Category Archives: Advocacy & Local Issues

Bicycle advocacy both local and national, as well as discussion of local bicycle incidents with the community and/or police

No, Chain Reaction did not “declare ourselves essential” today. But maybe indirectly we kinda sorta did? It’s complicated.

Today, I was referenced by the bicycle industry’s trade publication, BRAIN (Bicycle Retailer & Industry News) as being one of a handful of bicycle businesses that had “declared” itself “essential” and chose to remain open despite regulations that said we should be closed. There was no defiant “declaration” involved; we chose to remain open today (Tuesday, March 17th, the first day of the mandatory shelter-at-home mandate) partly because the wording in the FAQ allowed businesses essential to transportation needs to remain open, and partly because a sudden “hard” close would have placed great hardship on customers picking up bikes they had dropped off for repair or special orders etc. So we opened for business, but let everyone know who called that we could be closing on a moment’s notice. As of 6:35pm, in Santa Clara County, bicycle repair shops have been added to the list of “essential” transportation businesses allowed to stay open. We expect San Mateo County, and others, to follow shortly.

In the meantime, below is my response to the BRAIN article, which can be read here-
Just to be clear, we (Chain Reaction Bicycles) did not “declare” ourselves to be “essential.” What we have done is to ask that we share the same status as others providing support for the transportation infrastructure, specifically auto parts supply stores and auto repair businesses.

Many of us have spent years, decades even, lobbying for cycling infrastructure in our communities to allow the safe and convenient use of bicycles for transportation, not just recreational activities. And it’s happened. Bicycles, especially in dense urban environments, are seeing increased use. Not entirely from the activities of advocates but also organically, as increased congestion has made car use increasingly difficult.

And in this crisis, there is simply no safer, less-likely-to-encounter-COVID19 means of travel, than by bike. You’re not sharing recirculated air with anyone else. By nature it’s difficult to be closer than 6ft from someone. It doesn’t require refueling using metal & plastic nozzles and touch points that are known to carry the virus for multiple days.

But in the end, I’m tasked with the question I apply to as many choices as I can. Which decision I make will make the world a tiny bit better place, and which might make it a tiny bit worse?

When I think about those in our local community who depend upon us for things as simple as a flat tire or as complicated as changing out the gears to make the bike more practical for a rider’s level of fitness, when I think about the increasing number of my customers who have to ride a bike because they can’t afford any other way to travel, when I think about my employees who see the bicycle as a solution to so many different problems… that seems like we’re doing our part to make the world a better place by staying open and helping those people.

The argument for being closed? What makes my business more special than so many that are forced closed? What if, despite our best efforts, we become part of the problem because we can’t screen who comes through the door, we can’t clean as fast as one person, then another, might touch something? What if I can’t separate my own desire to feel relevant (after 40 years, who could?) from the greater need to control the virus?

I have more questions than answers. But I did not feel like I was breaking any new ground, asking for something not intended by the stay-at-home mandate, by seeing the bicycle business as a parallel to the automotive business, in terms of serving transportation needs. We (many of us in the cycling industry) have been pounding home the point of bicycles as transportation for ages, as I previously pointed out. So part of this is that very strange feeling that hey, we’ve arrived, we are part of the solution, why are we being seen as part of the problem.

One thing is certain; no matter what choice is made, it will be easy for some to see it as the wrong choice. We have found yet another way to polarize people. Missing is that feeling that everyone is sacrificing together for the greater good. It doesn’t feel like you can get there from here.
Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles

Bikes behaving badly, cars behaving badly

Tuesday morning, Kevin and I headed over Jefferson, stopping at Canada and checked left & right to make sure it was safe, before heading across. But it’s not just cars we have to watch out for. Check out the graphic above, a Strava screenshot showing one of a group of cyclists heading south on Canada Road, right as we got there. Strava conveniently laid out a data point exactly in the middle of the intersection.  You’d expect to see a cyclist, at that point, doing maybe 5 or 10mph. Not 25.9mph.

That group of cyclists blew through the stop sign without bothering to slow down at all. It’s a group that commutes from SF to Mountain View on a regular basis; we’ve seen them frequently. This is, quite literally, how they roll. 26 miles per hour through a stop sign.

Sure, you can shave off a lot of time blowing through stop signs on  your way to work, but what if everyone felt entitled to do so? Our paths cross with this group more often than not as we’re heading to the start of the Tuesday/Thursday-morning ride; obviously they keep to a schedule just like us, and they’ve managed to keep to that schedule, within a minute or two, even after riding 20+ miles with a number of stop lights & signs along the way. Doesn’t take much to figure out how. Next time you’re minding your own business, riding where you ought to be, sharing the road with motorists and yet somebody comes up behind you blaring their horn and maybe shouting you should be on a bike path, you might now have an idea who the motorists had come across previously.
And then there was this morning’s ride. We missed crossing paths with the SF-Mountain View commuters by maybe 10-20 seconds, for what it’s worth. But today it was a motorist’s opportunity to play stupid, up on Skyline. Foggy & damp conditions, and you can see what’s playing out in the photo above. There were three of us; myself, Kevin & Karen, all of us with bright flashing lights up front, and here’s this guy in the other direction passing not one but two cars, and probably would have passed a third had he not seen us and cut back very sharply in front of the car above.

If we hadn’t had lights… who knows. It’s hard to believe how many cyclists we see, on days like this, without flashing lights front or rear. Sometimes even dressed head to toe in black. Please, let them know you exist! High quality flashing lights can be seen great distances and make a motorist aware there are others out there on the road.