121 Year Old Route Resurrected

In 1894 the Pullman Strike cut San Francisco off from all physical communication.

From the San Francisco Examiner on July 7, 1894:

“An enterprising citizen of Fresno has organized a bicycle mail relay from that city to San Francisco to carry letters only. The route taken is west to Gilroy, then north through San Jose to this city.”

For $0.25 you could have a letter carried relay style from a bike shop in San Francisco all the way to a bike shop in Fresno. From there, or 16 other cities along the route, the local post office could deliver your letter right to the recipient’s door.

This weekend the route will be recreated. All that’s left is to get some mail.

In 1894 each letter was carried on the backs of 8 different bike messengers over 210 miles. The journey took about 18 hours, riding single speed bikes on mostly unpaved roads.

800 stamps were produced so quickly that an glaring mistake was overlooked. San Francisco was misspelled San “Fransisco.”

Full story here: Ingenuity, Murder, Fraud and Fixies (San Francisco in 1894)

On Friday a small group of friends will commemorate this ride by departing from a bike shop in San Francisco and tracing the same route to Fresno. None of them are bike messengers, and in fact, this will be the longest ride of their lives.

All they need now is mail.

This is where you come in. Stop in Mission Bicycle Company any time between now and 6:00 pm on Friday night if you would like to send a commemorative postcard to anyone in Fresno.

Don’t have any friends in Fresno? The recreators will hand deliver a message to any of the following stops.

After 121 years, the price remains $0.25.

Illuminating: Bike Polo Court

The cement is curing on the first court in the US built from scratch specifically for bike polo.

After years of being run out of nearly every court with lights, the San Francisco Bike Polo (SFBP) club will finally have a place to play without the threat of being ticketed. SFBP met with both the mayors office and the Park Director after being kicked out of Dolores Park in 2011. “This allowed for some frank discussions about the need and what to do with us” explained Bikeman Ben, one the SFBP organizers.

“Once we heard about the park renovation, we as a group, attended all of the planning meetings and made sure that the parks department knew that there was a demand” Ben continued. “SFBP is the reason the court is being built.”

When asked why a vacant basketball court wasn’t sufficient, Ben detailed three main factors:

  1. Safety – Posts and poles are a danger to the riders.
  2. Flow – Keeping the ball in play – Walls (at least 2’ high) surrounding the court.
  3. Size – Bigger than tennis or basketball. Smaller than hockey.

“We are happy to be able to play anywhere, but being able to design the court to our specifications has made San Francisco the envy of the international polo community” Ben added.

SFBP members include national and world champions, among others considered top players in the sport. Ben continues “more players are moving to San Francisco just because of the talent and the new court. It is a quality fraternal sport that is welcoming to all who love the sport.”

Until the new court opens, you’ll find bike polo being played nearly every night of the week at the Corondo Playground on 21st. Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM is newcomer night.


Valencia Street Bike Freeze

And here’s a version aligned by bike. (Might be a bit jumpy for some — I suggested starting at the front wheel.)




Sunny summer evenings on Sixteenth Street

Sunny Summer Evenings

The sun is back, people.

They've Arrived… Bikers for Change

A herd/troupe/gaggle – whatever you call a big mass of bikers on a mission – made it over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco last night, to give a talk at the Mission District Sports Basement about what they’re out to do. It’s a good thing: on bicycle, traveling from Vancouver to Tijuana down the entire Pacific Coast of the United States to raise money for microfinancing through Kiva. The basement of Sports Basement was speckled with stars of the microfinancing movement, including the folks who created Kiva, one of the founders of Global Agents for Change, and the Mission District’s own Jess Arnett! The bikers are staying in the Mission for a few days – keep an eye out for people with unreasonably huge thigh muscles – and will be participating in Critical Mass this Friday. They head south on Saturday (San Francisco bikers are welcome to join them for a day or two, if you feel like a challenge).

Since you’re on the internet already, take a look at what GAFC and Kiva are doing. The concepts behind these groups are pretty fabulous, and the microfinancing movement is becoming big news. This is the sort of trend that makes the internet a source of democratic power, and is a potential venue for action that can have help equalize the messed-up global distribution of wealth. Don’t mind the global distribution of wealth? Feel free to point someone towards kiva.org next time they start complaining about it. We live in San Francisco. It’ll happen.

Advice to Cyclists

Today at jwz, a long list of advice for folks new to bicycling in San Francisco. A sampling:

10. Bike maintenance: don’t do it, ever. It’s not worth your time. Just take it to the shop. Getting them to replace a flat for you costs $20 and takes 10 minutes, including the tube, and you don’t get dirty.

11. Safety: I follow the Zodiac approach: always assume the cars can see you perfectly, and are trying to kill you. If an intersection seems iffy, use the sidewalk and crosswalks. If big streets like Market and Van Ness freak you out, there are always less traficky ways to go, or just stay on the sidewalks.

12. Grocery shopping: yes, you really can do it with a single backpack. The trick is, shop small once a week instead of big once a month.

Great stuff in the comments too. Link.

Link to more cycling-related posts on Mission Mission.

Valencia Street Squeaks Onto Chronicle List of 25 Deadliest Roads for Cyclists

Bay Area streets are dangerous for cyclists. According to findings in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle, Market Street is the deadliest, particularly at its intersection with Octavia. A lot of major arterials out in the burbs fill in a lot of the rest of the list, but Valencia Street made it too, just barely: #25. Be careful out there.