Tagged: bicycle

Beautiful Weather on an Easter Sunday in Oakland

The weather was at 75 deg F (24 deg C) with a slight breeze. Perfect weather for any activity especially riding a bicycle around Lake Merritt.

Boots and Sunglasses, perfect on a sunny Sunday.

Tank top, sunglasses, and boots- perfect on a sunny Sunday.

Sunglasses and sandals, as easy as 123 on a bike.

Sunglasses and sandals, as easy as 1-2-3 on a bike.

Tattoos and a purple bike, reminds of those easter eggs.

A shiny smooth purple bike reminds me of Easter eggs.

Happy Easter everyone!

What is better than biking? (continued)

Last post, I shared the first part of our experience biking in Half Moon Bay and cooking a recipe from a bicycle/camping cookbook called The Weekender by Pedal Inn. I continue here with the second part.

I cut the red cabbage on top of a small cutting board on top of my backpack! The Pedal Inn folks might laugh at me if they saw. =)

I cut the red cabbage on top of a small cutting board on top of my backpack! The Pedal Inn folks might have laughed at me if they saw. =)

So, what happened to that pot of cabbage?

Sadly, for our stomaches, nothing!

Because of the strong and cold winds, the water could not get to a temperature hot enough to boil. The wind kept minimizing the flames from the propane stove. So I could not boil the shredded cabbage and when it had come time to sautee it in the pan, I surely wouldn’t have been able to. The cabbage was an essential part of the Eggs Benedict recipe- the delightfully poached eggs were to sit upon a savory bed of sautéed red cabbage with onions and garlic, topped with creme fraiche and served with slices of hearty bread. We tried cracking an egg into the pot to see if it would cook and it never did.

While we were still waiting for the pot to boil, a little chubby boy was walking by on the sand and when he saw our pot he exclaimed, “That’s cool!” In my head, I was like, “You have no idea, kid!” Chris said he got really appetized waiting for the pot to boil and had been looking forward to the meal. So we were both disappointed when we couldn’t get the stove hot enough to cook the food.

I was sure the dish would have been delicious if we had been able to cook it. The windy and cold weather did not cooperate with our plans, and we later found out that the first part of the year is not really the best time to visit Half Moon Bay. It is warmer and less windy during the latter half of the year. Also, I used a propane stove which I think is designed more for indoor use. They make stoves specifically for camping and those burn alcohol. Maybe that could have withstood the wind better.

Defeated, we packed up our stuff, shook the sand out of our bikes and then headed home. But in my head, I was determined to try this dish. I had to know how it tasted! I was going to try again, but this time in my own kitchen. I still had the unopened pack of creme fraiche. I had the carton of eggs we bought and there was still a lot of red cabbage left.

One morning soon after our excursion, I made the recipe at home and it came out fantastic! The flavors blended wonderfully and the dish seemed fresh and healthy. I don’t have a lot of experience poaching eggs so I kind of overdid them, but nevertheless, when I ate them with creme fraiche, it was heaven. I could imagine how much more wonderful it would have been to eat this dish at Half Moon Bay on a good day, with the sights of the sea, sky, and cliffs.

I didn't make the poached eggs well, but the dish still came out delicious especially because of the creme fraiche.

I didn’t make the poached eggs well, but the dish still came out delicious especially because of the creme fraiche.

Now, about The Weekender cookbook, I really liked and learned many things from it and the whole experience. I now use the combo of creme fraiche with poached eggs on a regular basis- yum. Even though I don’t personally feel cut out for camping and cooking outdoors, I think the recipes are still great for cooking at home. I think they really represent the flavors of California and Bay Area cuisine. For anyone who loves the outdoors, camping, biking, and cooking or is curious to try, I think this cookbook is the perfect resource for you. It will challenge you a bit which is what I think is part of what makes the outdoors exciting. Challenging yourself to go to new places, climb a hill or mountain (with your two feet or two wheels), and then achieving that great reward at the end- a sense of accomplishment, amazing and breathtaking views, and renewed sense of wonder about nature and the world.

As it pertains more to biking, it is also a great reflection of the biking experience. In a previous post titled Exploring A City by Bicycle (a love letter to urban biking), I wrote about how biking is a very sensory experience where almost all your senses are engaged. When biking, you see many things with your eyes, you hear and smell the world around you, and you feel the breeze on your skin. The one sense missing is that of taste. This cookbook, The Weekender, fills in that last piece bringing the biking experience and taste together to create a complete experience for all your senses. So I believe that with this book, and with those who have the initiative and drive for adventure (and good eats), the rewards reaped will be like a “sweet song that you [and your tastebuds] will remember for as long as you can”.

Pedal Inn Weekender Cookbook
Currently $19.95 USD for the print edition at their online store

THE PEDAL INN WEEKENDER INCLUDES:
♥ 5 Weekender menus, inspired by 5 enticing Bay Area bike camping destinations
♥ 25 camp-tested recipes for two hungry cyclists
♥ Meal plans ideal for the overnight jaunt or for the savvy home cook
♥ Dishes designed for flavor & freshness first but with an eye towards ease and efficiency
♥ Tips, insights, and inspiration helpful for new and experienced bike campers alike
♥ Weather-resistant, tour-worthy vinyl pouch, fit for a cycling jersey or handlebar mount

There is also an e-book version for $7.95

www.pedalinn.com

pedalinnlogo

What is better than biking?

Answer: Biking and eating!

In this post, I share our experience biking in Half Moon Bay, California and cooking a recipe from The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook right on the beach. If you love biking and eating/cooking, then read on!

hmboverlook

Our bikes and cargo overlooking the sea at Half Moon Bay.

A few years ago, on one of our memorable nights out biking with the SF Bike Party at a rest stop upon a hill taking in the sights of the beautiful city, someone handed us a yellow matchbox with an illustration of a crest on it with “The Pedal Inn” written across the top and an image of two people wearing outdoor gear having a picnic beside their bicycles. On the back it read, “For lovers of adventure and good eating”. I was curious what that was and the woman who handed it to me told me it was a cookbook. I was intrigued because I love biking (that’s the name of our blog) and I love eating and cooking too and here was a couple that had combined these things into a single concept that they could share with others- a cookbook and guide to biking/cooking/camping. After visiting their website at www.pedalinn.com I said to myself, I have to try this one day!

Not too long ago, I decided it was a good time to try out the cookbook. Thanks to Nick and Lindy, the authors of the cookbook, I was able to get a copy of it for myself. When it came in the mail and I unwrapped it, I saw it was beautifully put together. Inside the plastic pouch, was an assortment of booklets/pamphlets. The main book had Weekender written across the front and was nicely illustrated inside and out. The others were more like simple folded pamphlets with recipes in them and were designed to be easy to travel with. Each recipe pamphlet had the name of a great Bay Area biking locale such as China Camp, Lake Del Valle, and Mount Diablo to name a few and the corresponding recipes that matched the theme of each place. The writing was a joy to read and it began to dispel the mysteries of camping/biking/cooking to me.

The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook.

The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook.

You see, although I love biking, I have very little experience in the long-distance touring sort of rides. Also, I have only camped outside maybe once or twice in my life when I was young and my much older sisters took care of everything. They packed the tents and brought all the provisions. I still remember the yummy baked bananas my sister made over the grill using foil but I didn’t really know how it all came together, just that it tasted unbelievably good (something about eating food in the great outdoors enhances it).

So as I perused these guides with names of places that called out to the adventurous side of me, a feeling of anxiety began to set in. After cooking for five nights a week for the past seven years, I can now say I know how to cook with complete confidence. So perhaps it was because I know how to cook that seeing the recipes made me break into a sweat. Because of my experience, I could quickly see this wasn’t just a cookbook about throwing together some Chex Mix to bring with you onto the trail. This was, you could say, gourmet stuff and what made it challenging was picturing myself trying to cook this stuff not in a kitchen in the sterile comfort of my home, but outdoors in an unpredictable and variable environment. I was sure the efforts would probably have been worth it once we tasted the finished dishes, but getting to that point was the hard part.

As I began to plan the trip, I was thinking in my head, “How the heck can I do this? I can’t do this. No, I CAN do this. No, I can’t! Yes, I can! And finally, “Okay, I just won’t camp out overnight and even though I don’t know how I am going to cook this stuff outside, I am going to do it anyway! I will do this whether I can or not.”

Fast forward two weeks later, and it is the morning on a fine Sunday. Chris and I are shuffling around the house trying to pack stuff. I grab our propane stove we have used many times for Chinese hot pot. I grab some spatulas, spoons, and pour some olive oil into a small plastic case. I didn’t pack everything I needed because the idea was that we’d stop by a market along the road during our bike ride to buy fresh ingredients. That would be part of the Pedal Inn experience.

Our destination was Half Moon Bay, a place where we would ride along a path overlooking the sea and then camp out on the beach for the afternoon. The recipe pamphlet for Half Moon Bay was stuffed into our Brompton bag pocket, and we were off in our tiny car with the bikes and cargo stuffed in the back.

When we got to Half Moon Bay, we first stopped into a market on Main Street. We found what we needed there and even a fresh pack of creme fraiche. We were going to make Pedal Inn’s version of Eggs Benedict. They use creme fraiche instead of Hollandaise sauce. That was just the breakfast recipe and the only one I felt confident enough to try. They also had a recipe for dinner and dessert. Dinner was Fish Tacos with Pom-Persimmon Salsa and dessert was Blackberry “Shortcake” in origami folded cups. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? These are also the perfect recipes for Half Moon Bay, a place by the sea that is influenced by Mexican culture due to the migrant workers that live in the area and who work on the local farms.

Red cabbage at Cunha Country Grocery Store at 448 Main St. in Half Moon Bay.

Red cabbage at Cunha Country Grocery Store at 448 Main St. in Half Moon Bay.

We then rode our bikes along the path by the beach and it was a picturesque and lovely experience. The view was amazing and the waves crashing onto the beach were furious. We saw people riding horses and many people walking along the path. People were sitting out on the beach down below. I had the stove in a backpack on my back along with all the ingredients. It was getting kind of heavy. Having panniers would have helped a lot with that.

One of the interesting wooded parts of the path.

One of the interesting wooded parts of the path.

Others rode real horses and we rode horses made of steel. =)

Some people rode horses and we rode horses made of steel.

Ahh, the beautiful sea at Half Moon Bay.

Ahhh, the beautiful sea at Half Moon Bay.

After riding around a bit, we went down to the beach and opened up our picnic blanket. We set our bikes on top of some succulent plants so that less sand would get into the chains. We set up the stove and the wind was blowing so hard, I was afraid that we would not be able to get the fire lit. But it was lit. We poured water into the pot and waited for the water to boil. I cut the red cabbage on a small cutting board on top of my backpack. I added the cabbage to the pot and then…

This story is getting long so check back next post for what happened to the pot of cabbage!

To be continued…

Exploring A City by Bicycle

bicycleside

When you are exploring a city on the seat of a bicycle, you are making a deeper connection with it. You are engaging more of your sensory faculties and your whole body is in motion. With every pedal forward, you are opening yourself up to what is around you, making yourself vulnerable but also much freer. When you are on a bicycle, there is nothing between you and the world around you except a space of air. There is no glass, perfumed interior, no controlled climate which can keep you comfortably contained. The raw elements of the world reach you. But you can be more quick and nimble, and you can choose to go at your own pace- you decide. Almost all of your senses are engaged. With your eyes, you can see wonderful sights- from the shape of a landmark set against the sky, to the reaches of the horizon. You can see humanity around you and the expressions on people’s faces. With your ears you can hear the soundtrack of the world- of laughter and sneezes and conversation, set amidst the medley of city noises. With your nose you can smell the scents of not just exhaust and refuse, but also of trees, flowers, and grass, Chanel perfume, and bread being baked. Most wonderfully is the experience of feeling the wind on your skin and in your hair. Sometimes the air is crisp, sometimes more humid and warm, but always you feel something. This creates a symphony of sensory input that feeds into your body, mind, and imagination. The music of this chorus is like a sweet song that you will remember for as long as you can. It is one of the most delightful and simplest of joys- riding a bicycle in the city and especially one that you love.

Green carpet of super bike sharrows – a new type of bike lane?

Bike sharrow (left) and super bike sharrow (right). Are bike sharrows becoming more common?

Bike sharrow (left) and super bike sharrow (right). Are bike sharrows becoming more common?

I never did like bike sharrows on wide streets that have more than two lanes in any city. I have seen them a lot where the roads have no space for bike lanes. Then not too long ago, I started seeing green-backed bike sharrows, called super sharrows which can be spotted on the Wiggle and Market Street in San Francisco. Now they have taken it up another notch with these carpets of green super sharrows in Long Beach, Salt Lake City, and recently in Oakland. It just reminds me of vehicular cycling (where you ride your bike like a motorist) which has failed miserably to get more people to bike. I hope this doesn’t become a norm.

Green sharrow bike path on 40th St. in Oakland, CA.

Green sharrow bike path on 40th St. in Oakland, CA. Does it make you want to ride on it?

The first time I drove my car in a car lane that had a green sharrow bike path painted on it, although there were no cyclists there,  I felt like I was running over all the cyclists that had ridden there before, in a spiritual sense. – Nellie, Scion IQ driver and bicyclist

A carpet of green sharrow bikeway was put down on 40th Street in September of last year to give bicyclists a safe passage to the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland from Emeryville in the west or Oakland’s Piedmont Ave. in the east. It was said that this was a compromise between having a protected bike lane or doing nothing. Yep, bicyclists always get the bad end of the stick. (I guess they can at least claim they are rolling out the red green carpet for us bicyclists.)

Street sign indicating green sharrow bike path leading to MacArthur BART Station

Street sign indicating green sharrow bike path leading to MacArthur BART Station

We went to Long Beach in 2012 to check out their bike infrastructure and we experienced this type of bikeway. We didn’t like it at first. I thought it was stupid because again, bicyclists have to share a lane with drivers and it seemed like having green paint there was supposed to trick cyclists into thinking they have the lane. After some analysis, I understand now why they did this. The auto traffic through there moved slow at around 8-15 mph (12.9-24 kmh) which is bike speed, with many traffic lights on 2nd St. and it’s on a commercial corridor. In this situation, this type of bikeway may work better than a conventional bike lane because you are away from car door zone. You won’t have to swerve out of the bike lane because of idling cars blocking it, and you can avoid right hooks at intersections.

2nd St. commercial corridor in Long Beach, CA. Notice numerous shops and traffic lights.

2nd St. commercial corridor in Long Beach, CA. Notice numerous shops and traffic lights.

However, I think that the one on Oakland’s 40th St. is a bad idea. I did not feel safe at all going through there because motorists were going as fast as 40 mph (64.4 kmh). You can hear the roaring engine noise from trucks coming from behind, and cars passing you to change into your lane at 3 times your speed and merge into your right of way at any time. I felt vulnerable. Maybe during commute times things may be different (I was there on a late Sunday afternoon and very few cyclists were on it). Still, I can never trust distracted or angry drivers and I see plenty of them on the streets at all hours.

Also, if adding a protected bike lane was going to be so expensive (again, the green sharrow lanes that are there now are a compromise between protected bike lanes and none at all), I don’t understand why street parking couldn’t have been removed to create a buffered bike lane instead, which is cheaper and easier to do. Since this is a residential area with homes that have garages and it is not a commercial area with shops, they do not need the parking. Also, adding a buffered bike lane wouldn’t impede traffic flow.

Note the lack of traffic lights and long distance before each intersection suggests bikes and cars shouldn't be mixed.

Note the lack of traffic lights and the long distances between intersections. That type of environment does not allow for the safe mixing of bikes and cars. There should have been a buffered bike lane instead.

Fortunately, according to this EastBayExpress.com article, this will not be the final design for that street and this is a pilot study. I hope it will not be permanent.

A basket for him and a basket for her

I’ve been sporting a messenger bag while riding for a few years now. That was the only way I knew how to carry stuff while riding my bike. Ever since I started commuting full-time by bicycle, I have noticed that I really need to have less weight on my back and would also like to have a less sweaty back.

I knew about panniers but it seemed a little bit too much for my needs and I also wanted to be able to see the things that I am carrying in front of me (so I can tell if something has fallen out). So instead, I thought that a basket on my bike could work and aesthetically, I just like how a front basket looks on a bike.

Bike Porter from Copenhagen Parts, simple and can pack a decent load.

The Bike Porter from Copenhagen Parts, a chic minimalist design but packs a decent load.

There are many front baskets but none come with the quality build and looks of the Copenhagen Bike Porter. It is a Danish product but you can order it from Mission Bicycle in SF. It has a minimalist look, a trademark of Danish design. It is made out of 6061 aluminum with an integrated handlebar. The size of the basket is 17 in x 14.2 in x 4.33 in (43.3cm x 36cm x 11 cm) and the width of the handlebar is 20 in (508 mm) long. It is about 3.6 lbs (1.63 kg) light but can carry up to 10 times its weight. I once carried an old Hewlett-Packard printer on it (yes, I got a lot of looks and comments on it that day) and there’s no other way I could have carried an object like that on my back or in a pannier. It’s a good-sized basket and retails at $199.

I love what's written on the box.  Yep, 36 bananas,

I love what’s written on the box that the basket comes in. Yep, 36 bananas, 12 boxes of eggs, or 76 pairs of speedo’s can fit into the Bike Porter.

The downside for this rack is that it has big gaps. Stuff can easily fall through but that can be remedied but securing the cargo in different ways, like wrapping it with a couple of bungee cords.

While I like the minimalist design of the Danish, Nellie likes the folksy style of the Dutch. Coincidentally, both countries, Denmark and the Netherlands, are known for their awesome bicycle infrastructure.

Nellie does her grocery shopping sometimes by bike and needs a basket that can hold more than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of groceries. Her old hand-woven basket from Peterboro Basket Company failed to do that. So we got a new basket for her and this new one goes extremely well with her Dutch-style Linus bike. It is a rattan style wicker basket by Eleven81. The wicker plastic material is reinforced with a metal frame while the bottom of the basket is made out of aluminum wires. Its durability, size (15.5 x 11 x 9.38 in/39.4 x 27.9 x 23.8 cm), and very easy lift off/on operation makes it a perfect grocery shopping basket. Now you don’t need to bring your re-usable bag with you to the market. Moreover, if you get stains or debris on it from the grocery items (produce can be very dirty sometimes) or what have you, the smooth material plus the wire mesh bottom make it easy to wash and rinse off. The basket retails at $48 USD.

Eleven81 rattan-style basket.

Eleven81 rattan-style basket, sturdy and convenient.

The only negative she can think of is how the basket affects where you can mount a headlight onto the bike’s handlebar. Because the basket is mounted high above the middle section of the handlebar, the bike light needs to be mounted away from the center so it sits high enough. This makes it harder to see what’s directly in front of you in the dark since the light will not be pointed near the center of your path. But this may not be a problem with other bicycles out there, because the basket may sit differently on each of them.

So, out of all the many bicycle baskets sold out there, we really recommend these two. A basket for him and a basket for her.

Oakland has the potential to be a wonderful bike city

Grand Lake Theatre, a landmark situated in Grand Lake neighborhood.

The Grand Lake Theatre, a well-known landmark of the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland.

It’s been 3 months now since I’ve started biking around Oakland as a resident, commuter, and recreationist. As my wheels have wandered into different parts of the city, I have often found myself saying, “This place really has the potential to be a wonderful bike city.” It is not just a matter of wishfully dreaming about it being a paradise for people on bikes, although that is certainly part of it too. It is more about seeing that there are a lot of inherent characteristics about Oakland that make it pretty ideal for biking, if the city can ever fully embrace it as a means of transportation and the infrastructure that it would require. (Like practically all American cities, the transportation budget allocates very little to biking.)

Oakland is a fairly dense city for the United States, registering at about 7,000 residents per square mile (2,705/sq. km) and growing. Although there are many neighborhoods which are quite suburban in character, there are significant parts of Oakland that are actually quite urban such as neighborhoods like Grand Lake, Adams Point, and Chinatown which have triple the density. Moreover, the city’s dense neighborhoods are mostly clustered together. Density is good for biking because it makes the travel distances between destinations much shorter.

One of the things that makes Oakland a special place is that the shops here tend to be mom and pop, which means small and local. There are some chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks, but they don’t have many big box stores. So that means that most of the shops tend to have a smaller footprint. These small shops tend to have limited parking because they usually do not have their own parking lots or garages and street parking is not always plentiful. Bikes complement these small shops nicely since 10-15 bikes can fit in one car parking space. The shops are human scale and that attracts people on foot or bicycle. Their signs are also smaller which makes them more visible by foot and bike as well.

Old Oakland, a charming neighborhood that is filled with small businesses.

Old Oakland, a historic and charming neighborhood that is filled with small businesses.

The top biking cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam have ironing board flat topography which is very conducive for biking. But Oakland isn’t too different in this regard. Although there are the Oakland Hills, large parts of Oakland are nice and flat. A visual estimate using Google Maps shows that at least 60% of Oakland is flat and the hills are tucked to the side. A side effect of this is that you see people on bikes coming and going in every direction. Although you will rarely see a whole bunch of cyclists stopped together at a traffic light, you will see one or two turn up here and there in all directions. This is due in part to that all the bicyclists do not need to funnel into a few preferred routes to avoid hills. For example, in San Francisco, there are many areas that are empty of bicyclists and yet when you go to The Wiggle during rush hour, you will see a whole bunch of them going by like a herd of wild gazelles. That is because The Wiggle is really the only east-west route to avoid SF’s infamously steep hills. (There are still some hills on the route, but the slopes are much easier to climb.) But in the flat parts of Oakland, you can bike for miles without meeting a hill. Combined with less traffic congestion, cyclists even regularly take routes without bike lanes on them. So, there is greater freedom to roam.

In addition to flat topography, Oakland has a lot of street space. Most streets in the urban areas are really wide and the width of many of them are not justified by the amount of car traffic that actually uses them. This underutilization is an opportunity for bike facility planners because there is enough space to put in cycle tracks without removing car lanes and/or the need to remove parking spaces. That means that, at least in theory, there will be less fighting between different interest groups over the scarce and valuable resource of space. Even if a few parking spaces have to be removed, not as many people are going to throw a fit about it because Oakland is not as space-constrained of a city yet. So in theory, it should be easier to implement bike infrastructure. But space will not always be this available. As the city grows and traffic increases, the opportunity to easily implement bike lanes with little opposition will disappear. It is better to incorporate bike infrastructure now rather than later when it will become more difficult to do just about anything in a crowded city.

Super wide streets are common in Oakland which provide enough space to put in cycle tracks.

Super wide streets are common in Oakland which provide enough space to put in cycle tracks, or at least buffered bike lanes.

Oakland is one of the few American cities which has a decent regional public transit system. The subway-like Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has 8 stations within Oakland and connects to San Francisco (which also has 8 BART stations) and a large part of the Bay Area. Thousands of Oakland residents use the BART every day to get to SF for work or play. In fact, it is quicker to get into downtown SF from certain BART stations in Oakland, than from the western neighborhoods of SF to downtown using SF’s own metro transit system. However, not all people live within walking distance of a BART station. The solution is to take a bike to the nearest station. They are actually bike-able from most places in Oakland. Plus, the BART now allows bikes on board all the time and when you get to your stop on the other end, you can use your bike to cover the last mile to your final destination. With the sleek new BART cars (designed by BMW) coming in a couple of years, they will have better on-board bike racks in which you won’t need to stand next to your bike to keep it from falling over.

system-map

BART System Map

Weather-wise, in Oakland it’s almost perfect for biking. The climate is mild all year round and on average there are 261 sunny days per year. The average low is about 45 deg F (7 deg C) and average high is about 74 deg F (23 deg C). It rarely goes above 80 degrees which is great for cyclists because we don’t want to get all sweaty. It doesn’t get that windy so you won’t get that strong headwind you sometimes have to face when riding. The fog which engulfs SF for much of the year dissipates by the time it reaches Oakland and the humidity level is pretty comfortable too.

In addition to the great biking weather, riding around the better parts of Oakland can be a very visually enjoyable and stimulating experience. The built environment around Oakland is aesthetically charming and pretty, has lots of old growth trees, a variety of neighborhoods, a variety of architectural styles, and many unique gems. There are many churches with great architecture, some of which are old like the neo-gothic First Presbyterian Church on Broadway or new like the glassy Cathedral of Christ by Lake Merritt. There are elegant old landmark theaters in the Art Deco style such as Fox, Paramount, and Grand Lake which bring you back to the Jazz Age. Then there is the beautiful Lake Merritt known as “The Jewel of Oakland”, a natural estuary lake placed in the middle of an urban setting for everyone to enjoy. You can see Oakland’s well-known and lauded diversity of people (people of every color and background) when they gather at the lake, strolling, biking, jogging, and boating. Also, the fact that Oakland has the most artists per capita in the US, besides Greenwich Village in NYC, gives Oakland a very visible artistic flair. There are art galleries and murals everywhere with a great concentration of them in downtown and the waterfront. It is great to roll by on your bike and take in these interesting and sometimes unexpected sights.

Murals are everywhere throughout the city and best discovered on a bike.

Murals are everywhere throughout the city and best discovered on a bike.

Now, I’d like to point out the elephant in the room that is always there when speaking of Oakland. Yes, as many of you have heard, Oakland does have a lot of poor residents and yes, it does have a problem with crime. Much like SF, Oakland is also a city of contrasts. So even though there are wealthy neighborhoods like Rockridge, Piedmont (which is technically its own city contained within the city of Oakland) and the Oakland Hills, there are lots of poor neighborhoods with a depressing and disturbing amount of blight. Even though Oakland has a lot of assets, culturally and physically, that other cities dream about, it also has an alarming amount of crime.

We all know that Oakland has long been comprised of low-income residents. The estimated household income for Oakland in 2011 was just a little bit over $50K and currently, the unemployment rate is at 11%. During the recession, Oakland was hit hard and the already financially strained city had to suffer through massive foreclosures. This took a toll on the city’s funds and they had to dramatically cut services. While the city has been forced to find ways to cut costs, these problems only make it more important for the city to look into investing in bicycle infrastructure. Bike infrastructure costs only a fraction of what costs for both car-oriented and mass transit infrastructure.

As well as saving money for the city, it also saves money for its residents at an individual level since more people will have the option to commute by bicycle since they will feel more safe and comfortable to do so when bike lanes are put in. More people will not have to own a car or can use their cars less frequently, saving them money. A study in Copenhagen showed that riding a bike for a mile provided an economic net gain of $0.42 while driving produced a net loss of $0.20. If there was any city that needed bike infrastructure the most it would be one that is economically strained, such as Oakland.

The other problem Oakland has is its crime rate. Although its robbery rate has dropped 26% and the homicide rate has gone down by 30% at the end of 2013, its crime figures still remain embaressingly high. Having real bike infrastructure would make Oakland a better city for its residents and a worse place for criminals. If more people are encouraged to bike, there would be more eyes on the streets. Having more eyes deters crime and is something even the famous urbanist Jane Jacobs has written about. More riding of bikes also means less parked cars which provide barriers needed for discreet drug dealing or other hidden criminal activities. A real example of this can be seen in SF, where they recently banned parking on the worst block in the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood. Crime dropped immediately. 

It is the poverty and crime which has held Oakland back from taking its rightful seat as a world-class city (they’ve got the 5th busiest port in the country and their own international airport for crying out loud). That and the fact that San Francisco, its neighbor across the bay, has stolen a lot of the attention away. But because of San Francisco’s recent stunning economic growth, Oakland is also changing. Even Chip Johnson from the SF Chronicle admits there is something special happening right now in Oakland.

A view of the Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland during dusk.

A view of the Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland during dusk.

Right now, Oakland has about 100 miles of bike lanes, but none are protected or buffered from cars. A lot of them are comprised of these silly painted bike sharrows that I think should be completely eliminated. And some bike lanes just disappear right under your pedals. But even with its lack of real bicycle infrastructure, this city still observes a commute modal share for bicycles of 3% in 2012, an increase of 40% since 2010. What’s also interesting about these stats is that the gender split between male and female riders is about 50:50. That’s rare unless you’re in one of those bike-friendly European cities.

Oakland is a city with a lot going for it and if it can fix its problem with poverty and get its crime under control it will become another amazing city that people everywhere will want to visit. Oakland also has a lot going for it bike-wise and if it can truly embrace biking by financially supporting bike improvements in a significant way, it could become one the best bike cities in the US. It would not just be great because it would have cycle tracks and such but also because it is an incredibly rewarding and pleasant urban city to ride your bike in. The biking in turn would make Oakland an even more desirable city. It would be wonderful.

Lake Merritt is an urban park centrally located in the middle of the city.

The “Jewel of Oakland”, Lake Merritt is a beautiful urban lake centrally located in the middle of the city.

Update: Susan, a ferry passenger and bike commuter just died…

Update: 2/6/14

One of the things we love about blogging here at I Love Biking SF & Oak is being able to connect with the bike community about issues that are important to bicyclists everywhere. Every once in a while, we get a message in our inbox that really stands out to us. Recently, we received an email by a gentleman named Doug Bowman who knew Susan Watson. He kindly sent us a lovely photo of her from back when he was close to her in the 70s and wrote some beautiful words about her. We have shared them below. Thank you Doug for giving us all this special glimpse into another part of Susan Watson.

“I had the privilege and honor to be very close to Dr. Watson for a number of years beginning soon after she arrived at NIH in the mid 1970s as a post-doc fellow. I had not heard from her since last Nov, and was stunned a couple of days ago to learn of her death. I do not recall ever being as stunned as I am by this. I want those who knew her only recently and were moved by her untimely death to see her as I saw her all those years ago. I have attached a photo I took of her in those early years after she arrived in the US.  She was the most penetrating personality I have ever known, intense, deep, having endured much, having overcome much, and having accomplished much by force of her own will and intellect, yet, like so many long time “performers” she had an easiness about it all. Some of the comments seeking to characterize her are so very accurate. You are welcome to post this photo on your memorial to her.”

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Read also:

Video: Susan Watson Memorial Ferry & Bike Ride

Truck drivers and traffic engineers need to rethink bicycle safety

Update: 12/27/13

I went back to the location of Susan’s collision (Market and 5th St. in Oakland) to investigate and I saw that a ghost bike was placed there for her. Below are the photos I took of it.

Going there again along with info from recent news reports, I got more insight into how the collision happened and will be writing my thoughts about it in an upcoming post.

Susan's ghost bike

Susan’s ghost bike at Market and 5th St.

Susan's ghost bike at Market and 5th St.

Susan’s ghost bike.

Here are some news articles with more info:

KTVU.com – Cycling community grieves for woman killed

SFGate.com – Bicyclist killed by big-rig was from El Cerrito

San Jose Mercury News – Friends mourn scientist killed by truck while riding in West Oakland

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Posted on December 18, 2013:

In my last post, I talked about how nice the ferry ride is. Part of what makes the ride nice is that you get to ride with other bicycle commuters. We all commute from different parts of Oakland but join at the ferry terminal. We all know when it is time to get off the ferry by seeing others put on their helmets and gloves. That is when you know that the ferry is about to land at the pier. Then, we would line up to get off the ferry after all the non-bike passengers exit first. That’s our routine every day. Bike helmets on, then gloves, turn on our bike lights, and wait in line patiently.

There was this one lady in her 50s (62 y.o.) whose bike was decked out with lights – MonkeyLectric lights on the wheels, lights on her backpack, and both front and rear bike lights. We all recognized her by the Stegosaurus-like spikes that decorated her helmet and she liked to wear a red jacket. She was always smiling and chatting with everyone of us. Her name was Susan Watson. She’s a scientist that worked at a small biotech in South San Francisco. That is the little info I know about her. Well, today she wasn’t on the ferry. I had read the horrible news this morning and had a thought it might have been her, but I wasn’t certain. The mystery of this lasted until this evening when we waited to get off the ferry- this gentleman told me and the rest of us that Susan just got into a bicycle collision with a truck driver. It’s heartbreaking. She had all the lights and safety measures correct and was even riding in the bike lane on Market St. The truck driver still didn’t see her and killed her. What else can bicyclists do to stay safe?! It’s up to the city and the drivers out there to look out for us!

Ride safe out there.

I will update if I find more info about her.

Rest in Peace, Susan… We will miss you.

Tay Ho Restaurant – A Delicious and Bicycle-Friendly Business (BFB)

Since our move to Oakland a couple of months ago, we have spent many weekends exploring the city on our bicycles and found that Oakland’s Chinatown does indeed have many great and inexpensive casual Asian eateries. It is also very accessible for us to get there from where we live. So one day, to our wonderful surprise, we discovered this Vietnamese restaurant that not only serves my favorite dishes but is also supportive of the bike community. For me, it’s like a match-made in heaven! Vietnamese is one of the cuisines I grew up eating, is one of our favorites to eat in the Bay Area, and it is even better that a family-owned Asian restaurant like this one shows support of bicycling as a means of transportation.

Exterior of the restaurant.

Tay Ho Restaurant is at the corner of Webster and 12th Sts. in Chinatown.

When we discovered this place, we quickly found ourselves sitting at a table inside Tay Ho Restaurant (344 12th St.) where they serve northern Vietnamese cuisine. They specialize in “banh cuon” which stands for hand-rolled rice noodles and “bun bo hue” which is a popular spicy beef noodle soup (not to be confused with the widely-known “pho” which they do also serve). Many of their dishes are from authentic family recipes and it is the proprietor’s mom who is cooking in the back. When it comes to ethnic food, you know it is the real deal when the dishes are coming straight from the momma. We tried both of their specialty dishes and they were delicious. They also have really great local beer which seems to go well with the food. They have a Yelp rating of 4 stars based on 225 reviews.

Two Tay Ho's special dishes:  Banh Cuon and Bun Bo Hue

Two of Tay Ho’s special dishes: Banh Cuon (L) and Bun Bo Hue (R)

Not only is the food delicious and gets two thumbs up from us, but like I mentioned before- they are a bicycle-friendly business! What does that mean? Well, they offer a 10% discount off your bill if you bike to the restaurant. (Note: Helmet is required to get the Pedaler’s Discount.) The proprietor contacted the city and requested multiple bike racks for the front of the shop. So instead of the usual one or two racks you might occasionally see in front of some businesses in Oakland, they have five. They also serve coffee from Bicycle Coffee Company, a local coffee roaster that delivers their products by bicycle. Bicycles are also aesthetically featured in their decor. The restaurant is made distinctive with their red Fuji fixie hanging in the middle of the restaurant and on the walls of their restrooms, they have framed photographs of people in Vietnam riding bicycles. When we saw all of this at their restaurant in addition to the great and authentic Vietnamese food, I told myself I just have to meet the owner of this restaurant.

Luckily, the proprietor Denise was working there that day and she was really cool to chat with. In addition to being the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant, she’s an avid cyclist and a bike safety advocate. I asked her why she supports the bicycle community and she said that besides being a cyclist herself, bicycling makes the community better. I agree!

Here is Denise, the proprietor of Tay Ho Restaurant

Here is Denise, the proprietor of Tay Ho Restaurant.

Outside seating. To both sides, there are plants to make sitting outside pleasant.

Outside seating wraps around both sides of the restaurant and there are planters to make sitting there pleasant.

Various types of seating for all types of customers. Barstool tables, picnic tables, and regular height tables.

Various types of seating for all types of customers. Barstool tables, picnic tables, and regular height tables.

Yes, my favorite object is hanging on the column.

Yes, my favorite object is hanging on the support column.

Today's specials sound yummy!

Today’s specials sound yummy!

They also sourced their coffee locally from Bicycle Coffee.

They source their coffee from a local vendor, Bicycle Coffee Co. I have to try this the next time I go back.

10% off to pedaling customers with helmets.

10% off to pedaling customers with helmets.

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We dined here after Susan’s Memorial Ride.

So bicyclists, if you are hungry for some delicious and authentic Vietnamese fare, ride on over to this bicycle-friendly business and you will be very satisfied that you did! Slurp!

Video: Susan Watson Memorial Ferry & Bike Ride

We put together this video to capture the spirit of Susan’s memorial ride last Friday evening. We were so impressed with all the people that came out for her and to show support. We hope that positive changes will come out of Susan’s death.

Once again, a huge thanks to all those who helped make this memorial possible. Lorn and Owen for building the ghost bike and setting up the event, Robert from the EBBC for advising, supporting us, and helping to get the word out, Chris from WOBO for advising, Wilson for helping us get the word out to all the folks at the East Bay Bike Party, Scraper Bikes for coming out and showing support, Denise at Banh Cuon Tay Ho Restaurant for accommodating us for dinner after the event, all the friends, family, and co-workers who knew Susan and others who came out that night for her and to support the cause. You guys are awesome!

There is an inexplicable feeling of camaraderie among the bike community that I hope shines through in this video and in all that we do. We are so glad to be a part of this great and growing bike community.

Please forward this video to anyone who knew Susan or that you think might be interested.

Be safe, ride well, and ride every day!

 

See also:

Update: Susan, a ferry passenger and bike commuter just died…