The first real Different Spokes social event since the beginning of the Pandemic, the club picnic, happily took place yesterday. This year we went to Old Mill Park in Mill Valley, a first for us, after a couple of years in Golden Gate Park and China Camp before that. Old Mill Park is in the heart of Mill Valley just a couple of blocks from the “downtown” and we had a cozy site, Redwood Grove, nestled in a grove of redwood trees. (Duh!) We got our sunshine and no fog but not quite the warm temps that would have made it perfect. (“Whiner!”) For the 21 of us who attended, the grove was the perfect size providing a woodsy hideaway in the middle of snow white Marin. Twenty-one attended of which about a dozen biked the 14 miles from McLaren Lodge. That’s a 100% increase since our 2019 picnic!
Amidst the panoply of delicious potluck dishes Benson Lu literally took the cake with his Japanese cheesecake slathered in raspberry and apricot jam. We know who puts effort into their cooking!
Of note: Will Bir is back on the bike after his brain surgery. That was one quick recovery! Roger Sayre showed up with his new, amazing blue Orbea superbike, upstaging Stephen’s orange Seven. Maurizio is back on the bike and is riding again—hope this one doesn’t get stolen! Old fart Janet Lourenzo, who lives just down the road from Old Mill Park (well, actually Corte Madera but that’s close enough) joined us and we finally got to chat. Also returning to the fold is Rico Nappa, whom I haven’t seen since the Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner back in, oh, 2018 or so. Good to see some Oldies But Goodies!
Thanks go to Ginny Watson, Jeff Pekrul, and David Goldsmith for leading the ride up. And we have to thank David Goldsmith and Greg Mahusay for doing the scut work in organizing the picnic and taking care of the hundreds of loose ends to make it a seamless event. Special thanks go to Chris Mulanax, David Varela, and David Gaus for being the mules—whipped without mercy—who sagged everybody’s goodies up to the park and set up the picnic area. Since parking turned out to be tight at the park, they had to park inconveniently away and schlep all the gear, coolers, and food into the park! I hope it was a labor of love and that you were “rewarded” afterwards for your hard work.
This past Sunday was our foray up Mines Road just south of Livermore. Of course this road has been there since forever but it didn’t become a regular club ride until Stephanie Clarke started championing it around 2010. I recall in the early days of the club doing Mines Road once, maybe twice. But it wasn’t a popular ride attracting repeat business probably because it can be infernally hot for much of the year. Somehow David Gaus got hooked on it too and then this ride was led annually. For a certain segment of the club Mines Road became a thing, a must-do ride.
Personally Mines never left a deep impression on me, at least one that was positive. Even today Mines strikes me as a perverse route: the uphill feels like a downhill and the downhill feels like an uphill. Why is that? Mines starts climbing steeply but a long middle section is a very gentle uphill that feels almost flat and on which you can roll with speed. The two subsequent uphills before you get to the Junction Cafe aren’t long or super-steep but they remind you, “Oh, I’m on a climb!” Then comes a descent to the Junction Cafe. Conversely the so-called “descent” starting at the Junction is a rather grating uphill: you’ve just finished lunch—maybe one of those burgers—and having to immediately start ascending feels like drudgery. After a short descent you do this all over again to the second summit. Then you hit the ‘flat’ that seems to go on forever. But even that’s work because the pièce de résistance is the afternoon headwind. I’ve never ridden Mines without a headwind on the downhill, which is a natural buzzkill—why am I working so hard to go downhill? Well, that downhill is nearly flat and the wind is usually ferocious enough to bring you to a complete standstill unless you apply some force to the pedals. The everpresent headwind is probably due to a primarily north/northwest wind blowing up Mines Road combined with valley heating which drives air upvalley. Regardless of the cause it’s nearly unavoidable. Eventually you do get to a real downhill—two sections actually—enough to overcome the headwind and finally get relief and enjoyment. But by this time you’re nearly at the bottom so it feels a little too wham-bam-thank-you-Sam. Uh, after that you don’t want a second date, do you?
Not to spoil the punchline but that formula held to a T on our ride. Other not-so-good stuff also took place such as leg cramps from too much climbing and not enough conditioning, and the fact that I was suffering from food poisoning due to the previous night’s dinner. But all was not lost. This ride turned out to be a revelatory experience. First, the weather was incredibly good. This late in the year Mines is usually already heating up. Any time after April is a gamble. But it was sunny with almost no clouds, no heat, and the predicted winds hadn’t picked up speed yet. Great for climbing! Second, since it was only Stephanie and Roger H and I we got a good opportunity to catch up on nearly a year’s worth of news due to the Pandemic. Stephanie’s endlessly cheerful (well, who couldn’t be on that beautiful custom Seven she gets to ride!) and unperturbable. She paced us up to the Junction and pushed me to try to stay with her. But she wasn’t going so fast that I had to go deep—I just had to step it up a bit more. I thought I couldn’t keep up but somehow I did. Well, until the leg cramps hit.
Third, we began the ride without much hope of seeing wildflowers. But just a few miles from the Junction there they were, not in profusion but present and beautiful in color. Alas, a drought year’s crop. Their backdrop was surprising: an incinerated horizon. The higher we went on Mines, the deeper we entered last summer’s SCU Lightning Complex fire zone. You can’t see its scars at all from Livermore, the hints of the conflagration only appearing much higher up. They increase slowly—a glimpse of charred trees and brush, blackened wood—then it’s bigger and bigger sections on the east side climbing up the hillside. As you get close to the Junction the burn zone is suddenly on the left and the right, the fire having jumped the road, then the landscape becomes denuded of live trees, only blackened trunks against the horizon. Ironically when you reach the CalFire station on the upper reaches, everything but the fire station and its housing was destroyed—it makes sense they’d save their own buildings if only so they could keep fighting fires.
The past few weeks have unintentionally turned out to be a tour of the Bay Area wildfires. Napa and the Franz Valley were hit by the Tubbs fire in 2017 and then the Glass fire last year; we saw burned landscapes on the east side of Silverado Trail, with a couple that hopped the road. On the Winters ride we witnessed the burn throughout Pleasants Valley Road caused by the LNU Lightning Complex fire. In each case I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, being taken aback by the extent of the destruction.
It’s a trope that wildfires and their sequelae are now the new normal in Northern California. The 1989 Oakland Hills fire, which we thought could never be equaled short of a nuclear firestorm was surpassed by the Tubbs up in Napa in 2017, and then that one was surpassed by the Camp fire near Chico in 2018. These are all locales that we enjoy cycling. How could we not be affected by their loss?
For now Mines is still there and the wildflowers are sure to return (as long as we get rain). But for the near future—certainly for the remainder of my life—we will be cycling in a changed landscape with a somber reminder that all that beauty is ephemeral and evanescent.
Those of you who have known me for a while remember when I used to commute by bike down to the South Bay twice or three times a week with the group, sf2g. Those days ended when I returned to working in downtown San Francisco almost 7 years ago, but I’ve pretty much always been a morning workout guy. I did a 7:30 AM spin class for about 5 years, but the gym I was going to is closed now, and it’s not coming back. God save me from $$$oul Cycle, but I might check it out when it gets going again if I can’t find another good workout.
Anyways, I’ve been faced with the question many of us are facing now, which is how to get in shape after we’ve put on our “covid 15.” Well, for me, it’s been more like a “covid 7,” but that also feels like too much extra weight to be dragging around on a Tib loop. In addition to the weight, I’ve been stymied by a shoulder injury for months that just wouldn’t get better. But even though it got better around October, I just couldn’t get motivated to get back in shape.
At the last Jersey Ride, I was talking with Joan, and it turns out she likes to ride in the mornings, too. That’s how she commutes to her work on the western side of the city. So I asked if she might be willing to ride with me a day or two a week up the big hill in the middle of the city, and she said yes.
Joan is a lot faster than I am right now, and she’s been wonderfully patient with me huffing and puffing my way up Corbett.
We haven’t posted the ride as a club ride so far, but I wanted to see if anyone else might be interested in getting together with us at Philz on Castro 6:45ish and do a short and pleasant, but intense, morning workout. Great company, too!
Well, thank god for the pandemic. While the coronavirus has decimated BART ridership, that smaller number of riders has an “unexpected” beneft: there are fewer riders to complain about the wretched cars.
Have you ridden on one of the new BART cars—you know, the ones that aren’t as filthy and don’t smell like a locker room, have three doors, and are as rare as hen’s teeth? Well, they are still going to be hard to find because BART is refusing to accept delivery of any more of them from the manufacturer Bombardier until software bugs and some production/design problems are fixed. This was reported in the East Bay Times a while ago. BART was supposed to have 600 new trains by the end of 2020 and a full fleet by the end of 2021. At the end of January BART had only 286 new cars and the full order now won’t be here until spring 2023. But don’t hold your breath.
The article relates that software bugs are causing the trains to more frequently shut down compared to the old cars. The necessary system reboot takes 5-10 minutes. Plus, apparently the wheels go out-of-round more frequently than those of the old cars leading to more trains being hauled to the maintenance yard.
You may also recall that originally the new trains were supposed to be rolled out in January 2018 but that was delayed by problems including a crash during a test run in 2016.
Why does this sound so familiar? Don’t forget that the newish BART stations—Warm Springs, Milpitas, and Berryessa—all ended up opening years behind schedule and being delayed not once, not twice, but many times to the point where BART finally stopped forecasting when the stations would open. BART has a nasty habit of overpromising a bright, glorious future of system improvements and then having to backtrack. Of course that’s after we’ve voted to give them more money and they’ve hoovered up most of the local transportation money.
Project delays are a fact of life. Witness the repair of the Calaveras Reservoir or the Crystal Springs Reservoir Dam Road—they blew their timelines by almost a decade. Unexpected issues almost always crop up that confound timelines. But continuing to provide unrealistic, problem-free timelines to the public is not only deceptive but ultimately a great way to alienate your ridership. How about underpromising and then surprising us with some early good news instead?
Since I haven’t set foot on a BART train since the pandemic began, these problems have had zero impact on me. But it grates on me that when I do return to BART this year instead of being pleasantly welcomed by an improved system, it’s likely to be the same old BART both literally and figuratively. Changing spots is hard to do. In BART’s case it may be impossible.
This November I hope we’re most of the way out of the pandemic in the Bay Area so that we are able to host our annual ride, Mt. Hamilton in the Fall, which historically has had a large turnout. If you live in the City, you’ve had to drive to the start at Penitencia Creek Park. Due to BART’s late opening on Sunday mornings it has been nearly impossible to take public transit to this ride because of the long ride from Warm Springs station. Until now. Taking BART to the end of the line, the Berryessa station, now makes it possible to get to the start with just 20 minutes of easy pedaling. Assuming your train doesn’t undergo a software fault and require a long reboot.
Our President David Goldsmith was the originator of this ride as well as L’Alpe de Fromage. “Darth Veeder” takes riders up the ever-popular Veeder Road in Napa. David first led this ride in 2010 as part of a spring training series. This was the second year on tap at our ride calendar. Veeder runs approximatly north-south and can be ridden in either direction. David wisely chose to ride it from the south, which is less steep than doing from the north. It also gives riders the chance to amble peacefully next to Redwood Creek, lending a very pastoral feel to this relatively isolated road. Along Veeder you pass estates and vineyards and then at the top get a fantastic view of the Napa Valley and the nearby mountains. The descent is curvy but not crazy except for the pavement breaks that seem to come out of nowhere. Fortunately traffic is usually sparse. After Veeder is a fun, easy descent on Dry Creek Road. David also started this ride at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, giving riders a chance to fill up on exquisite pastries both before and after!
David reported: Today was beyond beautiful. To start with, we were surrounded by a ring of snow-capped mountains. In Napa Valley. Unreal. Mt. St. Helena was particularly impressive viewed from Highway 29 while driving up to Yountville. Once we got on our bikes and started climbing the mountain, there was water everywhere. I figured there would be, since it had rained all week. But the flow through the creeks, occasionally spilling over onto the roads we were riding, was massive. Redwood Creek was churning away and Dry Creek was not dry. When we got to the top, there were daffodils blooming among green mountainsides. Just before we left the summit, I turned around and espied Mt. Diablo, probably 50 miles south, huge and blanketed with snow. It looked like one of the Sierras, very impressive.
If you’re a club member, log into the club website and view all the ride pics in the 201102 Darth Veeder photo album!
It’s not quite that easy to reopen, is it? A magical incantation may have worked in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves but it will take something beyond words to get the club to really open up and reveal its treasures. It’s proved that way at other Bay Area cycling clubs as well—being able to reopen for rides has not led to a spate of listings nor of participation. Most members are still eschewing group rides even though they check off just about all the safety boxes: health and safety protocols, outdoor and mostly uncrowded, and constantly moving air. Everybody’s assessement of risk is going to be different and although we’d like to think there is a rational calculus, so much is unknown about COVID spread that the penumbra of uncertainty seems large and hazy. I have read anecdotally that in Florida, which pandemic-wise is a world unto itself, large group rides (e.g. 50+ riders) take place almost every day of the week where riders ride in close quarters unmasked, i.e. conduct rides as if nothing were different today. Actually I still see a few “relatives” of those Florida training rides out here although they aren’t quite as big and more of the riders are carrying face coverings even if they aren’t wearing them. But for the most part Bay Area cyclists seem to be riding by themselves or only with small groups of family or friends.
We restarted our club rides in October and they’ve mostly been led or co-led by our Secretary Jeff Pekrul. They seem small—maybe four to eight participants—but those numbers were pretty typical prepandemic. Of course you can’t have club rides without ride leaders/hosts and since that population has always been small—about fifteen or so members—the limiting factor is going to be the number of hosts that are willing to lead now. Whether it’s because the pandemic has upended personal lives, fear of COVID transmission, or the fact that it’s currently the rainy season and cold, ride leaders aren’t leaping forward to grab the reins, so to speak.
Looking at who’s showing up on our pandemic rides it’s mostly the same people, ie. those who aren’t fearful of congregating with fellow Spokers. Everybody else seems to be hunkered down waiting for the plague to blow over. But with mass vaccination no longer on the horizons and well into view, more Spokers are certain to emerge like Punxsutawney Phil and not be scared by their shadows.
I’ve certainly been pondering this question although it’s mostly theoretical since I’m still recovering from an injury that’s keeping me off the bike: when I’m vaccinated, will I then start leading club rides just like before? Will I then join a club ride? I hate to admit it but there is one thing that is a real turn-off for doing a group ride right now: I can’t stop someplace, sit down, and have a nice lunch midride. Restaurants are currently open only for takeout and it’s cold outside. Eating takeout under those conditions is not a whole lot different than stopping at the Kwik-E-Mart for a snack. Yeah, it’ll get you home but it’s…disappointing.
I’m looking forward to the day when we can do a ride, sit down for a delightful meal filled with insouciant and witty conversation, and then after an inspiring postprandial coffee saddle up again for a slow roll back to the manse. Without a mask.
As you know we continued to offer club rides despite the winter CoViD-19 surge and the December statewide Stay-At-Home order. Some board members had a discussion about this prompted by the news that Western Wheelers ceased club rides in early January when Santa Clara County informed them they could no longer have gatherings. You may be wondering the same thing: how could a club like Different Spokes have continued to host club rides, which involve gathering, when all gatherings supposedly had been banned?
A little history: since last March every local cycling club—that I could think of—either explicitly stopped club rides or emptied their ride calendars (leading me to conclude that despite no announcement they too were not hosting rides). In June San Mateo County got a variance from the State that allowed outdoor gatherings up to 50 people. Suddenly group outdoor recreation was now licit in that county. Western Wheelers quickly reactivated club rides just in San Mateo. When Santa Clara also allowed outdoor group recreation, WW, which is based there, reopened rides in their home county as well. Thereafter other cycling clubs followed suit in their communities. (Some of those clubs were in counties that hadn’t yet allowed group outdoor recreation but some clubs did it anyway.) Several of the larger clubs in the Bay Area reopened—Fremont Freewheelers, Almaden Cycle Touring Club in San Jose, Grizzly Peak Cyclists in Berkeley, Sunnyvale Saratoga Cycling Club. There were also large cycling clubs that didn’t reopen, including Marin Cyclists, Valley Spokesmen in Dublin, Davis Cycling Club, and Sacramento Wheelmen and have continued to eschew group rides. We decided to reopen.
The restart of group cycling was initially prompted by San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties allowing it. But it really gathered steam when the State switched to the State Plan and the color tier system—ie. the State Blueprint For A Safe Economy—to give guidance to all counties. This was helpful because when each county had no choice but to implement its own pandemic plan, we ended up with a confusing patchwork or regulations. The new tier system meant that counties could just adopt the state rules instead. Some Bay Area counties eventually did exactly that including Alameda and Contra Costa whereas others continued to draft their own more restrictive plans such as Santa Clara and San Francisco.
The import of this has to do with (a) what was considered an allowed gathering in a county, and (b) how governmental bodies viewed cycling clubs. Although never explicitly stated, governmental bodies viewed cycling clubs the same as informal social groups unless they had a business license or non-profit status. Clubs without formal legal status were then subject to general restrictions on gathering. But clubs that had legal non-profit status were treated the same as businesses and hence their gatherings were subject to the regulations in the State Blueprint, which devotes the bulk of its attention to which businesses may operate and how they can operate. In other words for clubs that didn’t have some kind of business or non-profit status, their gatherings were treated no differently rulewise than just a group of friends or neighbors who were hanging out together. It didn’t matter if your club had a professional-looking website and snazzy kit: if you hadn’t bother to file for non-profit status (or perhaps your rides were not sponsored by a local bike for-profit cycling business), your club’s rides were no different than a generic gathering and hence subject to all the regulations—e.g. pod size, limited number, limited number of households, etc. Under the December emergency order their gatherings were purely social gatherings and were banned. You’d be surprised how many cycling clubs were in this situation. There was even one local cycling club that subsequently entertained the idea of becoming a religious organization/church in order to offer rides presumably because they didn’t have business or non-profit status.
In late summer and early fall, counties were allowing some social gathering either by requiring social distancing and face coverings, limiting the maximum number who could gather, requiring closed pods, or other such devices. Businesses were also required to do similar things for their patrons and employees, eg. by limiting the number who could enter an indoor business or work in a space. But the regulations for social gatherings and business gatherings were not necessarily the same with the latter spelled out both in the State Blueprint and in specific county regulations (if the county wasn’t following the State plan).
Last summer when non-profit organizations such as Different Spokes, Grizzly Peak Cyclists, or Western Wheelers looked at the State Blueprint For A Safe Economy for guidance, there was no obvious category for us. At that time the only category that even came close was Outdoor Recreation and RV Parks and we, as well as several of our fellow cycling clubs, ended up following those guidelines in terms of how we conduct our club when we’re in counties that have adopted the State Plan. San Francisco County was one of the counties that wrote its own plan and it has never clearly categorized us. The only business category we seemed to fit in is Gyms and Fitness Clubs; I’ve confirmed this with the SF Department of Public Health. One of the compliance requirements to operate in SF is to create and make available to the public a health and safety plan, which we have done. This is no different than for any other business in this category operating in SF. When the December emergency stay-at-home order was announced, all gathering outside of your immediate household was supposed to cease. But ‘gatherings’ such as outdoor fitness classes were still allowed. Why? Because the rules for business ‘gatherings’ were not the same as for purely social gatherings.
So that puts non-profit organizations such as Different Spokes in an interesting situation: our club rides are, in everyday language, certainly social gatherings. But because we are a non-profit organization, San Francisco’s CoViD-19 health orders allowed us to continue offering our “outdoor fitness classes”. We continued to offer club rides legally. But should we have?
Not only does this seem contradictory (but then again many things in the law seem contradictory to us lay folk, who don’t understand how subtle differences are finessed!) but it seems to belie common sense: if you want to stop community spread and you think it’s due to people gathering, then you should stop all gatherings, period. But a critical difference is that the allowed business gatherings are supposedly under the supervision of the business: the fitness club staff (= ride leaders) makes sure that class participants follow appropriate social distancing, masking, etc. There may be no such mandated oversight at informal social gatherings. That seems to be one of the reasons that club rides were and are okay—they’re part of a business practice and supervised according to county or state rules—and not treated like informal social gatherings where anything goes. The concern seems to be that informal social gatherings are major transmission sites because people don’t actually follow best practices for preventing infection. So they have to be squelched. Does that mean that ‘gatherings’ as part of a business operation are therefore safe? No. I’m sure plenty of businesses with ‘no mask, no service’ signs continue to do business with people who don’t or won’t wear a mask. They may not care to enforce the rules for fear of alienating their patrons; have indifferent, ignorant, or fearful staff; or they just need the money. Not too long ago I was in a supermarket where a customer was “blow holing” (had a mask on his face that didn’t cover his nose) and the woman at the bakery counter went about her business to sell him his morning coffee and bagel without ever asking him to cover up properly. At another supermarket I saw a group of employees convening in an aisle and at least two them did not have any masks. (!)
So was our continuing to offer club rides merely self-serving? My normally cynical self leans towards “Of course!” But the leaders of our pandemic rides have been dutiful in enforcing compliance with the club HASP. I had a discussion with the leader of another local club that was grappling with the same issues and we had come to a similar conclusion: people are out riding in groups regardless of the pandemic and many of those groups don’t have masks or other protocols to protect their participants. When people come on our club rides, they’re told exactly what they need to do to ride with us or they have to exit the ride. In that way our club rides are safer than the ad hoc social gatherings we see on two wheels. Think of it as a kind of harm reduction: if you think solo cycling is safe and group cycling unsafe, consider properly supervised group cycling as a lesser evil. Some clubs might be very laissez-faire when it comes to enforcing safety. But if you offer the kind of pandemic rides we do, then it’s hardly evil at all and may in fact be a good as riders internalize safe pandemic riding habits and then consider them “normal”. If the pandemic worsens due to perhaps the new SARS-COV-2 variants, then a real lockdown is surely in our near future—not the ‘lockdown lite’ we keep getting told is a lockdown but something more like what was implemented in Wuhan, Italy, or Spain last spring—and if that is the case then our rides will be shut down for realz. But so will many other businesses that have also been given a pass since the State started reopening last May.
I learned something recently: cyclists are not required to use a ‘protected bike lane’. Maybe you already knew that–I certainly didn’t! But I suspect most of us have little or no understanding of the difference between a bike lane, a bike route, bike path, and a bikeway. To most people those terms are interchangeable but the reality is that they are used under the Vehicle Code and by traffic engineers technically to distinguish related but different entities.
A bikeway is a general term for any path of travel that is designated for bicycle use. So it can be, for example, a lane, a ‘route’, a multi-use path, etc. But sometimes it’s used interchangeably with the term ‘cycle track’, which is generally some kind of protected path of travel for bicycles.
You’ve likely seen the near-ubiquitous signs announcing ‘bike route’. This simply announces that this path of travel—likely a street or highway—is a ‘recommended’ route for cyclists. Who recommended it? You don’t know. What makes a way recommended is totally unclear since bike route signs can be found on streets with cars and trucks travelling at high speed. Also because a street is designated a ‘bike route’ does not require any municipal entity to maintain it such as by obstacle removal or street cleaning (although they might if you complain).
A bike lane is more specific than a bike route in that it is a lane marked by signage or striping set aside for use by bicycles. Sometimes some motor vehicles are allowed to ‘use’ a bike lane such as when making a turn, and even park in it (e.g. police, ambulances, mail trucks, garbage trucks). Usually a bike lane is explicitly indicated with a sign or pavement marking, ‘bike lane’.
A protected bike lane is one that is separated from regular vehicle lanes. The separation can be as simple as an extra-wide, chevroned strip or true physical separation such as bollards, K-barriers, or even parked cars as is the case in Golden Gate Park.
In 2012 the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition convinced the City to install protected bike lanes in Golden Gate Park as a ‘trial’. (It must have been successful because they were never removed!) There were repeated incidents of drivers parking in the bike lane, which was adjacent to the curb, and not parking in the parking spots that were set away from the curb to protect the bike lane. There were the other adjustment snafus such as passenger doors being blithely kicked open forcing cyclists to move to the right as much as possible, people crossing the bike lane suddenly, and slow users in the bike lane (eg. the rental pedicars from Stow Lake) that obstructed the lane. Most of these issues have probably diminished over the years. But there are still structural issues such as the difficulty/impossibility of passing another slower cyclist when there are cars parked to your left. At the time I asked SF Bike what faster cyclists should do since my reading of the California Vehicle Code was that when a bike lane protected or otherwise was adjacent to the roadway, cyclists who were going slower than the rest of traffic were required to use the bike lane. Of course SF Bike responded that one should just use the regular lane that cars use. Say what? In any case I did try that and on the very first ride I did after that email exchange with SF Bike I was honked and yelled at by a driver ‘get out of the road!’ (By the way, another irritating structural issue is avoiding broken glass strewn in the lane—you can’t swerve right (curb) or left (parked cars) easily, if at all, to avoid it.)
It turns out my reading of the CVC was either incorrect or the law has been amended since then. Cyclists are NOT required to use a protected bike lane. Why? Because, in a bit of oxymoronic nomenclatural confusion a bike lane that is separated by a physical barrier such as parked cars, bollards, etc. is not considered a ‘bike lane’ anymore but a ‘separated bikeway’ and it turns out we may either use the ‘separated bikeway’ or not—it’s our choice.
The section of the CVC that mandates bike lane usage is here. The section of the California Streets and Highways Code that allows us not to use the protected bike lane is here.
If you read the latter, you may be wondering, “how does this paragraph allow us to skip the separated bikeway?” It’s because although we are required to use an adjacent bike lane per the CVC, a separated bikeway is not a bike lane in the eyes of the law, and the CVC paragraph above does not mention ‘separated bikeway’, ‘cycle track’ or ‘Class IV bikeway’, which are the correct terms for a protected bike lane. Interestingly there is a note that SHC 890.4 was amended in 2015, which was well after the GG Park lanes were installed. Whether the 2015 amendment was about differentiating bike lanes from protected bike lanes is unclear. But this semantic sleight-of-hand is our get-out-of-jail card.
However just because the law is technically on our side does not mean that there are no social consequences. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of drivers don’t know this legal esoterica and when they encounter a slower cyclist (well, actually ANY cyclist) in their lane, they wouldn’t give a shit what the law says anyway, they just want you out of the way! Having a patently obvious alternative lane—the protected bike lane—and seeing cyclists not using it are likely to induce apoplectic rage and lead to diatribes about the massive ‘entitlement’ of cyclists. So it’s not enough just to let us use the regular vehicle lanes; we need driver education concerning cycling law and why some cyclists choose not to use the protected bike lane.
“We had a very nice ride to Pt. Reyes Station this past Saturday. Joan, Donald, Will, Scott and I rode from Corte Madera Town Square Park out to Pt. Reyes Station to sample the amazing baking at Bovine Bakery. It was a beautiful day—and pretty warm for mid-January—with hardly a cloud in the sky. A lot of other cyclists were on the roads enjoying the great weather. There has been barely enough rain in this very dry winter to green the hills just a little.
After lunch we returned via Platform Bridge Road and the paved bike path through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. But instead of taking Sir Francis Drake Blvd. from the park entrance, Joan took us on a section of the unpaved Cross Marin Trail, aka Sir Francis Drake Bikeway, for a mile or two. It was muddy and most of us probably gave our bikes a bath afterwards. Joan apparently does a lot of off-road biking and her mountain bike looks like it’s made of mud. For the route back to Fairfax we took side roads through San Geronimo and Woodacre that were new to many of us and really beautiful. Before ending in Corte Madera we stopped briefly at Low Key Motors in San Anselmo to look at their cool vintage bikes.”
We had more virtual meetups than rides. (Well, it felt like more to me. I haven’t actually counted.)
We had a holiday party – but on frigging Zoom!
We did have around a dozen in attendance at the holiday party, and it was nice to see everyone.
Yeah, 2020 sucked. Still, there were members who made very valuable contributions during this time of Covid-19. Thanks, Tony, for the incredibly valuable work you did putting together the club’s Health and Safety Plan, and keeping us abreast of the requirements we’d need to meet to start riding again. Without your work, it wouldn’t have been possible for Jeff to start leading rides again last fall.
Thanks, Jeff, for getting club rides going again.
Thanks, David Ga. for organizing the virtual meetups and the white elephant exchange at the holiday party. You kept the club’s social life going during a difficult time.