The Friday Cyclotouriste

a geo-photoblog chronicling my "excursions velo"

Archive for the ‘urban infrastructure’ tag

Random Images……Construction season is ending in Ulaanbaatar

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Here’s the view from the alleyway near Veranda restaurant looking east.  The juxtaposition of the old temple and the modern, glass Blue Sky building is a bit cliche. Plus, this framing creates an overly stylized (and romanticized) depiction of the city’s grimy and chaotic urban transformation.

Still, the truth is there always seems to be some new structure under construction in Ulaanbaatar. And this time of year there’s a big rush to get as much work done as possible before the bitterly cold (-40 degree) winter weather sets in and outdoor building becomes impossible.

Possibly due to this haste, the nearly completed, $500 million Shangrai-la Hotel, recently suffered a major inferno just as the finishing touches were being applied.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

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October 12th, 2014 at 1:48 am

On the Road……A Short Architectural Review: Sukhbaatar Square, Ulaanbaatar

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The massive square in downtown Ulaanbaatar was re-named Chinggis Khaan Square, but like many other people I’m still in the habit of calling it Sukhbaatar Square.  One local said to me, “We don’t have to name every place after Chinggis Khaan. There are other important people in Mongolian history“.

The square needs to be broken up and softened with trees and other organic design elements, in my opinion. The Brutalist, Stalinist-style architecture is cold and uninviting. And why, in Mongolia of all places, does the central square so thoroughly seek to obliterate any relationship to the beauty of the natural landscape?

But as with so many things, beauty and ugliness are two-sides of the same coin.

Walking through the space, it is easy to become disconnected from your surroundings and fellow citizens — and maybe this was the goal of communist architecture. The weight of the nation state feels heavy on one’s psyche…and a feeling (bordering on melancholy) arises upon the realization that mankind’s desire to produce something grand and transcendent has fallen short.

Yet there are other times I walk this square and its Cartesian vectors, carved from the dense and chaotic urban environment of Ulaanbaatar (itself carved from the eurasian steppe’s montane grassland and scrubland ecozone), place the human mind, and it’s role in the evolution of the universe, into sharp resolution.

And for that I am grateful.


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September 27th, 2014 at 10:52 pm

On the Road……Seoul’s urban design is smart and green

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A couple more examples of Seoul’s pedestrian-friendly (and green) urban design:


Dual direction pedestrian crosswalks.


Oversized sidewalk-tree planter boxes (allowing water to soak the soil around the complete drip line of the tree’s canopy).

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August 2nd, 2014 at 11:56 pm

On the Road……Seoul Korea’s Green Spaces

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Seoul is so full of energy and life — it is a fantastic city!

I stayed less than 24 hours, and it rained most of the time, but I really enjoyed it here. I took an early morning walk around the city center, on a long loop that took me from The Plaza Hotel to Gyeongbokgung Palace and back.

In the city center, I didn’t see many bicyclists or much bicycling infrastructure. The one or two cyclists I saw, like the man below, rode on the large pedestrian sidewalks.

Still, the densely populated area around The Plaza Hotel smartly and elegantly accommodates cars, buses (with their own dedicated lanes) and pedestrians.

Most impressive is how the city center is brimming with greenery and arboriculture. American cities could learn a lot about bringing bits of biodiversity into the city from the urban planners in Seoul.

The photograph at the top of the page and those below are good examples:





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July 25th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Random Images……C & O Canal bike path, Georgetown

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Steps from Cady’s Alley and a little pocket park named after Francis Scott Key, there’s access to the C & O canal bike path.

The picture above is the view east standing on the pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides. Below is the view toward the west.

The C & O towpath is a 184 mile trail connecting DC to Cumberland, MD. The towpath is one and the same as the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) for the first few miles. Then the CCT veers east toward Silver Spring, MD.

I want to explore these bike ways while I’m still here!



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May 19th, 2014 at 10:35 am

Random Images……Cady’s Alley, Georgetown

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Wherever I go alleys draw me in. I’m not talking about creepy, dirty alleys.

No, the visceral appeal of certain alleys or small streets comes from their aesthetically correct, pedestrian-friendly, human-scale. The lack of powerful gasoline motors constantly churning is a big part of it.

Cady’s Alley is a little street in DC that I love from an architectural and urban design perspective. The emphasis is because I’m not sure how I feel about it from a community development perspective.

The space feels geared to a very exclusive, corporate, brand name, retail shopping experience. Urban revitalization and planning can expose many thorny issues relating to social equity and civic participation.  So I want to be clear that what I’m singling out for praise about Cady’s Alley is something very particular: the actual feeling of the physical space.

In short, if we compare the feeling of Cady’s Alley to that of M Street (running parallel one block away) it passes the Mirror-of-the-Self Test outlined by the visionary architect, Christopher Alexander in his book The Phenomenon of Life:

Comparing A and B, which one makes me feel the most wholeness in myself, which allows me to come closest to my own life, which makes me experience life most deeply?”.  That is, when architecture is functioning properly “its space is awakened to a very high degree. It becomes alive. The space itself becomes alive.”


Note: DC recently released a comprehensive survey that maps all the historic alley ways in the city. Click on The DC Historic Alley Buildings Survey if you’re curious.


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May 18th, 2014 at 4:41 pm

DMV’s bicycling infrastructure, part 3

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The DMV region has a truly excellent network of dedicated bike paths, particularly Arlington.

Thank goodness. Because driving an automobile around the Northern Virginia suburbs reminds me of one of Dante Alighieri‘s hell realms.

But hidden in plain sight is a surprisingly robust matrix of bike lanes and pathways.

From Arlington to Falls Church (including the Metro stops from Rosalyn to West Falls Church) it is quite convenient to go by bicycle from point A to point B.

Many of the paths — like the Curtis Trail shown in these images — traverse wooded areas that are only yards from utterly congested roadways such as Interstate 66.

Above a pair of ducks are enjoying a hidden pond.

The paths are heavily used. In fact, they are busier than most bike paths and lanes I traveled on in California.

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December 17th, 2013 at 7:07 pm

DMV’s bicycling infrastructure, part 2

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Another big part of this region’s bicycling culture is the Capital Bikeshare system.

DC can boast that it had a bike share system in place before New York City and San Francisco. And I can boast that I once worked with the transportation design and planning firm (Alta Planning/Alta Bicycle Share) that built DC’s system.

To check out some of my earlier blog posts on Capital Bikeshare click here.


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December 17th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

DMV’s bicycling infrastructure, part 1

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The DC, Maryland, and Virgina (DMV) region has a pretty robust bicycling culture from what I’ve witnessed.

Urban planners have converted the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue into a rather complex set of bicycle lanes.

The view above is looking east toward the Capitol. The image below is looking west.


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December 15th, 2013 at 6:22 pm

On the Road……Toward Pt. Reyes on Sir Francis Drake

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Finally, finally, finally, part of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. heading out to Pt. Reyes Station and Tomales Bay has been resurfaced.

This was one of the most scarred, chipped, and potholed roads in Marin. I always pedaled on the Lagunitas bike path because it’s more scenic, but a road in this condition (even without bike lanes) is tempting!

Note: the resurfacing isn’t complete. There’s still several miles of really bad, beat-up road that resumes just before Devil’s Gulch if you’re traveling west.


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March 14th, 2013 at 8:38 pm

On the Road……Commuting with the Brompton

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My Brompton bicycle is finally fulfilling it’s raison d’etre: bridging the gaps in my urban commute.

If I don’t feel like walking .75 miles to the Sausalito Ferry, I unfold the Brompton and cover this distance in less than 5 minutes. After a 25-minute ferry ride to downtown SF I have another .75 miles to my office in SOMA. The Brompton covers these little gaps with ease.

Plus, while wearing shorts and sneakers and then changing (and maybe even showering) on the way to work is one way to go. I like just wearing professional business attire (including leather lace-up shoes) for commuting.

Interestingly, the first time I tried to enter my building with the Brompton the guards said that bikes must be parked in the auto garage. So I made the fold, picked it up in one hand as if I was carrying a briefcase, and asked, “How about this?”

They smiled and waved me through.

So now I always fold the Brompton, walk right past the guards, and stow the bike under my desk!



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August 17th, 2012 at 9:26 pm

On the Road……Sausalito to Fairfax (Horse HIll Bike Path)

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Most cyclists are eager to get further north as quickly as possible and tend to avoid this bikeway; they take Camino Alto instead. That route is more scenic and more efficient. Still, riding so close to Hwy 101 (and its speeding freeway traffic) needs to be experienced at least once. Plus, on the Horse Hill path, there are no cars to contend with like there are on Camino Alto, which doesn’t have shoulders or bike lanes.

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My friend Steve is one of the most mild-mannered people you’ll meet, but for some reason he looks angry and badass in this picture.

Local bicycle advocates have been working for years to re-open the Camino Alto tunnel, which would then provide a truly safe and easy bike-ped connection between Corte Madera and Mill Valley. As of now, the Horse Hill and Camino Alto routes both filter out causal cyclists who would otherwise happily stroll or pedal back and forth between these two communities. Check the Walk Bike Marin site for the latest news on this project.

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August 16th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Random Images: Copenhagen Zoo, Bus Advertisement

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Staying with the theme from my previous post here’s another image from the world mecca of bicycle-friendliness — Copenhagen.

I heart good public transportation options (especially when coupled with wonderful graphic design like this).

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March 16th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

On the Road……The Capitol and Mall with help from DC’s Bikeshare.

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The Capital Bikeshare scheme works like this:

  1. Swipe your credit card at a Bikeshare kiosk to initiate a membership (in my case a 24 hour membership at a cost of $5)
  2. Agree to 120 pages of contract terms by clicking “I agree”
  3. Collect the printed ticket (see above) and enter the code into the docking station to release the bike
  4. Return the bike to any of the 110 stations around the city (if you return the bike within 30 minutes it’s free)

Note: finding a nearby docking station is best accomplished on your smartphone with the remarkably practical Bixou App.


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October 11th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

On the Road……Cyclist down! 4th St. and University Blvd.

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I took a nasty spill this past week-end when my front wheel got lodged in a curved section of Tucson’s downtown street car tracks.

I went down hard with my left shoulder and elbow absorbing the initial impact, leaving some raw, painful road rash. Both my knees and the tip of my right thumb were also bloodied. My head had nothing except a cotton riding cap protecting it, but luckily it survived unscathed.

Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t some warnings about these trolley tracks (although maybe there are and I missed them!).

Lower body injuries


The accident occurred just as I was finishing a 30-mile ride to the San Javier Mission, about 3 miles from home.

I was a great day for a ride. The mission is beautiful! I hope to post some pictures soon.

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September 17th, 2011 at 6:12 pm

On the Road……Miramonte Park along the 3rd St. bike path

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In the early evening, right before a rain, this small garden-park had a palpable feeling of serenity and harmony. Lingering here, I felt calm and more connected to nature — the plants, the stones, and the slight breeze.

Later, I associated this feeling with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and other aspects of Japanese garden design.

I’m sure Tucson is full of little parks like this; I just happened to stumble upon this one (which was completely empty for some reason).

Love the outdoor chess board!

A zen rock garden — Tucson’s own Ryoan-ji?

Many professionals would object to the word “zen” in describing a traditional Japanese dry rock garden.  The publisher of this delightful, bi-monthly journal is especially disdainful of the term.

Either way, the journal (I am a subscriber) is probably the best source of practical information on Japanese gardens and architecture around. Plus, it’s very easy to read!

Let the wind speak. That is Paradise. — Ezra Pound, Canto CXX




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August 17th, 2011 at 9:02 pm

On the Road……Brompton along the Waterfront

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I’ve positioned the Brompton just north of Pier 1 and the Ferry Plaza (which boasts a good Saturday morning farmer’s market) with the western span of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island faintly visible in the background. It’s still early in the morning and there are few people around.

A new, eastern span of the bridge will open to automobile traffic in 2013 with a dedicated bike path (costing a cool $100 million) soon to follow. However, the western span (seen above) will still lack bicycle access.

Here’s an article with more details about this massive planning project. If you’re interested in getting involved in local bicycle advocacy issues, I’m sure these organizations would love to hear from you:

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July 6th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

On the Road……DC, Captial Bikeshare…Part 2, the not-so-good

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I ran into two issues while using the system:

  • persistent shortages of open docks at the 21st and C St. station.

I would often snag the last remaining dock, then observe other riders pedaling away to look for another station to return their bike. I also observed an abandoned bike on the sidewalk because there were no spaces to dock it. Clearly, CaBi needs to add another docking module at this location.

  • the kiosk’s touch screen failed me when I needed it most.

It was critical to be at work by 9am Friday morning. I finished my breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Dupont Circle (oatmeal, with fresh berries, OJ, and a cappuccino). I left myself 15-20 minutes to get down to C Street. I was a bit worried about the destination (since the Bixou app was telling me there were no docks available). But when I attempted to check-out a bike, the touch screen at the Dupont kiosk would not respond. Nothing. I was locked out…….TAXI!

The upshot: A great system, with some implementation issues. I unnecessarily spent $9 on taxi fare — not a big deal — but it did raise the cost of relying on CaBi by more than 50% (a 5-day CaBi membership is $15).

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May 21st, 2011 at 8:11 am

On the Road……DC, Capital Bikeshare…Part 1, the good

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I spent five days using the CaBi system to make a simple, 3-mile, round trip commute while working in DC this past week. It was great. I loved not having to ride the metro or take the bus (or have to travel with my own bike).

As much as I enjoyed the system, I did experience a couple snafus that caused me to lose some confidence in the system (more on that in Part 2).

But I had no major complaints about the bike itself. I’m a big, big fan of the front rack and bungee cord. The system worked great for holding my satchel securely in place. The quibbles below are all relatively minor and somewhat subjective:

  • the fenders are too short (as Dave pointed out in the previous post’s comments);
  • the high gear (on the 3-speed hub) could be spaced a tad higher; and,
  • the shift lag — on the bikes I rode — was quite noticeable.

There’s also an amazing (and in my opinion, indispensable) mobile phone app, Bixou, which lets you locate nearby stations and display live updates of both the number of bicycles and the number of open docks at any location.

Example of Bixou's interface, with data from the Paris system.



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May 20th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

On the Road……Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, Minneapolis

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Minneapolis shares something with my beloved Marin County.

Each is one of the four select communities chosen to be part of the NTPP (Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Project), a $100 million federal program to test how infrastructure improvements can increase rates of bicycling and walking.

I was in Minneapolis just briefly, but I still picked up a strong bicycle culture (Bicycling Magazine named it the most bike-friendly city in the country).

I circled Lake Calhoun (part of the 50-mile Grand Rounds Scenic Byway) and explored adjacent neighborhoods.

I was a bit confused, however, by some of the signage and rules. The bike path circling the Lake is one-way (note the picture above)!

This is great for recreational use, but for transportation purposes it makes it less useful as a bike boulevard or arterial.

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September 28th, 2010 at 11:55 am

On the Road……SF’s Golden Gate Bridge, Westside, North Tower

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September 15th, 2010 at 11:03 am

On the Road……SF’s Golden Gate Bridge

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September 15th, 2010 at 10:59 am

Bicycling Culture……City Bike Sharing Schemes

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Is European-style bike sharing coming to the Bay Area?

Maybe so.

The BAAQMD has requested $5.14 million from MTC to fund a bike share pilot project.

The company I’ve been working with Alta Planning + Design has spun-off a new company (Alta Bike Share) that helps cities design and operate these systems. Together with Bixi, we installed an on-street demo for a bike-savvy San Francisco audience at last week’s Sunday Streets.

The Bixi bicycle kiosk system — including the bicycle models used by the Melbourne, London, and Montreal bike sharing operations — was on display.

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September 4th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Bicycling Culture……San Francisco’s Sunday Streets

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This bike share demo was my first experience with San Francisco’s Sunday Streets. (Whereby I also discovered — and highly recommend — the mobile food cart, Chairman Bao.)

Closing down streets to auto traffic began with Bogota’s Ciclovia. Here’s some of the history from SF Sunday Street’s website:

Ciclovía, literally “bike path” in Spanish, is a ground-breaking event that started in Bogotá, Colombia. This weekly event draws more than 1.5 million people to walk, bike, skate and enjoy more than 70 miles of streets opened to people – and closed to automobile traffic – every week.

Nearly 20% of this city’s population turns out every Sunday and holiday to participate in the 7 am to 2 pm event, which includes unparalleled free recreation and social opportunities, including dance and yoga lessons in the city’s streets and local parks.

“A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle.” Enrique Peñalosa, Former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.

crowdJohn (navy-blue uniform and shades) is the Bixi installation wizard from Montreal.  Brodie (light green shirt on the right) manages operations for Alta Bike Share. Sylvia (cap and light green shirt) was, like me, helping out for the day with public information and outreach.kiosk_bike_2

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The bikes themselves have lots of useful features: built-in generator hubs to power front and rear lights; internal frame-routed cables; height adjustable seats (yet non-removeable, and thus theft-proof); chain and skirt guards; three-speed internal gear-hubs; and, a front basket-like purse/brief case carrier with bungee cord.

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September 4th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

On the Road……Paradise Drive, Corte Madera & Tiburon

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Descending into Tiburon

share-roadNow that’s a small shoulder

san-quentinSeen here from Paradise Drive, San Quentin prison (far horizon in the center) sits on some prime real estate .

agaveAgave americana. I love these. Supposedly they live 100 years, then die in a magnificent, colorful bloom.

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August 16th, 2010 at 11:46 pm

On the Road……WalkBikeMarin @ County Fair

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WalkBikeMarin Display at Marin County Fair

WalkBikeMarin Display at Marin County Fair

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The company I’m working with this summer, Alta Planning + Design, is deeply involved as a consultant in a $25 million federal pilot project to test the effectiveness of using federal funds to increase the modal share of bicycling and walking. The mechanism to accomplish these goals is infrastructure improvements and public education.

So I spent a day at the Marin County Fair sharing information about the program with fair goers.

Here’s a link to a comprehensive list of bicycle projects underway in Marin and, just for fun, here’s a few comparative statistics (from Alliance for Walking and Biking):

  • The Netherlands invests about $39/resident on bicycling and walking compared to $1.50/resident for the U.S.
  • Their share of bicycling trips is 27%; ours is 1%.

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July 5th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Random Images……Cityscapes in “Miniature”

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Being a camera nerd, I’ve begun to notice a proliferation of videos featuring a distinctive photo processing technique using implied tilt-shift camera movements and time lapse photography. The results are videos like these which appear to show itty-bitty scale models of cities. Here’s a tilt-shift tutorial for the uber tech-savvy and the website of Ken Loutit, who helped popularize the genre with his bathtub series.

The above video was featured in an interesting academic article on bicycling advocacy by the blogger and randonneur extraordinaire Esteban.

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June 29th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

On the Road……I-780 Overpass

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spiral descent

spiral descent

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May 24th, 2010 at 9:35 pm

On the Road……My three least favorite words: BIKE LANE ENDS

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May 24th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Bicycling Culture……Rush Hour in Holland – Time Lapse Video

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A quiet, relaxed, exhaust-free commute, and no signs of stress or road rage on the streets of Utrecht (The Netherlands).

  • Take home message: The importance of quality bike paths cannot be underestimated.

NOTE: I find the Dutch language inscrutable. For instance here’s the proper pronunciation of Utrecht (listen).

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May 19th, 2010 at 10:55 am

On the Road……Port Costa/Carquinez Strait Loop

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Getting on the Martinez-Benecia Bridge

Getting on the Martinez-Benicia Bridge

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Most of this route has well-marked signage. (But over the last third of the ride I did have a little trouble finding my way. See Part II of my ride report for details.)

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May 17th, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Biking Culture……Green Bike Lanes in SF!

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Colored Bike Lane on Market St.

Colored Bike Lane on Market St. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

Over the week-end the city painted all the bike lanes on Market Street (the same street featured in the 1906 historical film posted here a few days ago).

Much better than mere road stencils, these green colored lanes offer a bold and unmistakable visual cue to drivers that bicycles have a place on the street too.

I’m hoping these colored bike lanes are game-changers — a Caesar-crossing-the-Rubicon, no going back moment in the continuing evolution of the bicycle’s acceptance as a mainstream form of transportation.

The full story from Streetsblog can be found here.

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May 10th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Bicycling Culture……Early 20th Century Transit or Horses on Market St.

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A hundred years ago, we had an abundance of transit options with high multi-modal connectivity:  streetcars and trolleys running continuously (no waiting for a bus to arrive); automobiles; bicycles; ferries plying the bay; railroads; even climate-friendly horse-drawn carriages.

If you have seven minutes to spare watch the whole video; it’s rather amazing and with the soundtrack quite mesmerizing (click on the button with all the arrows to fill the screen).

Among other things, look for the progenitors of today’s fixed-gear riding San Francisco hipsters (at the 1:05 mark) and horses galloping and trotting down Market Street (at the 3:25 and 4:05 marks).

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May 3rd, 2010 at 9:07 pm

On the Road……Carquinez Strait Loop, near the Benicia Bridge

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Excellent Class II BIke Lane

Excellent Class II BIke Lane

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Among urban planners:

  • Class I is a completely separate bicycle/pedestrian path or roadway (like you see all over Holland).
  • Class II is when there’s a separate lane for bicycles (like in this photo).
  • Class III is just a shared road, maybe with some road markers here and there.

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May 1st, 2010 at 7:07 pm

On the Road……Port Costa Loop, Old Martinez Highway

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Heading east for Martinez on the old highway from Port Costa, I was treated to a rare stretch without any car traffic. This old road is now closed to vehicles and it’s starting to break apart in places — reclaimed by the forces of wild nature!

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April 29th, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Biking Culture……Google Maps, Ferries, and ‘Bicycling’ Directions

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In a previous post, I described a new option for getting bicycling directions from Google Maps. Now I’m wondering how this feature deals with odd, highly impractical, or even impossible routes?

Trying to fool Google’s programming elves, I requested directions to a location on the other side of the Bay (i.e., a route from San Rafael to Berkeley).

The challenge, of course, is the bridges; they don’t allow bike travel (except for the Golden Gate Bridge). But Google Maps didn’t blink.

Rather than sending me on an ill-advised circumnavigation of the entire San Francisco Bay, I was instructed, as you can see in the screen shot below, to ride to Larkspur and to put my bike on the Golden Gate Ferry to SF (and then to catch the SF ferry to Oakland) before taking an overland route to Berkeley.

In urban planning circles we call this multi or mixed-mode commuting.

I was surprised Google Maps came up with this solution!

Screen shot 2010-03-23 at 9.29.08 PM

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March 23rd, 2010 at 9:34 pm

On the Road……Civic Center Farmer’s Market

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The amazing thing about the ballot victory at the polls last November — in addition to the north bay finally getting some fixed rail transit — is that the measure included full funding for a $91 million, 70-mile bike and pedestrian pathway stretching from Larkspur all the way to Cloverdale (70% of which is class 1 pathways, meaning bike/ped only — no cars)!

The beginnings of this infrastructure is visible in the image above.

(Full disclosure: I helped lobby for the ballot measure as the Marin Field Rep for Greenbelt Alliance). The Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) deserves tons of credit for their work spearheading the lobbying.

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December 3rd, 2009 at 11:26 pm

On the Road……Civic Center Farmer’s Market

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The voter approved SMART train (which by 2014 will connect Sonoma and Marin cities to the Golden Gate Ferry in Larkspur) is taking shape .

This image was made on Lincoln Avenue in San Rafael going north toward the Civic Center with Highway 101 on the right. The train will enter downtown San Rafael in the concrete canyon wedged between these two roadways.

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December 3rd, 2009 at 11:20 pm

On the Road……Re-striping of White’s Hill

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This stretch of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. is undergoing changes.

Some recent re-striping gives us cyclists a litle extra shoulder to work with. The black line is where the shoulder used to be.


click to embiggen

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May 30th, 2009 at 3:29 am