco emergency room doctor for many years, trust me, the bicyclist always loses), but I still have to stop at stop signs. BTW, the skateboarders also love tearing through that intersection.

My fav was watching a skateboarder blast through the intersection, roll over the hood of a car going through the intersection and then flip off the driver of the car.

Bicycle, skateboard - drive responsibly. It's not all about you.


San Francisco

If I get this straight.

Accidents with bikes are caused by the bad bad cyclists.

I am a good cyclist - implying I won't get into an accident.

I don't ride my bike in San Francisco because I will get killed in an accident.

Right then!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Caltrain Shuttle Stats

More thoughts on the Caltrain stats in the last post...

Here is exactly why the shuttle ridership is dropping more than the
Caltrain ridership.

In the past year Apple and Genentech - companies that both have large
shuttle programs taking
employees from Caltrain to the office, introduced shuttles that take
employees directly from San
Francisco to the office. People who used to take Caltrain to Mountain
View or SSF to get a company
shuttle, now aren't on the Caltrain at all.

Now, of course this drops Caltrain ridership by N as well as Caltrain
Shuttle ridership by N. However, the
PERCENTAGE impact to the shuttle ridership numbers is substantially

I picked Oct 2008 out of a hat. 41,893 riders daily. 6316 Shuttle
riders - the stats don't indicate if that is
daily or monthly. My guess - that's monthly ... e.g. 210 riders on
shuttles per day. If 10 people switch from Caltrain-Shuttle
to Company Shuttle, that lowers the Caltrain ridership by 20/41893 =
which is close to zero. Those same 20 rides
(remember this is round trip) lower the shuttle ridership by 10

Caltrain may only be counting shuttles that they are affilliated with
(listed on Caltrain website) so Apple may not be included.

I can't verify all my math or my facts, but this has to be a nominal factor.

September Unemployment Figures - The Caltrain Metric

Job Losses Far Worse than Expected in September.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 180,000 in September and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent the prior month. The poll was conducted before reports, including regional manufacturing surveys, showed some deterioration in employment measures.

These analysts could have called me and I could have given them the 411. The trains are getting less and less crowded. Ergo, people are losing their jobs. Not exactly a leading indicator but the stats are at best a trailing indicator.

They could have asked another expert, Caltrain's Mike Scanlon.

Via Pat Giorni from the Caltrain JPB meeting.

Shirley and I both noticed the anomoly in this months avg. weekly ridership decline (10.8) and shuttle ridership decline (17.9). Usually they are about the same. Scanlon said that the shuttle number underlines just what he thought...that ridership is down because of unemployment. The shuttles are directly linked to getting workers to their jobs. Shirley and I think bike riders are still employed at a much higher rate. we want to track this a bit, I think, to use as an arguement that more capacity is needed because loyal bikers are still employed and needing space to keep getting to work.

I don't necessarily think the holier than thou cyclists are necessarily staving off unemployment better than anyone else, more likely the bike cars have stayed full because the nominal flow of new ridership in the bike car is not being stunted by excessive bumps due to

1) Added capacity on the trains and
2) Nominally predictable schedule for 2 bike cars.

When he gave the Caltrain Performance report Scanlon added the BOB update:34 Cab cars have been converted and the promise for the scheduled 2-bike car trains has been kept 98.6% of the time during the month of August. There was a problem getting the needed bike racks for the bomb trailers, but they are on the way and the trailers should be completed by early fall 2009. Again he emphisized the point that trailer conversion is above and beyond the original promise.

I made the statement at the February JPB meeting that ridership was about to crater based on my assessment of corporate hiring in SF and the Valley. My Valley statement was based on the Caltrain Metric - basically chatter with folks on the train. Knowledge of employment in SF is the "Mister Mom/Mister Dog Walker" metric provided by visits to the dog park in Noe Valley. I started seeing more women at 7 AM, and my wife started seeing more men at 4 PM. The men (in Noe Valley this mostly comprises investment/finance people) were losing jobs and could go to the park in the PM. The women were going back to work (Nurses primarily) and would take the AM shift on the way to work. This is of course a generalization but there doesn't have to be a lot of data to indicate a trend.

The one set of men not hanging out at the Dog Park at 4 PM? Bankruptcy Lawyers.

Of course, I'm down with the theory that cycling increases your employment viability :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anderson - The city should not screw up Divisadero.

They are tearing up Divisadero Street and Rob Anderson DOES NOT LIKE IT.

Divisadero does not need Trees! Street Furniture? Ugh!

What Divisadero does need? MORE PARKING!

Glad that your girlfriend can find parking, but the real issue is parking for the businesses, especially the restaurants.

Clearly the restaurants on Divis are suffering. That's why I have to wait 45 minutes to get a table at Little Star, why it's impossible to get a reservation at NoPa, why Fly is crowded, etc...

Not to mention this little joint.,6610,s1-3-12-20548-1,00.html

"REBIRTH: Mojo has helped spark a revival after years of economic decline along Divisadero Street. As dining and nightlife spots have opened around it, Mojo has drawn big crowds of both cyclists and their nonriding cohorts to its happy hours ($2 pints) and nightly live music. When Portland, Oregon-based breakout band Blind Pilot came through San Francisco on a recent bike-powered tour, its Mojo set drew so many people, most were standing on the sidewalk."

Wait a minute - BIKES?

All this stuff will really screw up Divisadero for the hard working truckers who rely on it!

A big rig moving tuck, it seems, got stuck this afternoon at Broadway and Divisadero. SFist reader Dennis sends us word as well as these shots of the stuck United tuck. This happened a little before 1 p.m. this afternoon.

That appears to me to be a "Signifigant unavoidable impact", Rob.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bay Area Transit Quiz

Which Bay Area Transportation Know it All made this ironic statement regarding improving the VTA light rail...

"Any talks of future extensions should strongly consider bus rapid transit rather than light rail," he said. "It is less expensive, has the potential for high ridership and allows us to leverage limited taxpayer dollars."

Answer: Carl Guardino - the patron saint of BART to San Jose. Apparently if it's not BART, taxpayer dollars are "limited" and must be leveraged. But when it comes to the BART boondoggle, anything goes!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Driving to your court hearing on Driving without a license.

This is a good one from Napa

Ten cars were impounded during a court sting Monday, when officers watched people who were in court on charges of driving without a license or driving on a suspended license get in their cars and drive away afterwards.

I love to repeat the mantra that you don't need a license to drive in response to the call to license cyclists. But it seems pretty cheeky to go answer to your charge of driving without a license by driving to court....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Observations from Boulder - livable streets and cycling

Thanks to some screwups from United Airlines, I ended up spending this past weekend in Niwot Colorado with my parents. This was received with great joy because we have their grandson in tow, so he is being shuttled around to see anyone and everyone. I had a special treat today in that I got to go to the Colorado/Wyoming Football game in Boulder. Not a very good game, but it was nice to get out on a gorgeous day in the foothills.

I paid a lot of attention on the trip into and around Boulder. Boulder County has changed tremendously over the 15 years since I left for good. The tiny hamlet of Firestone Colorado which used to be a truck stop and a couple of farms now seems to consist of an anchor of a Home Depot and several car dealerships surrounded by satellites of fast food and casual dining joints. Bizarre.

Inside Boulder proper there are a lot of what my friends call "shiny places" - chain stores like Applebee's, Best Buy, Whole Foods, etc... and even the Mom and Pop joints have to have signage as if they were part of a 100 store chain, it seems to be what's expected around here. I won't condemn Boulder for that - it's not San Francisco.

Boulder is also not San Francisco in that the bicycle signage was shockingly good. Sharrows, Bike route signage (and I don't mean the obscure "Bike Route 45" type signs you see in SF, I mean "HERE IS THE BIKE PATH DON'T RUN OVER THE CYCLIST" type signs. On campus, crosswalks were setup such that you push a button and immediately lights start flashing telling cars not to run over the pedestrians. And perhaps the most unexpected sign of them all - a sign that said "BIKES USE FULL LANE". It went by fast and I didn't quite catch where it was, but it preceeded a downhill and the signage inferred in some manner that there was a downhill coming and encouraged cyclists to take the lane rather than get squeezed over to the side at speed. I am trying to find the sign on google street view - it is on a road headed North towards Pearl St from Campus, somewhere West of Broadway (probably 9th).

And we in San Francisco cry to get "Bikes ALLOWED use of full lane".

Much like Purdue, the CU Boulder campus had a lot of cyclists, and not a lot of helmets. Probably because they are thinking about not crashing, instead of how to mitigate a crash. Come to think of it, when I was 17 and did long bike rides on busy roads I didn't even own a helmet. This included riding to Jamestown and back as well as riding to Loveland on US-287.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now this is the way to block a bike lane, Boilermakers!

This week I was at the Purdue University Engineering Career Fair.

I'm not very observant, the first thing I noticed was that the bike riders at Purdue...

1) Don't wear helmets
2) Ride on the sidewalk

I am willing to forgive #1, especially since they are generally riding very slowly on mountain bikes with underinflated tires, and typically this is apparently done on a pretty decent network of separated bike lanes. Something I noted after my confusion that the shorts and tevas clad cyclists were weaving through the suit clad interviewees on the sidewalk.

Then I saw why they were riding on this particular sidewalk...

Bike lane FAIL on Twitpic