Friday, January 29, 2010

Overheard on my commute.

As I headed down 18th from Castro to Dolores, I filtered by maybe a dozen cars - this is definitely a part of my commute that is much faster on bike than in a car. I noted that I rode right past a cop, and figured that he probably couldn't care less and if Jym Dyer is to be believed, the filtering was legal anyway (though bypassing a garbage truck and the 4 cars stuck behind it by detouring onto the sidewalk was not as holy. To my credit I dismounted and "schluffed" by the one pedestrian I saw.

At the intersection of 18th and Dolores I heard the cop's loudspeaker go off. Cyclist spidey sense goes off and assumes that "The Man" has a beatdown in store for the cyclist, but he was 3 cars back and he wasn't talking to me. I listened to the remainder of his lecture and caught "PUT YOUR HANDS AT TEN AND TWO". I glanced back at the car and watched the flustered driver putting away her cellphone.

Amusing. Though I think he should have said "PULL OVER".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mixed message on bike parking.

I have spent some mental energy on the bike parking at the new Whole Foods in Noe Valley. I complained that there were not enough racks in the WF parking lot, and often we ended up tying up to parking meters on the street.

For example, this one directly in front of the Whole Foods.

Walking to the store on Sunday I noted these gorgeous stencils on the sidewalk directly in front of Whole Foods - apparently this location is on the MTA's list for new bike racks! Very appropriate location, and we are getting not one but TWO racks in this spot! And theoretically, the state of the injunction is that they can in fact put them in. I won't hold my breath but I believe it will happen!

One problem. Stepping back a bit...

The exact same parking meter that was being used for bike parking is now uncapped! I'm not exactly sure what this means - are they going to put in a credit card capable meter? Regardless, I find it cruelly ironic that in a spot that has less bike parking than it needs, we have been promised parking for 4 more bikes but until that happens, we currently have 2 FEWER spots. On top of this, our financially strapped MTA is not collecting revenue from cars parked at this location.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Crossing Highway 101 - San Tomas Creek Trail

The San Tomas Creek Trail crosses under Highway 101 between Great America and San Tomas. I was headed to meet my wife at Tasman and Great America and took a leisurely ride along this trail. The previous time I met my wife over there - at the Amtrak station at Tasman and Lick Mill, I crossed on San Tomas Expressway. Stupid. San Tomas Expressway is near deathwish territory, the creek trail is nirvana.

I took this photo, notice the bumper to bumper traffic on 101. Sadly, a few minutes later I joined my wife, put my bike in her car, and ended up in that bumper to bumper traffic. At least we got to use the carpool lane.

San Tomas creek trail - normal on Twitpic

There are more excellent photos on the website linked above (and here) One key photo is missing, however.... this one...

San Tomas creek trail - today on Twitpic

Closed? Why?

The fence in this photo is the line between San Tomas Creek a... on Twitpic

The creek floods in rainstorms and the trail floods in the underpasses. Even after the flood subsides, you need to exercise caution as a thin layer of wet slime will stay on the trail and be very tricky to navigate.

This is unfortunate, as the two adjacent crossings, Great America/Bowers, and San Tomas, are anything but pleasant. I have only crossed at San Tomas the once, and it sucked. Great America used to be me standard commute route when I worked at SandCraft at Tasman and Old Ironsides, I learned to manage it and it's not horrible but it's not great either.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Go to the MTA meeting Tuesday Jan 19, or write the bozos a nastygram.

Tuesday is the MTA meeting to go over the draconian cuts we were notified of late Friday.

There is a facebook (yuck, but whatevah) group set up to pump everyone up into coming and speaking out. It can be found here and I'm going to do my damndest to come. I figure with the crazy rain my commute will be a crapshoot anyway, so maybe I can get a bit of work done from home then wander by. Of course, it's agenda item 11 at a meeting that starts at 2 PM, so I might be able to wander over fashionably late - especially if I can get someone else to submit my comment card. If I knew the order of speakers I could probably watch it on the web then ride over to speak. I could apologize for looking like a drowned rat by saying I figured I better ride over since MUNI was an utterly unreliable choice.

My wife is ill so I might be forced to stay home and babysit, in which case the entire MTA board, the Board of Supervisors, and the Mayor will be getting nastygrams. Frankly the most important person on that list is Mayor Newsom. His State of the City speech conveniently ignored MUNI just prior to a huge proposed cut. Newsom is against extending the metering hours in San Francisco, despite the study done by the MTA clearly showing that doing so is the right move. I think Gavin is incompetent, but not so incompetent he can't understand this, I think this is an instance of him being more corrupt than incompetent. The people lining his pockets want to keep the meters as is, so he backs them. I'm not lining anyone's pockets, but if Gavin ever dares run for any political office - even dogcatcher - I'll wear out a dozen pairs of shoes convincing more voters than he could ever buy that this clown needs a permanent spot in the private sector.

My family is from the Chicago area, and there are a few corrupt people there, but typically while they were lining their own pockets, they would sometimes skirt the rules for the benefit of the hoi polloi instead of the swells.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Does MUNI need to do an EIR?

Per Streetsblog

If you take the bus - well SCREW YOU!

The MTA is proposing broad-ranging service cuts to Muni in order to close a $16.9 projected budget gap through the end of the fiscal year. The cuts - far greater in scope than the service changes implemented in December - will reduce frequencies on every Muni line and, if they're approved by the agency's Board, will be coupled with fare increases on services including the F-line, express routes, and cable cars.

But if you drive?

The glaring omission from the proposals was an extension of parking meter hours, something MTA staff presented on last year, and which a staff study said could bring in millions to the agency while improving the city's parking management. "It's not part of the staff recommendation for Tuesday," said MTA spokesperson Judson True.

Now, Rob Anderson's lawsuit against the city and his endless prattering cries about the bike plan causing "signifigant unavoidable delays", which generally add up to a few minutes, and which many proponents dispute (or correctly point out that there are many effects of private automobile traffic that cause worse delays for MUNI).

Isn't a bus that comes with a 5 minute longer headway a "signifigant unavoidable delay"? If people give up on MUNI and drive, isn't that bad for the environment?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brisbane, Ca. Unintended Consquences.

This AM, I was riding Bayshore through Brisbane California. You know, the city with the Blue Bike Lanes that we love so darn much!

The blue bike lane goes North. Going South, there is a big bike lane as well. To the left of the bike lane, there is a little "buffer zone" with a nasty gnarly rumble strip in it. Sometimes, this works great - the rumble strip could dissuade cars from encroaching into the bike lane.

And sometimes, it doesn't work so well.

Brisbane suffers an attack from unexpected consequences on Twitpic

I'm used to stuff parked in the bike lane, but usually I can just simply go around without navigating across the worst rumble strip in the west.

This situation occurs pretty much every time I ride this section of road, in the exact same spot. The equipment company (or whatever) that had parked the flatbed in the bike lane doesn't always have the flatbed there, but almost always has a truck parked backing into the front of the business with its nose sticking into the road just far enough to block the bike lane.

Josh Hart

Hello. My name is Richard. I ride a bike.

I also ride a bus. This morning on the bus I met Josh Hart of Bolinas, California.

Josh Hart

Josh recently completed his MSc in Transport Planning at the University of West England in Bristol, UK. He's Holier Than You® because
  • He's traveling from a visit to friends in Santa Cruz to Bolinas completely by bike and public transpotation (I didn't even realize there was transit service to Bolinas!); and

  • When he traveled from San Francisco to university in the UK, he did it completely by bus, train and cargo ship and blogged about it.

In Bristol, he studied the impact of traffic on social networks -- not the Web 2.0 virtual social networks created through Twitter, Facebook and other online tools, but meatworld social networks of face to face contact with your neighbors. He discovered that higher vehicular traffic degrades people's lives by discouraging interaction with the neighbors. He received quite a bit of press in the UK media over his "Driven to Excess" study. If you're interested in livable streets, Josh's study provides some good background and information.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random thing I thought about on my bike ride...

We have a new Whole Foods in Noe Valley. Love it - high quality food that I can get close to home. The store is small so the bulk bin section is nowhere near the utopia seen at Rainbow, and a lot of stuff is more expensive, but it's close. I can walk down with my son in the SUV stroller and load up the bottom of the stroller as well as one of my "I'm such a green hippie" reusable bags.

Whole Foods really pushes the "bring your own bags" thing. There is a "Reduce/Reuse/Recycle" screed pasted on the (Paper - this is SF after all) bags that you get if you don't bring your own bag. They haven't joined Healdsburg's Big John's Market by painting a big sign near the door saying "DID YOU REMEMBER YOUR BAG?", but they do ask you a question when you pull out your little eco-bag...

"Do you want a bag credit, or do you want to donate?" Like some other stores, WF will give you a 5 cent rebate if you bring your own bags. They ask you if you want to donate the money to charity, usually they have a list of charities. Back in the day, they used to give you a wooden token which you then placed in a box by the door - maybe they still do this in Redwood City but in Noe Valley they'd need a bigger box with all those donatin' bag bringin' dog and kid draggin' Mommies and Daddies.

I usually donate the 5 cents. I'm not bringing my own bag to save a nickel on my bag of locally grown organic spinach (which I put in my reusable Eco-Bags of course, I mean how holy are you if you put 15 plastic produce bags in your reusable shopping bag!). But I got to thinking about this - what happens with those donations?

In theory, I have donated 5 cents to charity. So I should get a 5 cent tax deduction! Over the course of the year, maybe 2 bucks! OK, so I'm not going to track this, but adding up December's donations proudly reported by Whole Foods on the registers - well over $2000 was "donated" by customers after being "collected" by Whole Foods. My question - when Whole Foods writes a $700 check to 826 Valencia, do they send a copy to their accountant and write it off THEIR taxes? Whole Foods didn't donate that money - they "gave" the money to me and I donated it. I am going to go out on a limb and postulate that WF deducts the donation.

Certainly WF is under no obligation to give a bag credit. But I find it very corporate that WF would tax-deduct the money their customers supposedly donated, not to mention wave up and down about the charity they are responsible for. Really, if they can train their customers to bring bags, saving on average 4 paper bags (they typically double bag) and then donate the "bag credit", Whole Foods is saving ~5 cents in bags and then getting ~2 cents back from the government in tax savings - profiting 2 cents a transaction by training their customers.


Monday, January 11, 2010

One instance I might approve of bike theft...

I was coming down this hill (which is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent gradient) with a dog and a stroller, when I encountered this painful sight.

One time I might not be opposed to bike theft on Twitpic

Upon reflection, I don't want the guys bike to be stolen but I won't cry if he drives it into the top of his garage. It was impossible to get the stroller past the car without going onto the road, which meant hopping the curb, while managing the grade. And note - I was hopping a curb, which means this particular "cyclist" decided to park in the driveway and out onto the sidewalk instead of in either of the two legal, open, on street spots in front of his building.


The stroller was tied to my body or I may have just started beating on the car until he moved it, without that safeguard I'm not sure I would have tried to go around.

For reference - Douglass St just North of Clipper.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christopher Thompson Sentencing Tomorrow.

They should give him the chair, the chair, the chair but 8 years will suffice.

His lawyer claims his life has been destroyed. He came an inch away from ending someone elses. Add 8 years to his current woes, still not a fair trade.

UPDATE - 5 years, per VeloNews. I'll take it. 5 years is a long hail that might make some jerques take pause before causing mayhem. This is serious stuff. And let it be known, if you pull a stunt like this it will be you against thousands of cyclists who insist upon justice.

New Bike Lane on Mary Ave in Sunnyvale!

While riding to work this AM, I encountered the following sign.

Mary Avenue bike lane closed. Dare to dream there actually wa... on Twitpic

One might think that I would be extremely offended by the closing of a bike lane. Ironically, I was overjoyed by the site of this closure. How could this be?

The sign was at the intersection of Central Expressway and Mary Ave, in Sunnyvale, demarcating the stretch of Mary heading West(ish) from Central. I ride that piece of road a few times a week and know very well that there is no bike lane on it. So finding out that there is a bike lane now on Mary - even a closed one - warmed my heart. Not that my heart really needed warming in a place like "Sunnyvale" - it's not like I was crossing the Chicago River in a snowstorm like this guy.


(Photo by Bryan Nabong)

A quick inspection indicated that there is no bike lane on Mary - though Ammon tells me it's in the planning stage. That would be great, aside from this ugly stretch between Central and Evelyn where the "shoulder" conveniently turns into a "curb" forcing you into traffic, the stretch from Evelyn to El Camino is 2 lanes of fury - the fury being that of drivers in the right lane being furious that you are impeding their progress by being so bold as to not ride in the "door zone" - the right lane of Mary is wide enough for a car and a bike as long as the bike feels like playing chicken with the mirrors of the cars parked along Mary. It is usually unclear what is impeding motorists in the right hand lane from progressing to the left hand lane.

I found Sunnyvale's choice of sign a bit curious. Since there is no bike lane there, the cyclists - consisting primarily of commuters who use that lane everyday, not French cyclotourists exploring "Le Vale du Soleil" - using Mary would if anything be confused by the sign. It's pretty certain none of them will turn around expecting one of the fellows cutting tree limbs to tell them "Bike Lane's closed - Moose out front should have told you!" No - they'll simply proceed and ride a little bit to the left.

So what does the sign do? Why is it there? To inform motorists that cyclists will need to share the lane with them because their "bike lane" is closed? Perhaps a better choice would have been THIS SIGN - the sign that San Francisco used while construction on Valencia closed their actual bike lane.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holier than me Olympian

Hello. My name is Richard. I ride a bike. That makes me Holier Than You, so Murph gave me an account for his blog.

Today, I met somebody even Holier Than Me on the bus. I got to talking with a very fit 30-something guy with reflective straps on his pants. When Victor Plata was a sophomore at Santa Cruz High School in the late 80s, he attended a talk about Peak Oil. He's never owned a car, and today he was on the bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose to catch Amtrak to return to his home in Sacramento.

After he unloaded his steel Cervelo from the bus, he realized he forgot his bike helmet. I offered to retrieve the helmet from the Lost and Found and mail it to him, but he said not to worry about. "I was at the Olympics," he kind of murmered, "so I have all kinds of gear at home."

"You mean as an athlete? What sport?"

It turns out Victor competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens as a triathlete. What a dude.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Earned my Carbon Offsets via Twitter today.

Yesterday I saw a tweet in my Caltrain search window in which someone was asking the best way to San Jose from SFO. He asked if Caltrain would be appropriate.

I noted a few tweeted replies of disdain, and the original author seemingly resigned to taking a cab. Your holier than thou transit guru could not of course take this sitting down. Aside from the gasoline, that's $100 in the shorts of the passenger or his company. Cabs have their purpose but this isn't one of them.

I pointed Bryan to the Monterey Airbus which is a little known transport option between SJC and SFO. My information is not entirely current - the website does not indicate that they will shuttle you between airports - but my first encounter with this shuttle was talking to a flight attendant who said that pilots and flight attendants frequently used this connector. Basically it's a shuttle to both airports from Monterey, so along that route it stops at both airports. I'd call ahead if you want to test this one out - at the very least they don't publish a fare between airports.

Anyway, he indicated that the shuttle times weren't so great for him, and I asked when he landed. He said 10 AM, which is not the best for Caltrain, which runs only hourly midday and all trains are limited. He needed to be at Millbrae by 10:31 or he'd wait another hour for an hour long local ride to Diridon.

Typically one gets from the airport to Caltrain via BART - but it takes time to get from whatever terminal you are landing at to the BART station, then there is a wait for the train, and the dreaded SFO->San Bruno->Millbrae BART shuffle. I doubted he could make it from his seat to Caltrain in 31 minutes even if he was experienced. I posited if he was carrying on his bags and went straight to the Taxi line, he could get a cab to Millbrae Caltrain and if he was late, just take the cab to SJC (omitting the pro move of taking the cab southbound until you can intercept the train).

I saw this tweet this AM...

@murphstahoe Cabbed it over to Millbrae and arrived with 5 minutes to spare. Just caught 10:31 train. Thanks for your help!

update: A cab to Millbrae - $13.75 plus tip. Saves ~20 minutes is my guess.

Shocking. Twitter is the new google. Why search the cluttered web when you have a giant sized interactive helpdesk?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holly St Overpass of 101 on a bike.

This morning I was riding South from San Francisco and checked the Caltrain schedule to see that I could intercept a train to work in San Carlos. Good timing, but this would require me to tackle Holly St - one of the worst overpasses for bikes on the Peninsula. This is near where Mary Yonkers was killed, in fact she was preparing to cross. As a preface to discussion of the overpass, please do exercise care if approaching Holly/Redwood Shores on Shoreway from the North - this is where dump trucks from the recycling center on Shoreway approach 101 and you should position yourself to not be on the right side of said trucks.

OK, on to the crossing. I went from East to West (Bay towards Ocean) this AM. Here is a photo from the intersection of Shoreway and Holly.

Not a very good photo, my apologies. The key facet in the photo is not the cop, it is the Freeway entrance/exit sign on the right. The lane that exits to NB 101 is roughly where the cop is - leaving a very tempting wide shoulder for the unassuming cyclist. The shoulder of course ends as the exit lane veers right onto the freeway. Your job is to get into the center lane, across from the exiting traffic. There are three lanes so the reasonable move is to get into the dead center of the center lane, allowing through traffic to pass on the left, and exiting traffic to pass on the right. This overpass throws a bit of a curveball at you because the traffic in the center lane can optionally exit onto the freeway, so you can have drivers trapped behind you and not able to switch lanes to the right hand lane to exit due to traffic in that lane. This can make for angry motorists, but I believe it is absolutely the right move.

You do not want to stay on the shoulder until the last moment and then dart across two lanes of traffic which can exit. And you absolutely do not want to position yourself on the right hand side of the center lane, because traffic will then squeeze by you and then try to exit across you. Once this happens, any minor distraction or incident could be the cause of a bad accident. If you are in the DEAD CENTER of this lane, the only motorist that will hit you is an extremely bad driver or one with absolute murderous intent. This is tough to do - we are human beings and we do not want to inconvenience other people or cause their anger, but it is more important to protect your own safety. The city of San Carlos AGREES. There are bike sharrows painted dead center in that lane all the way across the overpass. They are small, they are faded, but they are there. Perhaps San Carlos wants to tell you to do what I consider the proper thing, but they are too timid to make sure the motorists understand that with more prominent signage.

OK, so now you are positioned in the center lane and you have passed the onramp of NB 101. You now have the NB 101 offramp onto Holly and the SB 101 onramp from Holly to deal with. The biggest issue now is that the roadway has narrowed to two lanes with one lane exiting onto NB 101. This means that if you are in what is now the right hand lane, you are blocking the traffic intending to enter 101 SB until the right hand lane re-appears. They are setting up in the right hand lane preparing to exit, and then they are stuck behind a bike, going uphill. The left hand lane will frequently be full of high speed traffic making it hard for them to go around you. I do not recommend being timid and moving to the right hand side of the lane. That is a tactic which could result in the same thing that happened on Hillsdale in December. Motorists will either try to squeeze by you or worse yet will not see you! If they are trying to exit or change lanes their eyes and head will be all over the place. If you are in the center of the road, you will be squarely in their vision plane. They will go from whatever their original plan was to trying to get around you. That's fine.

Once the offramp dumps traffic onto Holly, you are faced with an unhappy scenario. Traffic entering Holly on your right in a lane that becomes the freeway onramp, high speed traffic on your left, including cars trying to go around you, and impatient drivers behind you. Today, I looked to my right as the offramp lane reappears, as an impatient motorist decided that instead of gunning his engine now that he had cleared me, he would slow down to utter some profanities. How poetic that on a recon mission of how bad an overpass is for cyclists I would get harrassed. I looked down and saw that just as the slew of F-Bombs came at me, I was riding over a faded, potholed, sharrow.

After this swarming section you finally pass the freeway onramp. At this point I chill out and move towards the shoulder which is fairly wide, as you approach a stoplight. The SB 101 offramp traffic is controlled by this stoplight, so you "only" have to deal with 3 crazy on/offramps today! Of course, Holly St continues to suck, the shoulder now ends up being on the right hand side of a right turn only lane. You may as well just go back to positioning yourself in the center of the rightmost through lane. The next intersection, with Industrial, has 2 through lanes, which become one traffic lane shortly after the intersection. Unfortunately motorists seem to be so amped up from being on the freeway and the crazy overpass that they don't really adjust to a single lane. This can be dangerous as the lane is narrow on the whole, and has on street parking, creating a nasty doorzone on a road where the traffic drives too fast.

If you are going to Caltrain, you get the lovely intersection with Old County Road. It's a mess. Insert yourself in the middle of the road somewhere (I found a slot where a car had left space in front of it) and cross under the tracks as traffic into the leftmost left turn lane. Then cross the crosswalk into the parking lot as a pedestrian and hope that the cars turning right from El Camino onto Holly actually stop before turning right. This morning a driver ran the red right in front of me and slammed on his brakes when he saw me crossing. He pointed his middle finger at me - I pointed at the red light he was running. He pointed out you can turn right on red. I gave up. My "left into the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection" isn't exactly kosher, but he was prepping to take a right on red at 25 MPH. El Camino at that spot has 2 right turn lanes and a very rounded corner. Yuck.

Going the other way? Pretty much exactly the same but perhaps more sketchy. While there is only one lane for the onramp to SB 101, you are passing that onramp/straight lane section through the Industrial/Holly intersection which looks like a giant French "giratoire" with the traffic circle removed. Be careful!