Sending Angular $http POST Data to PHP

In the case of sending form data in Angular, $http POST data information is serialized as “application/json” which is not interpretable by PHP.

You have to transform the request (the form data object) into a format that it understands. The easiest way is to configure the $httpProvider.

/* Because PHP sucks */
myApp.config(['$httpProvider', '$httpParamSerializerProvider', function($http, $httpParamSerializerProvider) {
    var paramSerializer = $httpParamSerializerProvider.$get();
    $http.defaults.headers.post['Content-Type'] = 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded;charset=utf-8';
    $http.defaults.transformRequest = function(data) {
        return paramSerializer(data);
    };
}]);

 

TransitScreen Redesign Featured On City Lab

So delighted to see TransitScreen was featured on CityLab!  Our redesign was a year long effort between Isometric Studio in New York and our management team.  As UI Designer, I had to lead the implementation process after delivery and return to them for refinements.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/12/a-smarter-way-to-visualize-zillions-of-travel-options/511322/

I’ve been busy!

Me pointing at our Smartwalk feature for TransitScreen in Minneapolis.

Hey fam, I’ve been rather busy at TransitScreen lately. Sorry this blog has been rather neglected. Since the last post, I’ve had to become an Angular 1 ninja overnight and a Karma unit testing fiend. In addition it’s rather amazing what you get out of user testing!

I hope to get back and share some of my thoughts on asynchronous land and user interface design.

Have a wonderful Holidays!

Micro-Units: What’s a Proper Living Space

Micro-units were all the rage in DC this year. About a dozen projects are in the works.

Proposed units at The Wharf. What makes micro-units work is good design to maximize use, which requires most people to ditch their suburban hand me down furniture.

Proposed units at The Wharf. What makes micro-units work is good design to maximize use, which requires most people to ditch their suburban hand me down furniture.

There is nothing too new about this marketing label for what are essentially studios or efficiencies, but I was surprised at the unit floor configurations proposed.  The typical rule of a micro unit is to be below 400 square feet.  In loft speak, this was basically giving you an open room where kitchen appliances would be stacked along the wall with a small bathroom alcove.

But why the elongated unit proportion?  The golden rule for rooms are a comfortable 4:3 rectangle with the entrance on the shorter wall.  This gives orientation into a space, and that seems to be exaggerated much as today’s micro units are best called hallways.   “Activated hallways” perhaps.

Yesterday’s Studio

I currently live in a 1920s version of an efficiency building and my studio is basically a 400 square foot rectangle.  In cities like New York, this is actually the zoning mandated minimum for a residential unit.   My main living area is 23 feet by 12 feet, about 275 square feet, while the remaining rectangle is divided between bathroom, walk-in closet and kitchen.

It already feels pretty narrow but there was intention behind this.  It’s meant to allow easy subdivision between one side and the other, for example a sleeping area and a living room area.  Too open a space and one feels uneasy about the expanse. Although my Midwestern sensibilities say 12 feet already approaches claustrophobic.

My little DC studio

My little DC studio. Just enough to spread your wings out for one person.  Maybe two people if you really really really each others company.

Micro units take at most 350 sf space and smashes it down to say 10 feet, leaving one to configure 35 feet into a home abode.    In a way, it’s taking most millennial’s suburban bedroom and just doubling it. As a result most architects end up having to shove all the required sub rooms such as bathroom and closet toward one end of the unit, and having an open kitchen if not combined concept with the living/sleeping area.   A sliver of a hallway connects everything to the entrance.

These dimensions tend to evolve out of pre-fabrication, where units are building blocks to be stacked and configured. In the case of nArchitects for My Micro NY, it feels pretty standard, just alright, about the feeling of a minimalist hotel room with room for storage.

When I moved in to my place, I had this visceral reaction as if I was in the trenches of the Somme.  The living area was basically my mother’s living room, and the kitchen walkway just enough room to open the fridge door completely.  A single thankfully large bay-like window on one end gave just enough light and air to keep my spidey senses aback.

Is This Too Small?

This SOMA SMARTSPACES at 38 Harriet. The picture on the left is on the CCA dorms website while the right picture is typically used in micro unit marketing.

This SOMA SMARTSPACES at 38 Harriet. The picture on the left is on the CCA dorms website while the right picture is typically used in micro unit marketing.

My studio reimagined as a true micro unit. Had to ditch some things and now my "living room" is not likely to be viable anymore. At least I got my queen in!

My studio reimagined as a true micro unit. Had to ditch some things and now my “living room” is not likely to be viable anymore. At least I got my queen in!

The NY Times asks “How Small is Too Small” and points out a failed 2008 micro-unit building in SF’s FiDi.  But that was almost a decade ago in a weak real estate and job market, and today we are assured that building would be full on day 1.  Housing activists tend to dislike micro units, citing they’re too small to support families, they keep the tech workers here, and that they invite the tenement fears of early industrial cities.

After a year living in essentially an early 20th century micro unit, I’ve fallen in love with my studio.  My ability to keep clutter free has dramatically improved, and maintenance of the space is at a minimum.  I even find it’s easier to “plug in” at night as I’ve efficiently parsed out the space to specific functions like sleeping, reading, TV watching, and eating.  In a way I find I am using a small amount of space more efficiently and enjoying the square feet.   Maybe this sounds rather dystopian, but in a world of limited resources, I still feel good.

Yes I would love a larger space and likely find infinite ways to have my very own personal drawing room, Downton Abbey library, and butcher block island, but for now, this works just fine.

Ok, This is Too Small

For me, anything below 300 square feet is suspect unless it’s just a dorm (sleeping area with sink).  I just can’t love this design proposal for 230 square feet to accommodate a typical New York infill lot.  The use of vertical space over horizontal produces this uneasy canyon feeling.  The relative comfort of the renderings predicate people have built-in organization and are Dwell magazine minimalists.

Also people most likely cloth themselves with a replicator instead of the massive closets I know almost every person has.

Also, fear of heights.

Love Thy Neighbor

A living space is a biological need for security and merely a transitionary period to the outside world.  We do spend at minimum 10 hours outside the home.    A space should allow one’s senses to cool off, recharge, and rejuvenate.  Ultimately the apartment is a retreat that let’s one appreciate their neighborhood.

For my century-old building, this still works and I think we’ve gotten the dimensions right with some variation to go depending on the right architect.  Just don’t squish it any more.

 

We Need a Second Transbay Tube

Gazing longingly back at San Francisco from West Oakland Station. The pinch point of death.

Gazing longingly back at San Francisco from West Oakland Station. The pinch point of death.

In the past year a renewed push to build a second Transbay Tube across the San Francisco Bay floor has heated up.   BART has been plagued with it’s own maintenance problems and to some reports, is steadily worsening with a half-funded backlog through the next decade.  But plenty of transit systems have backlogs, so why is there emphasis on new infrastructure in a time of waning tax money.  I see several factors driving this:

  • Community “consensus” is cited as reason at all levels which seems to be defined as simply people are using BART and agree that more capacity is needed.
  • Bay Area population is exploding at something like a million people each decade.  For perspective, that’s like 90,000 people a month.
  • Not only has BART been barely able to keep up with crush loads, but Bay Area highways are essentially at maximum capacity.  Especially for a highly dense and urbanized area, there is no more room to expand them.
  • The Bay is also geographically not really capable of expansion or bypassing.  There are clearly defined corridors of travel.  Only increasing capacity within existing paths makes sense.

SPUR has been spearheading the effort to get it on the agenda.  Their white paper has a lovely breakdown of all the transportation solutions and contingencies the second tube will serve.

BART Reported Average Weekday Exits from 2001 to 2016 (November). Trendline goes up at a clip of 10k riders a year.

BART Reported Average Weekday Exits from 2001 to 2016 (November). Trendline goes up at a clip of 10k riders a year.

Make BART Great Again (for People)

I think it’s more important to ultimately see what is the rider’s perspective.  Bay Area residents (yes both property owners and renters) already taxed out of their minds and might want something but vote a different way when it comes to it.

So it’s telling to see that 70% of voters approved Measure RR which was the most unsexy $3.5 billion transportation funding proposition I’ve ever seen.  Via the Chron:

Measure RR, unlike most transportation tax measures, lacked marquee projects like a new extension, a new station or a second Transbay Tube. Instead, it featured a collection of decidedly unsexy projects, including replacing 90 miles of original rail, waterproofing San Francisco subway stations, rebuilding the electrical equipment that delivers power to the tracks and trains, and replacing the original train control system.

Most riders and even BART maintenance crew alike are not even sure how rail technology affects them.  The only promise is that replacement of these fundamental systems will ensure BART is reliable.  On-time reliability is perhaps always the most important concern.  As reliability dipped toward the low 90% for BART, riders definitely took notice.

Stop Bleeding at the Edges

As we move towards a Two Tube Future, BART needs to absolutely stop looking at expansion, and focus on the system’s current strengths.   Maybe some residents want BART to go to San Jose, but as a frequent rider, I almost never saw people riding beyond 6 or so stations.  In fact Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor already goes all the way to Diridon Station, so why were such precious dollars wasted when the BART maintenance backlog was about to mount into public outcry.

Spoiler alert, the South Bay extension project is already delayed.  Warm Springs was suppose to open in 2014. There was talk of opening it this year (“achingly close”).  Now nobody knows when!

The Second Transbay Tube is projected to be $12 billion in today’s dollars.   The extension to San Jose will likely reach if not exceed that number.  The public would be wise to keep any future major expansion projects in line of sight of the power makers overlooking the Bay than hidden at the system edges.

Will the U.S. Adopt Scooters

Scoot army via Scoot Networks

Scoot army via Scoot Networks

While Americans are still entrenched in this idea of make the car great again with autonomous systems, there’s another urban transport mode people have overlooked, the scooter.   The scooter or motor bike is ubiquitous in Asia because of historically narrow and uneven roads.  Match that with limited parking and hilly terrain and you have a good argument for scooters as practical mobility.

Bikeshare of Scooters

My first exposure to scootershare as urbantech was with Scoot Networks in San Francisco.  Launched in October 2012, they offer on-demand electric scooters at designated parking areas throughout the City.   Your phone app unlocks the bike key and off you go.   TechCrunch called it “Zipcar for Scooters” but it’s more like bikeshare for scooters since you can take it to your destination and park it for the next person.

There’s no need to have a special driver’s license but you will have to attend mandatory driver training.  This makes sense since few Americans are familiar with these bikes.  It was a breeze to use these in the hilly terrain of San Francisco, jetting up steep streets with ease. These were particularly useful for traversing north-south corridors which are brain-numbingly slow on Muni or rideshare.  The Scoots stow a helmet and have surprisingly nimble maneuvering.

Scoot launched with Chinese manufactured bikes as the bulk of their fleet (I suspect they are made by Luyuan).  They were smart to go with a Vespa inspired model and a red color scheme (instead of the originally proposed black).  Munich-based Govecs provides the recent Scoot “cargo” fleet.  These German Go T1.4s are very BMW in design.  They recently announced a partnership with GenZe for the next generation of Scoots.

Tesla of Scooters

On the other side of the Pacific, Gogoro launched in 2014 in Taipei.   As the “Tesla of electric bikes,” Gogoro designs, manufactures, and sells sleek electric bikes that run exclusively on their own battery swapping network.  Instead of gas stations, you go to recharging kiosks where you swap batteries like exchanging water jugs.  You can charge at home too.

Gogoro’s bikes may look like traditional Vespas but the details are futuristic, with smoothed molded panels and a Star Trek-like command center.  Following Tesla’s model, they own the vehicle production and the recharging network, so it makes it easy to innovative and scale up fast.  Gogoro bikes have become practical transport on a regional level.

Will the U.S. Scoot

It’s unclear whether residents of an equally dense U.S. city will prefer sharing or owning electric bikes.  Gogoro’s plug and play battery eliminates a lot of the logistical issues Scoot users face.  For charging, scoot relies on users bringing low-energy bikes to charging garages throughout San Francisco, and leaving it there to slowly recharge.  For travel, users have to be aware of the current battery level of the Scoot which equates to available travel distance.

On the flip side, curiously Gogoro has does not include 3G in its bikes, so you can’t rent out your bike in an easy way.   Tesla software has always been intimately reliant on internet connection.  Elon imagines a world where people will leverage their idle Model 3s as on-demand self-driving Ubers in his latest master plan.  But I imagine Gogoro’s founder is following Elon’s plan of building an expensive product to gain money to build a less expensive product and so forth.  Sharing bikes would definitely eat into sales. The starting price in Taipei is US $4,000 which is twice an entry-level Vespa at any local moto shop.

Scoot’s pricing is very affordable.  Without a $20/monthly plan, it’s usually $4 for one trip. It’s about what you would expect between the choice of a bikeshare (time) and transit (cost and maybe time too).   But in San Francisco, everything is cheaper and faster than a car.   Uber is always surging and often gets stuck in the same traffic.   In other sprawl cities, an electric bike fits a narrower portion of residents, and weather of course plays a role.  So it will be interesting to see where Scoot expands.

In Minneapolis, I once worked with a young father who Vespa’d from the city to an adjacent inner ring suburb.  His direct path was mostly residential and tree-lined, the travel time equated a car, and he saved on gas.  For typical U.S. cities with lower densities, these short-medium distances (< 10 miles) may prove in-demand for electric bikes.

On Ride-Sharing Becoming Permanent Transportation

It’s clear that ride-sharing’s reputation has been rather tarnished by public policy backlashes this year, but this hasn’t diminished its popularity.

In my view, I see Uber and Lyft as technology companies in the same vein as freeways, railroads, steamships, and jumbo jets that heralded new eras of transportation.

But hold on you say, it’s just an app that tells someone to pick you up. The car already exists. The app is just an on-demand ride board. You need a cell phone. It’s VC smoke and mirrors! It all seems like a fad until we look at history.

Old Man River

Before railroads, people floated a wooden barge down a river or drove horses down dirt roads. Then someone invented a steam engine and a better steel track. Before cars, people walked, biked or galloped on a horse. Then a series of inventors fiddled with putting an engine in a carriage. Before freeways, people drove hours on whatever road led to the city center. Then engineers envisioned massive segregated speeding roadways.

Pan Am Clipper over San Francisco in 1942. Read more about Clipper planes

Pan Am Clipper over San Francisco in 1942. Read more about Clipper planes

Prior to the advent of these transportation eras, it must have seemed bizarre to ask if people thought of a faster more ingenious way to get around. For example, trying to explain riding in a flying aluminum shell powered by windmills taking you half-way across the world in less than day.

But what seem like overnight revolutions are actually incremental enhancements or combinations of existing ideas, not very unlike a little app that connects drivers and riders together.

Users Drive Demand

These tech companies are not the ultimate pioneers though, we are. We think of transportation as being “created” by someone but in reality the adoption of any tool or vehicle into a main mode of human transportation requires users. Uber’s explosion and disruption results from millions using the service en masse, filling travel gaps and trip demands most planners would not know existed.

Take a curious analogy of transportation technology that has experienced great waxes and wanes in popularity, the bicycle. It was invented to replace horses in Europe, quickly dismissed as a toy, became a ubiquitous transportation mode in the United States, and then was left behind in urban renewal.

Bicyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge before opening in 1932. Via SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY

Bicyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge before opening in 1932. Via SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY

The Bicycle isn’t an app so why does it receive so much opposition. It too is seen as a passing fad and disruptive to existing modes of transport. NIMBYs fill City Council meetings in opposition to bike lanes. Supporters push back on helmet and licensing regulations. Sound familiar?

People Need to Get Around

Our public policy discourse treats Uber and Lyft like segueway tour companies to the annoyance of some locals. But the discussion forgets that real people of all types and ages use the service. If we can talk about transportation in this context, I think we’ll have more meaningful.

People need to get around and are searching for better ways of doing so.

It’s not rocket science that we need fast, convenient and reliable alternative transportation. On-demand bus service has been a difficult effort by transit agencies for a long time now. Uber not only meets all these metrics but makes it easy, accessible and most of all palatable to the masses. What lessons can we learn from empowering local citizens to serve each other.

Transportation is trending to radically change due to the internet.

The internet has always promised a merger of the real and digital world. In Steve Case’s “internet of everything” we will see even more instantaneous interaction across distances. Doesn’t matter if it’s self-driving cars or remote locking bike share, policy makers need to anticipate this forthcoming era, not simply react. Lead officials and staff on roundtables and educational outings. Forging partnerships and understandings will underwrite good policy decisions.

Ride-sharing is introducing potential users to transit.

As someone who use to be very car-oriented, detaching oneself from their personal vehicle is sadly a precarious feat. It is a huge step to put ones mobility into the hands of a stranger, and plan out your movements well in advance. It encourages people to mull about urban spaces, not being tied to their car, and potentially look at other options. This gets suburbs off their car diet.

Let’s Move

In the words of Marc Andreessen, “software is eating the world,” and we are looking at technology networks heavily influencing or even merging with transportation networks. Ride sharing apps are getting people around, games like Pokemon are getting people outside, let’s leverage these for the public good.

Reflections of the Mission District in the Mid-2010s

Panorama of SF from Twin Peaks (My Photo)

Panorama of SF from Twin Peaks

In honor of Jane Jacob’s 100th birthday, I thought I’d share what I learned from San Francisco’s neighborhoods and what made them great places to be. Lost in the tech gentrification controversy is the fact that the City is indeed an extremely desirable place to live, so much that people sacrifice hard to have a slice of it.

In three years of regularly walking down the Noe Valley slopes or jumping on rickety Muni buses, I saw a textured and varied environment that provided great “delight,” as the Romans say, both architecturally and culturally. Here’s how I personally experienced the “bowl” of neighborhoods in and near the Mission, that helped me understand why millennials are so enticed.

24th Street

Descending from the 1960s terraces of Diamond Heights is Noe Valley. To most Americans, it feels dense with the city’s highest concentration of row houses. Most of these Victorians and Edwardians are restored and immaculately maintained. It’s a sea of white peaks and turrets that looks like a storybook illustration.

24th Street is the Main Street here. This is strollerville now, dominated by families who made it and were able to secure their slice of the former working-class area. It’s very clean and static, with bagel shops meeting high-end clothing stores. The demographic is thoroughly white, and the conversations and eyes on the street reflect a highly upper middle class attitude.

Noe Valley is the epitome of tight urban living but its geographic isolation as a valley high above the sea level insulates it from all the grittiness of typical dense neighborhoods. There’s no major roads that cut through and the steep hills even dissuade nearby locals. And on top of that are expansive views of the Bay.

The street activity drops off at Dolores where the wide palmed boulevard, fortress like gilded architecture, and insane elevation changes prohibit much casual street life. It’s utterly beautiful but this southern part of Dolores is a visual and physical “wall” due to speeding cars, parking soft-stories, and awkwardly graded intersection crossings.

Valencia

Ritual Roasters Coffee

Ritual Roasters Coffee

Moving east, the grade falls precipitously and the first prominent avenue is Valencia. A fairly low-density commercial corridor, it doesn’t feature any of the Gothic architecture as the real Valencia, but it offers an honest collection of retail and food to call it a complete livable street. Generally, one can buy groceries, peruse clothing, sip coffee, fix a bicycle, get a book, eat a gyro wrap, and grab a drink without needing a tech salary or a car! You can even buy cheap furniture at the community thrift store.

The sidewalks are streetscaped in some areas and the street has bike lanes, so Valencia basically represents that transitionary and youthful urban village. Diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can be on this street and not feel out of place. There’s even a children’s park. Valencia is also a true pedestrian shopping street and many weekends I would walk the entire length of it while the California sun beamed down.

Southern Mission District

24th Street via torbakhopper

24th Street via torbakhopper

There’s many flavors of the Mission but the one that most people associate it with is the Latino part of it. It’s a Little Mexico of taquerias, grocers, and salons, the staples of any immigrant community. 24th Street here is alive, people bustle about to attend to their errands and greet familiar faces. There are few strollers here, these are locals who own and operate — Hispanic immigrants and their descendants. Tourists are seldom seen.

The doubly subdivided blocks and repetitive streets lends this area an active street life all days of the week. The cafes are always busy, my favorite being Taqueria Guadalajara for its salsa bar. There are also Haight-like hippie bookstores and hipster coffeeshops which seem to throw me back into a Midwestern college town.

Perhaps because of the affordability in this area, there is also a regular presence of transients, especially near the BART Station plazas and SF General Hospital. In contrast, this is very rare in Noe.

Mid-Mission District

North of 24th Street in the streets named for states and local pioneers, I call the mid Mission. It’s a tired looking area, there’s less retail, the row houses are of plain working-class design, and remnants of the former industrial railroad peak through. All the streets have controlled stop signs so it’s very quiet save for freeway-like Van Ness and Potrero.

Conversely, Mission Street maintains a broadway feel, with its former streetcar era department store buildings and mostly mainstream chain retail. Between the knick-knack stores are trendy upstart cafes and restaurants avoiding the high rents of the popular retail streets. The constant drum of four lanes of traffic give the street a smoggy Downtown feel.

Northern Mission/16th Street

Musicians in front of Community Thrift Store

Musicians in front of Community Thrift Store

As one moves north toward 16th Street, things change quickly. Around the Muni yards, industrial lots have been converted to upscale condos and lofts. Small boutique food and retail peaks its head around here. This area shares a lot of vibe with Potrero Hill but without the elegance. It reminds me of typical ’90s loft conversion neighborhoods where the street level was deactivated, avoided and barricaded.

On the other hand, Valencia to Mission Streets get grittier and frenetic both visually on the sidewalk and in the storefronts. More security bars on windows and more (delicious) hole-in-the-wall cafes and front patio bars. People on the sidewalk tend to congregate and stop more here. It’s an Uptown of a past era.

16th Street itself is peculiar. Most of it is a fast-moving crosstown road formerly serving industrial sites. But there is a marching line of gastropubs and clubs from Mission west to Market. The area feels young, hip, gritty in a very familiar way to American inner cities. The glorious namesake Mission San Francisco de Asís seems out of place.
Further north to Duboce and the horrid freeway, I feel is still coming into its own identity. This area has mostly 3-story apartment buildings which likely once served as working-class residences for the former industrial SOMA. Retail is a smattering between new and old school.

Castro

Dolores Park in 2013 before the major renovation

Dolores Park in 2013 before the major renovation

The northern part of Mission, from Dolores west to Castro Street is very solidly identified with the Castro more than the Mission. Dolores Park may be a crown jewel of the Mission District, but it’s also a magnet for the LGBT community.
The sidewalk cleans up quickly as it moves west. Every inch of real estate is utilized or perfected. The exuberance of activity on 16th Street leads back to a controlled, stately street life similar to Noe. There’s obviously more tourism here but also the retail and cafes are far more polished and marketed.

Known as Eureka Valley, this geographic area of the Castro has a very steep incline from Dolores Heights (the mountain that divides Noe Valley to the south). So activity is ultra-concentrated onto 18th and toward Market Street. Castro as a neighborhood is clearly evaporated of its former working-class underpinnings. However unlike family-oriented Noe, grocery stores are replaced by specialty stores, and the clothing shops seem rather fad than practical.

What Castro may lack as a complete street, it makes up for as a vibrant stage for visitors to entertain themselves. The number of gay bars and clubs in addition to the City’s recent streetscaping with LED lights and commemorative placards, creates a modern Uptown district.

So Is it Happy Hour?

As I reflect on my time in the Mission, I can see where the area affords not just the urban “diversity” millennials seek, but complexity and choice in housing, food and lifestyle. You can get a taste of city life without needing to be Downtown.

The friction and flow of the well-heeled west side and poorer ethnic east side allow millennials to exploit opportunities between both communities. For example grabbing a nice apartment in Noe while eating cheaply (and well) in the Mission. To me, Valencia is the heart of where this drama is playing out with its mix of very expensive exclusive restaurants competing for real estate with modest community business and family-oriented functions.

And of course connectivity. You don’t need a car, one is connected by foot and transit to so many options within a 1 mile radius anywhere you live. If you work or play Downtown, you’re connected instantaneously by BART. If you work a little closer in SOMA or Mid-Market, you can just bike. In this manner, I see the tech controversy as a symptom, not a cause of the Mission’s popularity.

Overall the Mission will continue to remain an ever popular place to live as more storefronts are brought back to life and Muni gets its act together.

Trading Four Wheels For Two, A Follow-Up

First thing I saw upon landing in DCA and Ubering into the city, was a guy riding a bikeshare against the Washington Monument.

First thing I saw upon landing in DCA and Ubering into the city, was a guy riding a bikeshare against the Washington Monument.

In 2008, Minnesota Public Radio interviewed me about bicycling when the idea of being a full-time bicyclist was just starting to gain traction. At the time, bike lanes were only in the planning stage, and bicyclists comprised a hardcore group of locals who lurked in the angsty MPLSBikeLove forum.

I was always curious about how people interpreted the article, whether it had any resonance or impact. Now, Minneapolis is America’s most bike-friendly city and the only world-listed bike city. MPR still has the post up, so I imagine it has some SEO relevance at least. I hope telling my story about this article highlights relevant issues on millennials and urban life.

When T-Paw was Around

It’s been 8 years and my life during that article seems like a distant memory but it’s a time I will never forget. We were riding the economic bubble to it’s greatest heights. Cranes filled the sky and real estate values soared. Minneapolis took this opportunity to pour the investment back into an ambitious bicycling master plan.

Light Rail was in doubt because of a South St. Paul hockey dad turned 5-second Republican Presidential hopeful, former Governor Tim Pawlenty (“T-Paw”). He vetoed the Green Line funding the same month of the article, though it was restored later. Cities could only do their part for sustainable transportation with such a polarized state government, and that meant bicycling.

Fat Kid

I’m very plump in the article, probably 230 lbs. I was working very hard because jobs were scarce and I was given a fantastic opportunity by a real estate firm to do planning analysis on new residential development. My Bachelors degree in Urban Studies clearly did not go far. Bicycling was the only thing that kept my health and sanity somewhat in check.

It was a two mile commute from Prospect Park to Downtown Northeast everyday that took about 20 minutes because roads on University were created for cars, not people. Kids today would be blown away by what kind of hellish carscape Stadium Village was prior to TCF Bank Stadium.

Bike Dumb

In the article I’m very oblivious to my bicycle which was a cheap $300 Raleigh Hybrid from local chain-store Erik’s Bike Shop in Dinkytown. It was criminally slow with cheap parts. I’m confident no bike shop today would ever sell such a poor bicycle, even for light recreational purposes. I wish the seller had steered me to something better, but more on that later.

Fast forward about a year from this article, I put the bike through the wringer including an entire winter where I, in a puffy green parka, traversed snowy icy roads. I learned to be even more “hardened” and also to carry myself in a way I would want others to see. I watched videos of Copenhagen’s magical flow where people stopped at red lights on a dime. I wanted the same and wanted to communicate that through my actions.

Then the hammer hit, the economy disastrously collapsed. I lost my job.

Bike Smart

I decided planning graduate school was my calling instead of the deeply embedded wars my generation was fighting. My bike somehow made it to fall of 2009 as I put off any maintenance on it. Then I walked into The Hub Bike Shop in East Bank and everything changed.

The Hub is an employee owned collective which focused on making bicycling a real form of transportation for people. They hosted classes on bike etiquette and even focused on developing women riders. They sold Giant Bicycles from Taiwan, who was one of the few manufacturers really closing in on this emerging need for modern American bicycling. I believe Giant saw how their $2,000 carbon road bikes were taken seriously by lycranauts, and realized the same could be of normal citizens.

I purchased a Giant Rapid hybrid. It was a sleek, sexy, with higher end Shimano shifters. Yes it cost $700 after tax, but it was light years ahead of the Raleigh. It was a real bike for a real commuter. With a slim rack, semi-racing stance, and rapid-fire shifting assembly, I could keep pace with other cyclists, make it on-time to my destinations, and haul some groceries.

In short, the bike made it easier to bike, but I biked more because it was so easy.

I learned how to fix my own bike too. I took apart the rear cogs often and washed off the miles of accumulated gunk. I strung wires when they broke and replaced tubes when they popped. In the long haul I probably spent up-front $1200 including lights and locks, and $500 a year on maintenance (1 tune up, adjustments, and parts).

Biking Bandwagon

Nice Ride bike-sharing was introduced in 2010 and as a snooty self-described Urban Planner Candidate, I snubbed it initially. How could people on these low-geared upright bikes manage to get anywhere on time and haul dinner. It was at best a tourism gag and for suburbanites to get a safe feel of the gritty city. The Bixi utility bikes evoked nightmares of my Raleigh, trying to bust it through fast-moving traffic.

But I was wrong. I saw how the bikes allowed groups of people to traverse nearby destinations that were unthinkable by walking or even car. For people living in inner neighborhoods, they could get Downtown reasonably. Combined with the city’s emerging bike lane system, Nice Rides actually seemed easier than my hybrid road bike. I was constantly paranoid my bike would be stolen (as is a common problem) and was ever more worried when I had to leave a bike overnight in an unknown area. Nice Ride you use once and done, even if it’s a few minutes slower.

Walking is Cool

After graduate school, I took a 3 year chance at San Francisco and lost quite a bit of weight (phew). There, I learned more about what transportation really is about. In Minneapolis, I spurned the chaos of buses and vehicles crowding my way, why shouldn’t everyone ride a (fancy) bike. But I realized at the end of the day, humans just need to get around.

San Francisco’s bike rush hour was a choatic nightmare. Nobody obeyed red lights, even at the busiest intersections. People did not orderly line up on the bike lane, they constantly and dangerously bumped shoulders. “Downtown” Market Street is only a 2 mile trip at most, but it felt like a 20 mile marathon. High-speed passing on Valencia was compounded by ride-sharing blocking the lane. I actually ended up preferring to take transit and walk. Actually, there was a lot of walking. The synergy of the two was relaxing and energizing. I didn’t want to bother with a bicycle in San Francisco, the city was just too beautiful to pass by.

I bought an older Giant OCR, the predecessor to the Rapid for just $300. But I rarely used it, in fact I mostly lent it out.

The District of Bicycling

My Felt Fixie (set to Single Speed) in front of the Washington Monument

My Felt Fixie (set to Single Speed) in front of the Washington Monument

Today in DC, I actually don’t have a personal bicycle, yet. (Update: I bought one off Craigslist from a cool dude!) My company TransitScreen provides memberships to Capital Bikeshare to promote sustainable choices by our employees. I’ve taken so many convenient trips between stations that it hasn’t been an urgent matter to obtain my own bike.

Since this article, my feelings on being a full-time bicyclist or bike warrior have waned to an idea that we all have to get around in our own ways, and should have options toward that. But we also have to be mindful of the impact our mobility affects fellow citizens and the planet.

I usually walk 20 minutes to work on spacious Massachusetts Avenue. I regularly carry my groceries about 4 blocks from a Safeway. I often take Metro to go to Union Station. I like bikeshare for cross-town movement. I prefer local carshare startup Split to take me north of Columbia Heights. Zipcar vans help me move furniture. Buses are great after a long day from Farragut to Dupont.

It seems I’ve traded my four wheels for one, my role as a member of society.

Why They Still Are “Willing to Relocate to San Francisco”

For techies who have lived in or moved from San Francisco, this recent meme struck a nerve.

William Blake’s most famous poem “The Tyger”

Why is it in 2016, we must be willing to relocate to San Francisco?

This meme results from the most repeated request by recruiters and tech startups, even startups that haven’t even located to the city itself. The comical reaction is, you can have a fantastic job, but only if you relocate. Of course it doesn’t actually mean relocate to San Francisco proper, rather to companies located in the SF Bay Area. Most of the tech companies are actually centered in the South Bay which for the typical American is like commuting to the far ends of suburbia.

You might live here in SOMA, but your startup or company is not very likely to be anywhere remotely near the City.

You might live here in SOMA, but your startup or company is not very likely to be anywhere remotely near the City.

Why is it in 2016, when the internet promised telecommuting and decentralized work that the tech industry is fervently concentrating America’s intellectual capital into a suburban peninsula on the Pacific prone to devastating earthquakes.

This live-work geographic disparity is not new to planning, but it represents much of the frustration Bay Area planners face. We have pioneered instant global communication for every human on Earth and yet the talent who create, maintain, and innovative this technology are required to be in a precise location, in a building, usually seated, from morning until early evening. We call this area Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Palo Alto.

Most planners expect people to decide where they live based on their work. This is a basic tenet of sector and concentric zone theories.

The talent don’t have much choice of where to live, they are confined to options a narrow shoreline on the east side of a peninsula land-locked by mountains on the west and a shallow bay on the east. They can venture south into endless cul-de-sacs shaped from former marshlands, called San Jose. East across the bay to the limited rugged terrain along Diablo Range. But most choose to live north along a high-capacity transportation line called Caltrain that connects to a regional transportation system called BART. Private transit (company shuttles) provide the rest.

They move north because the peninsula is capped by a sprawlingly dense urban habitat called San Francisco. Defying the steep geography left by former sea levels and tectonic activity, we have carved rectilinear blocks into the hillsides and reclaimed the beaches.

We know the peninsula head is most desirable to live in because it offers breathtaking views of the Marin headlands and the Pacific Ocean. But most importantly it has concentrated architecture, housing and commerce into a human-scaled environment that produces variety and vibrancy — favored by Jane Jacobs.

Google campus. It's a nice place... for suburbia.

Google campus. It’s a nice place… for suburbia.

We know the southern shoreline of the peninsula is desirable for tech companies because it historically birthed computing innovations in sprawling low-cost campuses. But most importantly it has concentrated intellectual institutions and venture capital into a self-propagating complex of physical and social networks, which David M. Levinson coined as “plexus.”

Planners contend with this desire and interchange between San Francisco and South Bay for the foreseeable future. Strangely, towns within an 1 hour of both fray at the edges, unable to capture this desire for many reasons such as demographics and transportation. Bay Area regional planning has come to an impasse over these issues.

And so they continue to ask if you are still willing to relocate to San Francisco. As a techie I have a laugh and then look on in contemplation.

Author’s Note: I would still move back to San Francisco.