Update: RTC Board Comes Through

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Hopefully, a green light for improvements to Virginia Street.

I’m so pleased to update Tuesday’s post with the news that the RTC Board voted unanimously to deny the proposed design modification recommended by two RTC directors last week.

To recap, the modification would have had significant impacts on the wide sidewalks, street trees and outdoor seating that were central to the community’s acceptance of the agreed-upon design. More important, the modification would decrease pedestrian safety on the street (relative to the accepted plan) by the RTC directors’ own admission. The community raised a stink about the last-minute proposed change, and many local residents, business owners and property developers spoke out against it at today’s meeting. The property owners who had pushed for the design modification were also present and made their case, but ultimately the RTC Board chose to listen to the majority of constituents and reject the change. Hooray!

Credit where credit is due:

  • Ward 1 Councilmember Jenny Brekhus sent this letter to the RTC Executive Director highlighting the increased costs and decreased safety associated with the proposed modification and demanding an explanation. I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of city politics, but as a 3-year resident of Ward 1 I’ve consistently felt that Brekhus truly listens to her constituents and does what’s in her power to advocate for them. This is yet another example.
  • RTC Board Members Paul McKenzie and Neoma Jardon, both representing Reno, moved to deny the proposed modification, and the rest of the RTC Board unanimously agreed. Thank you for listening to your constituents.
  • RGJ City Life reporter Mike Higdon reported the story in the RGJ and live-tweeted Thursday’s meeting, which was helpful for those of us who couldn’t attend. He does his job well and I’m glad he’s on this beat.
  • Many individuals took time out of their day to attend the meeting, or if they couldn’t attend, to email or call their representatives. I don’t know how this vote would have gone without those actions, but I can’t imagine that they didn’t play a role in the outcome. If you attended or spoke out about this, thank you! (Even if you voiced an opinion that’s opposite to mine, thank you for doing it where the public can hear you.)

Until the trees are planted and the concrete is poured, I will be wary of the solidity of the plans for Virginia Street. However, weeks like this demonstrate that the community has a clear vision for this project and can get together to fight for it. Let’s stay on the alert for updates and keep holding public representatives accountable to their constituents. Let’s do what we can to show concerned developers that the agreed-upon plans will be an economic boon to their businesses, not a bane. Let’s keep working together to make sure this becomes the great street we need at the heart of our city.

Check out the RGJ’s coverage of the meeting and the decision here. Additionally, Addison’s analysis at Reno Rambler adds a great perspective and can be found here.

RTC Pushes for Same Old Virginia Street

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Virginia Street in all its glory. Is this really what we want to perpetuate?

This post is rife with frustration, so if you’re already in a bad mood, skip it. If you’re already familiar with the Virginia Street project, you are excused from reading the next three paragraphs. If you have any corrections, clarifications or other points of view on anything below, I would love to hear them.

Way back in 2014-15, the Regional Transportation Commission solicited community input on plans to overhaul Virginia Street. The street has been considered a blight in the community for decades. With tiny, non-ADA-compliant sidewalks, poor sightlines from cross streets and unsafe pedestrian crossings combined with high traffic speeds, the street is a hassle and a hazard to navigate, no matter what your conveyance. It was clear that something had to be done, and with the RAPID transit project underway, this was our opportunity to reform the street. I didn’t get involved with this project until mid-2015, so I can’t speak to the beginnings of the process, but by the time I came along the RTC had put out several design alternatives for consideration and was in the middle of the long process of figuring out what the community wanted out of this street.

So they held community meetings. So many of them! Community members were given myriad options for providing input. There were giant, blown-up maps spread out on the tables that we could write on to express our thoughts, frustrations and suggestions for individuals blocks and intersections. There were mockups of all of the proposed plans propped up on easels and people gathered ‘round, engaging in discussion, building consensus and sparring through some arguments. During town hall-style sessions, we voiced our opinions out loud and listened to the perspectives of young people, old people, business owners, home owners, those with disabilities, moms, dads, kids, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. We reviewed the plans at home, came up with our own plans and brought those plans to the meetings. We kept coming back. I felt like it took a lot of time and a lot of energy, but many of my friends and colleagues worked ten times as hard on this project as I did. It’s what we thought we had to do to get our voices heard and to turn this blight at the center of our community into something awesome, something we could be proud of, something that worked as well as it could for everyone.

The plans that were eventually agreed upon (located here for the section from Liberty to Center Streets), known as the “Locally Preferred Alternative” or LPA, were not perfect. They didn’t include dedicated bike infrastructure, the main thing I wanted out of the street. But I understood that for this particular mix of business owners and citizens and city officials, separated bike lanes just didn’t have the necessary support. That’s not great, but it’s ok. No one got everything they wanted. I consoled myself with all the other fantastic and forward-thinking elements that WERE included in the LPA, like sidewalks as wide as 22 feet to allow much more space for pedestrians, benches, art and outdoor dining to exist on this street. Like space for shade trees so that someday this might actually be a street you’d want to walk down in the summer. Like lower speeds and fewer pedestrian-vehicle interaction points, leading to a much safer experience on Virginia. These would be HUGE improvements. They weren’t everything, but they were a hell of a lot of something. They made all that time and energy feel worth it.

Then this week, this showed up.

This is a recommendation to the RTC from Executive Director Lee Gibson and Director of Engineering Jeff Hale to “approve a design modification of the Mid Town section [of the Virginia Street project] from Liberty Street to Vassar Street that eliminates the proposed raised center median, which restricts left turns at private driveways and specific intersections and replace it with a center two way left turn lane.”

Wait, what?

From the same document, summary section:

“Recently, concerns have been raised from a few Mid-Town stakeholders regarding the potential for adverse business impacts due to the LPA limitations on left turns within the Liberty Street to Vassar Street section. A request has been made to reconsider the LPA in this area.

“Replacing the median island with a two way left turn lane would generally maintain the same amount of parking spots as the no left turn configuration. [Ed. note: THANK GOD] The additional space needed for the median lane would be obtained by narrowing the proposed 11 foot wide sidewalks on each side to six feet. Bulb-outs would be constructed at locations for pedestrians to cross; however, the reduced sidewalk width would eliminate space required to accommodate street trees and other furnishings…While this change can be incorporated into the final design, a two way left turn lane will be less safe due to increased vehicle and pedestrian conflict points and will degrade traffic operations, which can increase congestion.”

In short: A few business owners whispered in the RTC’s ear and suddenly two years of consensus building, community outreach, and civilian time are out the window, along with our plans for a walkable, livable, human-scale street. We’re back to 6 foot wide sidewalks (the literal least we can do in order to comply with the ADA), no trees (enjoy the beginnings of heat stroke as you stroll down your tiny sidewalk in full sun on an August afternoon), increased pedestrian danger (probably fine since no pedestrians will want to be on this street), increased traffic congestion (a Virginia Street classic!) and oh! I almost forgot:

“Approval of this item will increase final design costs.”

Awesome.

I find this very, very frustrating. As I said, I didn’t spend anywhere near the amount of time that my more dedicated neighbors and friends did on this project. Yet even with my relatively low-level involvement, I left work early to attend meetings. I skipped dinner with my family. I left my 9-5 job staring at a computer screen to go home and stare at another computer screen so I could read and understand the proposed design alternatives and offer an informed view. The opinions I voiced were with the majority at every single meeting I went to. But based on this recommendation from the RTC Directors, that work didn’t matter. After years of wasting the community’s time, the RTC is willing to accept an unattractive, dangerous, expensive alternative at the eleventh hour because a handful of business owners are too shortsighted to see their own feet as they shoot them.

So. The RTC is meeting Thursday to discuss this (meeting time and location info below). I am going to do my best to go, but as my first obligation is to the job that pays me a salary, I might not be able to make it. At the very least, at the recommendation of my councilmember, I’ll be writing an email to each member of the RTC board and copying the city council, the acting city manager and the public works director to voice my opinion on this nonsense one more time (names and emails for all are listed below). The basic gist will be:

  • This is an unacceptable alternative.
  • This alternative flies in the face of nearly every element that the public wanted for Virginia Street based on the meetings I attended.
  • An enormous amount of civilian time and energy has already been sunk into this process, and it’s bad faith and bad politics to screw your constituents so blatantly with this kind of recommendation.

RTC meeting to discuss proposed design modification:
Thursday, January 19, 1 p.m.
Washoe County Commission Chambers
1001 E. 9th Street, Building A
Reno, NV 89512

RTC Board
Paul McKenzie (mckenziep@reno.gov)
Neoma Jardon (jardonn@reno.gov)
Ron Smith (rsmith@cityofsparks.us)
Bob Lucey (blucey@washoecounty.us)
Marsha Berkbigler (mberkbigler@washoecounty.us)

Reno City Coucil:
Mayor Hillary Schieve (schieveh@reno.gov)
David Bobzien (bobziend@reno.gov)
Jenny Brekhus (brekhusj@reno.gov)
Naomi Duerr (duerrn@reno.gov)
Oscar Delgado (delgadoo@reno.gov)
Paul McKenzie (as above)
Neoma Jardon (as above)

Acting City Manager Bill Thomas (thomasb@reno.gov)
Public Works Director John Flansberg (flansbergj@reno.gov)

Case Study: My Dad’s Commute

I’m fascinated by the transportation choices people make. Why do some people accept expensive, time-consuming, annoying car commutes while others make the leap to biking, walking or taking public transit?*

Way back in September of this year, I had the chance to tag along on the commute of one my favorite cyclists who came over from the dark side: my dad. I snapped a few photos and got his take on driving vs. cycling, what holds us back and whether back sweat is really that big of a deal. I hope you enjoy it!

*Note: If you’re a former car commuter who made the switch to biking, or if you’re considering trying biking, or if you just want to talk about what a pain it is to cross 6th Street, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or email me at joanna dot trieger at gmail dot com. 

 

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One happy commuter!

Commuter: Kevin (my dad!)

City: Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, Calif.

Commute Length: 2.5 miles one-way

Commute Seasons: Year-round

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The main boulevard that connects my dad to the bike path recently underwent a “road diet”: one car lane in each direction, a center turn lane, wide bike lanes in each direction and sidewalks with landscaping. This thoroughfare used to be pretty intimidating when I was a kid, but now it’s easily walkable, bikeable and crossable. Also note our speed: a nice easy pace for a morning commute!

My dad, Kevin, works for his local transit system and rides the train from my parents’ suburban city to his urban office every day. Until a few years ago, he used to bridge the gap – two miles from home to the train station – by car. Yikes!

Recent infrastructure improvements have turned the route from my parents’ house to the station into a bike commuter’s dream. Once you exit their low-traffic, slow-speed neighborhood, the entire route follows either on-street bike lanes or a series of separated bike/ped paths. Over- and underpasses allow cyclists to avoid navigating major roads, and secure bike lockers at the station are inexpensive.

All of these improvements, along with a healthy dose of persistent nagging from me, convinced Kevin to give cycling to the station a try. He got hooked right away, and now he’s a year-round bike commuter. I recently had the pleasure of tagging along for one of his commutes and getting him on the record about how he came around to biking.

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Chugging along on the canal trail.

When did you start bike commuting?

About two-and-a-half years ago.

You were fairly hesitant to start commuting to the station by bike. What held you back?

I can hardly remember now why I was so resistant. I think one issue was having a safe place to store the bike – I used to see bikes locked up at the station with seats missing, wheels missing, just the frame locked up, totally pillaged. I didn’t want to deal with that. I was also worried about getting too hot.

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Sunrise on the trail: not a bad way to star the day.

 

 

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Pointing out the suckers stuck in traffic. Our path cruises under and over the streets with heavy traffic, all the way to the station.

How did you get past those holdups?

For the theft issue, once they installed bike lockers and I figured those out, I was fine. As for getting too hot, it hasn’t really been a big deal. I installed a basket on the back of the bike to put my backpack in so I wouldn’t get sweaty, and then I just take it slow in the morning. I leave myself an extra few minutes and take my time. I could bike faster, but why would I when it’s such a nice time of day to ride? In the summer, I sometimes get a bit sweaty on the way home, but then I’m home and I change, so who cares?

 

 

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A bike and pedestrian bridge climbs over the six-lane thoroughfare below.

Financially, how does biking compare to driving?

The locker costs $0.05 per hour, and I lock it up for about 10 hours a day, so that’s about $0.50 per day. Just parking a car at the station costs $3.00 per day, and that’s before you think about the cost of gas and wear-and-tear. So I save $2.50 outright every time I ride my bike, and I’ve been doing this for two-and-a-half years. [Ed. note: conservatively, that’s savings of $500/year, or a total of $900/year when you factor in the gas and wear-and-tear costs of driving!] All the upgrades I’ve made to the bike – installing the basket, adding a bell and lights, adding a new leather seat – have been completely paid for, as have the bike-specific clothes I’ve bought, like my wind jacket. Financially, it’s a total no-brainer.

 

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A bike and pedestrian bridge climbs over the six-lane thoroughfare below. Kevin points out the unfortunate drivers.
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Cruising down the bridge toward the station, lit up in the background.

Do you miss your car commute at all?

Not in the slightest. I never really thought about it much, but I didn’t like it. It was stressful to get on the road first thing, and parking was annoying. Now I love my commute. It’s just great to be outside for that bit of time in the morning and get moving. Even when the weather’s bad, I find it fun to be out in it. When you factor in parking, the time difference between my car and bike commutes is negligible, and that’s giving myself time to ride slowly and enjoy it.

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Bike Link lockers at the BART station. These secure lockers rent out for $0.05/hour, or $1.20 for 24 hours. My dad usually leaves his bike for ~10 hours, or $0.50/day. In contrast, parking a car at the station costs $3.00/day.
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Happy bike snuggled in its Bike Link locker.

Thanks for having me along, Kevin/dad! If any other bike commuters want to share their motivation for getting started, let me know if the comments or contact me at joanna dot trieger at gmail dot com.

100 Miles of Pizza

I got a new bike a couple weeks ago (this one is named Steve, or Steven when he’s in trouble), and since I will never turn down an opportunity to track things longhand, I started logging every mile I rode on the little beast into a Google Sheet. Last Friday, exactly two weeks after his first ride, Steve passed his very first 100 mile mark.

100 miles on a bike means different things to different people. For some it seems impossibly far, while others rack up those kinds of numbers pretty regularly before lunch. Luckily, we can translate those miles into a unit that everyone can understand, the radian of the caloric-expenditure-and-redemption world: slices of pizza.

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Constantly.

Using this handy (and completely unverified) calculator, I can see that someone my size (~140 pounds) cycling at my commuting pace (~10-11 miles per hour) for one hour will burn 381 calories. One hour is exactly how long it takes me to complete my daily total commute of 10.4 miles (15 minutes for each 2.6-mile leg, back and forth and back and forth). That brings me to 36.6 calories per mile, and we’re going to call it 37, because at Reno Bikes, we round up.

When you google “how many calories are in a slice of pizza”, Google says 285. I’m willing to accept this. I eat a fairly monstrous amount of pizza, from homemade slices that are probably slightly smaller than Google’s estimate to Wild Garlic’s insane braided-crust basket o’ pizza style slices that are more like dinners for three. We’ll just go with 285.  

Also from that Google results page, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Pizza is a flatbread generally topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven.” Ah, to be the early hive minder that dropped that tidbit of knowledge into Wikipedia!

Anyway, 37 calories per mile for 100 miles divided by 285 calories per slice equals 13 slices of pizza! Embarrassingly, I eat significantly more pizza than that in an average fortnight, but still. Digging myself 13 slices out of the caloric pizza pit in which I constantly dwell is not insignificant.

Considered from another angle, it costs money to drive a car. My employer compensates us $0.575 per mile driven, and some estimates put that number even higher. For simplicity’s sake, and because biking isn’t quite free, let’s assume that driving a mile in a car costs $0.50 more than biking a mile. The 100 miles Steve and I have traveled together already saved me about $50! Assuming that an average slice of pizza costs $4, I could take my savings from not driving those 100 miles and use them to buy 12.5 of the 13 slices I earned calorically by biking.

There you have it, folks. Bike to work for a couple weeks and you get to basically binge on pizza, for free, with no consequences for your waistline. That’s all the encouragement I need. See you in the bike lane!

Oh, the Places We’ve Been!

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Last week I bought myself a brand new bicycle. It came about fairly quickly – I was frustrated with my old bike (a dark green Windsor Tourist affectionately named Mike the Bike), I saw a good review of a decent workhorse bike in Bicycle Times, I found a similar bike in my size on clearance at the local REI, and I bought it within an hour of testing it. I LOVE the new bike, but it wasn’t until I was riding to work the next morning that I realized that an era had come to an end. For nearly five years, I rode Mike the Bike at least ten miles almost every day, and then as suddenly as he came into my life, he and I were over. I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me a little emotional. And on that note, I thought I’d clack out a little tribute to Mike the Bike.

The San Francisco Years

I first rode Mike to work on December 1, 2011. I couldn’t come to a complete stop, I went downhill slower than I went uphill (due to terror), I couldn’t take either hand off the bars (sorry, signaling!) and I absolutely couldn’t stand up on the pedals. That first commute was rough, and my heart started pounding that afternoon at the thought of having to make the return trip home. But Mike was a solid bike, and he stayed in tune despite my newbie efforts to kill him. I quickly improved and started to look forward to riding. Before long, my commute was my favorite part of each day.

Together, Mike and I completed the classic San Francisco cyclist’s hat-trick from hell: We were hit by a car (not our fault), hit a pedestrian (NOT OUR FAULT) and bit it over the Muni tracks (totally our fault), all in the space of a calendar year. For our final San Francisco performance, Mike and I were severely right hooked by an unmarked van, leaving both of us dented and shaken up, but undeterred.

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Young Mike and young me with the Golden Gate Park bison, mere minutes into our first bike tour together.

The San Francisco era also ushered in our first long-distance bike trip, from our San Francisco apartment along the coast to Morgan’s childhood home in Santa Barbara. I fell in love with bike touring and Mike fell in love with his granny gear.

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Mike and I about to take on the Bixby Bridge, swallowed in fog on the California coast.

The Auburn Experiment

Auburn was a wacky place to live, but damn, was it a fun place to ride a bike. I worked 16 miles north of home, so twice a week Mike and I would enjoy the 32-mile round-trip commute along gorgeous Placer Hills Road, with a total of 3,000 feet of climbing. Our fastest one-way time was 1:21, after which I nearly ralphed. We often rode home in the dark, getting spooked by the roaving packs of deer lurking just beyond the road’s edge (record deer sightings for a single home commute: 32). Once, we were about to roll through a desolate three-way stop when a crashing sound made me jam on Mike’s brakes. A second later, two enormous bucks careened down the roadside embankment straight into the intersection, horns locked in epic combat. Mike and I escaped to higher ground to watch the fight play out.

During our time in Auburn we were gifted a Burly trailer and watched our leg muscles quadruple in size as we hauled Banner back and forth from the dog park. Mike and I would frequently coast down the hill to meet Morgan pedaling up from his office in Lincoln, stopping a couple miles from home to get dollar ice cream cones to fuel the return trip. Due to our almost complete lack of a social life in Auburn, I was in the best shape of my life and I think Mike was among my top five closest friends.

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Just hanging out with my best friends on a bike camping trip. Poor Banner had recently had a cup of scalding tea spilled on his head.

Getting it Right in Reno

We moved to Reno in July 2014, and Mike and I immediately fell into a groove. Bike to work, bike home for lunch, bike back to work, bike back home. Bike to get groceries thanks to that sweet Burly trailer, bike to the bar, bike to the river. We quickly discovered that almost everywhere in town was super easily bikeable, and Mike’s stout construction and zillion gears made short work of any stray trips up into the hills.

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Mike, Burly and a group of scragglers take advantage of Costco’s bike parking while shopping for our Christmas cabin trip.

Since moving to Reno, Mike has been able to indulge his inner traveler a little more with tours through Oregon (amazing!) and Utah (less amazing!). Mike currently lists Bend, OR as his favorite city on earth and earned his beastly stripes on the 26-mile climb up to Crater Lake and the 20-mile, 4,000-foot climb out of Utah’s Cedar City.

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Mike checks off a bucket list item, meeting Mt. Bachelor in 2015.

Mike has kept me fit, happy and not broke in Reno, but he’s really shined the most here in his ability to attract friends. Thanks to the Reno Bike Project’s repair class and group rides, and to the somewhat small but very active group of cycling enthusiasts in town, my introverted self has been able to forge more genuine friendships with fun, like-minded people than I ever thought possible.

Sadly, in late May of this year, Mike’s (mil)age and my admitted total neglect of his care and upkeep started to catch up with him. One of his wheel rims exploded, he began shifting like a garbage truck and eventually lost his ability to shift at all. As is the fate of so many bikes, when it became apparent that it was going to cost more money to fix Mike on an annual basis than to replace him, I decided the time for his retirement had come.

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Mike’s last tour in the red rocks of Utah.

Mike and I traveled around 15,000 miles during our years together. He put dollars in my pocket that I didn’t spend on gas and allowed us to become a one-car family. He let me consume literally thousands of slices of pizza while steering clear of obesity. He transported me to some of my favorite places and best days and nights on this earth through the magic of bike touring. Most importantly, he put me in contact with great friends and brought be closer to my husband and to both sides of my fantastic bike-friendly family. This little assemblage of steel and cables has had a more profound impact on my life than I could ever have imagined on that first December commute. Mike and I may have ridden our last miles together, but he’ll forever have a special spot in my heart as the bike that started it all.

On Bike Lanes: We Can Do Better

Yesterday I was biking back to work after lunch (in this unbearable, gates-of-hell, filthy heat) and came across this on the south side of California Avenue in front of Old World Coffee:

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Apologies for the quality and angle of these photos – for reasons that I hope are apparent, I didn’t want to stand in the middle of the bike lane (or car lane) to take them.

What we see on the surface is two cars parked far enough (two feet?) from the curb that they obstruct more than half of the bike lane. What’s lurking just beneath the surface is pure laziness (or inexcusable lack of skill) on two other people’s part that resulted in very real and totally unnecessary danger to me, to other cyclists, and yes, to other drivers in the car lane.

As a cyclist coming into this situation, I had a full lane of traffic to my left (cars in front of, next to and behind me). While truly good drivers will be scanning ahead for situations like this one, realizing that there’s a cyclist coming up to an obstruction in the bike lane, and moving to the far left of their lane to give me room to scoot over, the reality is that most drivers aren’t devoting that level of attention to the road. Even if all the drivers in the car lane were to have given me that level of consideration and courtesy, the situation still would have been dodgy, since I wouldn’t have had the right angle or low speed needed to assure that no one was in those crappily parked cars, waiting to throw their driver’s side door open and send me flying. The result? I came to a full stop, waited around until the car lane cleared and then swung around the offenders to get on my way.

This might not sound like a big deal. My trip was delayed by maybe 20 seconds (and an additional voluntary 30 seconds to take the photos above). But to me, it IS a big deal, and here’s why:

  • It was completely unnecessary. Would I bitch if there was an ambulance parked in the bike lane, loading someone up? Probably not. How about a broken-down car, with an owner clearly in distress? Nope, because their situation is likely a little more dire than mine at this point. But what was the emergency here that necessitated this hasty, botched parking job? Is your noontime coffee stop really that urgent?
  • It leads to unpredictability, which leads to danger. Cars and bikes (and peds) get along best when everyone knows the score and acts predictably. But the cars driving next to me in this situation couldn’t predict what I was going to do – swing around, squeeze by, stop altogether? Following mutually-agreed-upon traffic laws is a form of communication, and when someone decides to go rogue, that communication breaks down.
  • Disregard for cyclist safety is contagious. Notice that there are two cars parked like jerks in this photo, almost perfectly lined up along an imaginary extended curb. Coincidence? Or did the second car come along, see the first one parked carelessly, and think, “Whatever, I guess this is how we park here.” I probably wouldn’t be making a fuss about this if I didn’t see cars parked this way on this stretch of California Street every damn day. Again, is this coincidence, or a spreading acceptance of the need for coffee, NOW, over the need for safety on this block?
  • This is indicative of a larger issue. From my perspective, the current transit climate in our fair city is like this: Cars own the streets, and everyone else is a guest. We have some bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but the minute that infrastructure could be useful to a car, the cars can just take it back. We see this through my friend Andy’s veritable crusade against construction signs in the bike lane (JUST. MOVE. THEM. OVER.). We see this when someone rushing to get their coffee splays their car sideways in the bike lane and I have to deal with it. Cyclists feel this every time we see a “Bike Lane Ends” sign looming ahead as we approach a busy intersection, wondering what we’re going to do on the other side. And we see this when plans for new and improved streets in our busiest districts prioritize a handful of parking spaces over safe access for thousands of cyclists.

So what’s the solution? In the immediate, call out abuse of bike and ped infrastructure when you see it. Thanks to the comments on Addison’s excellent post on this issue, I called RPD dispatch at 775-334-2121 and reported the two cars and their plates. I’d encourage you to do the same when you encounter this level of carelessness. I didn’t expect a team of officers to surround the perps, but if all of us called out every offender we saw, some of them would start to get ticketed, creating a real financial incentive for drivers to behave better.

In the long-term, we just need better bike infrastructure. This Slate article does a great job of demonstrating that a disconnected series of unprotected (and unenforced!) bike lanes does not constitute an acceptable transit network. So show up to community meetings when transit is on the table, tell your Councilmember that safe infrastructure for all travelers is a priority, and above all else, get on your bike and ride.

How to Bike In a Skirt

My least favorite season has descended on Reno with a stifling hot vengeance. I ride home every day for lunch in addition to my regular ride during commute hours, so when temperatures are in the 80s and 90s as they have been for the past couple weeks, I feel the brunt of that heat. At this point in the year, wearing long, fitted pants is basically out of the question, so you can find me most days riding to and from work in a dress or a skirt.

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Here’s one way to do it. Could be a bit much for a Reno summer, though.

A lot of people (and clothing manufacturers) make a pretty big deal about riding in a skirt. How can it be done?! Won’t yards of lace get tangled in the spokes? Won’t our dignity be impeached? Lucky for you, readers, I have put together an exclusive Reno Bikes two-step guide to riding a bike in a skirt:

Step 1: Put on a skirt.

Step 2: Ride a bike to your destination.

It really is that easy. A typical dress for me is semi-roomy (no yards of extra material but not skin-tight) and hits just above the knee, and I bike in these with no other special accommodation most days with no incident. In my experience, the dress rides up maybe to the mid-thigh level, still keeping things far more covered than an average pair of shorts. Occasionally, a sturdy gust of wind will introduce a little flutter into the skirt, such that a little more leg is exposed and I have to readjust the material. What can people see as I bike toward them in this getup? Not much. First off, I’m pedaling in a dress, not standing stock still in the nude. Even if they could see right up the old skirt, it would only be for an instant, and all they’d see was some fairly tame leg. Second off, all the information they’d get from this rare glimpse is readily available at your nearest public pool. This is just one fairly body-confident woman’s opinion, but I don’t see the presence of skirts as a good excuse to avoid riding, or as a reason to spend a bunch of money on very specific bike-friendly technical skirts with uncomfortable built-in shortlets to preserve the delicate modesty of my more uppity neighbors. If you are wearing a skirt and you want to ride a bike, you have my permission to just do it.

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Rad ladies, rad clothes. Dignity in tact.

If covering up a little more when you’re wearing a skirt or dress would make your ride more comfortable and pleasant, then by all means, do it. On extremely windy (or cold) days, or with quite short dresses and pencil skirts that I have to hike all the way up around my bum just to get on the bike, I’ve been known to slip on a pair of bike shorts underneath so I don’t have to think about it. If you don’t have bike shorts, a pair of low-profile regular shorts will work just fine as well. The point is to just to wear whatever makes you feel comfortable in your own skin on the bike, and to know that your choice of attire doesn’t have to dictate your choice of transportation.