Saturday, May 28, 2011

Downtown bike crowding

It's frustrating but not surprising to encounter stores, offices and facilities with insufficient bike racks.  I usually try to tell a storeowner, politely, that I'm a customer, I arrived on a bicycle, and I'd find their business easier to patronize if it had a place for me to lock my bike.  So far, everyone has been, or at least sounded, appreciative for the input.

Last week, I had an appointment at a downtown building and arrived to find not a single space left for me to secure my Raleigh.  Bikes were on both sides of the handful of racks and a half-dozen were locked only to themselves, leaned against a window.  After some thought, I pulled my bike onto the unplanted and barren "demonstration garden" and locked it to the sign.

Situation normal.  But wait, as they say on TV, there's more.

The building in question is the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency.  It opened in 2001 and for years -- YEARS -- CalEPA flacks were bragging about the countless green innovations incorporated into the design.  Special window placement minimizes the number of lights needed.  What lights are needed are "super-high efficiency" tubes that dim automatically when the sun shines in.  The roof is a tangle of solar cells.  The parking garage was built with electric vehicles in mind. 

Impressed?  Be quiet.  We're not even warmed up yet.

Low-flow fixtures installed in the bathrooms including the now-infamous waterless urinals.  Native grasses dominate the landscape and smugly refuse even a sip of water in our parched summers. (This may explain why I was able to park my bike in a "demonstration garden."  The point demonstrated seemed to be that plants need water to live.)

Every drop of paint used was "zero volatile organic compound" whatever that means.  The carpet is, I don't know, recycled milk jugs or something.  It was put in place without glue, further reducing VOCs, which I still will not pretend to understand.

Amazing, no?  Sit down.  Still not done.

Under the desks are vermiculture bins.  I'm not making this up.  They might be, but I'm not.  I think this means that if you work at CalEPA, under your desk, there is a big bin with compost and worms.  UNDER YOUR DESK.  The worms, who on any given day may be the only ones performing actual work in a state office, create organic waste which is then used in the courtyard flower beds. 

And this is just the building. We haven't even touched on what CalEPA actually does besides making its employees grow worms under their desks.

This agency is the author and prime mover behind the most stringent green regulations in the world.  This place is where the California Air Resources Board meets to defend itself against its critics, who claim that it has systematically destroyed entire industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the name of being the nation's leader in reducing carbon emissions and diesel exhaust.

To say that CalEPA would like us out of our cars is a vast understatement.  It's a bit like saying Charlie Sheen enjoys a drink now and then.

And yet, the best this outfit can muster for its thousands of employees is racks for a couple dozen bikes?  Surely fixing this problem can't be as hard as finding carpet that doesn't need glue or convincing union workers to keep a worm bin at their feet all day. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Random hipster kindness

So, I'm stopped at a light in midtown Sacramento, when a young guy on a single speed bike -- narrow bars, bright paint job, everything but the fixed-gear hub -- comes to a stop alongside me.

His hair had a splash of neon green in it. His wore a snug-fitting t-shirt and skinny jeans.  Oversized sunglasses.  A loyal, uniformed solider in the Hipster Army.

Not the sunny-dispositioned hipster in question.  But check out that satchel.

I'm getting more at peace with the world these days and less bristly when sharing space with folks whose cultural choices I don't share. Still, my inward reaction was at least a mild form of LATFH.

But then came a surprise.

"How are you?" he asked in the most pleasant of tones.  I think my response reflected genuine pleasure at this departure from the expected.

"Isn't it a beautiful day?" he asked.  It was, I agreed.

"Enjoy it!" he said as the light changed and he pedaled off.

It was just a young guy on a bike who made a choice to be pleasant, but it made a difference in my afternoon.  If he does this three or four times a day -- and his easy tone suggests he does -- this one kid is making the world a significantly brighter place. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beautiful Peugeot

The girls and I found ourselves at Hot Italian, the center of Sacramento's cycling scene, on the evening of their Velo & Vintage fashion/bike show.

I can't tell you with any certainty about a single outfit or garment that was modeled.  I can, though, remember a good few of the bikes the models rode down the catwalk. 

For me, the Best in Show was this Peugeot sports/roadster.  So taken was I by this bike that I made a visit the following week to the place I suspected was the source for it.  I was right, and as I arrived at Edible Pedal, I saw it sitting regally inside the doorway.

I think this bike is just stunning.  The fender-mounted light, the chrome fenders, the full chainguard, the braided cable housing... it's all just so elegant.

And seductive.  I really felt a bit disloyal to my collection of English three-speeds as I found myself thinking it was more refined and, well, French, than the Raleighs.

Edible Pedal boss John explained that the bike likely isn't as old as it appears.  At least not all of it.  Closer inspection revealed some distinctly newer parts and components.  It seems to be an expertly created and beautiful Frankenstein, with parts coming from any number and age of Peugeots to make one stunning whole.