Category Archives: Nature

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)

PG&E Hiding From Smart Meter Protests

Mercury Found in SF Water Supply

Crystal Springs Reservoir: Pristine Looking, But Contaminated with the Toxins from our Excess Consumption

I read this article in the Chronicle about a month ago, and its been festering in the back of my mind since then.  I didn’t want to let it pass without mentioning it on my blog.   Essentially- if you haven’t heard- scientists recently sampled fish living in Crystal Springs Reservoir, the source of drinking water for much of the San Francisco Bay Area, and they found some of the highest levels of mercury- a powerful neurotoxin- in any body of water anywhere in the state.

They suspect that the mercury is being carried from Chinese coal fired power stations by clouds across the Pacific, where it is deposited across California in the form of rain, leaving a toxic residue across the land, where it builds up in bodies of water, including reservoirs, and bodies of fish and other animals (like us).

It’s pretty clear that our attempt to distance ourselves from dirty manufacturing by offshoring factories in places where poor brown people live has been a tragic, shortsighted failure.    We live on a small planet, and we cannot run from the effects of our excess consumption.

What I’m having a hard time understanding is this:  when a multinational corporation wants to set up shop in 100 different countries, getting a permit to operate, citing its factories where labor is cheap and selling its products where the money is, there is no problem.   But when it comes to enforcing international environmental issues like toxic mercury pollution or climate change, we are told we are powerless.

According to Tim Ramirez of the State’s water board, “if it’s airborne pollution from a global source, that’s going to be hard for us to do something about.”

I beg to differ.  We can begin to charge corporations the real price of manufacturing their products in a filthy, irresponsible way.  We can force them to pay for the externalities that they impose on the rest of us with impunity.

And individually, we can stop buying cheap plastic crap that we don’t really need.

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.

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 ;)

Cats

Donald Appleyard always used to say that the measure of a livable street was if a cat could lie out in the middle of the road.   Chances are it was a good habitat for humans as well.    When Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats into Cats the following didn’t make the cut:

“Old Deuteronomy sits in the street,

He sits in the High Street on market day…

The cars and the lorries run over the kerb,

And the villagers put up a notice: ROAD CLOSED-

So that nothing untoward may chance to disturb

Deuteronomy’s rest when he feels so disposed

Or when he’s engaged in domestic economy…”

The people in my study who lived on 20,000 car/ day Muller Rd. in Bristol didn’t let their cats lie out in the road.   In fact, virtually all of them had given up owning pets entirely.   The heartbreak of losing them was just too much for them to bear….

Plug the Holes or We Won’t Go

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zIxlsDZOmM]

We will return to the Arco station every week to peacefully block the Fell St. entrances until BP plugs the holes in the Gulf and until the City plugs the dangerous driveways on Fell and makes it safe for people to live less oil dependent lives.

Fridays 5:30pm-8:30pm Fell and Divisadero San Francisco

Special thanks to Janel Sterbentz for producing this video- if the BABC won’t put her talents to use then we certainly will!

Full text of speech available here.