Category Archives: Media

A New Generation of Cargo Bikes: Hauling with Human Power in the 21st Century

Halloween ride from Menlo Park to Santa Cruz on my new Frances tourer, with Pass and Stow and Bruce Gordon racks- sure beats Highway 17!

The new Make Magazine is out on the streets, and with it, my article on cargo bicycles, entitled Cargo Bike Power: Car-Free Carrying Makes a Comeback.  In the course of my research, I interviewed innovators and relatively new entrants into the industry, like Josh Muir and Saul Griffith as well as legends of cargo bike applications and design like Erik Zo and Stephen Bilenky.

I was so impressed with Josh Muir’s Frances Cycles (I mean it’s hard not to pant and drool over the beautiful bikes on his website) that I ordered my own custom, all around touring bike, which arrived a couple of months ago.  I’ve done a couple of long rides on it, including from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo along the Big Sur Coast (below) and a Halloween ride from Menlo Park to Santa Cruz via the Ridge Trail (above).  It’s so nice to have a large front rack- perfect size for a medium pizza or 12 pack of beer!

I just love a bike that you can take on and off road, that is light enough for a pleasurable roadie rec ride, but is substantial enough that you don’t have to worry about breaking it if you hit a pothole.   If you’re going to own one bike, I’ve found that a touring bike is the most practical.  Of course, you’re not going to want to leave this on the street unattended for any length of time, so a beater bike is also essential if you are living car-free.

It was exciting to learn more about, and share the innovations going on in the bicycle industry.  It is likely that as the economy continues to slow, we will see more bicycle manufacturing return to the US, where labor isn’t as expensive as it once was.  The most exciting, high quality framebuilding is happening in small batches in backyards throughout the country.   From Josh Muir, the framebuilding artisan who takes a stylistic page out of the early years of bicycle building, to Saul Griffith, whose Onya Cycles attempts to replicate the abilities of a car, with CAD design and electrical assist, there is a noticeable level of new energy in designing personal mobility that does not rely on internal combustion.

Need a new bike?   Consider a cargo carrying variety!  Or simply modify your existing steed and bring out the inner hauling beast!  Need to move that mattress across town?  You haul not U-Haul!

Even heavy, bulky and awkward loads can be carried by bike! (2004, Haight St. SF)

The Bike Song

Go Mark Ronson!  This is one cool video :)

Fix Fell Demands Safe Streets as a Human Right

Stop PG&E’s Wireless Assault

I’ve settled down with my honey in the Santa Cruz Mountains now, and helped to start the Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Meters (SVNASM).    We are a resident-led local organization fighting PG&E’s plans to force inaccurate, potentially health damaging meters onto the nice people of California. If you haven’t woken up to the health impacts of cell phones, wifi, and now smart meters, now is a good time to start asking questions.  I was truly appalled after reading the health studies over the past couple months.

On July 21st 2010, we successfully lobbied the Scotts Valley City Council to sign on to official petitions to the CPUC demanding a moratorium on the installation of smart meters.  Listening to reason and evidence, the City of Capitola joined us the following evening.

Around the state of CA, there is a growing rebellion against these plans that- for a $2.2 billion project- don’t seem to have been all that thought through.  We’ve been speaking out, highlighting the connection between SF’s recent cell phone radiation right to know law and the new wireless (not so) smart meters.  Some awkward truths coming out for sure.

Read about PG&E’s illegal activities in Scotts Valley and take action.   Come to the protest Aug. 12th 1pm at the CPUC in SF at Van Ness and McAllister.

Hollywood Exporting Car Dependence

The other day, my mom’s neighbor saw me arriving by bike from Marin County (about 60 miles away), and told me how impressed she was with the ‘sacrifice’ I was making by not driving.   I thanked her, and said that actually I quite enjoy riding my bike, as well as the relaxing time I spend on the ferry and the train, and that I was impressed with the sacrifice she was making by sitting in gridlock on the freeway every day on the way to work.  She laughed, and said, “I guess that’s another way of looking at it.”

The mainstream ‘way of looking at it’ did not come about by accident.  It is very much a manufactured perspective that dictates transportation social norms.  Where do these norms come from?   You might have guessed from the title of this post.

The details of this manipulation are described in the excellent article by Tom Vanderbilt that appeared on Slate.com last Friday about the way Hollywood depicts people who don’t drive.   It would be hard to overemphasize the power that films have over people’s style and behavior- not only in this country, but all over the world.  This fantasy image marketing has very real impacts in the real world as people choose to drive- not because it’s practical- but because they think it will get them laid.

Whether it’s a case of displaying what screenwriters and producers see around them every day in LA, or something more sinister (think about who profits if we drive more) there are layers of meaning behind the stereotypes of people who are car free.

Too bad for Hollywood- they will have to play catch up.   Cause this movement isn’t waiting for some navel gazing producer to catch on to the fact that bikes are hot shit these days…..

How ‘Smart’ is Brain Cancer?

PG&E wants to rush ‘smart’ meters onto people’s homes before we  realize they can cause cancer

After California’s utility PG&E was firmly smacked down with  the defeat of Prop. 16 last month- an attempt by the corporate behemoth to extend their monopoly over the electricity market, while preventing local cities and counties from selling renewable energy to customers at lower prices- you would think the company would have learned a lesson about shoving things down the throat of the public.  Predictably, the opposite appears to be the case, as PG&E attempts to install their so-called “Smart” Meters on every home and business in their service area, which encompasses most of California.

The new meters use wireless technology- short, high intensity bursts of microwave radiation that communicates your energy use data to the utility.  With very little public input, or even advance notice, PG&E has already installed over six million of the meters.  It began in the Central Valley, where reports of inaccurate bills and even spontaneously combusting meters typically followed wherever they were installed.

When I first heard the scare stories about smart meters, I have to admit I was sceptical.  Surely the government wouldn’t allow the widespread installation of a technology with uncertain health effects in places where we live, work and sleep?  Surely any reported illnesses related to cell phones, wifi, or indeed the new smart meters were simply  paranoid delusions.  Surely the smart meter scare belonged in the dusty file next to UFO’s and reptilian shapeshifters running the government.

Not so fast.  The more I looked into the issue, the more concerned I became.  The industry says that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones, wifi, and smart meters is absolutely safe.   They point to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that place an upper limit on the amount of radiation that can be absorbed by human beings over the course of a half hour (the so-called Specific Absorption Rate).   Essentially this is a measurement of how much human flesh heats up in response to a given amount of radiation. ‘If it doesn’t heat you, it doesn’t hurt you,’ as the saying goes.   Mary Beth Brangan, an activist who has been fighting wireless expansion in Bolinas, says:

“PG&E claims that smart meter emissions are below FCC standards, which are completely irrelevant since the outmoded FCC standard is based on preventing a 6 ft. 185 lb. male from being cooked like a hot dog in a microwave oven from a single 30 min. exposure.  So you can imagine how high that level would have to be.  There are no FCC standards or tests done for constant, chronic exposure from multiple sources or for effects other than heating.  And many studies have proven double strand DNA breaks are caused by chronic exposure to relatively low levels of radiation – such as that from cell phones. Double strand breaks mean that the body can’t repair them and that may cause many ill effects such as tumors, etc.  Also, the electrical system of the body is affected.  Smart meter mesh networks mean we’ll be exposed to criss-crossing pulses of radiation constantly from meters everywhere.”

Having a regular smart meter on your house is bad enough.  But it gets worse.  You may not even be aware that you have a ‘repeater’ meter on your house that collects data from up to 1000 adjacent houses, and sends it to PG&E, emitting higher levels of electromagnetic radiation nearly constantly.

The wireless industry tells us that EMF is perfectly safe (based on industry funded studies) and that this justifies an unlimited expansion of electromagnetic radiation throughout our communities.   Other voices (who aren’t profiting from the expansion of cell phone technology) argue that this uncertainty is reason to tread cautiously.  They point out that the government once insisted that asbestos and smoking were safe, leading to the suffering and deaths of thousands.

Since PG&E began rolling out their “SmartMeter” program, the health risks of wireless technology have become more widely known to the public.  In June, San Francisco passed the nation’s first “right to know law” requiring that cell phones sold in the city include their radiation levels.  This has generated something of an earthquake within the wireless industry, who have covered up the health risks of their product for many years – and, like a child throwing a tantrum when you take away their toys, the industry has pulled its annual conference out of the City, as reported by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times.

While countries like the US, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and others (presumably where industry has significant influence over government policy) do not consider any potential effects beyond the heating of our flesh, other countries such as Russia, Switzerland, Italy and Hungary take a more precautionary approach- setting permitted levels of electromagnetic radiation far lower.  These countries agree that the jury is still out on the question of electromagnetic health impacts, and that our cell phones might very well might be having serious impacts on our the living cells within our bodies.

This is not really that radical an idea, after all.  Considering that each part of the human body- particularly the heart- emits electromagnetic radiation throughout the body as a way of regulating basic life support systems, doesn’t it make sense to tread a little cautiously here?  Some like author Stephen Buhner have even suggested that subtle electromagnetic impulses form the basis of an ancient, subtle means of communication between living things.  It sounds a little bit far fetched, but can we dismiss this idea entirely?  In experiments, plants hooked up to lie detector equipment register a reaction when an experimenter simply thinks about cutting or burning it.    Is this the reputed sixth sense- the language of the heart?   And if it is, how is the electrosmog of wifi, cell transmissions, and various radio communications affecting this sense among not just humans but the rest of the natural world as well?

Could this be what has gone so wrong with our societies?  Could we have been unknowingly robbed of our innate empathy for living things?  Our internal biological compasses gone haywire from millions of smart meters, cell phones, and EMF spewing satellites in orbit?

As we know, the government has been spectacularly bad at regulating industry to ensure our safety- and when they have- usually dragged kicking and screaming to sensible precaution by public figures like Ralph Nader- the half measures enacted seem more geared toward ensuring the profits keep rolling in than protecting the public.

As a result, at the start of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, we have become simians constantly bombarded by electrosmog.   Drinking in tap water of pharmaceutical traces, subject to lead, mercury, asbestos, as well as millions of chemical combinations we don’t even know about, electrosmog from wifi and cell phone towers, toxic air pollution, and petrochemical residues on our food and in our water.  I knew something wasn’t quite right with everything- I just couldn’t put my finger on it.   That sense of dread.  That sense that something is deeply awry.

According to Nathaniel Rich of Harper’s Magazine:

The existence of killer waves would, however, explain a lot. We’d have a much more comprehensive understanding of how and why we get cancer, for starters. We’d also understand why we sometimes get headaches after using a cell phone for a long period of time; why it seems like we know a surprisingly large number of young people with unusual cancers; why we struggle to remember incidental facts; why we used to be able to do the Sunday crossword but can now make it only through Friday; why our children have so much difficulty sitting still and reading books and speaking in complete sentences; why we get sad for no reason; why sometimes, when we look at our loved ones, for a bizarre split second we don’t recognize them; why it can seem that our lives are guided by some dark, implacable force; and why, when we sit up straight in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, we feel a dizzying sense of panic at the hopelessness of it all.

I began to think about the times I was on my cell phone- (especially when I was on the train when the cell emits high levels of radiation in order to find the next tower) when I felt a warming, and a sort of pressure building behind my temple.  Things started to fall into place.

Enough is enough.  How could I have been so blind?

Four months ago, I gave up my cell phone, and when it came time to order internet service at my new house, AT&T asked if I wanted a free wireless router and I said ‘no thanks.’

The smart meter scandal- and it is a scandal- is proving to be an eminently teachable moment, much to the dismay of the wireless industry.   The arrogance of PG&E in assuming that since most people have wifi and cell phones these days, that no one would mind a little extra radiation in their home- has proven to be a spectacular misjudgment.   And no doubt there are recriminations happening in corporate boardrooms as we speak, wondering whether perhaps they have overreached, shedding light on the dirty little secret of the cell phone/ wifi cash cow.

Now we have started campaigning in Scotts Valley against smart meters.  And even in this conservative town, people are angry about the mandatory radiation that PG&E wants to inflict on our homes, backed by the Schwarzenegger appointed industry hacks at the CPUC.

PG&E’s reckless, unilateral decision to install ‘smart meters’ throughout the places we live and work is not an isolated incident.   It is one facet of a worldview that says that the environment, and human health and safety is expendable but the bottom line is not.

We delay action on climate change because we don’t know all the effects of spewing five billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.

We fail to adequately regulate deepwater drilling, pacified by industry reassurances that they have safety and incident response plans worked out (I imagine that the cocaine and sex probably helped).

I am not one to reject technology just because it’s technology.  But the burden to prove new technologies are safe must be placed on the companies or institutions who introduce them into our lives, not on members of the public or the government.

We need to make the precautionary principle the bedrock of our regulatory agencies.

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

The ‘smart’ meter debate is heating up.   To find out when PG&E will be bathing your neighborhood in radiation, click here.  For information on how to resist, click here.  For more information about the health impacts of EMF, visit the EMF Safety Network.

New York Times: Our “Anti-Car Crusade”

Me and Four of SF's finest. Thank you NYT for picking the worst photo of me you could possibly find.

Our Arco protests received national coverage in the New York Times today.  Apart from being overly conciliatory to the station owner, who is really an aggressive and dangerous man, unfair in its portrayal of protesters shouting ‘where’s your bike?’ as being vitriolic (I think inviting- perhaps chiding- would have been more accurate),  quoting Rob Anderson saying basically that we hate disabled people who can’t ride a bike (the most desperate and manufactured line in the book), and saying that Streetsblog is ‘anti-car’ (I wish that they were), the piece was welcome national coverage of the blind spot that obscures our own car addiction when it comes to analysis of the reasons behind the Gulf spill.

One can always criticize media coverage- I gave Scott James numerous relevant facts and reasons for our position, which were not included.   But, at least there is discussion of this issue in the mainstream media- I mean when was the last time you heard about the ‘anti-car movement?’ from CBS, NBC, ABC, The Washington Post, or The New York Times?  We haven’t even had an article in the “Caronicle” (though they did publish some nice pics).

Join us this Friday and every Friday 5:30-7:30pm Divisadero and Fell Streets, San Francisco until we have safe passage for oil-free transport across the city.

SF Arco/BP Protests Week 4

Talking Surface Travel with KPFA

I was on KPFA’s Terra Verde show hosted by Adam Greenfield last Friday. talking about surface travel, the Arco/BP protests, and what regular people can do in the face of environmental collapse.  Listen here:

http://kpfa.org/archive/id/62134

If anyone finds out what the past tense of ‘dive’ is, please let me know ;)

SF Critical Mass Visits Fell St. Arco Protest

By the way, I’m wearing the facemask and keffiyah to protect against all that pollution on Fell St.– any resemblance to an anarchist is purely coincidental.