Box of Soap?

Been wondering about a few things, like that poster on Guerrero Street for the past few months, featuring a cow and advertising a free soapbox race in Dolores Park. The Red Bull Soapbox Race, specifically, which answers the next question: What was up with that fleet of can-shaped Red Bull cars I passed on the way home from work yesterday?

Now I’m pretty excited to see what these soap boxers will do, besides make my weekly date with Dolores (Saturday) a little claustro. Good news: it’ll be completely free, unless you decide to make a purchase from the food stands, bev stands, craft stands, nearby shops, or strolling vendors.


They’ve Arrived… Bikers for Change

A herd/troupe/gaggle – whatever you call a big mass of bikers on a mission – made it over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco last night, to give a talk at the Mission District Sports Basement about what they’re out to do. It’s a good thing: on bicycle, traveling from Vancouver to Tijuana down the entire Pacific Coast of the United States to raise money for microfinancing through Kiva. The basement of Sports Basement was speckled with stars of the microfinancing movement, including the folks who created Kiva, one of the founders of Global Agents for Change, and the Mission District’s own Jess Arnett! The bikers are staying in the Mission for a few days – keep an eye out for people with unreasonably huge thigh muscles – and will be participating in Critical Mass this Friday. They head south on Saturday (San Francisco bikers are welcome to join them for a day or two, if you feel like a challenge).

Since you’re on the internet already, take a look at what GAFC and Kiva are doing. The concepts behind these groups are pretty fabulous, and the microfinancing movement is becoming big news. This is the sort of trend that makes the internet a source of democratic power, and is a potential venue for action that can have help equalize the messed-up global distribution of wealth. Don’t mind the global distribution of wealth? Feel free to point someone towards next time they start complaining about it. We live in San Francisco. It’ll happen.

Back to Business

Schedule’s been stranger than usual lately, so I hadn’t ridden my normal route between jobs in a couple weeks until today. That’s up Harrison and through the Mission from north to south, and things were a-moving and a-shaking! Some of the highlights:

1) Got to give a hello to the guy who sells fruit at 22nd and Harrison – I love this guy, and his $5 ten pound bags of oranges are the sweetest in the city. I’m always a little sad when I bike past and his truck is all closed up, although I don’t usually have enough space in my bag to pick up 10 pounds of oranges anyway. Maybe more on him later.

2) New contender for Not A Helmet! I watched a man bike by on 24th Street wearing a baseball cap, and using his hands to hold and eat a little bag of potato chips instead of the handlebars. I couldn’t see what flavor they were though. Any guesses?

3) Street light out at 25th & Mission, real live traffic cops instead! Did anyone else thank these folks? They seemed surprised when I did.

4) Important news for the adorable 3 year old I babysit for, a passionate connoisseur of construction vehicles and practices: if you promise to be careful, sometimes you can bike straight through a construction zone (now reaching the southern tip of Valencia) instead of going around like all the cars.

Then I got to work, and found out I was scheduled to stay an hour later than usual. It was alright though, I got to sing “Rakata” on the playground.

Cycling: Good News and an Advisory

Great news, Mission! Bike riding is spreading like a plague, but with better symptoms and more positive media coverage: SF Gate has taken note! San Francisco Bike Coalition reports record numbers of new members! And honestly, this is an ideal moment to start biking if you’ve been thinking about it; Bike to Work Day is this Thursday! There’s a stop-off spot with food and drinks and goodies for bikers at each end of the Mission.

Biking in the Mission District can be confusing, though… other bikes often speed frantically past just so they can stop at the red light before you. There’s a whole strip of asphalt labeled “bike lane”, but it seems that drivers (who you would hope have pretty good eyesight) misread that as “park while passengers shop lane” or “it’s okay to double park here if your flashers are on lane”. Other drivers sometimes curse at you in Spanish when they drive past you, and explain when you chase after them that they were concerned for your safety on such a busy road (more or less). Baffling.

Some of these mysteries may never be explained, so I’ll start with something simpler. Let’s address the helmet issue. Covering your head with something to keep your brain safe is critical. That thing is a helmet, and they aren’t fashionable. Confusing, because people in the Mission are fashionable and like their headgear to match. Small-brimmed, brightly colored caps are not helmets, even if only bikers wear them. Hair is not a helmet, even if it is long and blows attractively in the wind. Even if it is full of styling gel and makes a hollow sound when you knock on it, it is not a helmet. Finally, to the man biking on 22nd St: cowboy hats, although arguably appropriate for riding horses, are not helmets. Maybe you can wear it on top of a helmet for the same effect.

Not a helmet.

Not a helmet.

P.S. New obstacle in the bike lane on Valencia at 7 a.m. today: a cop car, parked diagonally, plus two cops writing a ticket to a disgruntled sidewalk-biker. Helmets can’t protect you from everything, so I wouldn’t suggest JWZ point #11 even while wearing protective gear.

Essential Mission Events!

That’s right, EME for this weekend:

The last moments of the Bay Area National Dance Week! Free classes and events scattered thickly over the Mission District.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration at Dolores Park! We all know that Saturday isn’t Cinco de Mayo. It’s the Kentucky Derby. We’ll be celebrating Cinco de Mayo anyway, because this is the Mission of San Francisco, and maybe we’ll bring along a Mint Julep in honor of my horse-country past.

Construction Camp on V-Street

Valencia Street is a dangerous place, more or less. We’ve all heard the debate: are there so many bike accidents on Valencia and Market because they are such dangerous (bad) bike routes, or because they are such well-used (good) bike routes? I say a combination of the two.

Today, though, I’m interested in making this a more nuanced discussion: is Valencia so dangerous because of the potholes or because of the constant construction fixing the potholes? I am not, of course, some freaky pothole fan, but I can get used to them. I ride Valencia twice a day, every day, and it’s not potholes that set up camp a block or two at a time and leave a single lane for both directions of car + bike traffic, and travel leisurely up and down the road for months on end. Potholes don’t make that awful, numbing noise, and potholes don’t have the terrifying visual impact of a cavernous hole cut in the asphalt with only a sparse line of orange cones to shield it. A pothole did not spray me with muddy water yesterday as it cut a chunk out of the pavement.

Do not go putting the potholes up on pedestals, now. They need fixin’. I love the SFBC for marking them to increase visibility and encourage municipal action, with events like Crater Invaders getting lots of folks involved. I love the people who are actually doing the work – and it’s not easy, pleasant, or pretty – to keep San Francisco roads rideable, driveable, and walkable for all of us. What I am asking is a pothole-neutral question: why has there been construction on Valencia Street almost every day since I moved to San Francisco? It’s only 2 miles long, from beginning to end. It is only the middle part of my commute. What is going on?

Construction workers, perhaps, enjoy the culture they’ve discovered in the Mission. It might be the greatest agreement forged between hipsters and wage earners since the trucker hat: Valencia Street is the finest drag in San Francisco.

Mission Mission’s “Cycling” category here.

Complete Mission Mission Valencia Street coverage here.

Even Kindergarteners Get It

The afterschool kindergarten class at the Mission’s own Fairmount Elementary School took action on Friday to protest the enormous proposed budget cuts for education in California schools. When rates are adjusted for regional cost differences, California is already ranked 46th-47th in the nation for per student spending, investing almost $2,000 less than the national average per child per year. The proposed budget cuts are equivalent to cutting $24,000 from every classroom in the state or laying off almost 110,000 teachers. More details and photographs:

Things we learned in kindergarten