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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Who You Callin’ Scofflaw? Middle of the Road

The other day I learned that one of my neighbors works in downtown San Jose and often sees me riding my bike to work. As we chatted, my mind quickly traced where he likely sees me on my bike. More precisely, could he have seen me rolling through a stop sign, riding on a sidewalk, or otherwise being a “scofflaw cyclist?”

I fully admit that when there’s no one else around I don’t fully stop for stop signs and that’s illegal. But I’ve come to realize that there are many perfectly legal things people do when they’re riding bikes that “give cyclists a bad name.” Many people, including “avid cyclists” and law enforcement, don’t know the laws. So I’m launching “Who You Callin’ Scofflaw,” a series to test your knowledge and foster a lively, but civil, bicycle discussion.

Running Red Light

Disclaimer: These situations are based on California Vehicle Code. Roadway laws in your area may be different.

Claim: Scofflaw cyclists ride in the middle of the road!

Ask the average person and they’ll tell you that bikes must stay as far to the right as possible on the road. In any news story concerning bikes, there will be someone angrily citing CVC 20212, which begins “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.”

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What the finger-waggers fail to mention is the long list of exceptions to the code which include (1) if you’re riding the normal speed of traffic; (2) if you’re overtaking someone; (3) if you’re turning left or right at an intersection or driveway; (4) avoiding obstacles; or (5) if the lane is too narrow to safely ride a bike alongside a motor vehicle.

In this case, the lane is too narrow for a vehicle and bike to share safely (exception 5). The guy in the green jacket needs to stay at least 3 feet from the parked cars to avoid being hit by opening doors. He and his bike are about 3 feet wide. Drivers need a minimum of a 3 foot buffer to pass in car that’s up to 8 feet wide. Add it up and you need a 17 foot lane if there are parked cars (14 feet otherwise). This lane is not 17 feet wide.

Assessment: The guy in the green jacket is not a scofflaw; he’s riding safely and legally.

Have you been called a scofflaw for taking the lane like this guy? If so, by whom? Is it legal where you live?

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Old School Roadie Style

With a classic road bike in lugged steel, lycra simply won’t do. A color-blocked jersey and basic black shorts evoke memories of aspiring young racers breaking away on the backroads in the heyday of the 10-speed.

Vintage Jersey Portrait

The jersey hails from my husband’s bike club in Puerto Rico circa 1979, dug out of his closet along with Death Ride schwag from 1993. He rode all five passes on a Bridgestone RB-1 with 53/39 x 12-24 gearing. Ouch!

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

How to Fix a Flat in 10 Minutes Flat

“Are there thorns over here?” Lorri asked as we rolled on the dirt and gravel paths criss-crossing the Guadalupe River Trail. We had peeled off the San Jose Bike Party Ladies Ride and were searching for the rose garden on our way back to the train. I felt like a kid again, exploring the trails along Bayou Duplantier with my best friend Molly. Except this time Lorri and I were in dresses and heels. Momma never let me play in my Sunday best.

“Mmm, maybe,” I replied. Our fear wasn’t so much thorns in the rose garden, but the dreaded goathead thorns that sneak onto the path to take down the burliest of bike tires. After meandering a bit, we found the rose garden, took some fashion photos, and made it almost all the way to the train station before Lorri’s tire went flat. We scurried onto the train where Lorri went to work repairing the tire while I offered moral support.

Fixing Flat Main

By the time we reached Sunnyvale she was done. The conductor was impressed: “You fixed it already?”

“I’m a pro,” Lorri replied matter-of-factly. As founder of Velo Girls bike club and racing teams 10 years ago, Lorri has changed more than her share of bike tires. She’s also founder and owner of Savvy Bike, which offers skills clinics, coaching and bike fit services that go far beyond a simple flat tire repair (class calendar).

Here’s how Lorri fixes a flat, adapted from her Bike Skills 002: Basic Bicycle Maintenance class. For more detailed instructions and for complicated fixes like a gash in the tire’s sidewall, read the long version.

Don’t forget to clean your hands when you’re done! I keep tissue-sized rag in my repair kit just for that. A squirt of water on the rag, a little rubbing, and I’m good until I can soap up in a washroom. Momma would approve.

How confident are you in your bike repair skills? Do you have any favorite tips of the trade?

Lorri's new love is the 1979 Schwinn Suburban she picked up in Portland.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Gear Talk

 

Bike Commute Diaries: After the Cock Crows

A rooster no longer crows in downtown San Jose. The chickens have been evicted and their home demolished. A run-down house at the dead end of Old West Julian Street is gone and so is my simple pleasure of rolling past country life in a hard-times corner of the city. So long, my feathered friends. It’s been good to know you.

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Yesterday morning they were tearing down the shed in the back and by evening the house in front was gone. This morning they were hauling away the remains. The Autumn Street road extension is being built two doors down and this light industrial area is slated to become an “innovation district” in San Jose’s plan.

About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the daily experiences and unexpected things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

What Tea Societies Can Do for Women & Bikes

Garden clubs, sewing circles, and bridge groups for socializing. Benevolent societies and church groups to assist the needy. Women’s leagues, committees, unions and movements for social change and political action. Women have a long history of gathering apart from their menfolk, whether it’s simply to carve their own space in the conversation or to have a stronger voice in the decision-making. And it’s just fun to do girly things, like promenade around town on our bikes and drink tea outdoors from fancy cups in summer hats.

Jacquie Katie Darcy

The thing about women’s groups is once they get started, they spread. My friend Katie heard of the Ladies Tea & Bike Social we held in Palo Alto last August and loved the idea. In February she pedaled trough a rainstorm and took a ferry and train to San Jose for our Wine, Women & Chocolate. By March she had jumped headfirst into organizing her own Ladies Tea for the “Critical Misses” up in Marin County. Through word of mouth, social media and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, she had dozens women lined up and raring to roll.

I simply had to make the trip up there, even before I heard that mountain bike pioneer Jacquie Phelan would be attending. As founder of Women’s Mountain Bike & Tea Society (WOMBATS), Jacquie wouldn’t miss a bike and tea party in her own backyard. As always, she added color to the occasion in her own inimitable style.

Jacquie Phelan Ladies Tea

Jacquie may have been comfortable bombing down trails and racing dirt along with the likes of Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charlie Cunningham and other male mountain bike pioneers, but she founded the WOMBATS way back in 1987 because she wanted a place for women in this new and growing sport. Through WOMBATS, Jacquie taught skills clinics and camps to give women confidence to try something new, and hosted dirt rides that included tea stops. Only in Jacquie’s imagination would a Teacup Tango be a mountain biking party.

Why a tea society? As she explained to me as we rode together to the Marin Ladies Tea, “Guys have a way of taking over and I didn’t want that. I knew if it was a tea society they wouldn’t even want to join.” It worked.

Having organized and led women’s group rides and events, I understand that completely. As much as I enjoy riding with my husband and “the guys” sometimes, there’s something different about riding with women. The conversation changes, the tone changes, and for many women it means a relaxed environment where they can push themselves a little harder. If that sounds like an oxymoron to you, this post explains my point of view.

Bikes at Tea Party

The Marin Ladies Tea was all the success I expected. Women who were old friends arrived together, others who knew no one arrived alone. One woman had just returned home after months bike touring in South America. Another arrived for tea by wheelchair. You don’t need a bike to join a bike social that’s a tea party in a park.

After these events I often hear from women, “Oh, I wish we had a bike tea society here.” Here’s a secret: it’s not hard to host a bike tea party. First, find a park in a beautiful setting, map out a bike route on quiet streets or on a bike path, and pick a date when you know a few friends can join. Then send out an invitation to others through your local bike club or advocacy group, asking everyone to bring a tea cup and a snack or thermos of tea to share. Whether you end up with a group of four or forty, I promise it will be fun. Just ask Katie.

Have you ever hosted a bike ride or bike-specific event? Did it have a theme? How did it work out?

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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Women & Bikes

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Keep On Keeping On

It’s Monday and I’m off to an earlier-than-usual start to a busier-than-usual week for me: product deadlines at work, advocacy meetings after work, a ladies tea to prepare for, and writing projects to complete. Sometimes you need a little inspiration to soldier on and push through. Then it appears, right there on the trail before you.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the daily experiences and unexpected things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashion Friday: Hanging Loose in a T-Shirt Dress

Summer casual gets even cooler when you skip the shorts and let your t-shirt go long. Nothing snug, nothing belted on this unassuming V-neck in marine blue that has just enough contour for a feminine silhouette. Toss on a pair of woven leather sandals, grab a poplin jacket and this easy ensemble can take you from after-work errands downtown to happy hour with friends outdoors on the patio on a long summer evening.

T-Shirt Dress

Called the Tomboy Dress because of its no-fuss styling and wearability, it comes in new colors every year.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 
 
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