Victory over incrementalism

This weekend I joined up with some folks from OakDOT at the Scraper Bike Team's "Pothole City" ride. I always want to take opportunities to learn about cycling cultures, and to visit parts of the city I don't know as well. And fortuitously, earlier in the week OakDOT had just approved a radical road diet project on 90th Avenue, based on the Scraper's preferred design. It involves a protected two-way bike lane running down the center of the road, painted orange, and potentially incorporating street murals.

Ferry buildings

Part of my European trip involved a ferry to the island of Ischia, in southern Italy near Naples. Like most southern European places, Ischia was built with an entirely different set of design principles than American cities, and it shows from the moment you step off the ferry, where the main street is one-fifth the size of the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Southern European biking

One of Adonia Lugo's criticisms of the U.S. bike advocacy movement is its focus on Northern European solutions, and implicitly, Northern European thinking and values. I happen to be traveling in southern Europe right now, where biking has a much different social meaning. Our first stop was in Barcelona, a city which urbanists love to talk about. One thing urbanists don't tend to mention is that cycling rates are fairly low; about 2% mode share, despite years of investment in infrastructure.

Ding ding ding

Nakari from Rich City Rides posted this story of a black cyclist in Seaside Heights, NJ, getting handcuffed and arrested for obstruction of justice. The video doesn't show the beginning of the interaction, but the claim it makes (which I see no reason to dispute) is that he was stopped for not having a bell on his bike. No other explanation for the arrest is offered.


The biggest change to transportation in the Bay Area in the past year has been the adoption of dockless e-bikes, and most recently, e-scooters. I rode both a Jump e-bike and a Lime scooter recently, which left me thinking about the implications for the city. One thing that's notable is the demographic split between bike share and scooter share. According to Motivate, over 75% of their riders are white, and while I haven't seen hard data on the scooters, it's pretty clear that in Oakland they are heavily used by people of color, especially kids.

Cycling and collectivism

As an aspiring Marxist on Labor Day, I was reflecting on the relationship of cycling to worker organizations. One of the findings of my field work is that almost every city has a worker-owned bike collective, and there are a ton of them here in the East Bay. The programs offered by these co-ops tend to be community-oriented: social rides, earn-a-bike programs, bike education, and cheap or free repairs and used bikes. I'm wondering, what is it about the bicycle that activates people's interest in collectivism?

Rally for Naj

I was glad to hear this week that the charges against Naj K. Smith for playing loud music from his bike were dismissed, thanks to the outcry from the community and the pro-bono work of Walter Riley. So the rally planned for today to protest his court date instead turned into a rally to discuss racial policing. Speakers included Naj himself, as well as Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (who also wrote a letter in support of Naj), and several folks from Red, Bike and Green, the organization Naj was leading the ride for when he got arrested. The general theme was that even though this particular case has been resolved, the structural problem of racially-biased policing remains.

Two steps forward…

I think that the Oakland DOT is doing a good job of trying to address social justice issues in its community engagement process for the bike plan update, but some of the other bike planning efforts going on in Oakland highlight how difficult it is to keep focused on those issues.  One example was a workshop in Fruitvale about a proposal to redesign and pedestrianize East 12th Street near the Fruitvale BART station, and another was a community open house about updates to Telegraph Avenue in Temescal. Both were focused on infrastructure and lacked opportunities for meaningful input from the community.

Biased policing of cyclists

Two of my recent bike-related experiences came together this weekend, when Naj K. Smith of Rich City Rides (who I met leading a ride last week) got arrested in Oakland for leading a ride on First Fridays with his sound system trailer. The bike and sound system were confiscated, and he was handcuffed and spent the night in jail. He made bail but the bike is still impounded.

Rich City Rides

I was going to go check out the new Dirt World bike park up in Richmond, but on my way there, I was fortunate enough to run into a group of cyclists with a sound system blasting a Jackson 5 remix. This turned out to be the weekly "Self-Care Sunday" social ride from Rich City Rides, and they were on their way to the Berkeley Kite Festival. I altered my plans to join them on the ride through town and along the Ohlone Greenway.

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