Cycling Over Sixty

California StreetsBlog

May 10, 2024 Tom Butler Season 2 Episode 41
California StreetsBlog
Cycling Over Sixty
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Cycling Over Sixty
California StreetsBlog
May 10, 2024 Season 2 Episode 41
Tom Butler

Join host Tom Butler as he shares his experiences from a recent group ride, the Emerald City Ride. He also fills you in on his wife Kelly's journey mastering her new Cruzbike S40. They're out there enjoying the scenery and loving riding together!

This episode features the inspiring Melanie Curry, writer and cyclist extraordinaire. Melanie, the editor of the California edition of Streetsblog, discusses what ignited her passion for cycling as a mode of transportation. She'll also delve into her recent article celebrating National Bike Month in California. Get ready to be energized by Melanie's enthusiasm for cycling's many benefits as a mode of active transportation!

Link
Information on the California Streetsblog 15th Anniversary Celebration:
cal.streetsblog.org/2024/03/13/save-the-date-for-the-streetsblog-sf-15th-anniversary-on-9-12

Donate to Streetsblog:
https://cal.streetsblog.org/make-a-donation-to-streetsblog-california


Thanks for Joining Me! Follow and comment on Cycling Over Sixty on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyclingoversixty/

Consider becoming a member of the Cycling Over Sixty Strava Club! www.strava.com/clubs/CyclingOverSixty

Please send comments, questions and especially content suggestions to me at tom.butler@teleiomedia.com

Show music is "Come On Out" by Dan Lebowitz. Find him here : lebomusic.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join host Tom Butler as he shares his experiences from a recent group ride, the Emerald City Ride. He also fills you in on his wife Kelly's journey mastering her new Cruzbike S40. They're out there enjoying the scenery and loving riding together!

This episode features the inspiring Melanie Curry, writer and cyclist extraordinaire. Melanie, the editor of the California edition of Streetsblog, discusses what ignited her passion for cycling as a mode of transportation. She'll also delve into her recent article celebrating National Bike Month in California. Get ready to be energized by Melanie's enthusiasm for cycling's many benefits as a mode of active transportation!

Link
Information on the California Streetsblog 15th Anniversary Celebration:
cal.streetsblog.org/2024/03/13/save-the-date-for-the-streetsblog-sf-15th-anniversary-on-9-12

Donate to Streetsblog:
https://cal.streetsblog.org/make-a-donation-to-streetsblog-california


Thanks for Joining Me! Follow and comment on Cycling Over Sixty on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyclingoversixty/

Consider becoming a member of the Cycling Over Sixty Strava Club! www.strava.com/clubs/CyclingOverSixty

Please send comments, questions and especially content suggestions to me at tom.butler@teleiomedia.com

Show music is "Come On Out" by Dan Lebowitz. Find him here : lebomusic.com

Tom Butler:

This is the Cycling With 60 Podcast, season 2, episode 41, california Streets Blog, and I'm your host, tom Butler. Thank you for joining me for this episode. This is where I talk about my journey to get and stay fit later in life. Cycling is at the heart of my fitness journey, but I am also making a lot of dietary changes as well. I was talking last week to someone and I said that I think the most important part of my message is that I am 61 years old and I'm still getting stronger. I think that is very good news.

Tom Butler:

Last Sunday I did the Emerald City ride put on by the great people at Cascade Bicycle Club. It was a blast taking over some roads that are typically dominated by cars. I don't know why, but I just love seeing thousands of bikes rolling through the city streets. It was well organized, just like every other Cascade ride I have done. We arrived pretty early outside of Lumen Field in Seattle and headed out around 7 am. I am sure that the early start was so that we got over the West Seattle Bridge as early as possible so that there was less disruption of car traffic. The entire westbound lane was shut down for bike-only traffic. It made it a very cool experience. Lots of people stopped in the middle of the bridge, including us, to get a picture that can't be taken very often. I will definitely do the Emerald City ride again. I'm pretty sure they don't do the same route each year, so I will be looking forward to seeing what is in store for us next year.

Tom Butler:

Unfortunately, my wife Kelly did not join us on the ride. She had gotten her new cruise bike S40 back from getting a motor installed, but she just didn't feel like she was ready to navigate the ride with so many people around her. I think her efforts to learn to ride the cruise bike are going really well. She has 38 miles on the bike so far and, as I've mentioned, watching her, you can't tell that she's still struggling to master it. The whole reason we got her the bike was that she could join in the rides we do as a family. While she didn't do the Emerald City ride, we are starting to enjoy other opportunities to get out as a family. For example, this week we went out for a 15-mile ride on an absolutely beautiful day. It was so fun to be on the trail together. We did stop a couple times to take pictures If you go to the Cycling Over 60 Strava Club and look for activities.

Tom Butler:

You can find a couple of the pictures attached to the ride called Longest Cruise Bike Ride so Far. One has Mount Rainier in the background. That is the view for most of the ride. Of course a picture just doesn't do justice to Mount Rainier. The other picture shows the Carbon River, which runs beside the Foothills Trail. It makes for amazing scenery. The Carbon River is fed from the Carbon Glacier. The Carbon Glacier is special. It has the greatest length a length of 5.7 miles and the most thickness 700 feet of any US glacier outside of Alaska.

Tom Butler:

On that ride I was able to ride at full speed. Now because Kelly is used to her pedal assist, I really started pushing it after we turned around at the halfway point. It was kind of funny. I was constantly pedaling because the trail was going slightly uphill the whole return trip but I would occasionally hear the buzz of Kelly coasting behind me. It was awesome to know that she could set her bike to get the level of workout, she pace and I could draft off her. But with the cruise bike position and her size she blocked very little wind. So that isn't ideal. I can imagine several scenarios that would make it nice to be able to draft her pedal assist.

Tom Butler:

I got some less than ideal news about the route I'll be using to ride across Washington. If you're new to the podcast, I'm planning to ride a little over 400 miles from Anacortes, washington to Newport, washington this coming fall. The bad news is that the campground I wanted to stay in looks to be closed after the first week of September Because of the heat in eastern Washington. I would actually like to ride later on in the year and I'm a little confused by this, because the weather is fine until at least October. I'm sure even up at the elevation of the pass that I'll be going over. But this means that I'm going to have to find other accommodations and I might end up having to backtrack by car for about 20 miles for lodging. That isn't terrible, but it certainly feels like it changes the trip a bit. I'm still hopeful I can figure something else out.

Tom Butler:

There have been a number of times that I've had articles from a news site called Streets Blog show up in my news feed. I've come to expect stories that interest me from them. You can find them at streetsblogorg. One of those stories was about bike month in California. It was written by Melanie Curry. I reached out to Melody to talk about her article and she graciously agreed to come on the podcast. We ended up having a great conversation about a lot more than just the article. Here it is, but I have to once again say that the audio isn't the best. I don't know what is going on lately, but I've been messing up when it comes to getting good audio for the interviews. Hopefully it won't distract too much. I am joined by someone today that I want everyone listening to get to know better. Thank you, melanie Curry, for joining me.

Melanie Curry:

Oh, I thank you for having me.

Tom Butler:

Melanie is an editor with Streets Blog USA at streetsblogorg and a cyclist. Melanie, I see you as a voice for both fun and serious perspectives on cycling transportation and I know we're going to experience that in this conversation today.

Melanie Curry:

It's always fun.

Tom Butler:

Good, good. Can you talk about your earliest memories of biking?

Melanie Curry:

Sure, I was probably five or six, the fifth in a family of a lot of siblings, and I got the hand-me-down bike which we had all learned on, which we called the hunk of junk affectionately. It was a squeaky old bike with really fat tires. That was much bigger than me and I learned to ride on it. I remember vividly riding on the sidewalks with my family, and then I graduated to like pushing whatever bike was available for my size up a hill and screamingly fast down. That was our fun when I was a kid, but my mom also made us ride our bikes to school throughout, including throughout high school, so I spent a lot of time on my bike.

Tom Butler:

Okay, I'm thinking that continued that biking. I read someplace that you were commuting to school. I think that continued on into college. Maybe Is that correct.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah. So I grew up in the San Fernando Valley no bike lanes or anything like that and I went to UCLA and it just made more sense to ride my bike to UCLA. It was about a 10-mile ride when nobody else was riding. I always felt like this weirdo, but it got me there, it kept me healthy. And then, while I was in college actually, I took a trip with some fellow students. I wouldn't call them friends, I never really got close to them, but we had this great bike trip from San Francisco down to the LA area along the coast and that was super hard. I mean, I didn't have any fancy equipment, but one of the things that happened was it convinced me of how the bike is a machine and the human body are just a perfect combination. It was just efficient, it was fun, it was hard. I was in really good shape when I got home. All of those things that's awesome.

Tom Butler:

I think that that experience of commuting to UCLA was something that made you aware of bike infrastructure issues. Is that right to say?

Melanie Curry:

I guess. So you know, yes, but there was no bike infrastructure. So I guess what I was aware of was first literally feeling like a weirdo. I mean, I was a very shy person. So what was I, 20? Riding across LA on Sautel in traffic in my little I don't have bike shorts, they were just little short shorts Getting whistled at by people standing on the corner hoping to be picked up for work. And I just had to do it. I loved riding so much that I didn't even really think about the fact that it would be so much better if there was bike infrastructure.

Melanie Curry:

However, after moving around a little bit, I didn't stay in LA. I mean, I have to add, I lived in Mexico City for a year and realized how possible it was to get around without needing a car. And then I came back to LA and it was just like why are we still doing this? So I moved. I ended up moving into Berkeley, partly because that was a city where I could get around without being always in my car. That's where I started really seeing how one could change and advocate for better bike infrastructure, partly because the advocates in Berkeley I got to know them and they were doing all kinds of things that people were derisive about if they weren't on bikes, but I could see that they made a lot of sense.

Tom Butler:

There you were involved with Access Magazine, and I'm wondering how your work shaped your view of transportation at that time.

Melanie Curry:

Well, that's a good question. I mean, access Magazine is a magazine that is published, or it was published by the University of California about research that people were doing about transportation. There was not much in it about bikes because the researchers at the UCs were talking about other issues in transportation. They were still fighting about what they called the land use transportation connection and whether planning for land use and planning for transportation ought to be connected, which we all know to be true now. But at that time it wasn't set. You know, people had to argue for that and that seems kind of obscure, but like it really taught me a lot about how far we have to go in terms of thinking about making you know transportation by bike better.

Melanie Curry:

But you know, at that job I also had, I had a really great mentor. My boss was Mel Weber, who was 82 years old when he hired me. He was the editor of Access Magazine and he just was such a curious person and to him riding bikes just seemed like a crazy dangerous thing to do, even in Berkeley. To him riding bikes just seemed like a crazy dangerous thing to do even in Berkeley. But he would ask me and listen carefully to my questions and then come back the next day and ask me more. And so he really got me thinking about stuff and he encouraged me to look at, like, what could I think about writing about?

Melanie Curry:

Of writing a post, an article in that magazine for about stop signs, which was one of very few articles that had been written about, like why we called it, why bicyclists don't stop at stop signs, just trying to explain the physics of it. And you know, california still hasn't gotten that what we call the Idaho stop or the bike, the bike as stop sign, as a yield sign law yet. But that article informed a lot of other research that went into it. A lot of states now do have a law that says that bikes can treat a stop sign as a yield sign. We'll get there in California. We're not there yet. One day we'll get there.

Tom Butler:

We are there in Washington.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah.

Tom Butler:

And I appreciate that. But at the same time, there's not many motorists that know that, and so you know it's great to have it. At the same time, I would love it if people in their cars would understand why I am, you know, not stopping and getting off my bike why I am, you know, not stopping and getting off my bike.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, I think the main benefit of that law is that police can't just stop people and give them tickets for something that is a completely safe action. It has to be safe, though you have to do it safely.

Tom Butler:

You completed a master's in city planning at UC Berkeley.

Melanie Curry:

I did.

Tom Butler:

Why did you decide to choose that education path?

Melanie Curry:

Oh gosh, I mean there were so many elements that went into it. It probably would have been something that I would have studied right out of college if I were going to go into grad school. But it's funny I'm glad I didn't, because it would have been a completely different education if I had done it. Then I'm kind of old. I mean it would have been like at the end of when the struggle was about Marxist thinking and that's not even part of the education anymore, it just has. It's been years and it's gone. It's faded in the past, not gone, but like people don't think about it that way anymore.

Melanie Curry:

Well, basically, when I was working for access, that was at uc, berkeley and, um, my boss after mel was betty deacon, who is like she's just this super smart, eminent researcher about transportation, and she said I'm going to retire. And I thought, oh, I better figure out what I'm going to do. Am I going to go to grad school? Like I have said, I'm going to go to grad school forever and ever. And so I spent a couple of years applying and doing whatever I needed to do. And then UC Berkeley they already knew me there, so I have to admit I did have an in already because they knew me and liked me.

Melanie Curry:

But I got into UC Berkeley and I got to go through that and I, you know, I learned so much from my fellow students in that program, all of whom were younger than me probably by 20 years, but they were all just super smart, thoughtful people and, in fact, my best class there was one on bicycle and pedestrian planning. It was taught by a couple of grad students who are now professors at other colleges and that was also super inspiring for trying to figure out how to stay in bicycle and pedestrian in the realm somehow, once I graduated Except I'm going to say I graduated in 2011. There were no jobs at all. It was terrible and of course I'm graduating I'm like in my how old was I? I was in my 50s. Like nobody wanted a 50-year-old intern in their planning department. It was awkward, it was really awkward.

Tom Butler:

Well, now you're with streets blog, yeah, and I've been pulled into streets. Streets blog several times and it's unique, it's a, it's a real focus and in some ways, I think it might, you know, like something that is a product of our times, if that makes sense what I'm saying, because it's online, it's at streetsblogorg and it's got a specific focus, and yet I see it as real, serious journalism. How do you imagine impacting people through the information provided on Streets Blog?

Melanie Curry:

Well, we're advocates, we're journalists and we're also advocates. We, basically most of us started off as bike advocates, and so that informs how we shape what we write about. I'm the editor of California Streets Blog. We have San Francisco and an LA Streets Blog as well within the state, so what I found is that there is a lot to cover in terms of state policy. We're looking at it from the perspective of bicyclists. We want it to be better for people who are biking, but it is connected to everything. And climate change, the concerns about climate change, is a big part of that. Environmental mobility, justice, driving, all the problems of driving, the costs of driving, the way that we spend more money on highways. So transportation funding I mean the 10 years that I have been covering this stuff for California, there's been so many issues, um, that have come up that are really, um, just super important and all connected. So it's we're not simply, you know, oh, we need a bike lane here, although we do some of that, but, to answer your question about how I see it, informing the dialogue that's out there, we're certainly not the only people covering these issues, but I do know that, even though we may not get like a lot of attention like.

Melanie Curry:

Sometimes people are like what's Streets Blog? What is that? The people who do read Streets Blog read it all the time and I hear frequently from researchers, from people in government agencies. They don't react, they don't like comment, but they'll read our posts and they know that they're. For example, they know that they're paying attention to the fact that someone is listening and reporting on their meetings. So we're kind of shining a light on the kinds of things that are being said at, for example, the California Transportation Commission meetings, which seems like a really obscure body, but they make really important decisions about how we spend money in California and that's like sort of.

Melanie Curry:

For me it's been like taking, it's like being in grad school every day, like writing a grad school paper every day. Sometimes there's just so much to learn day. Sometimes there's just so much to learn and even if we don't, like we might cover something and it's just like a little plink and maybe some little tiny wavelets. But sometimes someone else, like a mainstream media outlet, will cover the same story and we always consider that as a win because we're informing them as well and getting things started. So like they don't give us credit. They rarely give us credit. But we know that we're pushing a conversation in the direction of good advocacy for good transportation and we keep the focus on that kind of stuff and keep bringing it back to is this good for good transportation?

Tom Butler:

I've said this before talking to people on the podcast, but it seems like everybody has an opinion about transportation and it seems like we're all experts on what should happen on the roads that I drive on.

Melanie Curry:

Absolutely.

Tom Butler:

But it's a really complicated issue. There's just a lot of factors when you're looking at changing roads.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, yeah, there's a lot of factors and we, of course, we're all experts because we all engage in transportation.

Melanie Curry:

I consider myself slightly better informed than some people only because I've studied it at like how some of those connections happen and how they, how policy affects them.

Melanie Curry:

You know, like one of the big, big things that I'm constantly thinking about lately is the way that, especially in California, but everywhere highways are like just the most important thing, like that's where we put all our money and all our attention, and it are like just the most important thing, like that's where we put all our money and all our attention, and it's like 50 years of engineering practice and habit that have focused on making highways work really well for people in cars, which means that doesn't leave money for people who are not in cars.

Melanie Curry:

It doesn't leave any safety either, because the practices have created faster highways and bad driving habits and like big, giant roads that have no obstacles or anything in the sight lines because engineers consider that safer, and so people who are not in the cars like who are waiting for a bus or riding their bike or just trying to cross that street are living in a hellscape, and it's something that I really want to explain to everybody who's in a car, because when you're in a car you don't see that You're just trying to get past everything. But if you get out of your car it's immediately obvious that you don't want to be in this space, like you don't want to be crossing that wide intersection, even though there might be a crosswalk and a signal. Anyway, that's just. It's complicated because so many different things tie together in those intersections that just people don't think about. I think there is a foundation there that you're mentioning.

Tom Butler:

We're extremely car-centric in North America and hearing about what's happening in Paris and different places where they seem to be more open to rejecting the car I don't know if rejecting is the right word, but saying the car doesn't have the most important place in transportation what do you think about North America becoming less car-centric? Do you think that's feasible or do you think it's just not something? It's just so baked in that we can't get away from it?

Melanie Curry:

I don't know. I actually think it's necessary. Feasible is a different question, right, I don't know a whole lot about Paris, but one of the things that happened was that the mayor just said we're going to do this. And when people in US cities do that, they get immediate panicky pushback. And we're still hearing it every day, usually about things like where am I going to park my car? If you do this street change, I can't keep doing things the way I'm used to doing it. You know whether that's great or not or safe or not, like I need a place to park my car.

Melanie Curry:

And the other complaint is you got to solve congestion. I am sick of being stuck in traffic, which, fair, nobody wants to be stuck in traffic. But you know the way that we've always solved congestion is by making things bigger and wider and faster, accommodating more cars, which you know creates more trips. That I love hearing people talk about induced demand now, because people didn't use to talk about it. Even 10 years ago they were not using those terms commonly and people kind of understand now that by building things for cars, we created a situation where we can only be in cars. So can we change that? We have to start on the local level. For sure, I think that we can change that. I think it's going to take a lot of advocacy over time, but we have super smart people who are talking about it and pushing it and talking about all the reasons why.

Melanie Curry:

And then we have more people who are starting to experience it a little bit, like even in Berkeley, where I live, the number of people who are using bikes. Maybe they're not riding them all the time, but the number of people who are out on bikes has changed dramatically in the last decade. Like I can look out my window and see tons of people, not like big crowds of people, but a lot of people using a bike as transportation. That I didn't see, you know, when I was riding my daughter around on the back of my bike and we were the only people out there and people thought I was insane. It's not seen as insane anymore. So, like on the local level, that can change. It will just take time. That we don't have and it's harder, like in bigger cities like LA I get. So LA has so much potential but they're not figuring it out yet and it's so big, it's just so, so, so big, and every locality has its own struggles. But the conversation is changing, so it will be feasible.

Tom Butler:

I just participated in a really fun experience and that was in Seattle. They took over a major bridge, and that bridge is there to get cars across a body of water so that cars don't have to drive around the bottom of the, that water, that inlet, and um it, you know. So for a few hours, thousands of bicycles got to take over that bridge and go across it and it was.

Tom Butler:

It's a fun experience. And then on the other side of the bridge, it was like thousands of bicycles taking over a street. Now I have to say I felt kind of sorry for anybody that was planning on traveling that day by car, not knowing, you know that there were going to be thousands of people on the street. But at the same time there is an element you know the experience of being with a bunch of bikes on the road is just such a fun experience.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, the bike events that I've been on always make me just really happy. Okay, critical Mass was a little bit. They were in your face and that got a little bit hard sometimes. I don't know if you ever did Critical mass, but there was a lot of angry people on those critical mass rides.

Melanie Curry:

Bike party is a regular event around here at night where you just like it's just a lot of people. We don't like ask for permission, we're just a lot of people on bikes and usually people are like whoa, that looks fun as all these bikes go past them. Yeah, there's nothing like being in a big crowd of bikes, and especially when you get to that point where there's just quiet, nobody's talking. You can't experience something like that in a car. It's amazing. I just want to like kind of laugh at something that you said about.

Melanie Curry:

You feel sorry for the people who might have planned to go somewhere in their cars. Do you feel sorry for the people on bikes who normally can't get through there? I mean, all of us have this and it's not because of nature, it's because of the way we've built our cities. We have this assumption that anybody in a car should be able to go anywhere they want at any time, and we need to question that. It's not that you can't go where you want to go, but why should we always make it easy for someone to drive? Should we always make it easy for someone to drive? Why don't we offer alternatives?

Melanie Curry:

And, of course, immediately people are going to say, well, I can't ride a bike. Well then, don't ride a bike If everybody else is riding a bike. You and your car have less traffic to deal with. If there's a bus that you could take and it takes you right to where you want to go, like why wouldn't you want to take a bus? I love taking the bus, I love taking a train. Anyway, there's a lot to that, but I don't think that as a society, it is good for us to automatically assume that people in cars should be able to take their car in and out of a certain like on a route. It's just like. Why do we assume that?

Tom Butler:

I think that's well said. You know, may is National Bike Month and I was drawn to an article that you wrote about National Bike Month. Your article appeared on April 30th. I'm wondering what you think makes National Bike?

Melanie Curry:

Month newsworthy. Well, it's a big event. I mean, it's a big celebration right of the bike. It's not celebrated evenly everywhere, for sure, but in the Bay area where I am located, bike East Bay and also the other bike coalitions but I'm just going to give Bike East Bay all the credit because they're my local bike coalition there's the San Jose Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Those are the three large bike coalitions that work with a lot of other smaller groups, but they were the ones who started bike month, like 30 years ago or more, and it was just like, hey, we're going to do bike to work day. It was one day when we're going to go out there and we're going to say, hey, everybody riding your bike to work, have some snacks. We're celebrating you. Yay, you know, ring bells and like celebrate the fact that people are riding their bikes to work. And of course, with the you know that went on for years and it was great and then expanded in some areas that may is bike month. We're going to celebrate it during the entire month of May when the weather's beautiful. In California we're going to have all these bike events. Every area does something different and of course now it's bike to wherever day, because with COVID nobody was biking to work, but we still wanted to get out on our bikes and you know people have like bike market day.

Melanie Curry:

It's more a way of recognizing that we're not invisible when we're on our bike. That's an assumption that people make. They really don't see people on bikes even when they're right in front of them. And it's a way of being grateful that people are riding their bikes and a way of letting other people see hey, this might be a thing you might want to do. The bike events might be a thing you might want to do. Like the bike events, like bike party is one of them, are that in LA they do a lot of Sunday streets events. They call them Ciclavia or Ciclavia, I'm not sure how they say them, but like those are huge and lots of people get out and are riding bikes that maybe were like dusty and flat in their garage, but they're out on the bike and you know.

Melanie Curry:

You just realize it's actually a good transportation option. And it's not the only reason that it's not good on every day, the everyday level is because of cars, but it's still. It gives people the opportunity to check it out, get on their bike, see what it's like, realize that you know they're going to have fun. It might be hard but they'll get exercise. You know any number of things. If you don't want to go up a hill, get an e-bike. I mean like there's lots of options and it gives people the chance to try them out.

Melanie Curry:

I have always loved bike to work day for that and, you know, bike month as an extension of that, because it, even if people aren't riding, they see that other people are. And as an example, I would say my husband used to ride to Kaiser in downtown Oakland and he was his bike, was the only bike and then bike to work day would come and he wouldn't be able to find a place to lock his bike and it started staying Like pretty soon there were more people who were regularly riding because they tried on that one day and they were like, oh, I like this better than driving my car and paying for parking or whatever it was that they were doing in downtown Oakland.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, the thing that I have already experienced for Bike Everywhere Month is that I had never taken my bike on public transportation.

Melanie Curry:

Oh yeah.

Tom Butler:

So I'm about 70 miles, 60 miles from Seattle, and so I threw my bike on a bus and then on a train for the first time and went into the city with it, and it was good, it was an awesome experience. I might skip the bus next time because that was, you know, it wasn't as great of an experience, but getting on the train, you know, and taking it in was fine, it was great.

Melanie Curry:

Talk about freedom. Yeah, I love putting my bike like on Amtrak, for example, and going much farther than I could ride, and then being like in a place like Sacramento, which you wouldn't think necessarily would be like a great bike place, but it really is. It's hot, but they have these giant trees. It's beautiful and shady and flat and yeah.

Tom Butler:

Well, we could get sucked into talking about that for a long time. Yes, about going different places, but you called the bike humble in your article and can you talk more about?

Melanie Curry:

that label? Interesting question. Well, you know, I think that goes back to that first experience that I had where I was on a bike, riding along for days along the coast of California, and it was such a simple machine. Things might break but I could fix them. You know, even if the chain broke, I knew how to do that. I could fix a flat. It's a humble machine because it doesn't take up a lot of space, it doesn't make a lot of noise, it's just there waiting for you. You got to do the work. I don't know that's good, I didn't think about it, I just used it because I didn't think about that word. But it is a humble machine, a humble workhorse of a machine.

Tom Butler:

To me there's a simplicity there, and yet I think what you mentioned earlier, this like connection between our bodies and that machine.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah.

Tom Butler:

I just really appreciate that.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, it was an interesting revelation for me. Like I felt like it was an extension. I could have walked that whole way, but on a bike I got to go so much further and faster. Sometimes you feel like you're flying, but you're just on this machine and you control it. It's like there's nobody else. You're not a passenger in a car, that someone else is driving or anything like that. You're just on this small machine that you are driving, basically.

Tom Butler:

And you're not encapsulated, you're not separated from the environment around you, not at all, it's awesome.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah.

Tom Butler:

You were highlighting bike month activities going on in California and you know, I imagine, that there's a huge ride of things that go on across the state, really large and diverse state. Do you see California as a leader in bike transportation and also bike culture?

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, why am I hesitating? Yes, I think so. I mean we have so many fights and that's kind of what I see it from, like the shortcomings. But yes, I mean we don't get snow here. We have no reason not to be riding our bikes. Basically, I guess I could say we could be a leader.

Melanie Curry:

We do have definitely towns that show up in the top and cities that show up in the top bike cities in the US. We're not always the top, because there's some really good ones in other places. It's funny. It's such a local thing, right, I mean, biking is a local thing and it depends where you are. But I know of really good work being done in, for example, like Modesto, california, which is way out in the Central Valley and it seems like it's just a city in the middle of nowhere, but it's not. It's connected by trains and the highways and the planners there are doing a really good job thinking about making biking better, and that's the kind of thing that I think California can be a leader on, but isn't necessarily because not every town is doing that. I'm not sure I'm answering your question. That's great. I would say California definitely should be a leader. There's a lot of work to do.

Tom Butler:

Now I would have to say, though, I would rather bike in 40 degrees and mild rain than 110 degrees, so I think you know there are some.

Melanie Curry:

Well, you do live in Seattle or near Seattle so that's what you're used to.

Tom Butler:

Yes, I think that goes back. I did spend 10 years in Southern California and I think it goes back even to that.

Melanie Curry:

Well, that's what e-bikes are for.

Tom Butler:

Okay, okay, I like it Also ice socks. I discovered ice socks, so that helps a lot.

Melanie Curry:

Well, you know it's funny. When I go visit my family in Southern California, it's really hard for me to say, okay, I'm going to take my bike, because they immediately are like what were you going Want me to give you a ride, are you sure? Like, I'm talking about two miles, like this is I'm going to go pick up our to go food. Really it's fine, and you, it could be be very hot and it could be very difficult, but I still would much rather be on my bike in the heat than getting into a hot car, turning on the air conditioning, waiting for it to you know, and then sitting with it running while someone runs in to pick something up. I mean, just like. That is so disgusting to me on so many levels that I would just rather sweat. Ok, now, 110 degrees is a bit much, but when it's hot, like even if it's like, well, ok, I would say 90, 95. It just, you can do it, that's not terrible.

Tom Butler:

People do it, so you know, do it. I know.

Melanie Curry:

But I admit, I live in Berkeley where the summers are quite cold and foggy, so you know, that's me talking out of my hat.

Tom Butler:

You linked to the Bay Area Bike to Everywhere, I think is the name of it, and it was the Bike Champions of the year awards that they had, and Metropolitan Transportation Commission Chair Alfredo Pedrosa said that the bike champion of the year award often goes to people who might not otherwise be recognized for their work, so do you see that as an important thing to do?

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, it's very much connected with the ideas behind bike to work or Bike to Wherever Day. You celebrate people who are doing this and I think it's true like they don't pick obvious advocates for those. What they're doing now is like every county gets their own bike champion. So in the Bay Area there's nine of them. There's a lot of people, but read their stories. They're so interesting. Like there are people who like bike their kids wherever they're going, or just like they've just made the decision that the bike is the way they want to get around and they're not. Well, I was going to say they're not extraordinary, but they are extraordinary. They shouldn't be. They should just be normal, like this is what we do kind of people and that's sort of what their attitude is. But I think it's really important to highlight that, first, to celebrate them and, second, to let other people know that it's just not that hard to do this. You don't have to be a you know a bike fanatic or you don't have to know everything about bikes.

Tom Butler:

It's something that you can figure out, do and get, have fun with I also kind of like that it makes a statement that there's a community of us out there that yeah, that like biking, and we have our champions and you know, and we're recognizing our champions too. So I like that aspect.

Melanie Curry:

Definitely.

Tom Butler:

Morgan Hill is highlighted as well, and they are shutting down a street to vehicles on May 11th. What positive outcomes are possible when you shut down a street like that?

Melanie Curry:

Oh fun. I mean it's kind of like a mini version of Sequelavia right when, like usually I'm not sure about Morgan Hill, but usually they do it on a Sunday morning. So I guess the idea is that the least number of businesses and drivers are going to be inconvenienced, but it can become a giant party with people hanging out and having a great time on the streets without having to deal with traffic, and it's a great experience for anybody who's a little unsure, because you can have this vast area without cars, or you can just go and watch people. Who doesn't like watching people?

Tom Butler:

There is an element maybe of experiencing it for the first time just what a street feels like, what a downtown street feels like. I don't know anything about Morgan Hill, but they seem like maybe it's a smaller community but just what it feels like to have a downtown street, just that free.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, yeah, and I think what happens too is that people get that and then they're like well, can we do this more? Can we maybe make it permanent?

Tom Butler:

Right.

Melanie Curry:

And then they're going to run into all the people complaining about parking.

Tom Butler:

but like it's a step, yeah, and when you say that it seems like it's not really parking, it's like close parking, right, it's not. You know, it's like I want to be within 20 feet, 50 feet, whatever, of the place that I'm going to and I'm not sure that that's in some ways from my own personal experience, that you know things that allow me not to move are really not in my best interest.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, yeah, you didn't see me roll my eyes hard. I mean the parking arguments are. So one of the things that we're sort of seeing in locally when people complain about parking is a lot of times they're small business owners but what they're really complaining about is their own parking. They don't understand how their customers actually get to their stores. They they assume they all drive, but a a lot of people don't, especially in like some of the areas in Oakland and San Francisco. People aren't driving to get there. They don't need to park, but the businesses are sure that if they don't have that parking they will go out of business. But then the other people who are using those spots are like Uber Eats drivers. They use them to drop in and pick up, like when they were trying to put in bike lanes along Telegraph Avenue.

Melanie Curry:

I went and interviewed a couple of business owners and they were just adamant that they did not want that out there Because they said because of parking and they thought it would be dangerous. Because of parking, and they thought it would be dangerous. And I felt like they were just throwing excuses at me because while we were standing there, there was a steady flow of Uber Eats drivers double parking. So what they lost wasn't the parking, it was the double parking and it just created some. It was just a ridiculous conversation. So I don't know. I wish there a way to be to kind of cut through all that, because I don't think it's as big of a concern as people think it is, and I know that will make people angry because they want their parking.

Melanie Curry:

But I read Don Choop. Do you remember, donald Choop? Parking isn't free, it's just not free and we give out way too much free parking, which makes us expect it wherever we go. And now at this point there's like three or four parking spaces in every city for every car which we don't need and it's a waste of space. So I don't know, it's depends, it's a philosophy of how you look at it. I just have a really hard time with that and you know, naturally when I'm driving I want to park my car. I do drive and I do need to park, but I'm not going to drive to downtown Berkeley and I'm not going to drive into downtown Oakland Unless I know that I have a place, like in a lot, somewhere that I can pay for, because I can take transit or I can ride my bike. I'm looking at ways to get in there without having to figure out where to leave a car, and other people can do that too. It's not that big of a deal.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, pasadena welcomes people to experience quote a whole month of bike joy. How much of a factor do you think the joy of biking is as far as attracting more people to use the bike to go everywhere?

Melanie Curry:

I don't know. For me, I think it's giant right, especially when you get out on one of those events or one of those bike rides like we're talking about, and you can spend time on the street with other people biking around. It's fun who doesn't want that? And that just contributes to everything you know you get. You get better exercise, you get more air in your lungs, you're just like healthier because you're smiling and I I'm a big fan of like always pointing out the joyful aspect of it. Like I see so many people ride past with big smiles on their face Like how can you not be having fun?

Tom Butler:

There just seems to be something about coasting down a hill that just no matter how old you are, that always is a fun thing. You mentioned that earlier as a kid.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, absolutely. You know I live in the East Bay so everywhere you go is uphill. I always say that. But you know there is the downhill usually at some point and that part is fun.

Tom Butler:

In Pasadena on May 12th they're hosting a Women of Pasadena ride. Do you know much about that ride?

Melanie Curry:

I don't know, women of Pasadena Ride. Do you know much about that ride? I don't know. But I do know that there's a lot of organizations that have, like women and women, identified rides where people can get together and hang out and, you know, go I guess they just go wherever. There's quite a number of them in the Bay Area too, and that's super helpful, especially for anyone who's a little bit intimidated about biking or taking care of their bike, or you know how to get.

Melanie Curry:

I mean, route planning is a really important part of biking and if you've never done that before, what you would normally do is just think about how you would get somewhere the way you normally do. So if you're a driver, you're going to go. I'm not going to ride on that street but a bicyclist can go on smaller, quieter streets. And if you don't know how to plan a route that way, it's really helpful to be with other people who are used to riding in an area and can guide you through that, and especially with the women-only bike rides, it's just a way of encouraging people in a non-threatening way. So you know you're not don't need to worry about being intimidated by the gearheads who are like go, go, go, because men do ride a lot faster than women. Just going to say they just got longer legs and they just want to go fast. They just got longer legs and they just want to go fast.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, my wife just got a motor installed on her new bike and so now it's flipped. She can beat me up any hill, which was the reason you know part of the reason no-transcript recommended that I spend time talking about the challenges that women have on the road or on a trail alone. Do you understand their perspective?

Melanie Curry:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's something that can stop people from writing. We don't want that right. I don't face the same challenges I did when I was younger, when I was getting catcalled everywhere. That's a very serious problem for young women, though, and I don't know what to do about it. I've never known what to do about it. Like flipping people off doesn't work. But beyond that, like safety, like sometimes you're just looked at as you're vulnerable and someone can do whatever they want. They could try to knock you off your bike. That happened to me. They could yeah.

Melanie Curry:

It's a serious problem that having a lot more people riding everywhere sort of helps to dissipate a little bit. But that's a challenge because if women are too intimidated or scared, either because of traffic or because of the possibility of getting, you know, harassed on their bike, they don't want to do that. You're exposed on your bike no matter what. So if they don't want to do that because they feel too exposed to danger, then you're not going to be able to get a lot of people on bikes. I mean, women are half the population. So making it safe enough for old people who've never ridden a bike and kids to ride will encourage more people to ride, because moms will ride with their kids when their kids want to ride and that's just more people out on the streets. And the more the merrier, the more, the more joyful, for sure.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, finally, I want to talk about the image that pulled me into your article and that is a colorful bike bingo board and I'm wondering why you went with that image for your article because it was colorful, doesn't it look fun?

Melanie Curry:

I mean, this is Sacramento area bicycle advocates and they came up with this great bike bingo. That's just like you know, you do these different things with your bike you go to a restaurant, you go to a, a park, you register your bike at Bike Index, highly recommended. If you haven't done it, you go to complete some errand. You know, like I. Just, I love the idea of doing stuff like this. This is fun, and I think what happens when you complete your bike bingo or you make a bike bingo, is you get to go in and get a prize. I didn't. I didn't actually look at the bingo instructions because I'm not in the sacramento area, but, um, it was. You know, it was the colors and the cute, tight face right the way it was laid out I I just love games like this.

Melanie Curry:

I just thought it was perfect.

Tom Butler:

Well, I definitely think I need to figure out a Cycling Over 60 Bike Bingo event.

Melanie Curry:

Yes, do it.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, I'm going to have to do that.

Melanie Curry:

But you need prizes. Bingo has to have prizes.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, it's true. I, like you know, I saw that REI is a collaborator with them in some way.

Melanie Curry:

Yeah.

Tom Butler:

And so, yeah, I need to figure out how to get that collaboration going. What do you think is the future of Streets Blog?

Melanie Curry:

Well, I can't really speak for, but I would speak about, like the California Streets Street Blogs. We're sort of a loosely associated organization with the other streets blogs, and we are grant funded, and every year it's tight. Every year we're not sure, but every year, thanks to my awesome colleague and boss and the founder of LA streets blog, damian Newton, we somehow make it through with enough money to keep going. So you know, it's interesting From my perspective. I'm looking for a way to retire, but I don't ever want to let go of doing this. So I'm like thinking about it from the perspective of Streets blog. I see it continuing to have an influence on thinking about bikes. I don't see that interest going away, and the grant funding will probably continue to be like, okay, every year we got enough and a few more readers contribute, and we'll we'll kind of continue scraping by. The question that that raises for me, though, is like how to keep it going in terms of personnel, because we don't make a lot of money, and if I retire, then they got to hire someone at a kind of you know, like whoever gets hired isn't going to be able to make a whole lot more money than I am, so like it's got to be somebody who's dedicated and willing to do this work for relatively low pay which makes me laugh because I'm making more money than I did in any of my jobs ever in my life. That's who I am. I don't know.

Melanie Curry:

The advocates are not going anywhere. People who really believe that we need to change our transportation system are having an effect on the policy discussions and, even though there is backlash and arguments against it and we're watching, institutions take the arguments we're making and twist them constantly so that they say, well, we're doing this. I mean seriously. Agencies always lead their presentations with photographs of people on bikes. Always, even if, like, they're talking about a funding packet and the smallest amount of it is going towards bikes, there's still going to be a bike way up top. So at least lip service-edly, something is happening, and I don't see that stopping and I don't see advocates like going okay, well, we've achieved things because we haven't. There's just so much work to do, so, yeah, we're going to keep plugging away, we'll be here for sure, is there a mechanism for people individually to support the work that goes on there?

Melanie Curry:

Absolutely Go to Streets Blog. Well, streets California go to my site and there's a donate page and that is that is one of our major funding mechanisms. So, if you know, we appreciate any and all donations. And oh, also, we are having a 10th anniversary party in September. I think it's September 12th. I had a post up for a little while that was a save the date about Streets Blog San Francisco and Streets Blog California are celebrating. For San Francisco it's 15 years and for Streets Blog California it's 10 years. California it's 10 years. And yes, here it is. I put this up on March 13. We're having a party on September 12. In San Francisco sometime in the evening. We haven't discovered decided quite yet.

Tom Butler:

Well, that sounds cool and I will include a link to that in the show notes so that people can put that on their calendar. And I do recommend everybody going out on to you know, no matter where you are. Go out in you know, to streetsblogorg and look around. Just find so many good articles and it's awesome articles and it's awesome, you know. Like I said earlier, I think it's kind of journalism that fits in with today's world. You know it's online and it it's also specific to a, to an area or to an area of interest, I should say, and you know, at the same time, it's, you know, gets funded by people who care about it, being willing to to fund it and, you know, advocating for funding for it.

Tom Butler:

So I recommend everybody to go out there and do that yes, please do you have other projects that you work on in addition to streets blog?

Melanie Curry:

um my garden. Okay, I mean, it's spring.

Tom Butler:

Every spare second I get, I'm outside but you're not doing any writing or anything in addition not right now.

Melanie Curry:

Look, writing for streets bog seriously is like writing a um a term paper and I and I try to do it every day. It's hard so like no, I don't have much capacity for beyond that. I think about it, but maybe one day gotcha you know I'm gonna say I was.

Melanie Curry:

I have been thinking about like, well, what if I were gonna write a book? But, um, that book has already been written. It's a book I'm about to write about by Susan Handy. It's called Shifting Gears and it's kind of about how California is rethinking transportation successfully and not successfully. So, no, I don't need to write a book. She did it.

Tom Butler:

Cool, I like it. Do you have any biking adventures planned in the future?

Melanie Curry:

Nothing concrete, but I know that I got to get back out and do something kind of like the coastal ride that I did. I need to get out on my bike more. Let me tell you, like riding is not conducive to biking. I'm disappointed. I thought I was going to be on my bike all the time in this job, but no, instead I'm writing all the time instead of writing.

Tom Butler:

Well, melanie, this has been really delightful. Thank you for taking so much time to do this. When I presented it to you, I really didn't present how big it was going to be. I just came up with question after question that I was interested in hearing from you on, so thanks. Well, I hope that you're constantly finding fun things to write about, so that I can continue to find fun writing of yours that I can read. And so good luck with all your projects coming up, your different topics that you're pursuing, things like that, and take care.

Melanie Curry:

Thank you, there's a lot of fun. All right, bye now.

Tom Butler:

I get so energized anytime I talk to someone like Melanie. She really sees a vision where bikes are a much more utilized form of transportation and she also lives that reality in her own life. I really hope that Streets blog is able to spotlight the issues around how much growth there can be in active transportation. One of the things that I really loved was the champions being recognized in the Bay Area. I do think it is important for people who value biking infrastructure to recognize those who embrace cycling for all kinds of activity.

Tom Butler:

Do you have a bike champion you know? I would love to hear their story. Maybe the best place to share their story is to post it in the Cycling Over 60 Strava Club. If not there, you can find my email and the show Instagram link in the show notes. I would absolutely love to learn about bicycle champions throughout May and beyond. One other thing about the Strava Club please keep the pictures coming. It is great to see so many images from all over. Keep planning as many cycling adventures as possible and remember age is just a gear change. Thank you.

Weekly Update
Becoming Aware of Bike Infrastructure
The Impact of StreetsBlog
Less Car Centric Culture
What Make National Bike Month Newworthy?
Bike Champions
Future of Streets Blog and Advocacy
Wrap Up