Archive for February, 2012

Samantha Ollinger,

Posted February 28, 2012 By Frank

Sam Ollinger, photo credit Rachel Bellinsky

San Diego has a great climate, but what’s it like for riding a bike?

Last week I decided to find out for myself, so I packed the family and the fold-up bikes onto Amtrak for a 4-day visit. I wasn’t there long when Jeff Miller of the Alliance for Walking and Biking called, “Would you like to meet Sam Ollinger? She runs bikeSD.”

She’s an accountant who quit her job to commit herself to bike advocacy, so she’s dedicated. Listen in to hear all about the San Diego cycling scene.

the San Diego skyline from the Coronado ferry

Show #34 Listen to Sam: Stream, Flash player, or subscribe through iTunes.


Posted February 23, 2012 By Frank

Jeff Miller

It’s Jeff Miller on the phone, “I can’t believe you’re calling me right now!”

“Seeing some news?” He cajoled.

Luckily I had woken up from a much needed nap just a few minutes prior — I had spent a few moments reading, as I often do as I wake up. There was big news bubbling to the top of Google Reader: the League of American Bicyclists, the Alliance for Walking and Biking and Bikes Belong had just announced a merger into a single, more potent, bike advocacy group.

As I saw the headline I guessed why Jeff was trying to reach me last week, but sometimes I’m tough to reach in real time. Now I can’t remember what my conflicts were, but let’s say it was that day when I had both a doctor and dentist appointment. A complete physical in the morning with shots for flu, pneumonia and shingles — talk about a triple whammy — then two new crowns in the afternoon. Oh yeah, I almost forgot — a 4pm HOA board meeting immediately following. Not all days are that hectic, but to forgive myself for not getting back to Jeff, let’s say he called that day.

“Does this mean there will be fewer or more people for me to interview?” I wanted Jeff to know what my bottom line was. He had all his talking points, but none quite fit this question, so he zagged, “This comes from a position of strength — these three organizations becoming one will mean a consistent message on bike advocacy issues.”

And for him personally? He’ll remain in his role through the year and the Alliance’s big event in Long Beach will be bigger than ever now.

What will be the outcome of this epic merger? Jeff’s talking points were coming fast and furious. Where’s a pen? There’s only a scrap of paper in my hotel room — it’s all happening too fast to take notes and what I did scribble doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of this new development. So now, just a little later, I think of my time with Tim Blumenthal in Boulder — Tim will be the CEO of this new organization — I remember a line from his interview, “Everything’s better on a bicycle.”

And now, with this triple-strength advocacy powerhouse behind the message, maybe more will listen.

CdM’s Newest Driver

Posted February 17, 2012 By Frank

I just came home from the DMV; my 16½ year-old son just got his drivers license. You’ve been warned.

“Why do you look so nervous?” the driving instructor says with a jolly smile as he approaches our car.

“Because I’m a lousy driver.” My son seldom graces his discussions with similar humor at home.

“I like lousy drivers; I hit them in the head with my clipboard.” I know this is going to work out just fine, but as a parent you worry, right?

My wife was astute enough to prepare a Driving Contract and the night before the test gives a parent some leverage. Download a copy; it’s got a lot of good guidelines spelled out. I signed it first, then prior to going out for the evening I went upstairs to change. While I’m still thinking about how great it is to have him at least acknowledge many of these fine details; I think of one more — that he consider all trips to RiteAid, Ace Hardware and Albertsons as walkable and not an excuse to drive a half mile. When I return to the kitchen and share this new insight he’s delighted to tell me he’s already signed the contract. It’s hard to stay a step ahead of teens.

My dad was a great driver. Of course, we all think we’re good drivers. That’s the joke at Traffic School, “Raise your hand if you think you’re an above average driver?” Not many think of themselves otherwise. My interview with Carjacked! author Anne Lutz Fernandez confirms this self image bias. But dad was good at teaching me to drive, so one goal I’ve had is to be as good while instructing my kids. Life doesn’t always work out the way you hope though. My constructive criticisms became instant arguments and little instruction occurred. But as a dear friend once said, your children will listen, even if you don’t think they are. My particular emphasis of proper driving behavior has focused on consideration of pedestrians.

Continue reading “CdM’s Newest Driver” »

Bike Medium, Episode II

Posted February 11, 2012 By Frank

I’ve had another dream…

Last month I wrote about my interview with the City Council regarding my application for the Newport Beach Bike Safety Committee; read “Listen In”. The gist of that post was that my interview hadn’t happened yet, but I wrote as if it had — I can report back to you that my actual interview this past Wednesday was amazingly on-script. It was like I knew the answers to all their questions…

This capability of predicting the future, I think I’m increasingly prone to ESP, or call it intuition, because starting around the holidays I got Apple TV and since then I sit mesmerized by the TV show Medium. Yes, it’s low-brow culture and part of me is reluctant to admit I love the show, but the whodunit aspect of each episode really grabs me. As a result I’m already into Season 5, which is a big investment of time on the couch. Is the intuition Allison Dubois is famous for rubbing off on me? You be the judge. I’m not seeing dead people, but I do seem to have a knack for predicting the future of the new Bike Safety Committee.

Continue reading “Bike Medium, Episode II” »

Bold Face Names Attend Sunset Soiree

Posted February 10, 2012 By Frank

Bike advocates from across Orange County gathered last night for a Sunset Soiree in support of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Co-host and OCBC Executive Director Pete Van Vuys invited the assembled to contribute to the non-profit and by the end of the evening $3,000 was raised to support better biking in Orange County.

I knew from experience that when you host a sunset event in February you spend a lot of psychic energy hoping for a warm, dry evening. The weatherman delivered in spades which added to the ambiance of the party.

At the end of the evening what most people mentioned was the good crowd that had assembled; the like-minded bike advocates benefited from hearing of each other’s challenges and successes. Many agreed; we’re a stronger group when we collaborate.

Bike riding school teacher Stacy Kline shared her stories of cycling just about everywhere and continuously across the OC. Monica McCarthy made the trip in from her Bike Club of Irvine, inviting many to join her rides. Don Harvey and Jax Bicycles’ Brian Cox from the OCBC board came to show their ongoing support. Brenda Miller arrived early to share stories of how she had been calling Republican Congressmen all day advocating for transportation funds for Safe Routes to School. The bikeNewportBeach gang was there in numbers — Matt O’Toole one of the few to actually come by bike while Dan Murphy helped with everything from tying off wayfinding balloons to pouring the wine. Charlie Gandy and BikeStation’s John Case made the trip down from Long Beach. Oakley’s James Ince-Scott came in from Yorba Linda to contribute. Laguna’s Les Miklosy made the trip north to share his stories of riding along the Coast Hwy. Our paths had crossed a couple of times recently so I was pleased to have UCI’s Ramon Zavala and his lovely wife at my home. OCTA’s Bike Lord, Wes Parsel shared news of the RFP for a Fullerton-based bike share. My whale watching partner Stuart Sharpe and I discussed other cetacean ride possibilities. Mark & Carol Knaeps from Lido Island’s Boy Scout Troop 37 reminisced the rides we shared while the scouts earned Cycling merit badge — which is how I met Pete Van Nuys originally. Laura Curran dropped in before heading off to teach her UCI Good Government class — I wasn’t the only one to say that we need more people enrolling in her class. RBF’s Paul Martin enjoyed the company and the views. Neighbors: Mr Everywhere, Dan Purcell, and Wes Hatfield who recently spoke in favor of removing the fire rings, live so close they could walk home. David Huntsman and Errett Cord shared stories of applying for the new Bike Safety Committee, about to start again soon; Barbara Danzi and Steve Sholkoff of the outgoing Committee joined the party.

Lingering at the end of the evening:
Matt O'Toole, David Huntsman, Charlie Gandy, Frank Peters, Errett Cord and Dan Hazard

A Walkability Audit with Dan Burden

Posted February 9, 2012 By Frank

Dan Burden

Ever been on a Walkability Audit?

Neither had I, but when it was suggested that would be a good time to meet Dan Burden, I couldn’t resist. And San Diego is a lot closer than Port Townsend, WA — his home base.

You may recognize Dan from his prominent role in Road Diet, the Streetfilms short. “A road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road,” Dan explains. This clip was featured at last month’s Bike Safety Committee meeting; it was a big hit. That’s when I knew I had to track Dan down for an interview.

He shares credit for inventing the term ‘road diet’ with Peter Lagerwey (Listen to Peter’s interview) in Seattle, so that’s how I reached out to Dan — through Peter.

So back to the Walkability Audit… I was surprised that it started with an hour in a classroom. Dan covers a lot of the concepts before we even get on the bus to visit San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. He’s done over 4,000 of these walking audits of pedestrian and parking facilities — as you can imagine, he’s quite good at it.

San Diego's Little Italy

He’s enjoying an enthusiastic audience this morning. There are 32 attendees wrapping up a multi-day conference; they come from Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Alberta. Some attended his walk through La Jolla’s Bird Rock just a few days prior. There’s a buzz in the room from the word go — everyone’s excited to experience the walk through Little Italy.

So what exactly is the walkability audit? Dan tells how it started when he worked at National Geographic, “Where I learned to see.” Then as his transportation career began, he observed, “We stopped designing communities for people, but that’s starting to change.” One story goes back to a time at the Florida Department of Transportation, “I noticed the engineers weren’t walking their intersection designs.” His Walkability Audits teach the participants how to see the opportunities for improving pedestrian comfort — that being one of the 5 keys to designing a walkable community: Security, Convenience, Efficiency, Comfort, and Welcome.

I enjoyed this new experience, of walking through a neighborhood with a new set of eyes, so much — I kept wanting to call my wife to say “We’ve got to come and visit, spend a weekend,” and that’s the whole point. Dan’s Walkability Audit was a great teaching tool on how to redesign neighborhoods that put people first.

Show #33 Listen to Dan: Stream, Flash player, or subscribe through iTunes.

Commission Recommends Clean Air

Posted February 8, 2012 By Frank

In Newport Beach last night a divided Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission voted to recommend to the City Council the removal of all beach fire rings.

It was a raucous session with several residents interrupting Commissioner Roy Englebrecht at one point as he proposed converting the wood burning fire rings to natural gas; the clean burning fuel would remove a major concern of the residents: the airborne carcinogens in the smoke. Trying a different tact, Commissioner Anderson implied that without a full scientific inquiry, the residents’ complaints of ash sticking to their patio furniture might prove to be the rubber from tire wear, as an investigation of the area surrounding the John Wayne airport apparently once found. These subterfuges would not deter the majority of the Commission members who voted 4 to 3 to send their recommendation to the City Council: complete removal of the fire rings.

Wave goodbye? Pallets are particularly poisonous when burning

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The Fire Rings Delusion

Posted February 4, 2012 By Frank

On a cold night, most people consider a well-tended fire to be one of the more wholesome pleasures that humanity has produced. A fire, burning safely within the confines of a fireplace or a woodstove, is a visible and tangible source of comfort to us. We love everything about it: the warmth, the beauty of its flames, and—unless one is allergic to smoke—the smell that it imparts to the surrounding air… I am sorry to say that if you feel this way about a wood fire, you are not only wrong but dangerously misguided.

Just this week UCLA neuroscientist and author Sam Harris published his “Fireplace Delusion“. It comes at a good time; just as the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission is set to review the beach fire rings.

As a cyclist, I’m gulping air as I pedal around town. I’m riding for my health and often ride the coastal routes, thinking the air is cleaner there. I’ve lived here 14 years and as I do the math I wonder to what extent I’ve shortened my life by breathing smoke-filled air from the Big Corona fire rings.

There are 27 of these smoke-belching fire pits just a hundred yards from my home. No pity for the poor people who live at the beach, you say? The carcinogens from these wood burning rings float all over Orange County, poisoning us all.

Continue reading “The Fire Rings Delusion” »

Ride up the Coast

Posted February 3, 2012 By Frank

Most days I sit at my desk for too many hours. Sound familiar? But his week was different; I was ahead of schedule on my projects. That gave me time to ride.

It's a beautiful morning at the Balboa Is ferry

My goal would be to ride 100 miles this week. Most people would add a little variety to their rides, but lately I keep heading in the same direction — across the ferry to the peninsula, the pier and on to Huntington and Sunset Beach. I’m not stuck in a rut; it’s just so beautiful. And it’s fun to ride off-road where there’s lots of people.

Then, here it comes — I love to see the ferry sans autos!

The ferry without cars

Soon I’m on the peninsula where I notice a new facade to Back Alley Bicycles; I go closer. The peninsula has the highest mode-share, which means more people ride bikes here than anywhere else in Newport Beach. There are many bike rental stores here, so the competition keeps prices low. The flat terrain is ideal for riding a beach cruiser.

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