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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

I was doored on my skates today for the first time ever.

I've been skating in traffic regularly nearly as long as I've bicycled in traffic (15 and 17 years, respectively) and this was my first accident involving an automobile.

I had thought I was going slow enough that an impact would be negligible...
I had thought I left enough of a gap from the parked cars to avoid suddenly opened doors in my path...

It happened so fast that I didn't realize what was happening until I was already in the air

I don't care much for the pain or blood or risk, but I have to admit there is something very intriguing, almost fun, about a first hand demonstration that this body one identifies as "self" is as subject to the basic laws of physics as any inanimate object.
One moment you are a person, with feelings and experiences and goals and relationships
In the next you are velocity and mass and angular momentum.

The way the door caught me, just on the edge, I went off at an angle, feet first somehow, I twisted and spun and ended up right in the middle of the street on my front with my head pointing the direction I had come from.
Got up quick in case there was any traffic coming, assured the apologetic driver that I was fine, and finished my commute to work (where I discovered that our first aid kit is badly in need of restocking - I have a napkin and tape on my arm at the moment)

And on that note:

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition's Spring series of free urban bicycle safety classes are set and online sign-up is open. Just go to: to sign up (or call 510.533.RIDE) and please be sure to tell all your friends about these great classes. Classes are scheduled throughout the East Bay.

The bicycle safety classes include a Day 1 Street Skills class, 3.5 hours classroom course that teaches the basics of safe cycling, riding in traffic, equipment, crash avoidance, rights and responsibilities. Adults 14 and over. No bike needed.

The Day 2 class is a 6.5-hour on-road course that provides an opportunity to put into practice what was learned in the Day 1 Street Skills class (a prerequisite), including emergency maneuvers and riding in various traffic conditions, to test your knowledge of vehicular cycling skills. Bicycle required for Day Two.

Class are taught under the direction of EBBC's lead certified bicycle safety instructor Jason Agar and his team of certified assistant instructors. And this June we are also offering our first bicycle safety class taught in Spanish.

Posted By Bakari

Someone pointed out to me recently that no one skates anymore.

Honestly, I hadn't noticed.

Now that I think about it, when I first picked it up, about 14 years ago, there were a lot of people on inlines ("blades" hahahaha)
out on the streets, around Berkeley and SF, on the bike paths, and not just the kids grinding and jumping, but adults, just out for some exercise, or to get somewhere.
And looking around now, it seems that there is... just me.

And all of a sudden I realized; maybe I'm not as cool as I think I am.
Not even close.  Like not even 1/20th as cool as I assume.
Maybe what I interpret as a nod and smile of approval and vicarious enjoyment is actually strangers laughing at me.
Not that this upsets me, but its really interesting to think about.

You see plenty of people walking.  There seems to be a bigger bike culture today than there was back then (I've been cycling even longer than I've been skating, and more regularly and consistently.  It wasn't always so trendy as it is today).
Skating is no more or less practical means of transport, no more or less fun.
What happened to all the people who used to skate?  Did they all stop because they saw everyone else was doing it less?  Are trends really that integral to our lives that we let it dictate... everything?

This is so strange to me, to have been skating along all these years, and suddenly look up and everyone else is gone.

For me, its faster than walking, and more fun the bicycling (hard to dance on a bicycle), its free and its good exercise, and there are no laws regulating them so I can get away with riding on both the sidewalk and the street whenever I choose; I'm gonna keep my 10 mile commute to work whenever I can.

I say one of these days you should get your old skates out of the closet and come roll around with me. 
It'll be fun.

Posted By Bakari

The non-profit I work for is government financed.

We were trying to expand our size and range of services for the
community, (not to mention securing better working conditions for the
employees), and many people had been working behind the scenes on this
project for a couple of years. When I started 2 years ago it seemed
little more than a vague idea, but at each new meeting updates showed
it was coming closer and closer to a reality.
And then
Last week

I was invited to a last minute meeting...
At it we were told that the city (the smallest of 3 funding sources for
the project, but a vital component w/o which it could not happen) had
decided, unilateral, to rescind the (as yet unofficial) offer to back
the project, using the funds instead for a smaller, independent, temporary,
substitute instead.

The federal grant has been pending for almost 3 years, and will expire this year.
We were informed of this change early last week.
Not 'literally' last minute, but about as close as possible.

We had exactly THREE DAYS to prepare, between the sub-committee meeting
where we learned of the potential change, and the general city council
meeting where it would be voted on.

We had one chance to get it done, and get it done right.
If we did not convince the city council, the city funds would be
eliminated, which would mean we would lose an additional million in grants and other support;
in other words, this one meeting would decide if it happened or not.

Our campaign began the next morning.
It involved, of course, fliers, posters, handouts.
It involved speaking in person to every single patron of our services,
calls to cycling advocates and supporters in the area, connections
with the downtown business association, the Sierra club, allies in

It involved secret meetings, letters and calls to the city counsel and
mayor's office, and countless, constant, emails between the people involved.

After getting home around 10 or so from a meeting, I was up at 5:30am to open the shop the next morning.
After work at 2, the rest of the day involved preparations for the evening.

6:30pm, co-workers and allies began trickling in.
At 7, as we walked to city hall, others joined us along the way.

Several popular things were on the agenda that night.
New members were being sworn in so there was ceremony and speeches.
People were there to protest the hiring of John Yoo (the guy who
wrote the 'enemy combatant' law in order to circumvent Geneva
convention guidelines for treatment of prisoner's of war) by UC

The council hall was full.
We were made to sit in the hallway downstairs.
As our supporters showed up to join us, we passed out signs, and waited
to be let in one by one as people there for other reasons left.

We were #28 on the agenda.

We expected to be there all night, waiting.

As an information item, we would be allowed 3 speakers, 1 minute each, and no vote would be taken at that time.
A council member moved that it be changed to an action item.
The mayor recognized that many people there were for our project, and asked just how many there were.
About 4/5th of the room stood.
The mayor moved it on the agenda to be addressed after the first
information item (a report by the financial analysis department.)

The city staff, which had come up with the alternate plan, gave their report.
They were grilled some on the numbers, and it seemed we at least had a chance.
Our line of people waiting to speak, from the manager of the project,
to the director of BART, to long-time patrons of the service who had
given up their cars only after finding out about us, went to the back
of the room.

It was a long night.

We won.

Posted By Bakari

My plan had been to become a park ranger ever since high school.

I always knew I wanted to do a lot of different jobs, but once I had some varied experience, I was going to settle in the long term with park ranger.
I had dozens of different jobs, and then when I got bored of it, I went back to school and focused on stuff that would improve my chances of getting a ranger job: degrees in biology and earth science, an emergency medical technician certificate, and the pre-police academy course.

By this time I was in a long-term relationship with someone with a career in an urban area, and I didn't want to move out to a remote area as, since that would mean either forcing her to move or leaving her behind.

Oakland has around 1200 acres in 91 parks, including 500 acre Joaquin Miller, and has its own park rangers.
And just as I was beginning my job search after graduation, they were hiring. How convenient.

About 6 years ago they had 25 rangers.
Due to budget cuts this number went from 12, to 8, to 5.
At the time 2 of those 5 were not on active duty for one reason or another, leaving all of 3 people to cover the entire city's network of parks. They were trying to get back to 8.

I turned in the initial application. I passed the oral interview. I did excellent on the general intelligence test. I passed the physical test with lots of time to spare (timed obstacle course and strength test) and passed the psychological profile. Turned in the extensive background information. There are no hidden things in my past which should disqualify me. I got a letter saying I had been placed on the eligibility list.
And then...
I got another letter saying I wasn't. I wrote to inquire what had happened, and never heard back.

By this time BioDiesel Hauling had taken off, I was enjoying it, making good money, in the process of getting the green certification, and had just started the bike job, so I let it go.

About year later, I am well established in both jobs, and very happy with what I am doing. I am up in the park, and I happen to notice a brochure about the volunteer bike patrol. Looks like it could be fun. But I don't own a mountain bike.

Another 6 months go by, I get a mountain bike.
I take it to the closest park to my house, and lo and behold - Oakland allows cyclists to ride single track!! (See "we have some seriously f*cking gnarly...", August 6, 2008)
I applied for the program.

Yesterday was my interview.
As it happens the sergeant interviewing me was one of the ones who did last time.
The interview was more like a friendly chat. Most relaxed interview I have ever been in (last time there were 3 interviewers. I had to wear a suit. "Relaxed" would certainly not be a word I would have used to describe it)

I learned, among other things, that the budget for additional rangers was cut before the hiring process was completed. They ended up hiring 2 people, but also let 2 go, leaving the city with... 3 rangers. Only now instead of having a goal of 5-8, 3 is the number officially budgeted for.

Which means it wasn't (necessarily) anything to do with me when I didn't get hired. I wouldn't have gotten it no matter what, because the position I was applying for ceased to exist. Kind of would have been nice had they mentioned that at the time, but its nice to know now.

Looks like I will get to patrol the parks after all.
I just won't get paid anything for it.

On the plus side, I only go as often as I feel like it, and won't be required to make any arrests.
I have a motivator to actually get me off this damn computer and go outside and get some exercise and be in the outdoors.
And an excuse to buy some cool new bike equipment.

Here's to (probably) not having terrible things on my permanent record that I don't know about afterall!

Posted By Bakari

I never set out, intended, nor expected to become a representative of the environmental movement, an activist, or really anyone special at all.
As I mentioned in blogs past, I believe the most significant and positive thing we can do to be responsible citizens is to truly live each of our own individual lives as close to our own principals as we can. I believe this makes more real difference than all of the shouting, the signs, the email letters to representatives. If everyone just did their own little part, there would cease to even be a need for the grand gestures.
And yet, as it turns out, apparently living by my modest principals has propelled me into this role without my having to try.

In just the past couple weeks:

-I have been offered the position of vice-president of the board of a (not yet in existence) children's library, (I am the only member of the board with neither an advanced degree nor related education and/or non-profit experience)
-I was interview for a grad student's thesis (ok, granted, those first two are somewhat related)
-I was filmed by and have 3 short video interviews which touch on my home, my vehicles, and my business
-I presented the awards (and gifts) to the team in Alameda county which logged the most commute miles during bike-to-work month last May (when I also volunteered, packing gift bags as well as at one of the energizer stations) at the Dublin city council meeting (the winner's were all employees of the City of Dublin)
-I had the domain I originally wanted for my website donated to me by the previous owner - despite my specifically requesting to pay for it, on the grounds of his liking what I am doing with it
-Soon I will be running yet another free bicycle parking station at a local event yet another thing which I am not quite sure how I ended up doing.
-And with any luck, I'll end up a member of the Oakland Bike Patrol which is mostly an excuse to get me to ride my mountain bike more, but is also because, believe it or not, I kind of miss my old job as a private security guard sometimes - I actually got to help a lot of people.

You know what I always say: "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know so called volunteers don't even get paid?" (Homer Simpson)

[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

It was many years ago when I last rode a mountain bike on a trail.

I had this heavy old Fuji that folded in half, weighed about 50lbs, had a 5 speed freewheel and friction thumb shifters. For those that don't know bikes, that means it was a pretty crappy bike.

But, I had really nice tires on it, and it is just amazing the crud you can ride over with fat knobbies.

But then I moved into an RV, there was only room for one bike, and I took my more versatile road touring bike. The mnt. bike went up on the wall in the garage in Mom's house.

Before long I moved out of the area, then out of the state, and clear across the country. The bike hung upside down, its tires sad with nostalgia of mud. We had once encountered a small stream at about 15mph, and before I had a chance to even get scared (nevermind brake) we were already over and past it. Now, without me, they did nothing but than lose air molecules, one by one.

I came back, eventually, to CA. I took the mountain bike with me to Burning Man.
One night, I parked it outside next to my RV. Someone came by and claimed it. I suppose the idea is, in a semi-anarchistic gifting culture, no one can lay claim to property, and so this wasn't so much theft as involuntary sharing.

I decided that next time I wanted to get a half-way decent mountain bike. Which meant that for years and years, I had none at all, because there was always more important things to spend money on.

Many years passed.

I became a hauler. You wouldn't believe the things I get paid to pick up from people. My TV, DVD, VCR, RePlay, CD changer, sofa, scanner/printer... these are all things I was paid to take away. I have had several bikes, but none were quite right, and they passed through my hands to new owners.

And one day, just last week, I ended up with a mountain bike, and this one I kept.

I was a little disappointed at first when I looked it up and found out how cheap it was when it was new. A bit heavy for the frame size. Cheap forks without much rebound damping. Low end Shimano components.

On the other hand, the frame is far too small for me, which has the advantage of making it lighter (plus plenty of standover height, and a short wheelbase for maneuverability).
The fork has a huge range of easily adjustable preload, changing it from very soft and cushy to stiff while retaining small bump sensitivity.
And, working as a bike mechanic for the past couple years, I recognize that while the shifters are a decade old and were cheap back then, they actually stand the test of time, and this particular design fails less often than many newer and more expensive ones. Just like every other of the same model I've come across, they still shift as crisp and precise as a new set.

Its about half the weight of the bike lost to Burning Man, and its the first bike I've owned with any suspension fork at all. Took it to work in order to tweak it a little, upgrade a few components, barends, clipless pedals. Sure is nice working in a bikeshop!

I would normally fit a 17 frame, and this being a 12.5", I had the seatpost way past the limit mark - the point at which there's a good chance it'll break off sooner or later, and it was still too low. I found an old extra long seatpost in the scrap metal bin. All of the grippy teeth were worn away to nothing. I took half an hour to file new teeth into the post. No decent bikeshop should be without several types of file.

Today was the first day on which I had no work, and nothing planned.

[entire blog at MySpace]