31 October 2014

Tell Tacoma to Budget for Bikes

We need more Tacoma residents to speak up for the importance of bike funding. If you have not done so already, please visit the City of Tacoma's budget website and follow the link in the upper right to “Provide Your Input”.

There is some funding proposed for trails and pedestrian improvements, but we really need more on-street bicycle infrastructure that connects people getting to and from these trails and walkable areas to jobs and business districts. The recently completed bicycle boulevard that runs from South Tacoma to the North End is a good example of how our city can be more connected with just a little paint and signage.

For a list of the proposed Transportation projects, see pages 4-6 of this budget document: 

If you want to speak directly to our Mayor and City Council, consider attending a Citizen's Forum at 5pm on the second Tuesday of each month. The Citizen's Forum provides an opportunity for citizens to speak about items under the City Council’s jurisdiction that are not on that evening’s City Council meeting agenda. There are a few rules and limitations, but this is a great opportunity for you to take the mic and tell the city why planning and building more bicycle infrastructure in Tacoma is important to you.

Please feel free to pass along the link to any one else who has a voice that needs to be heard.

03 October 2014

Our Turn to Give Back to 2nd Cycle

2nd Cycle is a non-profit community cycle center in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood. After years of making-do in sublet spaces, they will be moving to a new, permanent location at the end of this month. Moving is expensive and they are quietly asking for financial help with this process. Please consider making a donation through their Indiegogo site or swing by their existing shop at 1314 Marting Luther King Jr Way before the end of October to make a purchase or donation in person.

Mock-up of the new shop at S 12th and MLK

2nd Cycle has always been located in the heart of the Hilltop neighborhood. Organizers and volunteers have donated thousands of hours to keep this resource affordable and accessible to anyone and everyone. Since their humble beginning in the alley behind Le Le Restaurant, the vision for the shop has always been clear:

"To build a resilient, sustainable, connected community of cyclists promoting equity and acting in solidarity.  We see cycling demystified, normalized, and a part of daily life."

I started this blog in 2008, just after 2nd Cycle had opened it's doors. I watched them become an integral part our cycling community as it has grown substantially over the last six years. They have done this by making bikes accessible and understandable. They host a weekly Women and LGBTQ Night, offer neighborhood kids the chance to learn mechanical skills in a safe environment, and use a pay-what-you-can cost structure on some items and services.  

The efforts of the organizers and volunteers are commendable and this community resource deserves our support. You can find out more about the shop at 2ndCycle.org and on their Facebook page.


14 July 2014

Bike Camping In the City

Metroparks Tacoma started a new program last summer that allows folks to camp overnight at a few city parks on select summer nights. We couldn't make it last year, but this year I made sure to register early for a tent spot at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park.

The park is only about five miles from our house, so we made this a bike camping trip: I hauled the gear on our cargobike and the girls (6 and 8) rode their own bikes.

With room for one more in the tent, we decided to bring a friend along (8). He rode his own bike, too.

The evening of our campout turned out to be one if the hottest we'll see all year with temps near 90F as I loaded up the EdgeRunner. Our saving grace was a small spray bottle hanging from my handlebars so I could mist the kids with water as we pedaled.

About halfway to the park, I decided to make an impromptu stop at the Sherman Elementary pocket library where my oldest crashed hard into a curb and pinch flatted. Doh!

Luckily the EdgeRunner has a 20" rear wheel, because I hadn't thought to pack any extra tubes for kid bikes. It only took 10 minutes to change the tube and kids rummaged through the library cabinet to find a few books to read later. Onward!

Stopping to see a deer bedded down in someone's yard

Homestretch: the waterfront trail between the Point Defiance marina and Owen Beach
Everyone pitched in to pitch the tent
Room with a view of Vashon Island and the ferry
The kids had a fun time playing along the beach and on the hillside bluffs rising from the shoreline. The park was busy on this hot afternoon and many day-trippers stayed until the park closed at dusk to take full advantage of the complete shade along the waterfront.

We packed some treats, but Metroparks also provided campers with a few individually packaged snacks. There were also board games to borrow. The kids were completely spent by 10pm so we missed the storyteller that presumably started after we were fast asleep.

Supermoon rising over Port of Tacoma.
We rose at 7am the next morning for a light breakfast provided by Metroparks (coffee, juice, milk, fruit, oatmeal.) My oldest said she counted 16 tents. 

 Beachcombing: the first sanddollar I've ever seen at Owen Beach
With another scorcher in the forecast, we set off for home around 8:30am to beat the heat. The ride home is nearly all uphill to some degree and I knew my little riders were only going to get more tired as the day progressed.

Watching the Vashon Island ferry never gets old.
Stopping to watch a raccoon
Our pack mule: Fully loaded Xtracycle EdgeRunner 
We stopped at a playground to stretch our riding legs after the steepest part of the ride home. I had promised the kids a donut stop, but at this point they were already saying that it was too hot for donuts. They wanted something cold for second breakfast.

So we stopped at the grocery store and the three kids split a 6-pack of ice cream sandwiches. This ridiculous pile of bottled water made an excellent make-shift picnic bench. As bicycle guru Kent Peterson says: cyclists are not nutritional role models. After nearly 10 miles of riding in the heat, these kids had earned it.

This was a great opportunity for us to try bike camping and make some memories without ever leaving the city. All of us had a blast. However my oldest pointed out that the camping would not have been as fun if we had driven to the park. There are still two more opportunities for you to Campout with Metroparks this summer. Consider making these bike camping opportunities as well.

19 May 2014

Catching Up

We've been busy. If it's not one thing, it's another. You know how it goes. So here's some cool bike stuff that's happened or been seen in the last month.

Firstly, TBR Junior started riding in a Yepp Mini seat at age 8 months. He LOVES it. "Do you want to go for a bike ride?" nearly always evokes an excited response and he's more than happy to let me squish his face to get the helmet on.

This happened just in time for our Kidical Mass Tacoma kick-off ride in the Junior Daffodil Parade. We had a great turnout and the constant din of our bells ringing for 4 blocks brought tears of joy to my eyes. It also lulled TBR Junior to sleep; his first bike nap!

I attempted 30 Days of Biking in April and ended up with 26 or 27 Days. Not bad. Most of those days were short errands and biking to school, but it motivated me to take a few extra solo rides. I need to make more time for this.

Bike Month rolled in and we kept on riding to school and commuting to work.

We ran a kids bike rodeo at the Bike Swap, complete with teeter-totter ramp. I managed to sell a bike in the bike corral, but turned around and acquired bike another within 10 minutes. (N+1...it's a disease.) It's an awesome Dahon folding bike that I've listed for rent through Spinlister

And with spring weather finally springing, we decided to plant a plum tree and a bike rack in our front yard. Both are right out front to share with the neighbors.

We aren't the only folks taking to two wheels in Tacoma either. I've seen more bicycle traffic than ever before, all over town. It's exciting to see people discovering and rediscovering that Tacoma has always been a great town to ride around.

Made in Tacoma boxbike
Every bike is a cargobike
Tacoma 12s ride bikes, too

19 March 2014

Swan Creek Mountain Bike Trails in Tacoma

I was excited to hear that MetroParks Tacoma partnered with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to build mountain bike trails in Swan Creek Park, the second largest park in the city.

A Grand Opening celebration is happening on March 29th from 10am-3pm with activities for kids and adults, including a Trek bike demo. If you are unfamiliar with Swan Creek, this would be a great time to check it out.

Lots of riders are already enjoying the trails. My friend Jesse has been out there several times and offered to give me the full tour a few weekends ago.  Jesse rides a full-suspension 29er that can handle everything the park has to offer. I rode my rigid drop-bar 29er, which is more of a monster cross bike, but it worked great. It was an overcast rainy day, so most of my photos turned out like this.

From the park entrance on East T Street near Lister Elementary, we rode south to the main trailheads. The pump track, outer loop and skills sections all start near the same spot. 

The outer loop starts with a few big drops, which I opted to ride around. However, most of that trail seemed like it would be manageable on every thing from an old 26" mtb to your singlespeed cyclocross bike. 

Near the end of the outer loop there's an optional downhill section. Jesse had already figured out my comfort zone and advised me to "stay left, it's a bit less...violent." The violent bit is a steep and fast down/up feature that was happy to avoid.

We rode the full outer loop with a detour onto the Braking Bad inner loop and finished where we started (the trail is one-way.) That first introductory lap took about 30 minutes, but Jesse said he usually rides three laps in an hour. 

There are three skills trails that offer varying degrees of difficulty with jumps, drops and berms and other features. We did multiple runs on the easy and moderatate skills trails, but I was still riding slowly and going around the big drops. It was tons of fun.

The expert skills trail was still under construction, but from what I could see it would have been way out of my league.

Overall, I had a blast and cannot wait to get back to Swan Creek. I think this is going to help make mountain biking more accessible for many local riders and allow seasoned riders to play in the dirt more often.

11 March 2014

Mob Ride this weekend

It's MOB RIDE time! The Great Leprechaun Hunt 2014!

03 March 2014

A Review of RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles

I like reading about people riding bikes. And while many bike books contain personal accounts of tours and adventures across countrysides and continents, RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles offers readers just a small glimpse into the hearts and minds of more everyday bike riders.

Each story or poem is written by a different author. Sometimes a bike pushes the plot of the story and other times it's just a way for the main character to get from A to B. The characters come through as real, relatable people that you may already know in some way as a friend, relative, or neighbor.

These short stories cover a variety of bicycle cultures, from bike polo to missionary work, and involve an even wider variety of people. I've read RIDE 2 three times over the last year and with each new reading I'm struck by my own intense interest in these stories. A different story has stuck with me each time: first it was the love story, then it was the one set in Oklahoma, and lately I can't get the bike polo grudge match out of my head.

I have since purchased the Kindle ebook version because I like taking these stories with me when I travel. I hope this short fiction series continues with a RIDE 3, because these snapshots of bicycles in everyday life beg to be read again and again.

RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles is available on Amazon.

[Full disclosure: I was provided with a print copy of RIDE 2 for review purposes.]

05 February 2014

That Missing Stolen Bike Story

We've had a rash of garage prowling and wire theft in our neighborhood lately. My neighbors have been watching out for one another and so far no significant crimes have taken place. In a round-about Alice's Restaurant sort of way, this all reminded me of the story of my stolen (and recovered!) bicycle that I mentioned on the blog last year when it happened. It's finally time for a full explanation of that.

If you haven't heard Arlo Guthrie's song Alice's Restaurant, I highly recommend you go do that right now because I've channelled my inner Arlo to bring you this story. (My sister does a great job of putting the song in context with this article she wrote for The Encyclopedia of the Sixties.)

For the full masacree experience, play this loop of the song in the background while you continue reading below. Just get it going and wait for it to come around again on the guitar. And read it out loud in your best folk-singer voice.

It all started one year ago on a Saturday morning. (That's about nine months before this last Thanksgiving.)

I was in the garage building up a new bike. It was a rather involved project that required taking another bike apart first and I was using every implement of destruction in my toolbox, but I came up missing a bottom bracket tool and I couldn't continue on without one.

So I called a friend of mine and asked if I could borrow his bottom bracket tool, and he said "Yes" and so I went to grab my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts so I could ride over to his house and pick up the tool.

But when I went to get the bike I couldn't find it. 

It wasn't hanging on the hook there where it usually hangs. I walked inside the house to ask my wife if she'd seen my bike. "You mean the 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts?" Yep, that's the one.

She hadn't seen it.

I started to get very worried that it had somehow been stolen from the garage. We both walked back to the quote SCENE OF THE CRIME unquote. I stood there and thought long and hard about the situation and remembered riding the bike to school the day before to get my kids and when I had come home I had leaned it outside the garage along the fence and walked around to unlock the garage door from the other side.

And I had forgotten to bring it in.

And now it was gone - stolen! Fifteen years of beautiful memories on my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts flashed before my eyes. I felt like jumping up and down I was so angry with myself for making such a childish mistake. I'd actually made the same mistake as a child once, forgetting to lock up my old Huffy just one time and finding it gone the next morning. I guess some lessons just have to be relearned.

Well I still needed that bottom bracket tool, so with tears in my eyes I borrowed my wife's bike and rode off down the street towards my friend's house.

Now Friends, you have to understand that the next few seconds felt like a lifetime in my head, because as I threw my leg over the saddle of my wife's bike and my feet started pedaling, the ratcheting sound of a single-speed freewheel caught my ear. And the fifteen years of memories on my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts came flooding back for the second time in just two minutes as I looked up to see a teenage boy, one of my own neighbors, riding MY bike around the corner and heading straight for me.

Without changing course I rode directly up to the young man, slammed on the brakes, grabbed the handlebars of MY Schwinn and said, "Kid: This is MY bike. Where'd you get it?"

The young man could probably see a red anodized fire glowing in my eyes. He stepped off the bike, backed away, stammered out an apology and indicated the general direction of the quote SCENE OF THE CRIME unquote.

"Take the bike," said the Kid. "I'm sorry. I didn't know it was yours."

Well I began to tell the boy about my fifteen years of memories on that 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts and how I had realized it was gone just a few minutes ago. He said he understood and he was still very sorry, and I was still upset but I didn't see any need to call the police or talk to his father, and with a hand shake we parted ways.

I wheeled the bike inside to its proper place, took a deep breath, hung it up on the hook there, and then rode over to my friend's house to get the tool I still needed. When I got there I had to tell him the unbelievable story of how my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts had just been stolen and recovered in less than five minutes.

I borrowed the tool and went home to finish my bike project there in the garage. 

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about.

Because I had to go to court.


You see Friends, my neighbor's son wasn't a bad kid, but my neighbor thought it was odd that a nice bike like my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts would be discarded like a pile of garbage at the city dump.

After the kid brought it home that Friday afternoon, my neighbor thought it'd be a friendly gesture to go around and make sure that the bike didn't rightfully belong to someone else. So he had his son take him back to the quote SCENE OF THE CRIME unquote, which it turns out was not my house.

For some reason the kid thought the bike came from a house several doors down from mine. And so my neighbor and his kid knocked on the door and asked the folks there if they were missing a bike, and they said "No" and my neighbor explained his brief acquaintance with the Schwinn BMX and how our neighborhood has a neighborhood watch program and how we look out for one another. Apparently they had a nice time sharing stories on the porch there and eventually my neighbor and his son went back home.

Of course on Saturday the kid found out he'd made a mistake and apparently admitted to his father that he had found the rightful owner of the 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts. And so they went back to explain to the folks down the street that there had been a misunderstanding and that the bike situation was resolved.

But Friends, the folks down the street had already decided that this whole story about the 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts seemed sort of fishy. I mean, I mean they thought it was so fishy that they figured my good neighbor was some sort of mean nasty guy phishing for information so he could use the information against them.

So when my good neighbor tried to explain the story of how I had recovered my bike, they told him they didn't want to hear another word about it and that they were calling the police. My good neighbor didn't want any trouble so he left right away, but about a week later he was served with an anti-harassment order. My good neighbor came over and told me what was going on and asked me "Have you ever been to court?"

I'd never been court before, but I knew I needed to go with him to the hearing so I could tell the judge all about my 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts and how I'd discovered it missing from the quote SCENE OF THE CRIME unquote and then recovered it less than five minutes later.

That's what I did. We carpooled to the courthouse later that month and had fun sitting on the pew there in the courtroom waiting for our turn, listening to the other disputes and hearing about all kinds of horrible things, and when it was our turn my neighbors each stated their sides of the story and finally I was called upon to take the stand.

The judge made me raise my right hand and asked if I'd swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and I said "I swear." And then I began to tell her about my bike project and the missing bottom bracket tool and 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts and she said, "Sir, stop it right there! I don't need to hear any more about the bike."

Well the judge decided my good neighbor was just trying to be a good neighbor, so the charges were dropped and we carpooled back home. Now I wave at my neighbor's son when I ride by on my bicycle and he waves back at me and we continue to try and be neighborly and watch out for one another. We all learned more than a few lessons over that missing 1995 Schwinn BMX with the chrome and the slick tires and the red anodized parts, but most importantly we learned that...

You can ride any bike you like, 
but lock it up right at night.

Maybe you've heard it before, or maybe you're hearing it for the first time, but there's a good chance that if you're here hearing it now, you probably have a bike that you want to keep for a long time. And if you're going to keep a bike for a long time, you need to keep track of it. So Friends, let's just sing it together one more time (with feeling) when it comes around again on the guitar...

You can ride any bike you like, but lock it up right at night.
You can ride any bike you like, but lock it up tight at night.

Ride your bike all around the block,
But when you bring it home don't forget your lock.

You can ride any bike you like, but lock it up tight at night.

Dada dada dada dada - Lock your bike! Every night!