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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Faber’s Cyclery: A Bike Shop Survives in San Jose

In most American cities, where 20th century development meant bulldozing 19th century neighborhoods and leaving others to neglect and blight, there are stubborn survivors who refuse to pack up and move to the shiny new edges of the city. In San Jose, in the shadow of a ten-lane freeway, Faber’s Cyclery is a rare survivor.

In 1912, Jake Faber opened a small bicycle shop on the south side of downtown San Jose. In less than 10 years, he expanded his business and relocated to a former saloon on 1st Street shut down by prohibition. In the back were plumbing and blacksmith shops, built when the saloon anchored the stagecoach line to the mines at New Almaden. Given that the first bike makers were blacksmiths, it must have seemed like a sensible move.

In the 1950s, neighboring homes and businesses one block over were cleared for the I-280 freeway, and the block across 1st street became a cloverleaf ramp. But Faber’s Cyclery survived. In 1978, Alex LaRiviere, a bike shop owner from Santa Cruz, took over the Faber’s business and kept it going.

In 2007, it was nearly shut down due to building code violations and a dispute with his landlord, the granddaughter of Jake Faber. But Faber’s Cyclery survives and remains in operation, albeit only one day a week, Saturdays from 11am-5pm.

What’s the secret of its survival? From what I’ve read it’s Alex LaRiviere’s passion for bicycles and their history. LaRiviere doesn’t give up on old bicycles, mending them from his stockpile of parts. He doesn’t tire of educating others of the bicycle’s impact on society. Most importantly, he won’t give up on preserving an important piece of San Jose’s bike heritage, the bike shop he claims is the oldest in continuous operation in the US.

Last week, Faber’s hosted the State of Bicycle Planning in the South Bay, a meeting for urban planning, transit and bike geeks. A crowd of 50 or so listened to key stakeholders and discussed our vision of San Jose’s future, while we sat in the backyard of a Victorian-era shop surrounded by vintage bicycles and parts.

At times it was hard to hear the speakers over the loud rumble of the freeway, punctuated by the roar of airplanes on their landing approach for SJC. But it reinforced to me why we were there to talk about how much better a city could be, and how much better it will be once the projects discussed at the Faber’s are completed.

What do you know about your city’s past? Are there shops, houses or whole neighborhoods with stories to tell? What vision do you see for your city’s future?

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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure, Local History

 

Fashion Friday: I’m a Barbie Girl in a Biking World

Poor Barbie. For someone who smiles all the time, she annoys a lot of people. Despite an impressive career starting with astronaut in 1965 to surgeon to Army ranger to presidential candidate, she’s criticized as a bad role model. But like many females, she gets the most criticism for her fashion choices and for her figure.

But not from me. I’ve been a fan since I got my first Barbie, a red-headed Stacey I plucked out of a shelf full of blonde Barbies for my 6th birthday. I liked dressing her up for different occasions: a swimsuit for the beach, an evening gown for a formal party, a spunky mini-skirt for hanging out with friends. My sister Lucy and I would sew little outfits and craft little accessories for her, from silver plates and goblets out of foil to balsa wood furniture.

Our budgets didn’t allow Barbie to get her Dream House or own a Barbie convertible. Nor did she get a bike, like the 1970s 10-speed I saw on eBay and had to buy, especially since it was yellow, not Barbie pink. Next thing I knew I’m at Target buying not one, but two Barbies with bicycles that the dolls can actually pedal.

Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator and co-founder of Mattel, said that Barbie appeals to girls because she lets them imagine being adult women. That makes sense to me. It’s like putting on mom’s dress and heels and prancing around the room. Barbie’s exaggerated features are caricatures of women, just like GI Joe is for men or Cabbage Patch dolls are for babies. They don’t look much like the real deal, but they make sense to a kid.

Next week I’m headed to Long Beach for the National Women’s Bicycling Summit. I’ll get to meet lots of women who are passionate about bikes, discuss critical issues like how to get more women and girls bicycling, and hopefully ride around sunny SoCal on beach cruisers with my new friends. My Barbies would be jealous.

Were you a Barbie girl or did you prefer other toys? Would it bother you if Barbie were your child’s favorite toy?

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Rack SUCCESS! Hobee’s in Mountain View

We tried something special at Hobees last weekend. It wasn’t on the menu, it was in the parking lot: a new bike rack. It was installed in an awkward location, so we couldn’t use it properly without blocking the sidewalk. And we had to move a bench to make room for our two bikes. But I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth.

The rickety rack it replaced was so bad that it was featured in my first ever Bike Rack FAIL last year. On that trip, I politely asked the restaurant manager if there were plans to replace the rack since it was falling apart. Her smile fell into a look somewhere between irritation and resignation. She said she had asked the shopping center owner for a new rack before, but she’d ask again. She offered little hope and I had none.

But here was a new rack, most likely installed due to requests like mine. I don’t enjoy asking, but having a sturdy rack to lock up our prized bikes was worth the awkward conversation with the manager.

Have you ever requested a rack before? What was the manager’s reaction? Did it work?

Location: Hobee’s Mountain View, Central Expressway at Rengstoff Avenue, Mountain View, California, USA.

 
 

Bike Commute Diaries: The Elevator Pitch

One of the most basic marketing messages is the elevator pitch: your story, succinct enough for a 30 second elevator ride. Almost every morning, the elevator at work gives me a chance to hone my pitch. Co-worker: “Where did you ride in from?” Me: “From the train station downtown. It’s only a few miles away on the river trail, so it’s easy and relaxing.” Co-worker: “Oh yeah, the river trail is really close. Maybe I’ll try it this weekend.”

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Date Goes to the Movies: Premium Rush

Have car chase movies jumped the shark? Sadly, no. But I was delighted to see the chase movie genre has expanded to include bicycles in Premium Rush. Think of it as Smokey and the Bandit with bike messengers and NYPD cops instead of truck-driving southerners and good old boy county sheriffs and deputies.

At first, Dick and I weren’t sure if we wanted to see it. Cyclists already get such a bad rap as scofflaws with no regard for safety–theirs or anyone else’s. Why pay to see a movie about the jerks that give us all a bad name?

We went anyway and we’re glad we did. I won’t give out any spoilers, so let’s just say that that aside from promoting the misguided notion that fixed gear bikes can’t stop without a brake, and fueling the anti-bike crowd’s claims that cyclists have ruined New York City, the movie is great fun.

The action is fast, the bike handling is superb, and you genuinely like the heroes even if they ride like crazed, well, bike messengers. And the dirty cop villain alone is worth the price of admission. Unlike most action movies, there were no guns, almost no special effects, and the actors had the skills to do many of the bike stunts themselves. Best of all, the movie proves without a doubt that bikes have the upper hand in heavy traffic.

My only fear: boosted by the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit, sales of the Pontiac Trans Am jumped 70% in two years after the movie release. Let’s hope Premium Rush doesn’t boost brakeless fixie sales in the same way. There are enough bike messenger wannabees out there already.

Do you think that a movie like Premium Rush makes cyclists look bad? What about car chase movies, do you think they make drivers look bad? Is it somehow different?

About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Bike Date

 
 
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