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Oakland, CA

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


Things are going well at the Bikestation as we get ready to transition to Alameda Bicycles as the new operator. One, we are under budget so far. So, your next paycheck will include about a $400 bonus for each of you–thanks for doing a good running this place. The operations have gone very smoothly this past year (aside from that one day I didn't show for my shift). Also, the floor outside the Bikestation is all clean. Thanks Gregg for getting that area cleared out for the cleaning crew.

Equally exciting, we are averaging over 90 bikes parked/day this month at the Bikestation, and we have never had a month where we average that high. At this rate, we may be able to park over 2000 bikes in September, which naturally will be our first month ever with over 2000 bikes.

Keep up the good work.

Posted By Bakari

You'd think that after having been the vocalist in several bands, recording some solo stuff (like my profile song), and all, I'd be used to it.


Fridays I switch off with a co-worker.

I thought it was my day off. I get the phone call "Are you coming in?"


"you know you're supposed to be at the bikestation, right?"

"oh $@! really? I'm so sorry. I'll be there in like an hour"

"And the film crew is waiting for you"


"Theres a film crew here waiting for you"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Didn't the manager tell you?"

"No. Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I'm serious dude, there right here."

And its true. When I get in, there they are.

They wanted me to talk about bike safety and helmets.
Not that I am an expert on the subject, I'm just a guy who rides, a former messenger, one-time long distance tourer, and now a mechanic. None of that qualifies me as a safety consultant, but, I guess i know a bit more than average, and everyone is there waiting, so I figure what the heck?

This was all months ago.

The video has just been released.

You can see it here:

They cut everything but the helmet stuff, for time reasons.

Here at the bike station we have about 30 helmets for retail sale. Turns out almost all of them are size small, and small is very small. I don't know why this is. We needed a helmet for the demonstration. None of our helmets fit anyone. Besides extra small we have a handful of extra large. I can't remember how we ended up finding one that was remotely close enough to use in the video, but as you can see, we did.

Then we needed someone for me to use it on. The model was one of the film crew. She was very reluctant to put on the helmet wrong, in order for me to correct it, because she thought people seeing it would think she was an idiot, instead of a model.
At the very end, after the credits, you will notice she got them to put in a note to that affect.
That's my favorite part.

Posted By Bakari

Posted By Bakari

Looking back on my calender

Over the last 25 days, one day off.

That is misleading, because often it is just one short moving job, no more than 2 or 3 hours.
All in all, 28 individual jobs in that time.

I was really looking forward to a 2nd day off today.
Call last night from Dave (the president of the Berkeley Bicycle Friendly Coalition, as well as the manager of the Bike Station)
He has not got confirmation from our new hire - could I go in, just in case he doesn't show up, and also to train him some more if he does?

Normally I'd say no without a second thought, and that would be the end of it.

Only thing is, if I don't do it, Dave himself has to.  We are short people (that's why we have new hires).
And Dave works just as much as I do, except I think a lot of what he does is volunteer.  The Bicycle Friendly Coalition is not-profit, and membership based.  They rely on volunteers for everything.
May being Bike month, he has been putting in crazy hours, (and forgetting to submit payroll! that's ok, as long as I get my check before bills are due)
*edit: check has gone through already.  only took 1 day from when I sent him everyone's hours from work, only 3 days later than normal*
, and now he is sick.

I may be tired, but I'm not sick.

The least I can do is put in a few more - paid - hours.  I don't volunteer anywhere; and I have no intention of starting. 
I was going to spend today posting stuff in the driveway to Craigslist, writing some, having 3 or 4 actual meals, and possible inviting a friend to go hiking.  I think instead I may spend it lifting bicycles into racks, and occasionally repairing them.

Oh, by the way, this is Bike-To-Work day, today.
By now, you probably have missed the chance to bike to work, but when you get home, go ride a bike anyway.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Even just for a little bit.  Its fun.  And its good for you.  And its better for living things than driving is.  And besides, everyone else is doing it!

Posted By Bakari

(day before Bike-to-Work Day)


On the BART, at one point, I spoke to a woman with a bike, she mentioned she was going to work - I mentioned that if she was working the late shift, she should have lights for the ride home. She said the ride home was next morning.
Turns out she is a resident doctor. They were limited to "only" 15 hours per shift and 80 hours per week only a few years ago.
For doctors-to-be, this is normal.

So I won't complain.

alarm - god damn it, why did I stay up until midnight? I knew this would happen - you know, since it does several times a week
So tired. Painfully tired. Sore throught. Fuck it, snooze button

People waiting for me, need to be on time. Ok ok, I'm up.

Dressed, half a pop-tart, pull bike out from stuff in driveway, turn on newly figured out bluetooth stereo headphone cell-phone link, music, bicycle, on the way.

Today, I won't be so lazy, take 38th despite the little hill.
Up the hill, down the hill, so easy, why do I skip this everyday?
Getting late. Tired, eh, I'll take BART today. So much for not benig lazy.


Fruitvale BART

Berkeley BART

Set up and clean shop which was left in transport mode from Saturdays farmers market.
Usual stuff, balance the books, check in bikes,
pro-bono repairs for people who can't afford any and have only bike for transportation.
Manager stops in, talk a bit. Tell him my impression of potential new hire. Move bikes that have been here a year or so outside, lock to racks, to make room for more active ones inside. Busy today. Every inside rack is full by 9:30. A bunch go on thier kickstands. More lay against the tires of others.


Head to downtown oakland, to BART corporate office.
I expected 12 small, light signs, and a cart to hold them all.
13 signs, 3' x 2', 20 lbs each!!
No cart. They say the cart is too big to go on BART.
They say they were expected several people.
Just me.
Some one finds some yoga straps, which are the perfect thinkness and infinately adjustable length, (max more than I need)
So, I strap 3 signs to my left shoulder, and three to my right.
(mind you, I did not know how heavy they were in pounds until I got home and looked it up. 120 lbs? Good lord, that's damn near what I weigh! My co-worker at the carnival used to say "Big man strong like bull" - yeah, and little man strong like mule!)
Not to mention the cables and locks.
4 blocks from corporate office at Lake Merrit to 19th st. BART.
4 long, slow, hot, tiring blocks. A lot of comments, even more looks.
I'm used to that.

First set go out to Concord, Pleasant Hill.
Then back to El Cerrito, Berkeley.
Pick up bike, bring it to Fruitvale BART where there is another bike station, so I don't have to go back to Berkeley at the end.
I am beginig to suspect I might not make it back in time to get my bike again. One of the attendents did say they were planning to stay late.

Call the guy at corporate (cute guy!) tell him I won't make it by 6, but I can get there by 6:30 if he's willing to wait.


GOD DAMN IT!!! I'm an idiot! Got used to taking the first train that comes, for the past few hours, wasn't paying attention, took the SF train, get off at West Oakland, head back.

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Posted By Bakari

As you probably know (if you have looked at my profile, or spoken to me for half an hour) I've had a lot of jobs. About 25 in fact, of about 15 different types, ranging rather widely.

I can't remember one in which I have enjoyed the commute to work as much as the commute home.
And not just because of the 15 mile bike ride at 2pm through sunny Berkeley and Oakland, around the lake, along the "bike boulevards" in near perfect weather.

Today, I took a few extra moments before someone left with their bike to cut off the end of a used inner tube. I had noticed their headlight was too loose for the handlebar, and I made a shim out of the piece of tube, and now instead of pointing straight down, her headlight points forward. Which means its just a little less likely that she gets hit by a car sometime.

The majority of our customers are commuting to work everyday by bicycle. Our service (my mother thought it funny that I refer to the shop as "our" after my 2nd week) helps them to do it. It means they don't have to take the bike on a crowded train, convince their employer to provide a secure place to store it, or worry about someone stealing their wheels or handlebars or lights or whatnot when its locked up.
Quite a few of them don't have cars at all.
I used to not have a car. I remember crossing a 4 lane divided highway to get to the laundry mat in the snow. In this culture, not having a car is a major sacrifice - it is pretty much THE major sacrifice. I see a big difference between someone who spends a little more to get a Prius, and someone who could afford a car, but instead relies on bicycle and public transportation.
Yesterday there was a guy here with that extend-a-bike thing, with a sign on the back advertising hauling. He said his most common cargo is groceries. I have to admit a bike beats bio-diesel on environmental impact any day.


I had not really ever thought about just how much I have picked up from my years of doodling about with my own bikes, and occasionally those of friends and family. I've been called by other mechanics at my shop for advice. Of course, most people wouldn't have taken apart a 3-speed internal gear / hub before. I got that old women's Raleigh from Joe's basement that one time, and rode that heavy old thing up Shane Dr to Berlex. When it stopped shifting right, I fixed it. I thought nothing of it at the time. I didn't realize that most people would either take it to the shop, junk it, or just live with one gear. I didn't think of the potential of making it worse, of loosing parts - not that I haven't done those things.
The first wheel I tried to true (and probably the second) I took form a slight wobble to completely tacoed, totally folded over, and irreparable. My first "10-speed", I disassembled the gears to figure out how they worked. I couldn't figure out how to put them together again, and ended up just tying them off in my preferred gear.
Fortunately, all my irrepairable mistakes have been on my own bikes.
The 10 year subscription to Bicycling magazine certainly helped. And reading the Nashbar catalog every month. working alongside Larry or Joe and pretending to know what we were doing. And of course, more than anything, hating to ride the bus with my classmates in junior high and not being able to afford repairs. Eventually people started asking me for tune-ups, neighborhood kids, classmates, family; and this way I was exposed to different types, different makes, different years, different quality levels.


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