Archive for March, 2011

Tucson Bike Party

Posted March 27, 2011 By Frank

Cyclovia Tucson t-shirt

There’s no spell checking this post; it’s a word to be spoken more so than printed. Ciclovia, CicLAvia, Cyclovia, take your pick; it started in Bogota, Columbia where on Sundays they close the streets to cars, leaving only kids and bikes, pedestrians and skateboarders and, well, wierdos. Then Los Angeles did one; now they have 3 planned for 2011. Today it’s Cyclovia Tucson, for the 2nd year in a row.

children laughed at my bikeSo here I am; as if I needed an excuse, there’s a financial conference I attend each year beginning tomorrow, so I throw my new foldable bike in the trunk and blast along I-10 through Phoenix to visit friends then on to Tucson. I have interviews while I’m here and I speak at the conference; what a nice combination of interests I enjoy.

So I’d know how to get to the Cyclovia I took a ride across the UA campus last night. On the far side there are bars and restaurants and after 8 hours in the car a beer was on my mind. Just as I approached University Street, it sounded like a jet engine, but that couldn’t be… no, it’s kids cheering for their basketball team in the NCAA tournament and the game was close. I remember this age and my nascent interest in basketball; Julius Erving was a freshman at UMASS the same time I was. No one called him Dr. J then, but we were all crazy about him. We all died a little, too, when he left to go pro after his junior year. Well, my beer was out of the question now; you couldn’t get anywhere near the bar at any of these joints. The crowds were lined up out to the sidewalks. Then it all ended with a whimper, losing by only 2 points, so I turned around, knowing half of the route I’d take this morning to get to the Cyclovia.

Curtis Gunn, what's in that bag?I had a friend to meet; Curtis Gunn is a former pro cyclist and he’s President of Tucson’s Desert Angels. Talk about combined interests, he and I are on a panel discussion tomorrow at the SW Regional Angel Conference and today he’s introducing me to some of his friends in bike education and advocacy. He seems to know everyone; we stop several times during our loop around the route to chat with friends. He tells me he moved here because of how nice people are, genuine, not like LA, and the weather is great for training.

On my way back to the hotel I only have a mile of bike lanes before I’m
on 3rd Street which is shared with cars but designated for bikes. No one
has blown their horn at me so far, and unless I blow through another
stop sign, (I wasn’t paying attention, that happens), I doubt anyone
will. I am getting a sore neck though, from all the head-nods I
reciprocate; cyclists think other cyclists are friendly here in Tucson,
and they are.

I’m jealous on several levels; I want a Cyclovia of my own here in Newport Beach, but I also want that grid that cities like Tucson, Long Beach and New York share that makes dedicated bike streets possible. 

Here they come! It’s a beautiful day for a bike party!

I learned a lot by coming. I’ve proposed a similar event for consideration to the Newport Beach Bike Safety Committee. After all, the City closes the peninsula every 4th of July, there’s just no room for all the cars, so why not do the same, but with a purpose, to have our own Cyclovia (insert your own preferred spelling here). But Tucson, I discovered, spreads the joy around; this year it’s a different neighborhood than last year’s. The cynic in me wanted to call this the Junk Yard tour, the route took you through some of Tucson’s best auto grave yards. Oh! Wait! That’s real cynicism! I understand now; the route purposely takes the cyclists here to show them what happens to all those cars the other half loves so much.

At first I didn’t understand… why does the route line Tucson’s junk yard district? Now I understand.

Streets are for kids

There’s lots to see and listen to along the route

Bike culture thrives under the desert sun

A parasol is a good idea in Tucson

Callous Bike Lane

Posted March 24, 2011 By Frank

Across the street from Newport Harbor High School

A transportation engineer’s dilemma turns into a bike lane compromise. You don’t want to piss off nearby homeowners; they want to park their cars on the street, but you still have to accommodate bike riders. Inspiration meets innovation in this bike lane design opposite Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach.

Pete’s Lemonade Stand

Posted March 20, 2011 By Frank

I gave Pete Van Nuys a call; I was on my way south to San Diego, could I meet him at his bike store?

“I call it the lemonade stand.” I don’t think he’s joking this time, I’ve heard him call it this before; it’s his bike rental store at the train station in San Clemente. I was passing through on my way south to visit my parents and I’d had Pete on my to-do list for over a week; you know, one of those ‘should call’ items that keeps getting pushed to tomorrow. Today was a perfect time to drop in and catch him up on my trip to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC last week.

He’s the Executive Director of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition so I’m not surprised when he tells me he’s been to the Summit in two prior years, so the first thing I share is how intimate the conference must have become; I’m being sarcastic because with almost 800 bike enthusiasts in a giant ballroom it’s hard to make friends; it’s hard to even have a conversation, but I came back inspired. “This movement cannot be stopped,” was a sentiment shared by many speakers at the podium; I was ready to believe it. “Is it going to happen everywhere?” Pete smiles, a little skeptical. It’s a question of whether your city will be a part of it, I reply.

Over the next half hour we solve many of the world’s problems. We’re sitting outside at a picnic table next to a bunch of bikes. “Have you ever ridden the small wheels?” He’s pointing to one of the Breezer folding bikes. I’ve read about them, but never been on one. “Let’s change that right now,” and in a minute I’m off riding around the train station on this nifty bike. Being near the train station, there’s a method to his madness; the Breezer catalog mentions how nice it would be if your office is too long a walk from the train, you could fold up the bike and easily take it on the train with you, at least until Bikestation comes to San Clemente. It only took this short ride; I ordered the red one, with a rack and a bag suitable for my laptop. I’ll keep this bike in my trunk and look for opportunities to ride when I’m out of town, like next weekend in Tucson…

Riding a small wheel, foldable Breezer at Pete Van Nuys’ lemonade stand in San Clemente

Suja Lowenthal, Transforming a Built-Out City

Posted March 18, 2011 By Frank

It’s the difference between being a defeatist about how you see your city and 
being eternally optimistic about what your role can be

Mark Bixby invited me to lunch, “I’m meeting Suja downtown at Congregation, come along?” We felt like celebrating; Mark and Allan Crawford had just wrapped up a conference call with CalTrans and the Port of Long Beach regarding the Desmond Bridge redesign. Long Beach Vice Mayor Suja LowenthalThis was my first interaction with these once-adversaries to bike lanes, but the phone call seemed to go well; CalTrans yielded right away, “bike lanes will be a mandatory requirement of the design.” Mark acted like he didn’t believe what he was hearing, so he went over it again and again, but there was no hedging; his persistence had won. Lunch would be a celebration.

“How will you help us with our objectives?” I remember her saying as we’re introduced. I’ve replayed this several times since: collaborative, seeing fresh faces as allies, my impressions of this woman would continue to grow over lunch as we discussed transportation, recycling, organizing citizen bicycle advocates and other topics facing the city. Since it was my first time with this crowd my comments were short and simple, but she’d take something I had just said and weave it into her next remark; she was a good listener and I felt like I was a legitimate contributor. As we gathered up and prepared to depart, Suja’s the first one out the door; that leaves me with Allan and Mark who conspiratorially suggests, “she’d be a good interview.” I was thinking the same thing.

Long Beach City HallMeet Suja Lowenthal, Vice Mayor, City of Long Beach, CA. There’s a lot of innovation going on here relating to making city streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. How did this process begin? How has the City handled citizen concerns, after all, this is Southern California where people love their cars, so what’s the key to her success in terms of initiating change? And what’s next?

Show #16 (29:56) Listen, subscribe via iTunes, or Flash Player.

Finishing up the new separated bike lanes
Finishing up the new bike lanes on Broadway

Cycling Advocate Mark Bixby Dead in Plane Crash

Posted March 16, 2011 By Frank

Long Beach bike advocate Mark Bixby
The Los Angeles Times reports that cycling advocate Mark Bixby has died in a plane crash at Long Beach airport. Community leaders Tom Dean and Jeff Berger were also killed; also onboard, Mike Jensen is listed in critical condition.

Mark was an avid cyclist and blogger. His blogging passion was related to the Desmond Bridge; a complete rebuild is planned. This billion dollar design originally did not include access for pedestrians and cyclists. Mark was tenacious in his efforts to convince the parties involved to make this access an essential component of the redesign. He found allies at City Hall and at the Coastal Commission; just yesterday he posted a letter from the Coastal Commission in support of bike lanes and pedestrian access on his blog.

I recently interviewed Mark with his pal and fellow advocate Allan Crawford. We met at his office; Allan bringing his video camera to record the recording. Mark and Allan described the struggle to get the attention of CalTrans and the Port of Long Beach and right after our interview they would be on the phone for an update on the status of their request. I could stay and sit in. The phone call went well; we were all feeling the tide had changed: Caltrans and the Port agreed, bicycle and pedestrian access would be part of the new construction. “Come to lunch?” I didn’t want to leave, the atmosphere was electric, “I’m meeting Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal downtown,” and together we celebrated.

I credit Mark Bixby for this blog; he encouraged me as I first began
writing opinion pieces on cycling safety issues locally here in Newport Beach. Mark found this commentary and encouraged me. “You ought to interview Charlie Gandy;” the minute he said it, it seemed so obvious, so I called Charlie and the rest you see here on this blog.

What a personable man. When I sat down with him for the interview I handed him a copy of my dance book; I do that to allay my guests’ concerns as I’m about to ask to take their picture and many professional people are rightly concerned about their image. The next day he called me to describe how he shared the book with his daughter, then he goes on to say that he could see himself doing something similar someday, spending time behind a camera. Few people call to share such dreams. Once the interview posted he wrote a personal comment: “you’re a great story teller;” a little encouragement like that goes a long way with me. He was someone who, even though we’d just met, or initially when we’d only met over email, I felt he was someone who took a personal interest in me and what I was doing.  He’d call again, this time just last week on his way to Mammoth for several days of skiing. “Could we meet when I get back? I’m interested in podcasting; I think I could do it in my commercial real estate business. I know a lot of cool people to interview.” Would I help? I immediately offered a time to get together, but it didn’t work for him; he’d be off skiing.

See the prior post featuring Mark and Allan; more details can be found at bikinginLA.


photo by Jim Sayer
Adventure Cycling’s Jim Sayer snapped this photo last summer when he rode the Pacific Coast from border to border with his 3 daughters. Andrea White celebrated his visit with a BBQ and a bike ride with Mark.

Charlie Gandy Befriends 103 yr old Tricyclist

Posted March 14, 2011 By Frank

I rode with Charlie Gandy yesterday; his invitation to ride the new separated bike lanes along 3rd and Broadway before they’re open to the public was too enticing to decline. He told me of his 103 year old friend, Octavio Orduno who is written up in the LATimes today. When you see the photo, Charlie’s pulling the photographer in a trailer behind his fixie.

Transportation Choices for CdM

Posted March 14, 2011 By Frank

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“Get hit by a car going 40 mph and you have an 80% chance of dying; get hit by a car traveling at 20 mph and you have a 70% chance of surviving.”

So said Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC Commissioner, Dept of Transportation, at the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC last week. She had more statistics to share, “NYC streets are the safest they’ve been in 100 years!” Wow! That’s an attention-grabber, but not a surprise; everyone in the audience knew how she’s done it. She’s taken the firm commitment of her boss, Mayor Bloomberg, and transformed once grid-locked streets into more human-scaled spaces that accent pedestrians and bicycles.

Think it can’t work here? She’s not alone. There’s a virtual competition occurring in many of America’s forward thinking cities, large and small, from Boston to San Francisco, Omaha and North Little Rock, AK to Madison, Portland, St Louis, even Dallas and DC, but especially in nearby Long Beach.

Why the rush to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists? It turns out to be good business. Besides improving safety, these cities are finding that bike lanes and light rail offer transportation choices that result in revitalized neighborhoods and commercial districts, with higher rents and occupancy rates, not to mention tourism. Some cities track a new booming class of tourism, the active or “gas-free” vacation. Madison, WI claims, “bike tourism is bigger than hunting and snowmobiling combined”. What could it surpass in our city?

In nearby Long Beach, experiments in street designs including Sharrows and separated bike lanes called cyclotracks, are causing nearby merchants to clamor for bike racks to accommodate more patrons. Rents along the new Broadway cyclotrack are only going one way, up, as the nearby neighborhoods advertise transportation choices and healthy lifestyles for their tenants.

As local initiatives here in CdM take their first steps, advocates and politicians are loath to advance designs that remove parking or slow traffic, but it’s easy to see that Long Beach with its bike corrals can turn the space for a single customer’s car into access for 12 or more bicyclists instead. You can do that math in your head! It adds up to increased economic development, yielding dividends for local merchants at the same time making roads safer.

We live in CdM for its high quality of life factors. As other cities have found when they transform their streets, the public responds. You travel; you’ve seen it elsewhere. Once car-choked city squares in Copenhagen and Times Square now bustle with sidewalk cafes overflowing with local revelers and tourists.

Soon Sharrows will come to Coast Hwy through CdM and it’s prudent to proceed slowly and handle everyone’s concerns, but it’s easy to imagine the outcomes, simply by looking at what’s happened elsewhere. Our cities become more livable as we slow automobile traffic and make road improvements that accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.

Why will we want to work together on this? For the best of both worlds: we’ll all enjoy a higher quality of life, one with more exercise and transportation choices, and we’ll all share in the resulting boost in economic development that comes with it.

Follow the comment stream at coronadelmartoday.

Cities for Cycling

Posted March 11, 2011 By Frank

Announced at the National Bike Summit, Cities for Cycling is a collaboration of 16 cities across the county to standardize roadway design guidelines that accommodate bicycles.

See BostonBikes’ Nicole Freedman host her colleagues from Portland, San Francisco and New York City as they standardize bicycle policy and improvements.

Bike Tourism Industry Red Hot

Posted March 10, 2011 By Frank

The bike tourism panel led by Adventure Cycling’s Jim Sayer included Dakota Bike Tours’ Jim Books, Wisconsin Bike Fed’s Amanda White, and Cycle Oregon’s Jerry Norquist, among others.

I arrived early for this would be my last session of the National Bike Summit; it’s a little overwhelming, all this good news about cycling advocacy, but this would turn out to be the best good news. The cycling tourism industry is red hot, all 120 attendees agreed. I can’t remember when I’d fallen in with such an optimistic crowd. Call it ‘active vacations”, or ‘gas-free vacations’, people who take them come back for more.

Adventure Cycling Association‘s Jim Sayer passed around a page of facts and figures. For example, Wisconsin’s calculated that out-of-state visitors traveling to the state for cycling opportunities generated $532 million in 2009. Minnesota, hoping to exhibit leadership in this area, hosted its first conference on bike tourism; expecting maybe 100, they got 250 to attend. Trek Travel’s Tania Worgull, “we continue to add new destinations each year to accommodate the growing interest in bike tours”. Cycle Oregon‘s annual ride sold out in 36 hours last month.

A little Q&A after the keynotes, Andy Clarke quizzes NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who forgot to remove his pant leg protector.

I woke to the sound of my smartphone alarm; it felt like 3:30am to me, so it’s easy to hit the snooze, but then I remember why I’m getting up so seemingly early: it’s Day 2 of the National Bike Summit here in Washington, DC, but I don’t start moving yet. Like I do at home, I start by checking emails, not many this early, and by reading the New York Times. That’s where I have my first encounter with NYC’s Commissioner, Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan. The paper’s reporting on the suit being brought by disgruntled neighbors relating to a 19-block bike lane in Park Slope in Brooklyn. Really, you gotta be some kinda curmudgeon to find fault with this bicycle infrastructure improvement, and it’s so much more than just a bike lane; traffic is slowed through the neighborhood making it safer for kids, the elderly and cyclists least of all. I’ll never get called as a juror now.

Then it’s off to the conference where the opening plenary session gets started with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who begins with a little imagination play: “picture in your mind, around the city all the people stuck in traffic on their way to exercise on a stationary bicycle!” That strikes the right tone with this standing-room-only crowd of almost 800, and he doesn’t relent. “This wave is cresting,” he says of the bicycle movement in this country, it’s “a tide that will not be stopped.” He wont be happy until he sees more people burning calories, not fossil fuels.

Earl’s like the warm-up band for the main event, and the audience knows it and plays along. Janette Sadik-Khan’s up next and everyone’s here to listen to her; she wastes little time before offering her advice. “We can’t wait for Washington,” she exhorts, “the movement is here!” Big applause. Alluding to her feature in the NYTimes, she admits “it’s painstaking work and setbacks are to be expected when you’re in the business of change.” But it’s worth it, “New York has the safest streets in a hundred years!” Applause.

She has a surprise for us. How can small cities benefit from the work that NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Boston and 10 other cities have done when none of the specs can be found in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)? Now they can simply download the new NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and get to work. Thunderous applause as she returns to her seat, which I can’t help but notice is just 3 from mine, so when she gets up to sneak out the side door I figure nothing’s gonna top this, so I make my own early exit. One minute later as I’m wandering through the empty vendors’ booths there she is, obviously talking to a reporter, something about a “spurious suit”; it’s a short call. She hangs up, turns to me, looks at my name tag and says, “Newport Beach, that’s a beautiful place to ride.” I can’t argue with that, but it’s only after I giver her my card that I realize my name tag says Corona del Mar; she knows her geography, too.