Friday, February 27, 2009

Stimulus Bill nearly doubles pre-tax transit benefit!

I don't know how I missed this one! From Progressive Railroading Blog

The economic stimulus package signed into law by President Obama yesterday doesn't only provide funding for transit agencies — it also will benefit those who ride the systems.

The law raises the amount of pretax income that workers enrolled in employer-sponsored commuter benefits can use to pay for mass transit from $120 to $230 per month, according to nonprofit organization TransitCenter Inc.


I don't think you can combine this with the Bicycle Benefit (which is now being supported by Commuter Checks) but this is pretty big for me - my pass is $205 per month and I definitely use another 25 in random BART/MUNI/GG transit per month, so I just got a $1320 tax deduction. And I deserve it man!

Kezar Stadium Closing?


An excerpt from the SF Chronicle website:

All SF parks staying open -- no matter what you've heard

Amid swirling and unfounded rumors of park closings, the San Francisco
Recreation and Parks Department has posted a schedule of hours for city
recreation centers and swimming pools.

The schedule, posted on the department's Web site and effective May 1,
layoffs of about 50 recreation center staffers because of budget cuts.

There have been many false rumors, including recent ones that claim Kezar
Stadium and Cow Hollow Clubhouse will close. In fact, Recreation and Park's
interim general manager, Jared Blumenfeld, said no facility will close. In
fact, some hours will be extended because the department has standardized
operating hours and distributed remaining staffers more equally around the


I've done a few track workouts at Kezar stadium, it's a very cool place to run, especially at night, so I found this news disturbing.

Per the Golden Gate Tri mailing list...

Good Afternoon GGTC'ers ,

We recently received some upsetting news. Amidst the budget cuts going on
in San Francisco Kezar Stadium (which falls under the Parks/Rec dept) will
officially close to the public on May 1st and be sold off privately.

Given the importance of this public track to many athletes in the bay area
(particularly to us as we train there every week for our track workouts) we
wanted to pass this information on to you all. Please find a link attached
with information about what we can do to prevent this happening. If you
feel as strongly as some of us do please go to the town hall meeting on
Monday at the below address to support keeping Kezar open.

The GGTC board of directors meeting falls on the same date at the same time
of this meeting. We are needing a helping hand in having people represent
GGTC and make your voice heard.

Community Budget Town Hall
Monday, March 2 at 6 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Society =93Church=94
1187 Franklin at Geary Street

If you are want to write in about this here are some helpful suggestions
for people writing letters that you might add in the outbound communication
(Thanks Kathryn for these)

1. don't forget to say to your supervisor that you are a registered voter i=
that district. if you live in districts 2 or 5 which border Kezar, this is
especially important to mention. say you'd consider taking your
residency/taxpaying dollars to another district if your track gets taken

2. offer to provide testimony on behalf of the supervisor's constituency at
the hearing.

3. focus on the fact that the track helps you lead a healthy lifestyle, and
is critical to your quality of life as a SF resident

4. people who go to the track tend to visit neighboring establishments (bar=
and restaurants), which supports the local economy (while we're at it, we
should get Kezar pub and other Cole valley places to write letters)

5. might as well add that we are a nonprofit entity that supports community
building, youth programs (girls on the run)

Thanks for reading,

Lara Z

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Great White Whale

Update - I scored a photo. Fritz scooped me anyway.

From Eric Altendorf's Picasa stream.

Caltrain has installed new racks on one of the gallery cars.

NB275 one old gallery - with two additional racks! Capacity for 40 bikes! T17:58
5:58 PM Feb 18th from web

The JPB meeting was Feb 5. Pretty fast for government work!

Here is a picture of the new racks.

F&@! you, too

OK, that's just some guy flipping off someone on a BART platform. Which is appropriate because I feel like Caltrain is giving us the finger as well.

Can someone get a pic of car with extra racks and send to tahoe at murphstahoe dot com? T14:08
2:08 PM Feb 19th from web

329 retrofitted old car with 40 spaces! Come on and check it out! T08:19
about 7 hours ago from web

Someone on #329 please post pic of new rack please and reply to @cyclelicious thank you! T08:38
about 7 hours ago from web

So now we have a battle royale between myself and bonvivant cycling blogger Yokota Fritz a.k.a. Richard Masoner a.k.a. Cyclelicious. We are fighting it out to be the very first one to post a picture of the great white whale - the new Caltrain bike racks.

My wife is a Market Researcher and knows a thing or two about getting your "power-user" customers gathered together before you roll out a product and getting their opinions on things. Caltrain - not so much. That's what you get from a public agency.

The word on the street is that the racks are too short to be very useful. They are likely to scratch bikes, the bungee cords now wrap around in a way that it is hard to keep the bikes upright. The only rationale we can figure for why this rack was selected was that it is in front of one of the emergency windows. Of course, so are some of the seats. Hard to say - since I have NEVER SEEN THE THING.

Someone did email Mark Simon at Caltrain about it - executive summary seemed to be that Caltrain was testing this rack before installing more. So they ordered a rack, slapped it in, and are apparently running it on the 5 AM and 11 PM trains because hardly anyone has seen the damn thing. Perhaps Caltrain is hoping that by putting that train on empty runs, on rainy days, that nobody will use the rack and they can claim that the result of their trial run is that we don't need more capacity.

To which I reply...
SB332 one new--2 bumped at 22nd St T09:05
about 7 hours ago from web

Seriously though, I know Mark/Michelle/Chuck have the email address for the SFBC and SVBC. All they had to do was sent out a heads up and dozens of interested parties would have showed up at Diridon or 4th/King and taken a look at the rack and given them 95% of the information they needed, before they even bothered to install the rack in one car. Sean Elsbernd seemed to voice some concern that the staged approach to capacity increas might cost Caltrain more money. I guarantee the "market research" techniques Caltrain is using now will cost Caltrain more money.

Apparently Caltrain thinks we are all just a bunch of scruffy rabble rousers - given Director Gage's dismissive comment "I'm very interested to see all the unique costumes today" at the JPB meeting, I could be right. I'm sure he thought he was being witty. So does Dean Grose

Apparently Caltrain doesn't think we're smart enough to have useful feedback. Because of course they are the brains behind revolutionary things like "Bicycle Entrance and Exit Doors" (not done with any outreach to riders and immediately ridiculed by all) and the "Eight Ride Ticket". The riders in the bikecar instead are just a bunch of know nothings who work on things like "The iPhone".

I'm wearing a suit to the next JPB meeting, maybe they'll take me seriously when I tell them they aren't doing their job.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sonoma County - holier than you

I love Sonoma County. Great Bike Riding , great wine and very Progressive thinkers.

Someday we might move there - we already have established a beachhead. For now we just dabble. A couple of Sonoma County snippets.

1) SMART is prepping up to buy their railcars (via SF streetsblog )

2) I subscribe to a mailing list called "CafeSonoma" which is affiliated loosely with Freecycle up there. Someone started a discussion there on "Extreme Recycling". Understatement. This really got into hippiedom with talk of making paper from dryer lint - I think you can probably find better use of your time, and dryer lint is compostable. "Anastasia Nicole" had a post that I just had to reprint...

The best way to deal with reducing your plastic trash is to find
alternatives to each product you are buying in plastic. I bought a
yogurt maker and make a quart of yogurt a week, so I have reduced our
plastic container waste by 52 plastic quarts/lids per year. Although I
love Trader Joe's prices, I try to buy all my produce elsewhere to avoid
the packaging issue. That said, I too, get my avocados in those little
mesh bags, and that is one of my few pieces of trash.

Pati - thanks much for the tip on wrapper recycling. I didn't know
anyone recycled those - good to know!.

For a reusable sandwich mat, check out the "wrap-n-mat" - a reusable
sandwich wrap that doubles as a nice placemat for your sandwich when you
open it up. I was using waxed-paper sandwich bags, because I could
compost them, but this handy item only needs to be purchased once, and
can be used over and over.

Part of any discussion about recycling is that recycling should be way
down on your list of activities, after "reduce and reuse." The point is
not only to get your trash down to zero, but reduce your recycling as
well. The less packaging you have to purchase, even if it is
recyclable, the more trees, energy, water, pollution, global warming CO2
emissions, etc. you will save.

I have been experimenting with making my own snack bars,as the cost per
unit is actually quite high. I can make a pretty good BumbleBar, at a
fraction of the cost, and it's 100% organic. Each batch cuts out all
those little wrappers. And most snack bars are no more nutritious, or
filling, than a good trail mix. A little ziplock of home-mixed trailmix
in my bag (with a few chocolate chips) is as good as a snack bar, and
just as nutritious, and lots cheaper. I also think a good, homemade
cookie - oatmeal raisin or some other nutritious alternative, stacks up
pretty well against most snack bars, which tend to be very high in sugar.

Anastasia Nicole

I know a few people who make their own yogurt actually, and their own power bars.
I take my lunch in tupperware now that nVidia cut out our $5 lunch subsidy (and being a proper whack-job I cannot heat my lunch in the tupperware and leach cancer causing chemicals into my food - so I put it on a ceramic plate that I keep in the office. Which I also used to use for lunch meetings where the company would bring in buffet style food, to the amusement of my co-workers. But I digress...)

So this was pretty solid "I am an enviro-nut stuff" but not way out there on the cutting edge of tree-huggerdom. Then I asked for permission to reprint it...

You are welcome to post my stuff. I have to work really hard at not
coming off with a "holier than thou" attitude, because I'm one of those
zero-waste fanatics who put my own solar system on my house and turned
the hot tub into a greywater pond. Then we moved to Santa Rosa, because
we wanted to live in Cohousing, for an even smaller eco-footprint, and
more community face-time with real living, breathing people.

Unfortunately, that meant my commute changed from a 20-minute bike ride
to an hour-long drive. I'm trying to find a freeway-safe electric car,
so I can charge it off solar. Either that, or find another job.

Anyway - where is your place in Sonoma? We live at Yulupa Cohousing,
off highway 12 in east Santa Rosa.
I'll start saving wrappers. My husband is going back to school, so he
occasionally buys Cliff Builder Bars or TJ's bars.

I like your blog. When I'm in the City, I always stop at Rainbow.
There's stuff there you can get in bulk that you just can't find
anywhere. Like Borax for ant killer. I only need a tablespoon in the
spring, and I hate to pay for packaging and buying more than I need.

Anyway - gotta go post some stuff on Freecycle. I'm the designated
Freecycler for our 29-household community, 'cause I just couldn't stand
to see what people were throwing away, but I got tired of rooting
through the dumpster. Now people just leave junk in my parking space,
and I find a home for it.


Turning the hot tub into a grey-water pond, moving into co-housing, and buying ant-killer by the teaspoon from the bulk section. Now that's more like it! Hopefully someday she'll be able to take her bike on SMART!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clif Bar Wrappers

I really don't care for clif bars. I prefer "real food". Sure, they're formulated with all sorts of good stuff but they're pretty nasty - I'd rather find a burrito joint. But they do have their place. Unfortunately the wrappers they come in also have their place - in a landfill. Doh!

I've met plenty of people who make their own energy bars - usually done for costs, but often because they don't want to create all the trash. Since I'm not too into the things in the first place, I tend to take bananas (compostable - but also shipped in from Hawaii or further so not exactly eco-friendly, c'est la vie). But for those wanting to reduce the impact of those damn wrappers - Terracycle - a company that produces organic fertilizer from worm poop and ships it in re-used soda bottles - is recycling the bars into "upcycled" products. OK, most of it is probably junk as well, some of which probably only exists because they needed to find something to do with the plastic wrappers. The US probably produces enough plastic crap per day to supply the country with more than enough Whole Foods reusable shopping bags. And shipping the wrappers around might not be better than making the junk with virgin plastic. Hard to say.

Anyway, I'm signing up to check it out. Terracycle and Clif Bar donate 2 cents per wrapper to charity. I am donating to Second Harvest. Save up your wrappers (any energy bar with a foil inside) and give them to me on the Caltrain or the Google Ride and I'll get them to Terracycle. Better yet, roll your own and reduce your waste!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Raising them right

We had to take Liam to the Pediatrist today, he insisted we take MUNI .

There was some discussion over the various goop he could catch on public transit, but I posited that he was more likely to get something in the crowded restaurant we ate lunch in than in a midday J-Church. Not to mention given the amount of angst that goes into carseats, he's probably a lot safer in the J-Church than in a car.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Planting seed

Last year we had a pretty prolific garden given that we couldn't tend to it very well. Most of (ok, all of) the plants came from starts. This year I decided to take it up a level and start from seed.

I was all antsy about starting it so didn't go to Sloat/etc... just happened to be by a hardware store in West Portal and picked up what they had - Cilantro, Arugula, and Lettuce. I knew for a fact arugula grows like a weed, our arugula in Sonoma went ballistic in the mild winter we were having and went to seed while we were out of town. I cut them back but I think they are gone. But this made it clear to me I could grow the stuff in our backyard in SF.

It's been cold so I decided to germinate them inside. Of course I didn't label the plastic bins (saved from last years starts of course) so I don't know which of the 2 plants are taking off - I am pretty sure the leafy ones are the arugula and the thin ones are the cilantro.

We'll see. While I am going to plant some of these here and can thus monitor them and pick the leaves more, I am very busy due to another project we started from scratch....

Fortunately my wife did most of the work on Liam Alexander Murphy. She did a pretty fine job from my point of view!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I don't ride Market St in San Francisco very often because aside from the fact it doesn't really lie on an optimum route to get where I want to go, it's sort of a mess. One spot I particulary get annoyed at is heading Southeast through the Castro. There is a bike lane here, and there are cars double parked in said bike lane. Enforcement - non-existent.

I'm really starting to think I would never see the day that I would see someone from DPT ticketing someone double parked in the bike lane. Today I was riding this stretch of market and I did see a DPT meter maid...

... double parked in the bike lane, ticketing a meter offender who was not in the bike lane. She even smiled at me as I stopped to take a photo.

At least the net result for me was not as bad as for this guy whom I happened upon a few blocks later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Driver stabs Cyclist.

Yes, you read that correctly.

"The man got out of the car and stabbed the officer, Tomioka
said. It was not immediately clear what the dispute was about."

And yes, you read that correctly. The cyclist that was stabbed was an
off duty San Francisco Cop.

Update: Video from Channel 2

This is great - "He has some anger issues".

What's annoying is that this guy will probably take it on the chin pretty badly because coincidentally the victim was a cop. Had Joe Public been stabbed, would the response be similar?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Noe Valley - will Whole Foods be Holier than Bell Market

Big news in Noe Valley. We are getting a Whole Foods. The worst Grocery store in the World is closing Feb 14 with Whole Foods to enter as soon as August.

I would occasionally pick up some overpriced staples at Bell - shying away from their awful produce. I am a big fan of Rainbow Grocery and their 10% discount from the San Francisco Bike Coalition, but the Bell Market location is 5 blocks from my house. This Whole Foods is going to be a big plus for me.

Whole Foods is taking input on what to do with their new store, in order to make nice with the neighborhood. The store will be small and they are intentionally excluding the sorts of things that will simply serve to put local stores out of business - for example they won't have a cafe.

One thing that has been very annoying at Bell Foods - no bike racks, mediocre places to tie a dog.

Both of these are very relevant in Noe Valley, and with WF in play it will be more relevant - there is very little parking and the ability to bike or walk to WF and not be worried about your bike or dog is important. And this being Noe Valley, stroller parking is also a very relevant concept - if strollers can be parked somewhere then they won't be blocking the aisles of the small store.

Currently people lock bikes to each other as seen at the top of this post, or lock them to the guardrails around the trees in the parking lot.

Here is the opportunity to improve things. Getting people to walk and bike to this store will help mitigate the traffic problems caused by people waiting for the few spots in the parking lot. Preferably I would like a small indoor secure bike and stroller parking corral. Given the size of the store this might be a stretch, but there should be good bike racks and a nice stroller parking area and a place to tie your dog without being worried that a car will run it over.

Per the Noe Valley Blog

The community liaison for this project lives in Noe Valley, and works at the 4th/Harrison location. His name is Andrew Calabrese, and his email is He's fielding all questions and suggestions from the neighborhood.

I highly encourage people - especially SF and particularly Noe Valley residents - to email Andrew with a request for addressing this issue.

February 18 Whole Foods will be at a meeting including Supervisor Bevan Dufty at St Philips School. 7:30 PM. On February 19 is the planning commission meeting at 1:30.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nicknames for cyclists

Cyclists love nicknames. Given the irony of cycling - why do you love so much something that hurts so bad - these are often dripping with irony or humor. And since they are a bright group as a whole (despite the whole anti-darwinian behavior) some of them can be quite clever.

Now, of course you don't tend to get so biting with nicknames in your own clan - it might something as simple as "TJ" (I always thought TJ - given name John - was "Thomas John" but it turned out to be "Tandem John" as opposed to the other John who wasn't on a tandem). Or Stinky. Whatever.

It gets much more interesting when you form some sort of short term relationship to someone on an informal group ride or century. Now your own clan will come up with nicknames for your temporary colleagues. So be careful with how you act, and particularly what jersey you throw down. I've shown up to the Google ride with one of my many AV jerseys over and over and earned the moniker "One-Kit".

So let's say you show up with a jersey with the Flemish Lion on it. You will now be known as the "Lion of Flanders" or "Johann Museew". Bring your A game if you are going to show up with this jersey because that term will be used very derisively unless you can pull your weight and don't pull various stunts that threaten to put your new friends on the pavement. Pull the line for 10 miles at high tempo and you will be the "Belgian Hard Man".

Colorado Jersey? You could be "Ron Kiefel" unless your wheel is unsteady, in which case you might end up being "John Denver".

And please, don't show up with the Maillot Jaune. Those guys calling you "Lance Armstrong" aren't being nice. If you are real yo-yo you will become "Oscar".

It's not just jerseys. Aerobars in the paceline? "Dipshit tri dude". Show up on a Cervelo and kick major ass, we will bow down and call you Fabien. Of course, we will similarly call you Fabien if you ride off the front and then get reeled in and dropped. Most nicknames can be used as either a term of respect OR one of derision.

But some nicknames are pretty clear cut. A mail arrived after a group ride last week.

Things just felt a little more reckless this morning well before
that incident - Teva Handlebar guy ran in to me while trying to perform a twitchy trackstand at one of the lights

"Teva Handlebar guy" is never a term of respect.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nice Racks!

Caltrain JPB meeting report:

Dozens of cyclists in attendance making many public comments including George Lane this AM.

Final Tally - Caltrain will immediately begin ordering racks to increase Bombardier cars to 24 bike spaces and gallery cars to 40 spaces. The bike car will stay as the cab car, so 2 bike car consists will have 48 or 80 slots. This will still be "random" but Chuck Harvey said Caltrain will "try" to schedule them for peak cars.

The initial proposal was actually for more capacity - 32 on the bombs but the cyclist in attendance all protested that this produces a disincentive to take your bike on board as it presents a theft risk. The push was for the board to review the proposal first. Scanlon gets major props for responding that this would serve as a delay so why don't we order the racks, put the racks in the gallery cars as specified, put one set of racks into the bombs leaving 11 seats but expanding capacity, then see if we can resolve the theft issue.

Personally I was very happy with the result. If you look back a year and recall that Caltrain was insisting there would be NO additional capacity, it shows that perserverance, organization, and hard work can get things through even a public sector organization.

Now, we push for more. The lowest hanging fruit in my limited view is that there are 2 Bombardier "Cab Cars" that have no bike capacity in them. Let's get those babies swapped to 24 bike slots, that would leave only one consist in the entire fleet with 24 slots if my memory serves. Then we can try to get them to convert some trailer cars to bike cars so we can have 2 bike cars on every train, try to figure out how to safely put 32 in each bomb car, etc...

Anecdote - Chuck Harvey (Caltrain Operations) noted that Caltrain has crappy technology (I think he used the words "not robust") and that prevents them from doing real time information dissemination. Paul Schreiber brought this up in his Public Comment and basically said "Caltrain keeps saying this is too expensive - there is a ton of free technology out there - and if Twitter is good enough for BART and JetBlue, it is good enough for Caltrain". Good Point! He went on to basically volunteer the Caltrain Passenger Mafia to do the work! After he sat down some Caltrain guy came running over to Paul to swap cards because "This is exactly what we want to do". We've been telling them this sort of stuff for a long time, but having them on the run and getting comments out in the JPB meeting makes it more poignant I guess.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gas comes from the gas station, milk comes from the store

I was discussing with my buddy David Hover on the train this AM (I got bumped from SB 230 btw) the state of play in the US today. It's pretty grim. One of our conclusions was the downhill slide will probably be very steep and that it didn't haev to be, but we've just become so dumbed down that many people only react when things hit crisis level.

One topic involved is one very dear to my heart - water. It's not raining in California (and it's snowing in London - Climate Change people). Sonoma County announced water restrictions up to fifty percent. I'm not sure how exactly they enforce this - the most obvious solution with stupid Americans is to jack the price of water usage above some nominal level by 1000%. Of course, even though a lot of press will go out, some people won't react until they get their first $900 water bill.

In our case, our vacation rental house is on a well, so we aren't "subject" to these restrictions, of course if our well runs dry we are completely screwed. I am trying to find the cycles in amongst the time spent preparing for our baby - there I go contributing to overpopulation, but at least we aren't popping out 8 kids via IVF like the woman in LA - I am looking at a hot water recirculating pump and greywater reclamation for our commode. The problem of course being that our next door neighbors could be drinking our milkshake!

Anywho, the other day I was discussing this with a guy at work. He stated in no uncertain terms that the problem is that we need to get off our butts and start building desalinisation plants! 2/3rds the planet is water and we're complaining that we are out of water! I gave him the "Holy Raised Eyebrow" look and said "How exactly do you plan on powering these plants?" "Same way the Saudis do it!" he replied. I decided not to go any further discussing that the Saudis have far less population than the state of California, and they aren't trying to feed the USA by farming semi-arid land - which isn't anywhere near the coast where this magical salt water is. The energy needed to desalinate and pump this water to where it's needed (would this include things like obscure coho salmon runs?) would only exacerbate the initial problem - if you believe the whole Global Warming Climate Change thing.