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.