Stranger danger

Regular readers may know that we live where we do specifically to be within biking distance of my wife’s university. She had the short, three mile bike ride across town to her classes, while I have the 40 mile multimodal commute from hell.

She completed her Master’s degree last year. We really like Santa Cruz County, but both of us work in the South Bay, and there’s no longer any real reason for us to live here. We’ve been looking to move “over the hill” to Santa Clara Valley to shorten our commutes.

I grew up mostly near large coastal cities, but my wife grew up mostly in mid size towns in the Midwest. Her dad lives on acreage in Texas with horses. Her (late) stepmother’s family are cotton and peanut farmers. Some of her maternal uncles and aunts live miles from town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. You get the picture: she’s unfamiliar and distrustful of urban environments.

My secret plan to familiarize her with the safety of transit friendly downtown core backfired, unfortunately. After dinner recently, we were walking along San Carlos Street in San Jose when a full on red vs blue gang fight erupted across the street from us.

We were never really in any danger in this cholo-on-cholo skirmish, but blood on the street has a more powerful impact than dry statistics about the danger spent behind the wheel on Bay Area freeways.

San Jose bike commuters

Ah well. At least it was just fists. Velo Bus Driver biked right into a gun fight in Seattle the other day. But he points out that the mundane incident of a bike path crash is more likely to get you in trouble.

Karl points out another random act of violence: a tree fell on a path just as 73 year old Dieter H biked underneath. The kicker: the article makes a point of noting Dieter’s helmetless riding. [Google Translation here]. My question: Do any of these falling tree death stories mention the victims’ helmet habits?


  1. =v= I blame Reagan. Nancy (and the “War on Drugs”) for the gang activity, and Ronnie for the trees.

    In all seriousness, when I'm not working on urban biking I'm working on urban forests. When municipal budgets were squeezed in the 1980s, items with long-term benefits have suffered the most, like education and maintaining the urban forest. Nonprofits have filled some of the void, but they can't provide the continuity of dedicated city arborists. 30 years of this means we've got a lot of trees near the ends of their lifespans with no successors, and a lot of dead branches waiting to snap off.

    (I realize your first item is in Germany, but the problem really is much greater in the U.S.)

  2. Join the Bike Party tonight! That's a fun, safe way to get to know some of the streets and neighborhoods, and to meet a few thousand others doing the same.

  3. My partner and I are in much the same place. She's finished with her classes and now working 3 days a week in the city. There's no reason for us to live in the South Bay… except for the fact that the value of our condo has dropped like a rock since we purchased it three years ago.

    Secondly, I love you Fritz but you really do have a persecution complex about helmets and “accidents.” No, the media does not mention that dead automobile drivers do not wear helmets. But the media does often point out that dead drivers were not wearing their safety belts. And while I realize drivers die from head injuries, there are innumerable other safety devices inside a car to prevent your head from colliding with any blunt objects in the event of a collision, like airbags, the aforementioned safety belt, and the vehicle's body itself. No such devices exist on the bicycle except the helmet, much like a motorcycle, in which helmet use is legally prescribed for all ages of riders.

    I just think this argument is way too much of a focus of bicycle advocates. Drive a car or truck? Put on a seatbelt. Use a vehicle that doesn't surround you with metal? Put on a helmet. It's not bike persecution.

  4. Rich – As you know I moved to the bay area recently and we are living in Japan town. We are really enjoying it here – very quiet neighborhood, longish walk or short bike ride into downtown, and for my commute I can easily use caltrain, VTA or just bike all the way in to my work in Santa Clara. Many things I don't like about the bay area, but I am loving the transport and ease of multimodal access.

  5. “I have the 40 mile multimodal commute from hell.”

    You're no Ross Delducra (whom I finally met the other day).

  6. Usually three times a week – Mon, Wed and Fri. I have about a 1/20 track record of going to Oakland on one of the Tue or Thu that I don't go to PA.

    On the other hand – long hours on trains = ample time for writing blog posts about long hours on trains 🙂

  7. …bottom line ???…

    …when your time is up, your time is up no matter what you're wearing or whatever philosophy you cloak yourself in…

    …as an aside, fritzter, while the prospect of you folks moving over the hill makes perfect sense due to the nature of your jobs, personally i'm sad at the thought…i always wondered as to what toll that long commute took out of you but i guess i also pictured the location you chose to live in to be more than just “convenient” for your lady's schooling…
    …best of luck, amigo…i'm hoping new & good accommodations come your way…

  8. I'll be bummed if you guys relocate over the hill. I know we don't run into each other too much but it'll be much less if you're gone to the concrete jungle! But I do understand, short commutes mean more time for bikes and family!

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