Author: Richard Masoner

Monterey Bay region Complete Streets policy request for comments

The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) in California requests comments for their draft of a Complete Streets policy to guide transportation planning and spending in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito Counties.

AMBAG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Monterey Bay Region, and is responsible for allocating certain Federal and State funds to local agencies in this region. In August 2013, AMBAG adopted its Monterey Bay Area Complete Streets Guidebook. This guidebook does not establish policy, but provides design guidance for local agencies regarding best practices for Complete Streets design. It was groundbreaking in its assertion that planners and engineers are not compelled to use the Caltrans Highway Design Manual and AASHTO Green Book for many local streets.

AMBAG’s Complete Streets Policy will build upon these previous efforts by promoting a transportation system that is designed to be multimodal to safely and comfortably accommodate users of all ages and abilities. The Draft Complete Streets Policy has been released for public comment. Comments are due by March 15, 2024.

For details, visit

UL: DIY box fan filters are probably safe

You’ve seen the formula: 20 inch box fan ($30) + 20 inch furnace filter ($10) + duct tape ($5) = a quick, effective, DIY home air purifier for under $50.

How effective are they? I measured my homebrew filter (made with a MERV11 filter), and it dropped the indoor air quality AQI from 57 to single digits in a 10 x 10 room inside of an hour.

In 2020, we eventually exceeded AQI 400 from very high PM2.5 due to California wildfires raging nearby, but my indoor air quality was fine thanks to DIY filters, along with higher efficiency filters for my central air conditioning.

It’s always been in the back of my mind, however, that we’re using electrical appliances in ways they’re not tested for. Fans are tested for safety with unobstructed air flows. I’m a software engineer but my entire career has been working with hardware design teams. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when fans are operated in ways outside of their intended design: the motor windings heat the fan’s external casing and things melt and catch on fire.

I’m thrilled to learn that Underwriters Laboratories, which tests appliances for safety, thought of this too. With help from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Aika Davis and Dr. Marilyn Black tested box fans with MERV13 filters in various conditions and learned that modified box fans don’t catch on fire.

For the test, UL attached probes to measure the temperature for the motor housing, motor windings, power cord at the motor, fan guard, output air, switch, and ambient air. They also measured voltage, amperage, wattage, and airflow.

In their “Highlights of findings,” the researchers dryly note “exterior surfaces that can come into direct contact with people remained below the first-degree burn potential” and “fire ignition was not achieved with any of the filter/fan test scenarios.”

The ambient air temperature during the test was a cool 20°C. UL’s testing notes the motor windings peaked at 92°C in the worst case scenario (two heavily obstructed filters), which is just short of UL’s safety limit of 105°C, so keep this in mind if you’re in a hot room, and don’t put your DIY filter near easily ignitable items.

You can read the full report as a PDF here. The nerd in me appreciates reading about the testing methodology. This might make a decent middle school science fair project. I’m posting this to a blog about bicycles because we spend a lot of time outdoors and need to think about our lung health. Personally, I’m among the high percentage of endurance athletes with ashtma and I strongly prefer clean air over polluted air.

What do you wear for this cool weather riding?

In my part of California, we have at least another couple of weeks of unseasonably cool weather. After several years of heat waves and drought in the Golden State, I forgot how to kit up for riding when it’s 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

My upper body is fine — a windproof vest or jacket feels about perfect, and a warm core helps to keep my extremities warm. My legs — which are the engines that power my ride — never get warm.My summerweight shorts aren’t quite enough, but my heavy fleece-lined winter cycling tights are far too warm.

Should I look for my leg warmers that I haven’t seen in five years? What about a lighter weight pair of tights or three-quarter tights?

I think I like the idea of fleece-lined bib shorts like these thermal cargo bib shorts from Ornot in San Francisco. Who else has shorts like this?

How about you? What do you wear when it’s cool with maybe a bit of fog or mist?

Postscript: I asked this question on Twitter and received good responses. Thank you! Let me know what you think.

Public comments open for Santa Cruz Rail Trail Segment 12 Draft EIR

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) will hold a public hearing to solicit community input on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) for the proposed Coastal Rail Trail Segment 12 Project and Highway 1 Auxiliary Lane/Bus-on-Shoulder project.

The proposed project includes construction of northbound and southbound auxiliary lanes between the State Park Drive and Freedom Boulevard interchanges on Highway 1, extends the bus-on-shoulder facility by 2.5 miles, widens the Highway 1 bridge over Aptos Creek and Spreckles Drive, reconstructs the north Aptos and south Aptos railroad underpasses, and constructs drainage facilities, retaining walls, and sound walls. The project also includes the construction of an approximate 1.25-mile-long segment of the Coastal Rail Trail (Segment 12) along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line between State Park Drive and Rio del Mar Boulevard.

The DEIR/EA identifies the project’s potential impacts and potential avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. A public hearing will be held to provide the public with the opportunity to learn more about the project’s environmental process and submit comments for consideration in the Final EIR/EA.

View the DEIR/EA documents online at the SCCRTC project website; at the RTC office at 1101 Pacific Ave., Ste. 250, Santa Cruz (located upstairs from my favorite ice cream shop in Santa Cruz); and at the Capitola, Live Oak, and Watsonville public libraries.

The hearing takes place during the Santa Cruz County board meeting at 9:30 AM, Thursday June 1, 2023, at the County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 701 Ocean St., Rm 525, Santa Cruz, CA. During this meeting, the RTC commission will also receive information about a proposed GO Santa Cruz County Bicycle Incentives program that was discussed during the Santa Cruz bike committee meeting earlier this month.

If you cannot make the hearing, written comments may also be submitted by mail to Lara Bertaina, Department of Transportation, 50 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA, or by email to All comments must be received by 5 p.m. on June 2, 2023.

Chargel: A different kind of sports beverage

I routinely receive media invites to try various sports recovery supplements and almost deleted an invite to try “Chargel Gel Drink” when I noticed an interesting detail.

This recovery drink comes from a Japanese candy company? Of course I have to try it!

Morinaga is famous for its HI-CHEW fruit-flavored chewy candies. I love Hi-Chew candy, and the PR firm telling me about Chargel’s introduction to the US market completely buried this lede.

As I suspected, Chargel (flavored with real fruit juice) tastes amazingly like a less sweet version of Hi-Chew candy with an interesting jelly texture that I’m told has propelled this drink ahead of the popular Pocari Sweat electrolyte drink in the Japanese sports drink market. 18 grams of sugar in each 180-gram pouch is pretty high when compared with other sports drinks, but Morinaga’s fruit-flavored blend of carbohydrates and B vitamins tastes pretty delicious after a hard effort in warm weather.

If you’re familiar with east Asian foods, Chargel’s jelly texture may remind you of the soft, slippery jellies and noodles made from the konjac yam, or the slurpable soft jellies available at some boba tea shops. The jelly is almost identical to Jin Jin Jelly Straws, if you know this popular snack. This texture contributes to a satisfying feeling of satiety without making me feel overfully full while I’m out and about, and it goes down very easily during and after a hard ride.

Chargel comes in sippy pouches and tastes best chilled. So far in the San Francisco Bay Area, I only find Chargel at Japanese markets such as Mitsuwa and Nijiwa. Find Chargel in your area using Chargel’s online store locator, or buy directly from

Disclosure: I received a free sample of this product with no expectation of consideration. It really is pretty delicious.

David Byrne *still* rides a bicycle

David Byrne made a big splash with the Bike Internet when he arrived at the Met Gala last night on his Paul Budnitz titanium cruiser bicycle as he cheekily showed off his car parking valet placard to the paparazzi.

Byrne’s bike is smartly outfitted with a Gates carbon belt drive connected to a single speed hub for low maintenance and grease-free operation to avoid staining his crisp, white outfit. Custom wooden fenders also work to keep road schmutz from Byrne’s bespoke attire.

Brooks leather saddles are known for their all-day riding comfort. Obvious wear and marks on this bike’s Schwalbe Little Big Ben tires show this bike is not just for looks, but is used as a daily get-around bike.

I’ve asked the Internet about the disc brakes on this bike. I’ve gotten a few interesting ideas.

Byrne keeps his bike secure with a Sold Secure Gold rated ABUS Bordo 6500K bike lock that he stores in a bottle-cage mount. A chrome bicycle bell alerts people in front of the former Talking Heads frontman to his approach. The bike’s utility is rounded out with a Wald handlebar basket, which you can buy for an easy forty bucks online.

Byrne is long known for his love of bicycling as a means of transportation. This modern, upscale take on the paperboy bike is a nice upgrade from the three-speed Schwinn he rode around Manhattan in the early 1980s, as he recalls in his book Bicycle Diaries, excerpted here: