Posted by: mixed terrain. | September 3, 2007

being-in-the-sharrow

Wet paint. Whenever we ride over a sharrow (or ‘shared lane marking’), we like to think that we’re hitting one of those video-game-like power booster sites—our speedometer jumps from a lazy 11.5 mph to 21 mph and we shift into a lower gear. Which raises the interesting question—do others also experience anything like this existential state of ‘being-in-the-sharrow’?

More acceptable to the Effective Cycling crowd than ‘separated-from-the-flow-of-traffic’ bike lanes, the sharrow’s origin as a signifier of a previously practiced, yet un-inscribed lane position for cyclists, is relatively recent. Sharrows indicate to cyclists where they should ride in the street (a prescribed distance away from the door-span of parked vehicles) and help inform motorists of a cyclist’s right to be in the lane, and not pressed up against side-mirrors when the former ‘need’ to roar past only to find themselves stopped at the next, inevitable red light.

Pittsburgh, PA, that old steel town at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Mon so dear to our hearts just got its first stretch of sharrows along Liberty Avenue between Bloomfield and the Strip District, a major success for the burgeoning Pittsburgh Bike Coalition, BikePgh! We know that sharrows improve car and bike road-sharing from both empirical observation and anecdotal testimony—but what do they mean to you? In SF, in Pittsburgh, in Flagstaff, in Portland? Tell us what you think in the comments, and we’ll incorporate your thoughts into a more substantial reflection on these icons of our right-to-be, soon.

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Posted by: mixed terrain. | September 2, 2007

car-free wonderment in Marin County

There are a lot of cars in Marin county.

Resistant to both¬† suburban development of its former argricultural lands as well as to BART or a passenger rail system similar to Caltrain, the socially-liberal Marininites seem to be driving pretty much everywhere, all the time—taking the kids to school, piling onto the 101, driving in ur city, spoilin’ ur rides. A phalanx of transit groups, community advocates, and cycling organizations are working on a few notable dents in this iron-and-carbon leviathan of the North(bay)–from plans to discourage car travel on Conzelman road in the Marin headlands to a recent grant for a Marin Safe Routes to Schools (sans autos) program. Yet one can not live on hope alone, and the meager accomplishments of today in terms of all that needs to be done to reshape our transport infrastructure often feel like a pinch of Udder Creme when what we really need is a full smattering of three squeeze bottles of the shit.

In the meantime there are a few places in Marin where we can still get away from the RAV4s, Durangos, and ubiquitous Land Cruisers out for a single-occupant car Fairfax Bolinas Road -- photograph by Donald Kinneytrip to one of those small Safeways to buy two tins of Fancy Feast. The best is without compare the stretch of Fairfax-Bolinas road between Fairfax and, of course, Bolinas.

We road this stretch of county road that lies mostly within the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed District (and therefore free of housing or other kinds of development) this weekend as part of ‘The Alpine Dam Loop,’ one of the most popular road rides in Marin.

The road has a few steep sections, and does require quite a bit of climbing to get out of Fairfax before hitting the scenic descent to Alpine Lake (if you continue past the lake you’ll also face a tough two mile climb up the intersection with Ridgecrest Road and the south trailhead for the Bolinas Ridge trail).

Alpine Lake Ride this road on a weekday and your chances of encountering even one motorist is low, and the number of drivers barely increases on the weekends. And unlike the popular twisting roads of some rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains (much closer to that den of honest, family-type sport bike and crotch rocket riders, San Jose), we see very few if any motorcyclists on this stretch.

by bike:
SF–>Fairfax, CA: 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours depending on your commute skills.
Fairfax–>Ridgecrest Blvd (about 10 miles), 1 hour to 2 hours depending on your climbing and descendng skillz.¬† Then a quick descent down the other side of Bolinas Ridge, and into BOlinas (if you can find it).

If you have thoughts on traffic and/or anti-traffic in Marin, we’d like to hear what you think–this blog post is pretty much the sum total of what we know about said topic.

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