Opinion Archive

What Raccoons and Cyclists Have in Common

Posted September 15, 2013 By Frank

Winston with his original raccoon toy

I love my dog and he loves raccoons, so to get him going I turned on a TV documentary, Nature: Raccoon Nation.

Usually he prefers movies with ponies, or movies about other dogs, even animated dogs get him barking and jumping at the screen, but during this raccoon show I had to restrain him. Too much teasing? He’s a big-brained dog with a 200-word vocabulary if you believe what my wife claims; 20 might be more like it. He likes to sit on the couch and watch movies with us.

This old raccoon puppet toy – you’re supposed to stick your hand in it to animate the ‘coon, just try it – was the first of many ‘coon toys. When we travel we’re often looking for doggie souvenirs and nothing satisfies like a ‘coon toy.

Basket of ccons

Winston’s basket of ‘coons

So you understand my motivations while browsing around Netflix – when I discovered this PBS raccoon show I knew it would entertain the 3 of us. My wife thought the dog would get too worked up and he did, but I couldn’t turn it off. Raccoons it turns out, are fascinating creatures.

Watch the documentary

Watch the documentary

While out on my Saturday morning ride I was reflecting on one of my recent San Luis Obispo rides where, at one point, I saw a dead raccoon by the side of the road. I immediately knew how it got there – raccoons only have one predator: the automobile.

Although the documentary was mostly about how raccoons are evolving quickly; they’re adapting to our urban world and mastering the obstacles we place in front of them. It’s getting harder to keep them out of the attic and out of the garbage can.

But what stuck with me was how the automobile is their only predator. They get hit crossing busy streets. You’ll sometimes see one by the side of the road where MacArthur exits the 73 tollroad; the road cuts through their habitat.

On my bike today I’m thinking of the dangers that I face – pretty much same as a ‘coon.

Maybe that’s a good idea for my Halloween Bike Tour costume…


Slow Week? Grab Your Headphones

Posted August 26, 2013 By Frank

Treats found in Portland's Audio Geeks

Treats found in Portland’s Audio Geeks

Last week while visiting friends and family in Portland I stopped by Audio Geeks at NW Glisan at 14th Ave.

Wondering what the latest trends in headphones were, I learned that for all those who work in cubicle-America, headphones offer a way to block out noise and facilitate better concentration. Sure they do.

I left the store with a couple of goodies, well I had them shipped home because my suitcase was already full of Portland memorabilia.

Which got me thinking…

This week on the run up to Labor Day — it’s gotta be a slow week at the office for a lotta folks.

Why not grab your ‘phones or your ‘buds and improve your cubicle concentration.

Need some content?

I’ll bet you’ve got some catching up to do right here with some of the 52 audio interviews. iPhone users, click here.


Breakers Drive Memories, Peg Parrott

Posted August 6, 2013 By Frank

Sisters Peggie and Bonnie grew up on Breakers Drive. They own homes next to each other. Recently they’ve both torn down the old homes to build beautiful beach homes. Peg’s home is for sale and before she leaves the neighborhood I asked her to share some of her stories growing up at Big Corona beach.

Mr. Tate ran the beach when we first moved to Breakers Dr. He lived in a one-story home at the end of the block on the sand side. He was a burly man and a little gruff. Every morning he would clean the beach with a contraption on his vehicle that would sift through the sand so that he could check for valuables. One day my brother (maybe 8 years old) had a sifter and proceeded to work the beach — Whamo! Mr. Tate was after him and let him know the beach was his!

He ran a tight ship hiring good workers, mostly young guys who loved the beach. These workers did the landscape maintenance, parking collection and beach rentals. The concession stands were separate. I don’t remember when the city took over but the parking lot in front of our house was black-topped and became a permanent lot, and Tate just vanished along with his house. The city now had control of the beach.

The concession stands were a motley group, but ah the food was terrific. Of about 10 stands, Kirkwood’s was on the edge so did the most business, decent hamburgers, shakes and malteds. Next was the taco stand, delicious! A couple more stands down had fresh-squeezed orange juice and fat hamburgers — the best! Bonnie and I worked at Kirkwood’s and Mr. Kirkwood went to work at the Ace Hardware store when the city tore down the seasonal stands. A couple of more contemporary stands were built.

One of Tate’s workers applied to the city to continue to care for the beach. I can’t remember his name, it will come to me in the middle of the night! He won the contract for the concessions. Even though he was a good guy, the food was mediocre and it was never the same. He had lots of competition for the contract every year and once he went to the Breakers neighbors to ask for letters of recommendation. He won the contract and Bob McAllister got some cookies for the nice recommendation! Don’t know when the city had big plans for construction for the new eatery and 2-story life-guard stand but all was torn down and new buildings constructed.

Next will be the “Neighbors on the block” or if you have any questions about those early days I will try to answer.

Contiune reading Part II.


Remembering Dad’s Advice

Posted June 16, 2013 By Frank

Some girls will,
    Some girls won’t,
        The only way to tell is to ask.

My sister works in Big Media; she emailed:

My radio station is doing a segment on “The Greatest Advice Your Father Ever Gave You.” I thought we would get some fun responses if I sent it to the family! Send me your thoughts?

I’m guessing she’ll edit out my contribution; besides of course, she never heard him say any such thing.

Before you question the virtue of his advice let me quickly add,

Treat every girl as you would your sister.

This was one pearl of wisdom I never forgot. I had lots of sisters, three in all plus two brothers. Since I was the oldest of 6 kids, my percentage of his attention shrank every year back in the day. There were more mouths to feed at the table, too. We weren’t poor, but by no means were we affluent. By way of example, I remember looking for him, but my dad wouldn’t be in the house, so I’d ask my mother,

He’s under the car again.

He was always doing his own car repairs and maintenance. He squeezed every nickel.

I remember one night as a kid, standing in a checkout line; I had picked out a new pair of gloves. “You’ve got the money to pay for that yourself.” And I did. It was my first memory of financial independence. I had a paper route delivering the Boston Globe. Today there are no paper boys or girls, but in the 1960s I would load the bike each morning before school. It being Massachusetts, there were many mornings when cold or rain would make my rounds difficult. I don’t remember the rainy days, but when the thermometer dropped below 10º I could wake my dad for a ride around the neighborhood.

He had great observation skills. For example, there might be a pretty girl walking a dog and he’d say, so matter of factly,

Nice dog, eh Fran?

He was subtle like that.

I have to confess — I’ve passed this quirk on to my kids.

My dad was easy-going. I have many memories of my misbehavior as a teen and whatever reprimand he’d have for me at the time would be completely forgotten the next day – never to be spoken of again. I think this helped me learn to forgive myself – I have tried to treat my own kids this way, too.

Arguing was not his style,

Let it pass

I remember him advising once, not that long ago, when I was arguing with my mother. And I’ve come to understand that issues and urgency too often go together.

Speaking of Mom, she was third generation Irish with many of the feisty personality traits I’ve inherited. But dad would often simply suggest,

Breathe through your nose

when my temper would boil. I’ve tried to pass this along to my boys, too.

Vancouver, B.C. 1982

Vancouver, B.C. April 1982


New Hobby

Posted June 5, 2013 By Frank

It’s another breezy day in Orange County, great for sailing, not for riding.
I went for a ride after lunch; it felt like I was in a wind tunnel. Again.

I can’t remember when it’s been so consistently windy. Every day.

There’s been one day of June gloom so far; the breeze keeps blowing away the marine layer.

I tried sitting out on the deck with a book, but the wind blew the umbrella over, twice. Same yesterday, too.

Since when did Southern California become such a sailing Mecca?

Maybe I need a new hobby. Or maybe I should hitch a spinnaker to the bicycle…

Horse Trading Public Health

Posted April 1, 2013 By Frank

Mayor Curry

Read Mayor Curry’s letter

The story heated up today when Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry released a letter he wrote to his counterpart in Huntington Beach.

The topic is fire rings. The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to remove 60 local fire rings. The next step was a trip to the California Coastal Commission to acquire the necessary permit. That’s when things got interesting because 4 members of the CCC also sit on their local air quality boards including Dr. Burke, Board Chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The AQMD has authority for 4 counties: LA, Riverside, San Bernandino and Orange; this region includes 41% of the population of California. Potentially, the AQMD could ban up to 836 fire rings along the coast.

Things were going well, as the AQMD issued a draft proposal that would revise their Rule 444 to ban all beach burning. That’s when Huntington Beach woke up and jumped into the fray. Mayor Connie Boardman wrote a strongly worded letter of protest and then last week at a public hearing at AQMD headquarters, several HB residents and employees of the HB Visitors Bureau attended to speak their mind.
Continue reading “Horse Trading Public Health” »

Big Data at Big Corona

Posted March 29, 2013 By Frank

As you already know, I’m on a clean air kick of late, so you can imagine my excitement when the AQMD arrives and starts installing some pretty fancy looking air quality monitoring devices here at the beach.

The District’s got till May 3rd to gather data and make their decision. The board meeting was set before the issue of the fire rings even came up. They want to change Rule 444 to ban beach fires. The public backlash, especially in Huntington Beach, is causing them to gather more data.

Of the 836 fire rings in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, 465 are in Huntington Beach and Bolsa Chica, yet ironically they say,

We don’t have a single citizen complaint.

That’s because they’re all calling my house to complain.

The AQMD spent all day installing air quality monitoring devices

The AQMD spent all day installing air quality monitoring devices here at Big Corona

Yeah, sure. This is the lifeguard building, but it's unsettling to see the Lifeguards involved in the installation of the air monitring equipment when the head of the Lifeguards is such an advocate for maintaining the status quo. Is this fair?

Yeah, sure, this is the lifeguard building, but it’s unsettling to see the Lifeguards involved in the installation of the air monitoring equipment when the head of the Lifeguards is such a blatant advocate for maintaining the status quo. Is this fair? Did the Lifeguards already sabotage this effort by convincing the AQMD that this side of the roof, the side blocked from half the fire rings, was the only safe place for installing the equipment? Is this equipment on the wrong side of the roof?

Who's truck is this? And why is it parked between the AQMD installation trucks?

Who’s truck is this? And why is it parked between the AQMD installation trucks?

Must just be a coincidence, eh? What's PITFAN1 doing here?

Must just be a coincidence, eh? What’s PITFAN1 doing here?

How about some wood to go with those nails

How about some wood to go with those nails?
And it’s especially nice to see the painted wood that’s about to go up in smoke…

Whatever's left over is gonna get thrown into the fire ring later

Some nights you just gotta keep squirting the lighter fluid to keep the fire going.
Whatever’s left over is gonna get thrown into the fire ring later.
It’s a nice toxic combo – smoke from the fires and fumes from the lighter fluid.

Summit Sentiments

Posted March 8, 2013 By Frank

at the Capital

The Bloomberg Administration is in its final months, but NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn had nothing to say about where she’ll land next. She has little to worry about; JSK will land on her feet in some major metropolitan area. Today vital cities are competing for the companies that provide the modern high-tech jobs that attract people who want to walk their neighborhoods and bike to work. The era of aspiring to a big house miles out of town that comes with a long commute by car, that time has run its course.

Maybe imperceptibly at home in Orange County, but nationally car miles driven continues to fall.

Trending down

This is good news for our cities and even better for our health and personal finances. Forward thinking mayors, like Indianapolis’ Greg Ballard, know they’re in a competitive marketplace. The work they’re doing to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists is paying off.

So I feel a little overwhelmed as I sit in these sessions and listen to the amazing projects other bike advocates are tackling — there’s a feverish process at work to create safer conditions for cyclists so as to gain the economic development benefits, as well as reduced traffic and congestion.

If I wasn’t here, I might not believe all these tales of urban renewal due to the bike effect.

I’ve been to the Bike Summit before and come home equally charged up. The challenge again is how to take what I’ve learned and find a way to weave these best practices into the about-to-begin Bicycle Master Plan for Newport Beach.

* * * * * * *

Megan Odett of Kidical Mass DC, photo by Tanya Snyder

Megan Odett of Kidical Mass DC, photo by Tanya Snyder

Of all the sessions and all the speakers, what keeps echoing in my ears?

Megan Odett, founder of Kidical Mass DC, told her stories of getting Mom and Dad out on bikes with their young kids. There’s a lot to her story and she delivered it well. She took her audience on an emotional roller coaster that left a lasting impression.

to the Summit

Posted March 2, 2013 By Frank

I’m off for a weekend in Washington, D.C. as the National Bike Summit begins.


Today is all about getting there, then Sunday, a bike ride. The only problem is the temperature. I haven’t confessed to my local pals that when it’s this cold here in Newport Beach, which happens once or twice a year, I won’t leave the house, let alone ride a bike. I don’t deal with the cold like I once could.

Yes, I’m a big baby and I’ve been fretting the weather ever since I registered. When I attended in 2011, DC was frigid; this trip I’m better prepared.

Sunday night’s dinner, somewhere remarkable I hope, will snap me out of this funk. Then Monday kicks off the week with the National Women’s Cycling Forum.

Things will warm up quickly; I have many new friends who I’ll be meeting in person for the first time.

Stay tuned for more updates…



Parking: Price it Properly

Posted February 21, 2013 By Frank
City of Newport Beach Finance head Dan Matusiewicz

At this morning’s CdM Residents Association meeting
Newport Beach Deputy Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz outlines a new Big Corona parking plan

There’s talk of an automated parking system coming to Big Corona.

It’s early-on in the discussions, but I’m already impressed with the many opportunities.

Why did I get so excited? What’s the connection between optimizing car parking and bike safety?

My intuition tells me this parking system might be a step in the long process of increasingly restraining parked cars from the jewel-like centers of our fair city.

My interest piqued last month when the CdM BID’s sidewalk widening proposal was cut back. The sidewalk will get wider, but not nearly as much as many hoped. It’ll get wider due to the removal of 8 parking places.

A Comprehensive Parking Plan?
As you know, merchants, restauranteurs and residents – no one wants to give up any parking, so the public was promised 8 replacement spaces, and surely everyone assumed they’d be just around the corner. As skepticism grew we then heard calls for a “Comprehensive Parking Plan”. I admit, I was skeptical at first. After all, if there was any available street space, it would already have a car parked in it. Surely this would be a fool’s errand. Now I must eat my hat.


Smartphone apps convey a certain coolness factor,
but I wish bike racks were bundled into the package.

Replacement spaces? Maybe I’m guilty of thinking too narrowly. One thing I’m sure of, there’s a lot of poorly managed parking places in the beach parking lot at Big Corona.

Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking A door stop? Almost, so check out the short version here.

Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking

As Tina Fey would parody John McCain’s VP candidate, “I can see it from my house,” the parking lot, that is, and it’s not very full this week — yes, due to cool weather, but the kids have the week off, so I expected more people at the beach.

It’s no wonder the parking lot is mostly empty – the $15/day fee seems like a bad deal to most folks, especially when there’s free parking up above in the Flower Streets. So beach goers cruise through Corona del Mar, creating additional congestion while looking for a better economic option. If instead we tweaked the cost of parking based on supply and demand, a quiet day like today might only cost $2. One big change I expect – people’s perception of “Is it a good deal?” will change immediately. The way we manage it now seems positively primitive – a fixed price everyday of the year with a kicker on the big summer holidays. Demand pricing will adjust in real time.

What’ll come next?
After we optimize parking at Big Corona, are there opportunities in the Flower Streets? Along Coast Hwy?
How does Supply and Demand see all those parked cars on Coast Hwy, for free?

Anne Lutz Fernandez

Anne Lutz Fernandez

Carjacked author Anne Lutz Fernandez points out that parking’s an issue almost everywhere:

Americans have come to see free parking, like cheap gas, as a right rather than a privilege that has been granted drivers above users of other modes over the course of a century of public policy choices. Drivers can belly up to their destinations in one of 105 million parking spaces in the United States. Together, these paved surfaces match the square mileage of the state of Georgia.

But is this automated parking system a good fit for Big Corona?

Localities are asking the wrong question when they ask, do we need to provide more parking? A better question is, do we need to improve access to businesses and attractions? Focusing on serving people rather than cars enables places to provide more socially equitable access, more eco-friendly access, and more budget-conscious access. This is especially important when thinking about how to allow residents and visitors to enjoy the natural resources and public spaces that belong to all of us.

Donald Shoup explains his thesis

“Parking’s a resource and must be managed properly,” UCLA’s Donald Shoup explains The High Cost of Free Parking

Everyone agrees, we need more bike parking, but cities are strapped, and when they have money they may be slow to spend it on bike racks.

For Central Parking, Newport Beach’s apparent vendor of choice, this could be one more checkbox for municipalities to select when they opt for an automated parking system; it would salve our city leaders’ conscience and go a long way to delivering on the promise.

One thing I’m sure about, with this new system more cars will be parking at the beach. Today, drivers are discouraged due to the high flat fee, but in the middle of February there’s an over-supply. The metaphor will change and people will come because they’ll know whatever the cost, it will be priced fairly.

We need more transportation innovations, this is an encouraging move.

As UCI’s Supervisor of Sustainable Transportation, Ramon Zavala told me,

Provide the parking, watch it fill up, and watch more cyclists roll in.