Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘bicycles’ Category

What you can do to help:

Show up at the SLO County Parks Commission meeting at 1055 Monterey (county administration building) at 6 PM… on Thursday April 26.  Tell the Commission to recommend that the County Board of Supervisors use funds from the “Public Facilities Fund-Parks” to buy these old railroad rights of way.  Doing this will GREATLY simplify the eventual building of the portion of the De Anza multi use trail between SLO and Pismo and probably save decades of work.

Here is all of my data on this subject… It’s a lot… you may want to find a comfortable chair:

For the time being… I am focussing on current opportunities in Edna… and thus the section between SLO an Pismo.  The County already has as their number one priority plan… the route between Santa Margarita and SLO and between Templeton and Atascadero… (click link). As a second priority is the SLO to Pismo section.  We  need to get them to stop planning and start the project.  They have been planning connections between our cities for 33 years… it’s time to make it happen!

It is entirely possible to create the class I (separated from any road) bike path and or equestrian trail from San Luis Obispo (SLO) out through Edna Valley, and down Price Canyon to Pismo Beach.  Indeed most of the way has decent class II (on side of road) now.  There is a huge difference between users for Class I and Class II however.

Class I paths are off away from traffic and cater to kids and families, recreation, and some commuters while class two caters to road bikers and serious commuters.  At this time however… there is neither class  I or class II between SLO and Pismo.  There will someday be Class II infrastructure on Price Canyon Road to Pismo… and that will make the route a lot nicer for serious road cyclists.  No child or family will ride it though.  (Currently it has no shoulders over a good section and cars are traveling at high speed over those curves.  ie it is very dangerous for cyclists)

SO… I have been researching the idea of a class I path and equestrian trail over old unused Pacific Coast Railroad rights of way and other trails and class I infrastructure currently already in place between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach through Edna Valley and Price Canyon.  (My dream would be to have spurs off of this path that connect to all the various wineries in the Valley… through the vineyards… and bed and breakfast inns… and a few campsites and picnic spots…SOMEDAY.)

This route was the path that Juan Batista De Anza took back in the 1770’s when he walked up through California from mission to mission.  The “de Anza” trail is EXACTLY over this path as a matter of fact.  The de Anza trail is a National Parks trail that goes from San Francisco through California and through Arizona.  SLO county is working on plans for this trail from San Miguel down to Pismo. But they so far are basically just plans.

De Anza trail through San Luis Obispo County:

De Anza… on his first trip through San Luis Obispo County… had this to say about getting up to San Luis Obispo Mission.. (translated from the original spanish:

Friday, April 15 1774.–”Having crossed the Santa Rosa River, at daybreak I continued west-northwest for twelve leagues, when I encountered more than two hundred extremely docile heathen, and some springs of asphalt which they have in abundance. After this I traveled four more leagues to the north in order to reach the mission of San Luís. [Footnote 133] Here there are four missionaries from San Fernando de Mexico, like the others mentioned, and a guard of eight soldiers, who gave me the same welcome that I received at San Gabriel.–From Tubac to the mission of San Luís, 345 leagues.”

Here is what de Anza said on the Colonizing expedition… two years later in 1776:

Friday, March 1. — With fog and cold wind, at a quarter to eight in the morning we moved our train and set forth on the march to the northeast, with some turns to the north, in which direction we traveled about three leagues until we came to the village of the Laguna Larga . From here we continued in the last-named direction for two more leagues, at the end of which we turned toward the northwest or west-northwest, and likewise to the west, for about two and a half leagues, when we came to the shore of the sea. Turning again to the north, we traveled about a league and a half more, at the end of which we arrived at a quarter past five at the village of El Buchón , having traveled nine leagues in nine and a half hours. Here we halted for the night. — From Tubac to the Ranchería del Buchón , 268 1/2 leagues .

Saturday, March 2. — We raised our camp and set forth on the march. After going northeast for a league we turned to the north for another league, and then gradually descended toward the northwest for still another league, when we arrived at the mission of San Luís just as it was striking half past eleven , having traveled three and a half hours.

Although it is more than a month since it has rained in this region, today many mires were encountered, one being so dangerous that it was necessary to carry over all the packloads on the shoulders of the men, most of the people going on foot. Some of them, who wished to avoid wetting their feet, and hoping that the mounts would bring them out safely, paid well for it by getting much wetter. This greater disaster fell especially on our colonistsand those who had most primped up to enter the pueblo .

The welcome which they gave us corresponded to their pleasure, and was such as may be imagined with people who spend all the days of their years without seeing any other faces than the twelve or thirteen to which most of these establishments are reduced, including the missionaries and the guard. And, aside from their long and painful exile from the world , as they say, we found them agitated by the event that happened at San Diego , thinking that after the first uprising another and worse one might have taken place, as the rebels threatened; and what is more, by the understanding that I had appeared with my expedition on the Colorado River , as the same rebels reported, just at the time of their rebellion, as was very easy for our people, induced by their own fear, to believe. But having seen me, all melancholy and sadness disappeared , and they have turned to giving thanks to divine providence and to the present efficient government , that in such a timely manner this aid in the way of troops should have come to them. — FromTubac to the mission of San Luís , 271 1/2 leagues .

IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE OF de ANZA’S DIARY click the text blocks above.

El Buchon… mentioned in De Anza’s diary… is the village where the indian chief Buchon lived… somewhere around current day Pismo.  Buchon is the street I live on by the way.   Chief Buchon was so named by the Soldiers… because he had a “Buchon” on his neck (big Goiter or growth). So I guess I live on Goiter street… cough.  Point Buchon is where the Port San Luis Light house is… west of Avila Beach.

—————–

Back to the matter at hand:

A trail in this exact area is also already on the 300 page San Luis Obispo County “Edna Los Ranchos Specific Plan” from 25 years ago.  It is the dotted line on this exhibit from that specific plan that continues EXACTLY over the same route as the de Anza route and coincides with parcels of land that are for sale right now!

Here is the text from that specific plan describing how that specific plan relates to the 1979 transportation plan…and bikepaths, trails etc…. this bikeways element was written 33 years ago!  Had we started actually doing something then… we would be DONE NOW!

So a path through this area has been on our county plan for 33 years… but not really that much has ever happened.  I am all for planning… but if nothing ever happens… what is the point?  When do we start actually realizing the plan?

Moving right along to 2012….A path between SLO and Pismo  is a second highest points priority pathway (37 points, same as bob jones trail) identified in Table 4 on page 20 of the 2010 update of the San Luis Obispo County Bikeways Plan.  see just below:

The 2006 San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Element  “Mission Statement, Chapter 1, Parks Division Vision for the Future, Parks Goal, Objectives and Policies” had this to say on 3.10, 3.11, and 3.12 on Page E5:

I highlight this particular text above because in 3.12 it states specifically that any acquisition of fee (any land the county buys) needs to be from a “willing seller or donor”… just exactly how often does a willing seller pop up with over a mile of right of way in an existing trail corridor for cheap?  that is what we have now if we can act upon this opportunity.  

Also check out Table 10-B on Page 91 of the County Parks and Recreation Element “Parks and Recreation Project list”  This list clearly shows that the de Anza trail between SLO and Pismo is already on our County parks project agenda.  This project list also clearly states that the County Parks Dept. should work with the Oil Company and other owners on developing an undefined: “Price Canyon Natural Area”.

I should also explain that there are many many other policies etc… all which can be used as findings to give grounds for doing absolutely nothing.  Most of these revolve around making sure that the county has funds for ongoing maintenance, or funds to acquire the land.

ANYWAY… it can be argued either way whether to acquire new parcels or build new trails based on the Park and Recreation element language… AND THAT MY FRIENDS… is why you don’t see any new parks without an ENORMOUS amount of public outcry and effort.

There are no county parks within 8 miles of this proposed bike path.  So if any of the immediate 2000 residents in this neighborhood want to use any county park infrastructure… they have to drive in their car over to Biddle Park out by Lake Lopez, to cuesta Park at the north end of San Luis Obispo or over to the Bob Jones trail in avila valley.  To the north and south of this path… the cities of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano will all have bike infrastructure that immediately connect.   There are more than 95,000 San Luis Obispo county residents that live within 5 miles of this overall route.

Here is my overall map:

Two weeks ago a foreclosure property came up along the route I have been researching.  It is part of the old narrow guage railway known as the Pacific Coast Railway.  It’s shape is 60′ by 800′ approx.  This railway started before the Southern Pacific (SPRR)came to town (now the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR)).

It has a scrappy old house on it that needs to be torn down.  I don’t speak lightly of tearing things down… as I primarily spend my time restoring houses.  Usually using recycled old house parts in my projects.  This particular house is pretty bad though… it is very odd and short even if restored… ie not worth it.

What is interesting is that underneath all the exterior plaster… slider windows etc… are two 100 year old narrow gauge railroad boxcars.  YES… the house was originally built from railroad boxcars side by side!… probably a very long time ago…say the 1940’s when the railroad track was sold for the war effort during WWII.  Probably one of the earliest forms of “container housing” on the planet… maybe the first true “container” house.  I doubt this is of much interest though except to architects and people that live in Santa Monica or Amsterdam.

As you can see above… the ceiling is about 6’6″ off the floor (I’m 6’1″)… and is curved in each room.  The doors between the rooms are at least 100 years old so were probably salvaged even in the 1940’s… and they are 5’5″ tall skinny little exterior latched 5 panel doors so that you have to duck under the top of the doorways if you are more than 5’5″ tall.

When I climbed into the attic I could plainly see the two boxcars…their roofs still in place under the new trussed roof built over the two side by side cars so the house would look normal from the exterior… with a pitched roof.  The condition of the place is truly awful… sagging floors, rotten everywhere… not worth saving as house…. but saving the two boxcars is a fun idea… and getting them to the San Luis Obispo Railroad museum would be a fun project for a lot of Railroad enthusiasts I think.

Just south of this house for sale… is another house… also scrappy… but with a well and septic and power etc.   It is for sale right now too… and the three contiguous lots that come with it are over a mile long all the way down under the current price canyon road.  North of Price Canyon Road these parcels lie between Corral de Piedra Road and the UP Railroad tracks… approx 60 feet wide on average.  South of Price Canyon they veer off to the west away from the UP on the west side of Pismo Creek

Just below is the survey for these for sale lots:

They are the bold outline long skinny parcels in the middle of these two records of survey.  See how they go right through Price Canyon Road… and between the SPRR (now UPRR) and Corral De Piedra Road.  227 is in the upper left. The foreclosure parcel is just to the left of these parcels… same skinny shape… it would basically be the continuation of this skinny bold area off to the left.  Sure looks like a trail to me… and together this is over a mile long.  (we wouldn’t cross over the UPRR tracks at the right… the trail would stay to the north of these and Pismo Creek… So no bridges would be needed.

We would need a box culvert (big square concrete prefab pipe)here to tunnel under Price Canyon road.   But Price Canyon Road is quite high here… built on a lot of fill so that it can cross up over the UPRR.)  After crossing Price Canyon road… these parcels continue along the “old price canyon road” that isn’t used any more.  Surrounding this parcel is PXP oil land.

The big colorful graphic I built (three images ago) gives the entire overview in a single page if you click the link.  Takes a bit to absorb it… but basically there are only 6 private owners between San Luis Obispo Country Club and Pismo.  Of these… two are attempting to sell their various parcels.   All of these parcels are along the overall route of the old narrow guage RR just to the west of the UPRR.

I will say it this way to clarify… 33.3% of the owners of a trail route between SLO country Club and Pismo are wanting to sell!

SOUTHWARD from the parcels for sale:

PXP Oil is contiguous and south of the parcels for sale.  Getting through them is another matter altogether.  But PXP is currently paying for mitigation for all the various pollution and other misc that it does to the environment.  This mitigation takes the form of “in lieu fees”.  This money goes toward off site positive things that the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) deems counter to the negative impacts being done at the PXP facility.  These fees are collected by the APCD.

Sometime in the past I have been told… either PXP or one of it’s predecessors gave an easement through the PXP property as a mitigation for some earlier event… or perhaps in exchange for some building project or drilling right.  I don’t know.  I have heard a rumour that this easement exists… but it is “undescribed”, meaning that there is no actual route planned yet.  This easement will not occur until the facility stops working in it’s current capacity…. ie no path until the place closes.  However… I am thinking (and yes this may be a stretch.. but I am a half full type) that we may be able to trade some of those massive offsite “in lieu fees” for a speeding up of the design and placement of that path across PXP.. so long as it can be designed to not greatly interfere with the oil production facility.  Call me an optimist.

This path would be North west of Pismo creek until Oramonde Road.  At Oramonde… it would turn south across the existing bridge over Pismo Creek… before then turning west again before the UPRR.

Below PXP is an area near the big curve of Price Canyon known as Spanish Springs.  A trail easement 25′ wide exists here that connects up to this route I have been describing.  This easement has an at grade crossing of the UPRR… but at this point the UPRR is built up on a berm so I think the bike path should just go under the tracks via a box culvert (big square concrete prefab pipe).

Just Below is the San Luis Obispo County Assessor’s map of that entire Spanish Springs tract.  You can see the dashed line that represents the trail easement offered to the county between the creek and the Railroad… which goes under the railroad. This Easement exists now.  But if our county  doesn’t accept it… it will evaporate 25 years after it was offered… ie 25 years after 05-08-07 when this map was recorded.  This trail is approx a mile long here.  These lots on the left are for houses that are not built yet… but they are there… along with a little vineyard… a pond… and a gadzillion bunch of bricks in piles that were bought to pave the roads with… I think this was the biggest brick purchase in the nation that year.

Below the Spanish Springs Parcel are two UPRR parcels that were never used.  You can see the top of the first parcel to the lower right in the above image. It is a funny skinny parcel of various widths that sort of flows into the railroad to the north.  These Railroad parcels are part of another alignment option that the UPRR has never used because of a small grade where they would have to probably install a tunnel to get under this little hill.  Instead the UPRR goes a bit to the west of this and around that hill at the big curve of Price Canyon.  NEW INFO…Added April 17th: This alignment is actually a way for CalTrans to “straighten the UPRR curve” at Price Canyon.  According to the CalTrans documents this would allow for a high speed rail to get through this section a lot faster.  The CalTrans  total cost estimate for curve straightening in just this one area is projected to be around 200 million dollars… out of a total budget proposal of 2.5 BILLION dollars for the overall high speed rail route!   I doubt we’ll be seeing that happen any time soon.   So the currently unused straight section just sits there.  It is approx a mile long and continues all the way to the current existing Class I bike path at Pismo Beach’s Price Historical Park.  (even if the UPRR decides to use this straighter route… we could just swap them for their previous route around the curve then.)

If you want to check out the CalTrans “LOSSAN north corridor strategic plan” (cough) here is the link to the document that describes the Railroad curve straightening.  check out “SLO-3 on page 1-10!

Connecting this path in either direction is the number one priority for the 2010 City of Pismo Beach Bike Master Plan and indeed they are already working to get this class one path under the 101 freeway and into town across entirely city or Caltrans owned infrastructure.

So now… on to the City of Pismo Beach.   Check out priorities 1 and 16 below from page 5-3 of Pismo’s future bike projects list:

So… from these parcels that are for sale… which begin 3000 feet south of the San Luis Obispo Country club… it is entirely possible that we could develop an off highway route for a multi modal trail through to Pismo Beach.

NORTHWARD from the parcels that are for sale:

To the north there are two land owners of vacant agricultural farmland parcels next to the UPRR track.  We would need to buy or be granted an approx 25′ wide easement across their land in this section next to the tracks… maybe narrower… I am not sure.  But this easement should be separated by fences etc from the rr track and the ag land.  I hate thinking about this part of the trail the most because rather than dealing with companies…. we are dealing with families.  So it is a lot to consider and be respectful about. But perhaps they would be willing to sell an easement for a fair price.  I would only want this to be a willing sale.  Unfortunately… there really isn’t any other route that works nearly as well.

North of this is a public street… a short cul de sac on the south end of Los Ranchos Road which has 6 houses on it up to Country Club Drive.  At Country Club drive there is already a trail dedication made by the developers of the country club subdivision on the soutwest side of Los Ranchos Road.  It is there but you have to look for it as it is old and unused.  It is occasionally hard to see as the bushes have grown over it in many places.

Whether this dedication was ever accepted by the county is of some interest to me. This subdivision was granted approx 1986… or 26 years ago.  Trail easement dedications… if not accepted by the county within 25 years of dedication… are not really legally still a dedication.  So we would need to get this section re-dedicated by the Home Owners Association (HOA) if it was never accepted by the county. (why the county didn’t accept the dedication is a subject for the County Grand Jury… not me.)  I am working on this with the HOA.  (NEW INFO… written Tuesday April 17… I have just researched the Edna/Los Ranchos Specific Plan… approved by the county in the 1980’s… and it clearly states that the separated bike paths on the west side of Los Ranchos Road are to be maintained by the County.  This approved County Specific Plan also clearly shows an equestrian trail along the western side of the UPRR tracks that begins at the south end of Los Ranchos Road and continues south to Corral de Piedra Road)

here is a link to the EDNA/LOS RANCHOS specific Plan… check out page 234  below:

you can clearly see… just under the bikepath in this street section above… where it says” County Maintained”.  Los Ranchos Road is clearly defined throughout this document at being a COUNTY ROAD.

Indeed Los Ranchos road existed long before any of this Country Club area existed.  It was the route out to the old Mission Ranchos adobe shown as “G” on the old mexican land grant Map. that is in the Bancroft Library.  BTW… the “Corral de Piedra” or “stone corral” that this entire area is named after is in the center of the big map… described as “A”

detail

Below is a picture of the corral de piedra itself taken from the Price Historical Park website.  The Price House is located at the mouth of Price Canyon and will be on this trail. (thank you Effie McDermott!)  Check out the history of John Price and his life and home at their site.

anyway…

This Los Ranchos Road Class I separated bike path continues up to Crestmont with one short section across one property that was never completed.   From Crestmont… the Southwest shoulder of Broad street… aka highway 227… is very, very wide.  it is entirely wide enough for a two way class I bike path all the way up the the airport and the light at Aero Drive.  From Aero drive… you need to cross 227 at the light… and then there are two industrially zoned parcels we would need to cross and a bike bridge would be needed to cross the creek… but after that bridge there is “marigold neighborhood” Class one bike path infrastructure all the way up to  tank farm… where we would need to add a light for pedestrians and bikes…and then the class one bike infrastructure continues all the way to Industrial way… where it turns into Class II on road bike lane up to orcutt road.  At Orcutt Road the path goes back to Class I separated infrastructure and crosses orcutt at the Laurel Lane light.  From here it connects to the San Luis Obispo Railroad Safety trail that continues all by itself up along the east side of the UPRR Railroad all the way to the Railroad Station downtown.  From here there is already a plan to get across town to California BLVD. to  just north of the 101 Freeway.    From there… there already exists class I bike path all the way into Cal Poly.

and get this… from Cal Poly to Morro Bay… there are only 2 private owners in the way.  90% of that route is owned by the state… either Cal Poly, California Mens Colony (prison) California National Guard, Cuesta College, or the state of California itself, or the city of Morro Bay…. and much of it already has another old railroad right of way (meaning it is not too steep anywhere) all the way out to the National Guard’s “Camp San Luis”.

TO put it simply… there are only 11 private parties to deal with to build a bike path between Pismo and Morro bay.

But lets just focus on the bit between downtown SLO and Pismo today.  That bit only has 9 parties… and two of those are selling right now.  that is more than 20% of the owners between Downtown San Luis Obispo and Pismo!

I want to encourage the County Parks Commission to ask the Board of Supervisors to buy these parcels which are for sale right now… and I need your help.  We the people of this county have funds in an account called the “Public Facilities Fund – Parks” which are controlled by the county board of supervisors.  The Supervisors each have a County Parks Commissioner.  These County Parks Commissioners are meeting next on Thursday April 26th at 6 pm in the big county building next to the Fremont Theatre on Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.  If the commissioners unanimously agree to ask the Board of Supervisors to please try and acquire the parcels which are available and a good deal right now… there is a certain amount of probability that the supervisors will do it… and thus we will be well on our way towards establishing the needed rights of way for this trail.  We will have a project rather than a plan. (It is an election year though… so I hope this doesn’t make this into a political issue)

Please try and come to this meeting… and bring a friend or ten… and all of you should plan to speak to the commissioners… a nice short speech… say 20 seconds or so… just asking the commissioners to recommend that the supervisors buy these parcels.

There will be a discussion at the meeting on whether (or not) to ask the Board of Supervisors to buy these parcels which are currently for sale.  That is when you should speak.  The small parcel is $120,000.  The longer parcels are for sale for $450.000 at the moment…but I believe that the longer parcels are only worth about 200 to 300k and am attempting to get that land owner to drop his price.   I am acting alone in this.. I am not working for the county or anyone… but I cannot afford to buy it all and donate it…

Anyway… All together this approx $350K to $450k total purchase of all four parcels and both houses would buy out 20% of the private owners of land needed to create a bike path from downtown SLO to Pismo.    In the larger scheme of things this seems pretty fair to me.  Especially considering that the land for sale is over a mile long.

So that you don’t think I am a total idiot:   I have already been promised Letters of Support for this concept from the Boards of the following entities:

1) Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, 2) Bike Coalition of San Luis Obispo

and I already have letters of support from these agencies or groups:

1) The City of San Luis Obispo,  2) the Parks and Recreation Commission of city of Pismo Beach, 3)San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club, 4) safe rides to school folks, 5) Action for Healthy Communities, 6) San Luis Obispo Parks, Open Space, and Trails (slopost)

I am interested in any other support that any of you can muster up… from any county or city agency or private foundation or club etc. CAN YOU HELP HERE?

I will be using these letters together with all my data to make my case with the SLO County Parks Commission and after that with Board of Supervisors… and then after that with the board of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments(SLOCOG).  SLOCOG is the entity that allocates state and/or federal funds to the cities of this county and to the county itself.  It’s board is made up of the county board of supervisors… as well as the mayors of each incorporated city.

For this effort… I will need all the help I can get.  At this point that means showing up at the County Parks Commission meeting at 6 pm on April 26th… at the county board of supervisors room in the county building next to the Fremont Theatre on Monterey street in San Luis Obispo.

Later it will mean showing up at the Board of Supervisors meeting whenever that is.

I welcome your comments and help…What do you think?

Eric

PS… here are some other San Luis Obispo multipurpose trails being worked on:

 California Coastal Trail link

 The Land Conservancy of SLO County Bob Jones Trail link

Read Full Post »

Saw this cool poster recently on Copenhagenize.com as regards the way Rio de Janeiro Brazil feels about transportation Infrastructure.  I’m in sort of a big bike advocacy mood as of late… so I thought I would repost it here.  The City of Sao Paulo Brazil is reworking their complete infrastructure with the help of Copenhagenize.  Rio is along for the ride too.  Anyone interested in bike infrastructure around the world ought to be tuned into Copenhagenize.com

Read Full Post »

Opposite land.

In Opposite land the roles of bicycles and cars are reversed.  Every street is a bike street.  Every house has a bike garage and bicycles dominate the transportation environment.  There are elevated commuter trains over grand central Bike stations with tons of bike parking and restaurants and showers and mechanics on staff.  Roadies ride through towns on Bike Freeways with onramps and offramps.  There are large beautiful country bike loops to wineries, cafes and b and b’s in the surrounding hills.

There is a Bikotel… or “bike hotel”.   The first in the nation.  There are arterial streets for faster riders… and local streets for slower riders. There are “bike up” windows at hamburger places.   Tourists flock to the area from Europe and Japan… and Portland.   Bike infrastructure receives 98% of transportation funding…

There are cars in opposite land too… and there is a growing automobile enthusiasts network that make this “alternative transportation” choice.  There are some class one “Car-Paths” and a few decent class two “Car-paths”. But they usually end just when you need them most… before big intersections.  There is also a plan for the City to Sea Car Path… but “CalBike” is being a stick in the mud by requiring a huge Car Bridge over the CALBike freeway that nobody has the funds for.   Two of the most innovative Auto infrastructure items are the unique “Car traffic Signal” on Santa Barbara St. and the six block long “Car Blvd.” on Morro Street (which is closed to bikes in this area!) Both of these Car infrastructure improvements have been featured in automobile advocacy magazines.  Indeed… Automobile usage has been widely promoted in many circles as greatly beneficial to the public at large

But in Opposite Land… the general public says that cars are just not useful for regular people who actually go to work and need to buy groceries.  They are too difficult to get around in and too dangerous…. They just don’t make sense.

So the Opposite Land “Automobile Coalition” aims to change this.  They visualize a multi modal transit infrastructure that serves all users equally.  They have signs that say “share the road.   They explain that with more Car paths and car routes car usage would go up… dramatically.

 Yet even with advocacy… Opposite Land automobile infrastructure receives less than 2% of transportation funding.

What is it going to take to change this?  How can we convince Opposite land government that Automobiles usage is up and climbing… and deserves more than 2%?

full disclosure: BikeSnob NYC already panned Opposite Land years ago in his blog as a “parody of itself” (the author here thinks it’s important to note that Bike Snob took 6 weeks off work to drive to Opposite Land on truckroutes though… with a group of other “dieseltourists” from NYC in a Peloton of Dodge Double cab dually pickups and as such dismisses BSNY’s earlier appraisal)

BTW… the bike in the photo up top was built by John Cutter in San Luis Obispo… for the 2011 Oregon Manifest.  It received honorable mention… but probably should have won instead of that beachcruiser with a radio.

Read Full Post »

A friend sent me the link to Benjamin Bullins art.  I particularly like this Bathroom sink he designed.

Read Full Post »

This Sears 3 speed bike, circa 1966 or so, is one I used to own.  I sold it to a friend about 3 years ago.  It is from Austria.   I doubt you can buy much made in Austria at Sears today.  The Saddle is a “Lepper” brand and is from Switzerland… the front generator light is a Soubitez from France… the rack and kickstand are Pletscher from Switzerland… the pannier bags are also from Sears… black vinyl… with white contrast trim.

It is a very basic but beautiful black bike.  I don’t know why I love bikes so much.

Read Full Post »

I recently discovered Monkeylectric.com .  They make LED lights that attach to your spokes to create crazy patterns as you ride… BUT THEY ALSO make an insane bike wheel video player using the same LED light type set up… that plays low res video on your spokes as you ride.  Kinda hard to imagine… so check the video.  The system is pricey (2k us$).  There are a lot of small business ideas that could spring out of this.  (sorry about the music… turn down the volume…)

Read Full Post »

Recently finished building this single speed Porteur bike.  It used to be a metallic blue 70’s “Nashbar” mail order special ten speed.   All those old French Porteur bikes in a previous post (scroll down a bunch) kinda got me jonesing to build one.  Still need to get some green leather bar tape for it.  This is my first bike with Cantilever Brakes.  I like em!  many thanks to Velo-Orange.com for all their bits!  There is some buzz about Velo Orange maybe opening a West Coast shop here in San Luis Obispo.

Read Full Post »

This is a really long post.  You may want to get a cup of coffee first.  You may actually not care at all…  but it would have been my mom’s birthday a couple of days ago… So I thought I would write about her… and the concept of the word “cool”.

Lucy… in Florence Italy… circa 1942

——————————————————

In the early 1950’s, before I was born,  my mom Lucy ran a store selling metaphysical books, art supplies,  and jazz records.   It was decorated in a Zen style which in those days meant a red door, tatami mats on the floor, paper Japanese lamps hanging from the ceiling, cast iron candle stick holders, and rattan window shades you pulled up with a cord.   She usually walked or rode her bike to work… accompanied by her black standard French poodle…. Cobby.

Sales were not huge.  Mostly she just served coffee to her musician and artist friends, from a percolator no doubt, while they hung out and listened to Sarah Vaughan and Ahmad Jamal records and talked alternately about Buddhism,  Hinduism,  psychology or philosophy.  She wore cable knit sweaters, corduroy pants, wool socks and workboots bought from Giannini’s fisherman’s supply shop down by the harbor.  The neighbor lady’s Siamese cat “Salvador” was a fixture in the window.  (Salvador was one of those old fashioned fat headed Siamese cats from before cat breeders chose for skinny noses)  The coffee wasn’t espresso, it was just coffee,  Maxwell House most likely.

What I have left of this era are a cigar box of black and white photos shot with a wide angle lens by a grad student from Berkeley who’s name I have forgotten… of the characters that often inhabited my mom’s shop… and the stories.  Margaret Meads ex-husband Gregory Bateson  frequented the place.  Most of the beats had been in… as well as my namesake… Eric Barker… the Big Sur poet who could be found hanging out with Henry Miller at the bar of that new restaurant called Nepenthe’s on the land Orson Wells used to own.  Lucy also knew a fellow named Michael Murphy because they shared a common interest in moving to the Sri Aurobindo ashram “Auroville” just outside Pondicherry India.  Murphy later moved there… and eventually founded Eselen in Big Sur.

Lucy never moved to India… because my childhood doctor…BLESS HIS HEART!  Dr. Ekegren or Dr. Tedone… one of the two…I can’t remember… told her she was an idiot to take me, a five year old,  there.  I did get a Cholera shot that day… which was the reason for our visit to the Dr…. in advance of leaving the USA and which is the only part of that day I remember clearly.

Anyway… running a bookshop catering to pseudo beatnik artists seems like a pretty interesting thing to be doing in the early fifties from the rose colored hindsight of 60 years later.  I’m sure she decided to open it after visiting Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco and falling in love with his City Lights bookshop there.

The trouble was that she was in Morro Bay… then mostly Portuguese abalone divers and Swiss Italian dairy farmers.  Eastern Philosophy meant nothing to them… they could care less about Alan Watts, or the latest music… and that damned standard Poodle was best known around town for the time he stole somebody’s entire laundry line and tugged it and the clothes on it down Morro Bay Blvd.

——–

Within a year or so the shop closed.

Prior to the bookstore Lucy had lived in LA and worked for the Capital Records PR Department writing copy for many of the 1940’s jazz greats.  Earlier she had lived in London, Rome, and Madrid.  Her husband was a writer and reporter for the United Press who’s job it was to cover the Consular Core abroad.  He wrote and she bought a few modern paintings.  She drove a jeep.  She wore scarves.  She was tan.  WWII was a side note.

On vacation to Morro Bay one weekend they noticed a for sale sign on an ocean view redwood and glass house.     They stopped to have a look and a man was standing there with a large hammer in his hand laughing.  “What’s so funny?” Lucy asked.   “Well”, he said,”  I just finished pounding in that for sale sign about 20 seconds ago”.

Within a year the marriage would be over.  But that house would be Lucy’s home for the next 50 years… and Gerry, it’s architect, the laughing man with the hammer… would later become my father.

Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler had pioneered the modern “international style” of architecture in California 20 years earlier… but a modern house was still an unusual sight in 1954… and Lucy’s house really stood out.

Gerry Rupp was a mostly unknown modernist architect who alternately drove a Jeepster, a 40’s Chrysler convertible or an early 1950’s VW single cab pickup.  He called the VW “the old Nazi” and purposefully beat the hell out of it… as payback for his WWII war injuries I suspect).  This truck was later sold to another neighbor… and I was brought home from the hospital in it.    He wore leather sandals… corduroy shorts… and had a beard.  He had several medals from the war.  He had studied law… semantics in particular.

He lived in an A- frame he built in 1949.   This was the first modern  A-frame.  Another architect Gerry knew,  Mark Mills, built an A-frame home in Carmel by the Sea few years later.   A few years after that Nathanial Owings (of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architects) would copy Mark Mill’s  A-frame design when he built his (now famous) “Wild Bird” house on the coast of Big Sur in 1958.   Andrew Geller on the east coast would get credit for inventing the A-frame style due to his 1955 house on the east coast.  I showed photos and wrote about this in an earlier post.

Back on subject… and to put all this in context… when my mom was a kid… in the 1920’s…  The graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko was founding the Russian Avante Garde, Walter Gropius was building the Bauhaus in Germany,  the surrealist painters had published the first issue of La Revolution Surrealiste, there was New Orleans jazz music on the new “radio” and Ford was selling two million Model T’s per year.    I think it’s important, the context that is, because I am fairly sure that my mom was one of the first people that were truly “cool”.

In the 1950’s it was probably stupid to ride a bike to work to everyone except the core beat generation types… who considered it cool to be down and out. Somehow… the idea of being modern… and progressive… included being down and out… and my mom owning that (money losing) store… and riding her bike because her Renault  sedan(still pronounced “rehnahlt”  then here in the USA) was broken… all of this was good somehow.  Bad was good.  Add to that her history in Europe… the job writing copy for the jazz greats… well it just adds up.  She was cool.

And I mean this in the fifties Beat sense of the word… like when somebody said… “he’s cool”.  Well it acknowledged that not only did this “cool” person get the whole concept of modernism… he also was just as happy to have rejected anything mainstream and was a more accepting individual.  He was not likely to judge others for being avant garde or unusual in some way… more likely he would judge you if you were too normal.   The cool person was an insider… he knew the score… he wasn’t gonna call you out for whatever you had to hide.

Its really a fantastic evolution… from “calm and collected”, the previous definition.

My grandpa, born in the 1800’s, was of a different era altogether.   He was a telegraph operator in Indiana.   He lived a few miles from the train station on a small farm and he rode a bicycle to work.    During the great depression he often gave his lunch to the hobos and did without.  He was a respected member of several Fraternal Orders.  He went to church.   He remembered when they first got electricity.  He did not own a car.  Nobody he knew owned a car.  He was a good man.  But grandpa was not cool.

Somewhere between my mom and my grandpa… cool happened.

My first personal experience with the concept of cool came with the gift of a bike. (the more savvy among you will now notice the secondary bike theme)  It had been my mom’s bike in the 50’s.  A pre war skip tooth Roadmaster … she and I painted it purple with a spraycan. (Hey… it was 1970!).  It was “a stupid girls model” (said with the disgusted inflection of an 8 year old boy).  It also weighed about 40 lbs.

The other neighborhood boys all had new banana seat bikes usually called Stingrays.  They had a club called “Heaven’s Devils”… comprised of only banana seat bike owners.   I was not admitted to this club… as mine was not a banana seat bike….on top of this… mine was a girls model… horror of all horrors.   So evenings at my house were spent staring at the Sears catalog, or Boys Life… reading all that was then available to an 8 year old regarding bicycles.

The social pain associated with having an older model girls bike was quietly absorbed by me… as my mom was always poor as a churchmouse.  Mostly I knew this because I always had Sears Toughskins… and the other kids had Levi’s.

To my great surprise… the next Christmas Santa blessed me with a green “Free Spirit” model Banana seat bike(with a sissy bar even!).  Not quite as good as the “orange peeler” Schwinn that the neighbor kid had… nor nearly as expensive… but it did allow me admittance to the club… which by now had basically disbanded anyway.  In any case… I was no longer the dork on the old girls bike.

I was finally cool.

But the cool that I was…  upon reflection…(and I have given this a great deal of thought)  well it differed from the cool of my mom… whom at that time I didn’t realize was cool.  My cool was a marketed form of cool… primarily driven by advertising.  The boys in the neighborhood saw the newest items in various magazines… and the richer of these boys got them first.   Slingshots for instance… I had one… most kids did.  But Billy Warner got a “Wrist Rocket” model slingshot one day… and within the hour all other slingshots were not cool anymore.

Same goes for skateboards… I had a “Black Knight” from Thrifty Drug store… as did most of the kids in the neighborhood… yet when Jimmy Warner (Billy’s brother) got that first Hobie… well it was advertised in various magazines… and all the cool kids in the magazines had them… and suddenly the “Black Knight” seemed pretty uncool… and I basically felt second tier suddenly… when the day before I had been just fine.

So this Beat notion of “cool” was co-opted by advertising agencies to mean newer and better somewhere in the sixties.   Sure… the idea of new is better had been around for a while.. but this addition of cool factor really ramped things up and suddenly people everywhere were not as cool as they could be.  We as a society weren’t prepared for this status upgrade assault… and worst of all we fell for it hook line and sinker.   Last year’s style was uncool… the new version was much cooler.

The Beat meaning still stuck in certain cases but there was now this other marketing driven version of cool that had a status associated with it… and that status association was COMPLETELY different to the status associated with the beat generation meaning of cool.  It was in fact almost the exact opposite.  Nobody seemed to notice this insidious evolution but it has made a great impact on our culture.

Here was this other iteration of cool… more rightly now called “trendy” I suppose… and it has driven marketing ever since.  The cool (trendy) guy gets the girl because he has the cool (trendy) car… the cool (trendy) girl gets the guy because she has the cool (trendy) clothing from the cool (trendy) clothing brand… the cool (trendy) kid has the cool (trendy) bike… the cool (trendy) mom buys the latest cool (trendy) snack… blah blah blah.

Television and marketing now tell us what is cool.  It is very difficult to ascertain the truly cool anymore.  Is Lady Gaga actually cool… or is she only cool because her PR machine and her carefully marketed cynical attitude have fooled everyone into believing that she is making fun of things that are marketed… and therefore she is cool.    This is a devious and brilliant reverse marketing concept.  I truly don’t know whether she is actually beat cool… or whether she is just marketing cool.

Truly beat cool has a sort of cyclical relationship with marketed cool.  At first a beat cool theme is adopted by a prime mover, an alpha… Someone actually does something cool, or wears something odd cool, or uses something in a new cool way.  This might be a musician or a famous personality. Whatever. Next it moves to the beta’s… the group closest related to the prime mover.  Next people all over, usually young people, begin to adopt this theme or behavior.  Then that cool thing or theme is quickly glommed onto by marketers and advertisers… using this new cool thing to catapult their agenda or product to a larger audience thus making them cooler than their competition. Once the theme or product hits a certain saturation… the core group of users starts to reject the cool thing… the cycle ends.  Coco Chanel famously said, “fashions fade, only style remains the same”.  This is the difference between beat cool and trendy cool.

Thus the truly beat cool… are usually perceived as uncool by most folks at first.  Once understood… this is pretty funny.    There is an entire industry of trend forecasters that make a living prognosticating what is cool to corporations.  Their jobs are to watch for these odd new often uncool looking behaviors… and to then carefully track them to see if they lead to a trend.

—=—

It is interesting to note that the entire modern notion of “cool” really only goes back to about 1920.  My grandpa in 1910 had no notion of being cool other than it meaning “calm and collected”. I suppose that there was a concept of fashionable… or classy… or of character.  But there was no separate “cool factor” that transcended things.  A person was simply classy… or fashionable.  They were not “cool” yet.

So move forward to roughly the 1920’s… to those modernist movements… the Russian Avant Garde… also called “Constructivism”, De Stijl in Holland, Bauhaus in Germany, Modernistas in Spain etc etc…  All of these were design movements by intellectuals trying to advance quality of life for a wider variety of people…. To make things more than they had been prior to the industrial revolution.  To bring quality to the average man.  It was a time of great changes in art, literature, music and design of all types.  All the norms were being challenged.

Those people that challenged the norms were different than those that stayed within the old paradigm.  They were modern.  They were avant garde.  They were often outcasts and considered rebellious.   This also defined both the beat generation that was to come… as well as products and corporations that embraced the most modern concepts.

The concept of modernism separated those that accepted it from those who did not.

There came to be cool people… and then everyone else… although I am not exactly certain when cool happened.

In reality we got two different types of cool… and while they should be separate entities… they are not.   These two cools are not at all the same.  The term “cool “ doesn’t really allow for a distinction between the two.  But the two have wildly different  meanings and it is important to see the distinction.

As you may have noticed… I call one “beat” cool… and the other “marketed” cool.

—=—

Today I would venture to bet that if you walked up to anyone on the street under the age of 80.. and asked them if they were cool… they would say… “yes… I’m cool”

But how can this be?  Surely not everyone is cool.  This defies the concept of cool.  Some of these people must be uncool.  But who then is the arbiter of cool?

The 80 year olds listened to Elvis… they knew Rock and Roll… they built hot rods… some were beatniks.  The 65 year olds knew the british music invasion… they were hippies… they took acid… they smoked pot.  Anyone under 50… well hell… they were raised under an aura of marketed cool.  Cool is ubiquitous to them.  Are they all cool?

——

Something funny happened to cool around 1990 or so.  Cynicism began to be hip.  First it was just a small group.… self made pundits analyzed and criticized everything cool… such that things which were not formerly cool became cool simply because they were uncool.  Reverse Marketing was born where brands made fun of themselves in order to look cooler.  This was not totally new… Doyle Dane and Bernbach Advertising (DDB) had done this in the 60’s with VW’s advertising.  But in the nineties it took on a whole new dimension… a truly negative cynical twist.

I was making shoes then… the brand I built was called Simple Shoes.   I had a hunch about clogs because I saw them on the feet of a couple of people I knew who hated everything cool.  They were purposely trying to be uncool by wearing clogs.

So… I went deep and started making clogs in a big way…on the hunch that these uncool cynics were actually the next wave of alphas… and that soon everyone would want to look uncool.  We advertised them in that DDB style… as “the ugliest shoes that you could buy”.  We told our customers to “hurry and buy them before they become trendy”.    At first the shop owners looked at me like I was a complete idiot.  “there is no way in hell I am gonna sell any of these… get them ugly things out of my shop” Steve Carlson told me at his shop “Central Coast Surfboards”.

I did get Steve to test them however… and they sold out to his most forward customers within a few weeks.  The next time I saw Steve… he was wearing my clogs.

It was not cool to look too cool.   But it was cool to look a bit uncool.  Very confusing.

Something troubled me about this.

I was simultaneously making a living by marketing consumer products by making foreward thinking people think they were cool… and growing tired of marketed products and consumerism myself.  This was an odd spot to be in.  It started to feel really stupid and dishonest for me to continue to convince people that they needed my brand over some other shoe.  In reality… I knew it shouldn’t matter what kind of shoe a person wears.  So I decided to sell the company… as it really wasn’t cool to be selling cool.

——-

Of late there is an even further evolution in cool…  I’m still not quite certain what to make of it.

A new era of critic has been born.  Critics of the extreme forward niche.  The Blog “BikeSnobNYC” is a perfect example of this. (note bike theme under-current example again… I’m a bike bike enthusiast… and will promote cycling however possible!  There can be no shame in that.) .  BikeSnob makes fun of the leading edge of bike culture before anyone else does.  This blog is truly funny.  Something can barely peak its head out of the new idea box… and Bikesnob will find a way to make fun of it.  This has made BikeSnob really cool somehow… even cooler than the coolest new things to hit the scene.   Somehow… belittling the most interesting new progressive ideas makes the the most fervent of bike geeks want something even newer still.  It is ridiculous… and funny.

There are larger bike trends… ie The 1970s “bike boom” when ten speeds flooded the market, BMX, Mountain bikes, fixies… etc etc.   Well amongst the bike cognescenti there are some fairly micro niches that most folks don’t know about or understand.… like the retro French randonneuring tweed ride (betcha never heard of that one), Dutch cargo bikes,  nervex lug collecting, NOS Campagnolo in the box collecting etc etc.

Bike Snob has called out the Cargo Bike trend by calling them “smug bikes”.  Mind you… that there are probably less than a few thousand Cargo bikes in the USA… and their owners tend to be the alpha amongst alphas of green consumers.  These cargo bikes are primarily bought because the owners of these rides are using them as a form of protest against the automobile… in order to show others that you do not need to use an automobile for most tasks.

BikeSnob is making fun of a group that most people don’t even know exists yet by calling them smug… which they are… but they’re still a radically forward thinking bunch that will eventually impact the balance of society… but by calling them smug years before they even have an impact… well… it is just funny…. And it somehow makes BikeSnob truly cool.

—=—

The last word is that cool isn’t really one thing… it is hugely multifaceted.  And just because something is cool… doesn’t mean you should like it I guess.  You need to research it… and why it is cool… and whether this cool thing is really cool or not is up for you to decide.  You shouldn’t let our “advertising and branding culture” define what is cool.  More than likely it is only cool because a lot of money is being spent to fool you.

True cool is rare.  It is to be treasured and studied.  It is not a new dress or something you saw on TV.  It is probably not today what it was last year either.  It is an evolution of thought… a nuance that you know is right but cannot describe.  Cool is that thing which most of us never really achieve.   We try to achieve it by buying crap… and or imitating things that used to be cool…

My mom was cool.  I miss her.  It would have been her 91st birthday today.

Eric Meyer March 1, 2011

Read Full Post »

Eric Staller created this amazing art car years ago.  The lights are computer controlled and create a vibrant visual display.  Down a bit further is a link to the video of this car in action.

I am still amazed by it and his many other creative endeavors.

He made these clogs…

He is most famous for his “conference bike”.  Where 8 people sit in a circle and pedal and chat.  These are widely available now.  www.conferencebike.com

Please also check out the other stuff he has for sale! It is pretty crazy too.

Read Full Post »

French Porteur bikes

a nice collection of french porteur bikes can be seen here

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »