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Prepare Communities First, Then Link Them

If you see a marine mammal in distress,
or if you are a marine mammal in distress
at night on the bicycle trail, in the vicinity of the Coast Guard station,
you might just holler out for the Coast Guard.

That’s what I did one evening, before I got better about carrying along a little bike tool kit on my rides.  (Whether I know what to do with any tools I carry is another matter.)

This was one of those winter evenings when I got a late start, then found myself in the dark with an unexpected bike chain mishap, my light battery not charged, my tool kit left at home, and the bike shops closed.  What to do?  Fortunately, I saw a couple of Coast Guard personnel across the way.  I called out and asked if they might help.  Thankfully, they were happy to, and they had a bright flashlight and some pocket tools in their possession.

Fix it yourself?

I’m not that mechanically minded. I am one of those fortunate people who had a magnificent and loving father.  Dad taught me some of the most important lessons in life, but he never taught my sister and me to handle repairs.  That was only for our brothers.

There was one exception, when I was home from college one weekend and Dad was repairing a chicken house roof.  He let me drill through sheet metal, and I was thrilled!  You can see how deprived I felt of such experience. 

But I can’t blame dear old Dad that I still haven’t learned any mechanics. I have a couple bike maintenance books—one new, one old.  I’ve barely cracked their covers, though I’ve been thinking more about building up some capability.  I’ve enjoyed bicycling the 40+ miles between my Monterey home and Santa Cruz in the past, and I’d like to have some basic  maintenance skills down before I bike that route solo.

That’s why, when I was browsing Bookshop Santa Cruz recently, I bought the new book:  Road Bike Maintenance by Guy Andrews.  Meanwhile, I defer to the experts.

Expert help

Just as I depend on a great (and “green”) car maintenance shop, year after year, I likewise depend on local bike maintenance shops.  I take my bike in for a periodic tune-up, just as I get an oil change and safety inspection for my car.  My bike needs very little maintenance, and if something comes up, I just call a local shop.  They’re terrific!

After-hours dilemma

So what happens if you’re biking and have a problem when shops are closed?  I keep my bike shop’s number in my cell phone, along with AAA’s number for my car, because it gives me a sense of security.  But I’m only fooling myself, because it’s false security after hours.  You notice that I said “AAA’s number  for my car” (24 hour roadside repair and towing), not “my car shop’s number”?  Hmmm….what’s wrong with this picture?  There’s a gap in support for bicycling in most places in America.  I have often thought it would be great to have a bicycle roadside repair and towing service you could call on, just as with cars.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, they are far ahead of us down that biking road.  They are incorporating bicycle service stations into their new bikeway plan!

Service stations on bike highways

The 12/15/09 New York Times Magazine’s “Ninth Annual Year of Ideas” includes an article on “Bike Highways” by Wm Ferguson.  The story tells that over a year ago, a group of American state highway officials took initial action toward what will seem to many U.S. citizens as an impossible dream:  linking our American cities by an interstate bikeway system.

This is far from today’s reality.  But as Ferguson’s story tells, in Copenhagen—where nearly 40 percent of the people bicycle to their workplaces—they are actually building such a bikeway system.

Danish architect and infrastructure consultant Jan Gehl emphasized something very important about Copenhagen’s new bicycle highway system:  it came after Copenhagen was a cycling friendly place.

What is most relevant for us in America at this time is preparing for that future by making our communities more bicycling friendly.  We can do that right now.

What comes before bicycle highways?

That  NY Times Magazine article on “Bike Highways” will inspire many readers.  We have some preliminary work to do here in Monterey County, and all over America, before our cities and other communities are ready to support those cyclists who travel to us via a cycling interstate.

The idea may seem like a pie-in-the-sky dream, but we’re taking the first steps already.  How?  Two actions have been mentioned on this blog already:  the Monterey City Council adopted the 2009 Bike Plan at their November 17th meeting, and businesses and organizations are immediately jumping in to support the HER Helmet Thursdays project launched Thanksgiving week, for all of Monterey County.  In fact…

New bike program off and running in MoCo

HER Helmet Thursdays, whose birth was announced on this blog 11/24/09, has already grown up.  Twenty-one! Yes, the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa put HER Helmet Thursdays in the grown-up category, with 21 participants on the list.  They added their Duck Club Grill,Schooners Bistro on the Bay, Cafe La Strada, and even Vista Blue Spa to the  HER Helmet Thursdays program.  Read more at “You’re a Big Girl Now.” MoCo  is definitely heading in the right direction.

Keep the faith.  There must have been a time when a bike highway for Copenhagen seemed like an impossible dream.

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2012 update:  The Duck Club Grill closed and made way for Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar.  Besides the new Schooners, the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa’s  Cafe La Strada and Vista Blue Spa are also in the HER Helmet Thursdays project.

2013 update:  Bike repair and maintenance classes offered in Monterey County, for kids, teens, and adults.

  1. Thanks for mentioning us, we are quite proud to have our hotel and outlets endorsing your HER Helmet Thursday project! We just wanted to make sure everyone was aware that we no longer have the Duck Club Grill or Schooners Bistro on the Bay here at our hotel. We have since closed the Duck Club and consolidated our dining/bar areas into the newly formed Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar. We have an entirely new menu, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also plenty of architectural renovations. If you haven’t already, come down and check it out! Same great views, totally new dining experience!

    Thanks.

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