October 28 – Ikea and Bicycle Boulevards

Ever since I have been working in urban planning/market analysis/land use economics there are two things people always talk about wanting to see in Denver: 1) Ikea and 2) Trader Joe’s. So I figured while I have time to kill I might as well make the ride into Emeryville for both. For those of you who don’t know, I made the move out to the bay area with a one-way flight, a pack full of clothes, and my bike. I thought it might be a good idea to check out Ikea to see how the Sweeds might help me in furnishing an apartment. I crossed the freeway at the Berkeley Marina Ped Bridge at sunset. For those of you that know me, I am a sucker for pedestrian bridges and at sunset I couldn’t resist.

berkeley ped bridge

A pedestrian bridge at sunset brings tears to my eyes...

Well it turns out that the particle board, made in Taiwan Ikea ethos might not be the best fit for me. I got completely lost three times. Following the damn gray path with the arrows is difficult when you have so many awesome rooms labeled by their square footage and all the accompanying crap you can fit into them. There are two times in my life when I felt like I fell into the rabbit hole.

1) When May D&F turned into Foley’s at Southglenn Mall. I was maybe thirteen years old and half the store looked like the store I knew and half the store looked new. Not to mention there where mirrors all over the place during remodeling.

2) Today at Ikea. Who needs hallucinogens when you can take a trip to Ikea?

Next stop was Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is rad. Oh Sunflower, I hope you can give them a run for their money. This is what I was able to get for $30 and a good example of what a healthy (sort of) diet living out of a hotel room looks like.

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Saint Agur Blue for $3.99, Columbus Calabrese for $2.99, and a Petite Sirah at $3.99 = a good Tuesday night

On my ride home there was a ridiculous head wind on the trail along the Bay. Cranking but going nowhere. I never even thought that I might see surf in the East Bay, but it happened tonight. I was happy to get back across the bridge (oh my beautiful pedestrian bridge) and into the shelter of Berkeley from the wind. I was riding up University on my way back to the Nash when a car passed me and yelled, “get on the bike boulevard!” Now, let me tell you this is not the first time this has happened since I have been in Berkeley.

This is the same sort of garbage that I heard in Denver when cyclists are told to get on the sidewalk. Seriously? He was lucky I was still buzzing on my Trader Joe’s high or he would have caught the wrong end of my U-Lock. Maybe not, but a middle finger and a big Fuck You for sure. It made me think about the “status” of platinum bike cities for sure. So Berkeley has an AMAZING system of bike boulevards for those who don’t know.

One thing that these bike boulevards definitely do is increase the safety, or perception of safety, for new (or hesitant) bike commuters which is awesome. The other thing it does is separate the perceived mode use of public streets.

The reason this guy got so mad at me tonight is because he thought I was on his turf. The major thoroughfare of University is not designated as a bike boulevard, therefore it is solely for automobile use right? Wrong. The whole modal separation thing only propagates the state of mind that, “this is mine, and that is yours.”

Well what happens in the real world when our completely separate rights of way intersect? Chaos? Anarchy? I have news for all of us cyclists out there, in that case we would lose against all the 2,000 pound sin bins looking for a scuffle. That is death by bumper before the emissions even get to us. Share the road, is that the answer? Well with the way that streets are designed now, no.

When I was talking with Alyssa she brought up a good point. What about the responsibility of the cyclist in use of the roadway? In Denver the Cherry Creek Trail is an awesome amenity. But what happens when the cyclists gets back to street grade? Am I supposed to be riding on the sidewalk like the drivers on Speer and 13th expect me to do? Should I be riding in the left lane to make the turn to King Soopers in rush hour traffic? Shit, lots of question marks in this one.

Woonerf anyone?

woonerf_1

Woonerf!

Do the Woonerf!

Saturday, Artcrank!

I was pretty excited going into this. I mean seriously, Artcrank, San Francisco, Chrome store. It had all the makings of bike shenanigans all over the place. I should have taken the shitty SOMA pizza slices I ate before hand as an omen. Well it was not that bad. Typical gallery opening sort of atmosphere. Some decent prints. Two stuck out for me. One was some badass chick ripping cars of the Golden Gate Bridge with some folks on bikes riding for their lives and throwing 40s into the air and whatnot. The second one was this:

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Pedalicious!

Artcrank San Francisco looked like this:

P1020378While Artcrank Denver looked like this:

Super Block 1 – Chrome store 0

Friday the 24th, Parking

More apartment searching. One of the agents at an apartment showed up 45 minutes late so I missed the Make Rent race with a $10 buy in, winner took all. I decided to wait out rush hour with a Tuna Sandwich and Kombucha outside of whole foods. I was there a whole five minutes before I realized that there was almost no parking at this location. After a quick count I came up with 14 parking spaces with two compact and four handicap spots. That’s right public works folks, 20 total spaces! You and all your silly parking requirements. If this can happen in a residential neighborhood with moderate (for San Francisco) density, then why such the silly parking requirements in LoDo?

20 spaces!

That's right Cindy, count 'em.

Surrounding Neighborhood

This doesn't look like crazy density to me.

Berkeley Day Three

Before I gave up living in Berkeley I wanted to spend some more time here. There is definitely too much of the college atmosphere for me to be happy living here. Although, it is a very beautiful city. The bike infrastructure here is amazing! I got to thinking how Berkeley is one of three platinum rated cities by the League American Cyclists (along with Boulder and Portland) and how it is driven be the affluence of the community. I got a little distressed on how the most livable cities are those with wealthy populations. However, the fact that they are kicking ass for cyclists and not cars is amazing so I applaud them. Cars stop for pedestrians and cyclists everywhere. It is some sort of utopia for sure. There are bicycle boulevards everywhere and cyclist triggered crosswalks with immediate response.

I spent a good couple of hours people watching at what has become my favorite place in town and my idea of the best public space in Berkeley. The area just outside of the Downtown Berkeley BART station is always bustling with people. College kids, professionals, the homeless, street musicians. All of this takes place in a very organic atmosphere which as far as I am concerned is the reason this is happening. I spent a half an hour or so scouring the immediate and adjacent area for security cameras. None to be found! Even better the spontaneous interaction that was happening was taking place unbeknownst to the watchful eye of the local police or homeland security!  Wow, I guess being a TA for Jeremy Nemeth rubbed off on me more than I thought. This is what it looked like this afternoon:

Fuck eHarmony, meet your future mate in a public space!

Fuck eHarmony, meet your future mate in a public space!

Oh transit, how your beauty strikes me.

Oh transit, how your beauty strikes me.

Being the planning nerd that I am I was contemplating what was happening here and the variables that encourage public spaces to be vibrant and healthy places. In the hopes of attracting the interest of other planners I figured I should come up with an acronym. DDT-Density, Diversity, and Transit. “DDT can kill those ugly underutilized urban spaces.” How’s that for a slogan?

Oakland Day Two

Rode from Downtown Berkeley into Oakland. Nice smooth ride at an average speed of 19 miles an hour for 8 miles. Not bad. Oakland was super cool. Nice downtown. Explored North Oakland and Temescal first. They are where the Highlands was five years ago, sad. Made my way over to the Grand neighborhood and Lake Merritt. Nice trail around Lake Merritt.

Lake Merritt is what Wash Park tries to be.

Lake Merritt is what Wash Park tries to be.

Sat down in the grass to eat a turkey sandwich for lunch. Some anarcho-cyclist on a touring bike asked me for a smoke. Sorry man. Real nice guy. His name is Sam. Just moved to Oakland the day before from Bellingham. We talked about friends that we have there and knew many of the same people. We got on the steel steeds and headed into Downtown Oakland for a little ride. Rode around until we almost got clipped by a patrol car then got onto the train to check out some bike shops in San Francisco.

Windy as hell in San Francisco. The gusts were catching the new B-43 in the rear at every intersection. Stopped by Boxdog Bikes and Mission Bikes. Got some coffee and a donut and parted ways. I will see Sam again at ArtCrank! on Saturday.

Met up with a leasing agent to check out some apartments. The guy’s name was Chuck. He just moved to the City after being a real estate agent in Sonoma. Made the move after the housing market fell. Really cool guy and very truthful. We looked at a few apartments all over the city. Tenderloin, Nob Hill, North Beach, Russin Hill, Mission. The apartment in the Tenderloin was by far the best fit for me. So much going on on the street below. It looks like it will soon be my home.

Spent two hours outside of the apartment at night to make sure everything was cool when the sun went down. There is an ATM machine next to the apartment front door. Twenty five people checked it for extra cash in half an hour. A stray boston terrier was running down the street. I grabbed him. His tranny owner came by crying looking for him a couple minutes later and was happy I picked him up. Some guy was selling Levis out of a plastic bag, and people were buying them. I was so sold.

SF Day One

I headed into the City early this morning. Well not that early, but early enough. BART from Downtown Berkeley to Embarcadero. The whole public transit approach to the oil crisis in the 70s really paid off for these Californians. It’s a shame Denver voters turned down rail while the spot light was on keeping the Olympics away so that sprawl did not get out of control. That worked…

Neighborhood Map for the spatially inclined

Neighborhood Map for the spatially inclined

Started the day off with a loop up Market through the Financial District and Civic Center into the Mission. Then back through SOMA and up to the Tenderloin. Started climbing Nob Hill to realize I had a flat. Stop, repair, continue. Climb Nob Hill and descend through China Town and North Beach. Another flat, slow leak. I have ten minutes max to make it to the bike shop before it goes all the way. Ended up at Mike’s Bikes in SOMA. Chain commercial store but the shop monkeys were super cool. Good advice on where to live and where to ride. Will be joining those folks and their fixed/brakeless cross team on Sunday for a muddy day. Realize that my front tire has been pitted to hell from glass and my rear is almost skidded through. Head to Sports Basement (kind of like REI I guess but cheaper) for a new front Gatorskin and rear randonneur. I forgot to mention it has been raining fucking sheets all day and no end in sight.

Stopped by an apartment back in Nob Hill. Too expensive. Killed some time in a coffee shop while the floods were taking over the streets. This is where it hit me again, I am now living in San Francisco, weird.

Back to the flooding. The infrastructure definitely could not handle the rain that was coming down and intersections were starting to turn into swimming pools. No need to fear, out off nowhere, twenty city employees at every block clearing that shit out. Sorry Hick, but if you could do this with snow you would be re-elected forever. It is crazy this is a, somewhat, normal thing and the stormwater system just flooded like that. But I’ll tell you what, the is a job creating economic development machine for all those dudes out there with their giant squeegees.

The rain let up for about five minutes. Enough time to get my moral back up to get in the saddle and ride the Embarcadero from Market to Golden Gate Park. Climbing hills and dodging miniature dog breeds on long leashes to the top of trail.

Right before the hill climbing and dog dodging fun began

Right before the hill climbing and dog dodging fun began

Holy shit the Golden Gate Bridge is huge! Ride half way across the bridge to this point:

One big bitch!

One big bitch!

Look at all the pretty lights...

Look at all the pretty lights...

Shortly after this photo was taken I looked over the edge and had a mini panic attack. My faith in the show Modern Marvels is not strong enough to believe this bridge can fight the forces of gravity. If it can happen in Minneapolis it can happen here. Shit. Focus. Look at the cars. Whew. Made it. Now I just have to get back across. Move fast, don’t think. Made it.

Made it back into the City in time to meet up with a new friend for drinks on her birthday. The bar was called Romolo 15 and it was really cool little spot with good old school drinks priced well and cheap bar food. I will be back there very soon. Caught the last train back to Berkeley at 11:55.

Airline Charges and Arrival

So I left Denver this morning and arrived in San Francisco. Pretty crazy moving with only a pack of clothes and a bike. Liberating. The Nazis at United charged me out the ass for my bike even though it was under size restrictions. I spent 45 minutes after picking up my bag putting my bike together in the airport. Got some strange looks from some people and thumbs ups from others.

Got to the start of a race in San Francisco just before it started. I checked my bag into a locker at the train station and took off with one hand on the bars and the other on my iPhone. Did fairly well for not knowing where I was going so that was fun.

Then it was time to hop on BART and head over to Berkeley to my hotel. The Nash Hotel will be my home for the next week or two. It is a nice and clean hotel but cheap. The family that runs the place is super nice. Just in case I get stressed out there is an Asian massage parlor on the first floor called Magic Fingers. There is a wait out the door anytime after midnight.

It really is nicer than it looks, I swear

It really is nicer than it looks, I swear