Sitting at the SFMTA hearing to consider a large number of bike plans today for six hours was arduous, informative, heartening, and of course entertaining.  An incredible range of people spoke, including families with children (often the children were in attendance, sometimes mauling their parent while they spoke), business owners, tech guys, financial district employees, and one or two people who seemed to have just stumbled into the room and began talking.  The only radical Leftist (self-identifiying as a commie and anarchist) had a charming, small Chihuahua with him.

Photo by Dustin Jensen.  http://sfwiggle.com

Photo by Dustin Jensen. http://sfwiggle.com

All in all this was a good meeting, with a great amount of success to be happy about.  The SFBC’s organizing work payed off with about two hundred people showing up to voice their two minutes of support for the plan.  The board heard not just from the tough-lunged and able-bodied, but also the recovering, the ill, and the previously injured.  With the exception of the cab driver there to protest the 2nd street bike lanes, who cited a ‘love-hate’ relationship between cyclists and cabbies, and then proceeded only to hate on the bike plan and cyclists, expressing his hope for the for the success of the CEQA litigants (though he did attempt to commiserate with cyclists deeply overburdened by the compactness of the new fangled ‘green cabs’–their trunks, he opined, cannot fit a cyclist who gets a flat or does not want to ‘ride all the way’), the plan’s opponents were not the rabid anti-bike nuts we’ve come to dread and expect from the outsized and outspoken presence of litigious obstructionists Miles and Anderson (more on Miles below).

Now for the fun.  According to my notes, there were a number of entertaining reasons to be at the bike plan hearing today.  They are, in ascending order of fun, humor, and (non)suprise with all due respect to their human vehicles:

1) Bike plan proponent, handsome gray-haired business-guy type, introduces himself:  “Like the weather, I’m in my low-to-mid fifties.”

2) The guy who seemed to wander in near the end of the meeting and whose closing point to protest more bike infrastructure was:  “No pedestrian ever ran anyone over.”

3) The woman who seemed to just wander in and start talking but who was actually Mary Miles who some speculate is a closet Dadaist.  Ms. Miles, attorney and Rob-Anderson enabler used her two minutes to loop the following a few times:  ‘Cease this meeting now, this is illegal, the injunction prohibits…’ Repeat.  It was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an attempt to make a ‘citizen’s arrest.’

4) Rincon Hill residents discussing the threats and resignation to living in their neighborhood as if they were Navajos confined to an arid and impoverished region of the Four Corners.  Rincon Hill unveils plans for Left-Turnaggedon bunkers.

5) Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach and Russian Hill resident spoke up for the need for all people in the city to have bike access.  This rather well-off and savvy business man stood in line and said his piece with everyone else.  If anyone wants to promote a liveable streets cage match featuring rich guys, I’d suggest and bet on Rob Forbes against ‘Let them Eat Cars’ Don Fisher of Gap Inc. any day.

6) South Beach dude who spoke and unironically affirmed his own stereotype–brought a huge map showing his favorite driving routes, complaining that the 2nd street bike lanes would hamper his cruises to the “Marina and Pacific Heights.”  I shit you not.  (That said, maybe we should leave our mentions of ‘Rainbow Grocery,’ farmers’ markets, pot dispensaries, and our obsession with Zeitgeist on sunny Saturday afternoons out of our public comments as well.  Alright, no one actually mentioned Zeitgeist and the dispensaries, but there were a few Rainbow Grocery shoutouts…did you know you get 10% off there with a bike membership card? ahem.)

*Update* Adam (South Beach dude) and I had a bit of a back-and-forth in the comments (see below) after I posted this message, belitting his social interest in San Francisco’s wealthy but architecturally-challenged Marina district.   To counter the claim that I am insensitive and out-of-touch hipster critic who just doesn’t understand the appeal of a neighborhood with sports bars, bike shops with Range Rover parking, and made up girls in sex pants, I am posting these photos to demonstrate that I do indeed have friends that enjoy the Marina.  Jade’s got the shirt to prove it (see both photos).

His shirt is sarcastic, but this guy really does enjoy the Marina.

His shirt is sarcastic, but this guy really does enjoy the Marina.

Indeed.

Indeed.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | May 16, 2009

Mission Bay, San Francisco–A Livable Streets Failure

A lot of San Franciscans are upset about Mission Bay–many of them because of the perception that something better could be done with this part of the city, something that would be more beneficial and with a lot less corporate money (i.e. the GAP, BoA, Genentech, etc.). Unfortunately this point is moot–you can now enjoy the Bank of America Terrace and eat a cafe payed for by Don Fisher at the Mission Bay Community Center.

What still nags me though, and perhaps is not a moot point, is the incredible and surprising failure of Mission Bay to be planned with complete and livable streets in mind.

Sure, more than enough lip service is there in the university’s plans.  The core, common areas of the new campus are rather nice, feature numerous bike racks, and are calm places to be.  The problem is that there is no easy, inviting way to make it to the campus by bike or on foot conveniently and safely.

Site of UCSF Mission Bay Research and Hospital Campus, from SFBC map

Site of UCSF Mission Bay Research and Hospital Campus, from SFBC map

This is a travesty for a development in such a flat and centrally-located area of the city with a high proportion of environmentally-conscious students, faculty, and staff people commuting to it everyday.  Sure, this is a hospital, not just a university development, and many people are going to be coming to UCSF Mission Bay in ambulances, cars, and even helicopters because they have no other choice.  But let’s say you’re fortunate enough to not have to be life-flighted into the area, your options for entering the campus include:

from the Mission and Potrero, other points West of campus:  East on 16th St (bike lanes), except for when travelling under the 280 bridge and across the Caltrain tracks where cyclists are squeezed into a very narrow right-hand lane (where there is a sharrow).

from the Financial district, South Beach, SOMA, other points north: South, SE on 4th Street or 3rd Street, both of which have heavy traffic, include bridge crossings, and feature a complete lack of bicycle infrastructure, with narrow and tight-lanes to boot.  Third Street in particular is very scary to ride.  (The reason for the terrible situation on Third Street seems to be that the planning was done before the SFBC became the force that it is today, and complete streets were not considered in the planning.)*  Terry A. Francois Blvd. is a waste for Mission Bay-bound commuters, out-of-the-way and disconnected from campus.

from Bayview, Dogpatch, other points south:  this way is a little better, and here Illinois Street is a decent option, requring a a short jog west on 16th St to the campus without a bike lane (filling in this small gap is part of the SFBC’s 56 bike projects action right now).

For many would-be cyclists to Mission Bay, 16th Street would seem to be the best option coming and going.  Hell, it’s got a bike lane.  The problem is that the skinny, narrow lane has not calmed this road’s appetite–and it’s only going to get worse.  According to UCSF’s traffic studies, traffic counts are anticipated to rise quite a bit between now and the full ‘buildout’ of the project.  This means that with 16th St’s proximity to the 280 and the traffic sewer of 3rd St, cars will be flowing at even faster speeds and even greater numbers than currently.  It is already very difficult to make a left turn into the campus via Owens Ave off of 16th Street and will surely become more difficult.

Leaving the campus via 16th Street and heading West, towards Potrero and the Mission is perhaps the biggest disaster-area of the entire route–the bike lane makes an unnatural and hard-to-see sharp jump to the left, putting cyclists between a straight lane and a right-hand-turn lane, often with high speed traffic on both sides.  [Full disclosure:  I’ve almost been killed several times in this intersection due to the poor design, despite my extreme caution, proper signalling, etc. etc.]

Eastbound on 16th Street (280 stub overhead)

Eastbound on 16th Street (280 stub overhead), dashed lines show where lanes diverge to make right-hand turn lane. Jack Fleck & Co. propose a similar 'solution' for Market & Ocatvia.

This is a shameful state of affairs for public space in a city that boasts 6% bicycle rideshare.  With missed opportunities like the street design and planning of Mission Bay, we’re doomed to keep that rideshare percentage in single digits for a longtime to come.

Sure, I can get there, and I’ll keep biking to Mission Bay.  I’m used to all the constant, ‘soft’ harassment of vehicles in San Francisco and the risk of getting run over at what should be a simple ride home–but who the hell besides 6% of us is really willing to deal with that kind shit on a daily basis?  If we allow such bad designs to satisfy us, we’ll be stuck at 6% and 10,000 strong for a long time.

*There is a chance that this kind of bad planning will repeat itself soon, with some, even including some bike advocates, suggesting that instead of putting bike lanes on Cesar Chavez Street between San Jose Avenue and the 101 hairball, we should just make do with 26th St, a parallel residential street,–a ‘compromise’ that would prelude eastbound cyclists from continuing on Cesar Chavez toward the waterfront or the train in any kind of timely or dignified way.  The hairball and its interaction with Potrero Avenue in the city has recently been the site of an injustice to children in the surrounding neighorhood, as documented here by Streetsblog.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | December 11, 2008

Damn Good Knickers–by Bicycle Fixation, Swrve

jutknickers

Bicycle Fixation hemp city knickers in Monterey, CA.

I was a spandex rider up until a short time ago. Not in the city of course, not during commutes–but on any ride out of town, even just over the bridge for breakfast, I was in black shorts and a chamois. Enough of that shit.

Chrome makes a decent pair of super-stretchy, quick-drying knickers, but for style, comfort, and function, nothing beats the knickers being made and sold by Bicycle Fixation and Swrve.

I’ve been using a pair of City Knickers (hemp) from Bicycle Fixation for the past several months and they have been great. While the pair I have lacks a chamois or extra padding around the crotch, they rode comfortably and styled just as well during a long weekend in Big Sur, biking sixty miles (all in the knicks) and hanging out at the Henry Miller Library for a show. The sleek, somewhat throw-back design is stylish, unique, and functional. While the hemp knickers have been discontinued, they’re selling a range of pants in wool and gabardine with a similar style–get them here.

The swrve knickers I’ve been trying out are grey and cotton. The material bars them from rainy days of course, but for a snug hipsterish fit they’re unparalleled. The sizing has been so snug that while good for occasions when one wants to wear tight pants to a party or around town, their ability to comfortably carry my u-lock or even house keys has been lacking. This isn’t so much a criticism perhaps as a warning to make sure you don’t underestimate your size. I’m torn which of these knickers I like better, the Fixations or the Swrves–it depends on the occasion. And they both beat the hell out of Chrome’s over-priced stretchy stretchiness.

Swrve knicks at park(ing) day.

Swrve knicks at park(ing) day, San Francisco, CA.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | July 31, 2008

offensive(?), anti-car t-shirts.

My girlfriend and I were recently treated to eight unexpected and exhilarating miles biking on Interstate 5 between Long Beach and San Diego, thanks to the grunts at the entrance to Camp Pendleton and the punks at Cars-R-Coffins. The pacific coast bike route is supposed to diverge through Camp Pendelton for a few miles to bypass the freeway, but access has apparently varied for cyclists over the past few years. The entrance is the closest thing to an Israeli military checkpoint (or military checkpoint of any kind) I’ve encountered. Wearing the tshirt to the right, I rolled up to the marine on the right (one of five with an automatic weapon and straight face). While he began by asking to see my ID, he started looking at my t-shirt and before I could show him my license he began crafting a bullshit story about how a brand new directive had just come into them
that day to let no cyclists pass through the base after 3 pm
(meanwhile civilian cars were still moving through). He did not
say anything explicit about the shirt, and wasn’t that jerky, but it
was pretty apparent that the tshirt had raised his hackles a bit–perhaps the coffin image? Anyhow, we were turned away from the scenic detour through land we’re all paying through the nose to maintain and were forced to make our way south with four lanes of 90mph traffic to our left.

I’ve worn this shirt (Cars-R-Coffins) in a number of different places around different groups of people, and the mix of reactions (usually no stated response at all, people seem a little confused) to it has been interesting. Some others that I’d like to throw into the repertoire are below are here to the right (they don’t exist as tshirts yet).

Some people are afraid of making explicit anti-car statements, thinking that they hurt the cause of cycling and the view of cyclists as out-of-touch hippie Luddites. I think there is a real place for this kind of rhetoric and that by making provocative
representations of automotive reality and its defects,
even as it makes self-identifying liberals, progressives, and environmentalist conservatives uncomfortable–well that’s the point actually–uncomfortability with the status quo and its repercussions.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | July 20, 2008

Biking the move.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | July 15, 2008

Where the hiker-bikers at?

On a recent trip down the Pacific Coast from Monterey to San Diego we discovered (with the help of our out-dated Adventure Cycling maps, circa 1993) that a number of the CA coast’s hiker biker facilities have disappeared over the past decade. (Hike and bike campsites are reserved for non-motorized users, do not require a reservation, and cost between $3-$5 in California.)

These disappearances are particularly detrimental on the stretch of coastline between LA and San Diego.

Two hiker biker site closures in particular (at San Onofre Beach State Park, 43 miles south of Long Beach, and at South Carlsbad State Beach, 84 miles south of Long Beach) within the last 15 years mean that a local cyclist or any cycle tourist doing the coast route must bike some 90 miles (from Long Beach) south just to get to a still-functioning hike and bike site, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

It is obvious that both of these state campgrounds are under heavy pressure from automotive users to provide space (on the July 4th weekend all two-hundred or so sites at Carlsbad Beach were taken). However, to fail to provide just one single campsite (out of hundreds) for cyclists rolling down the coast is unconscionable.

So what’s the deal? What can we do about this? One hopes and imagines that shorter bike touring trips will become natural extensions of the growing commute and urban cycling culture in southern California–let’s make sure the infrastructure is there so that the trend is not stopped short.

So we were thinking about ads like this one, for Caltrain, and thought about ads in the future that the players that profit from the auto-system will be producing to try and increase / maintain ‘drivership.’

Joe

Relevant to this imagined future is a new campaign by PIRG, described at Streetsblog. The clip below is phenomenal, and in the ironic spirit of the fake ads above.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | June 25, 2008

Magic, brought to you by the BMF

Posted by: mixed terrain. | February 12, 2008

Not to the best of our knowledge: Sprawl is good for us.

On February 3rd the nationally syndicated, Wisconsin Public Radio program “To the Best of our Knowledge” devoted the second hour of their program to the question of sprawl.Sun City, AZ.  Sold!

Listen here, or download the free podcast via iTunes.

While at first I was intrigued by the show’s blurb (‘Sprawl is bad’–Right?), by the end of the interviews and discussions I was thoroughly disappointed at the way in which the pro-sprawl guest (Robert Bruegmann) was allowed to make unsupportable and questionable claims about the minimal impact of contemporary suburban development, in part by vapid historical generalizations that eschew the particularity of the problem with expanding the growth of suburbs today.  To read an excellent, critical review of a previous Bruegmann public appearence in October 2006, see this post at Streetsblog.

Below is a copy of the email I sent to Jim Fleming, director of the show:

Dear Mr. Fleming,

A friend recently forwarded me a link to your show on sprawl. I was
excited by the idea of a show that considered some arguments contrary
to the typical polemics against the suburbs. I tuned in hoping for a
debate about and a nuanced look at the environmental, health,
aesthetic, and social impacts of the suburbs on American life. Joel
Hirschhorn raises a number of important, often subtle critiques of the
suburbs, though he is clearly not the best spokesperson for new
urbanism and higher-density living–at times on your show, and I
imagine in his book, he speaks as if here were a conspiracy theorist.

Surprisingly though, it is Robert Bruegmann, a highly-trained academic
historian and theorist whose statements on your show were the most
obfuscatory and specious. I was embarrassed while listening to the
show that Professor Bruegmann was able to make statements about how
people simply prefer to live in the suburbs, that commutes are no
longer than they were before, that living in the suburbs is cheaper,
and other such claims without having to answer to any basic and simple
challenges to these ideas–for instance, what of Hirschhorn’s idea
that supply more than demand drives the housing market in America?
What of the environmental and personal health detriments of even just
a 30 minute commute by freeway to work each day?

The most embarrassing thing about this particular show was the highly
self-indulgent and uncritical discussion with Tom Perotta that ended
it.

Your show seemed to be finely tuned to gratify a suburban audience
familiar with the social and environmental drawbacks of suburban
living yet thirsting for affirmation of their choice; only those
hungry for such an affirmation could possibly have been convinced by
overarching and flimsy moral of this particular show: ‘The suburbs
are not really all that bad; it is just said that they are because a
certain, elite minority finds the aesthetics of living in such places
uninspiring and ugly–they are proselytizers and a bit fascist.’ This
is the same form of argument anti-environmental conservatives use
against the advocates and scientists attempting to stem the tide of
global warming.

Posted by: mixed terrain. | September 5, 2007

mother *uckers *uckin with my shit

This is a clip from The Flight of the Conchords, a show that stars two New Zealanders Bret and Jemaine who live in Brooklyn and ride ten speeds. Think of this as a different take on the Scraper Bikes video. (The plot from which this clip is excerpted is that the fruitstand owner is discriminating against the guys because they are kiwis, and won’t sell Bret a red-delicious apple).

I like to watch this after my rides and when too many *ucking cars have been *ucking with my ride and right-of-way shit.

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