Tag Archives: multi-modal commuting

Project Fake Commute: Bay Area Multi-Modal Mega-Commute

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, spending most of my time in the East Bay community of Emeryville. I always love visiting this part of the country, it’s just a beautiful city. Making my visit even better this time – I had a loaner bike!

That’s not a very good picture. How about this?

borrowed bicycle

Ahhh, yes. Giant trash sculpture in the background – that’s the Northern California vibe I was going for. This is a Guerciotti frame that had been completely stripped of its paint. You can see the frame here with its original paint job. The bike was loaned to me by a nice young man named Jonathan who lives near the friend I was staying with. Jonathan had a few parts laying around and put the bike together for me to enjoy during my visit. The bike was a little big for me, but it worked out just fine. It had a couple of features that I had not experienced before. First was a 1 X 8 drivetrain. That is, a single chainring on the crank, and an 8 speed cassette at the wheel. Aside from feeling like I needed a little more low range on the steepest hills, this drivetrain was just plenty for me. As you can see, the bike also had a front basket. I was out riding for most of every day, shedding layers as I went, so it was good to have some place to put everything. Having a front basket did affect the handling a little bit, but I don’t feel like it made the bike unsafe in any way. The hardest part was parking the bike and keeping the front wheel from flopping around all over the place.

Aside from visiting friends and enjoying the fresh California air, I was in the bay area in order to participate in the the All-California Sacred Harp Singing Convention. I won’t bore you with the details of what Sacred Harp Singing is all about. If you are interested to learn, let me direct you to this informative website. Let’s just say that it’s a musical activity I enjoy doing, and it gives me a good excuse to travel to different parts of the country. In this instance, the singing took place in San Carlos, but I was staying in Emeryville. To illustrate:

It’s about 35 miles as the car drives. I had originally planned to take BART into SF and then take CalTrain the rest of the way. Then I took a closer look at the map and noticed that the BART stop was only about 10 miles away from my destination in San Carlos. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for one of my favorite activities: pretending that I am a bike commuter in a different town from where I live. How exciting, right?!

I’ve run a Fake Commute like this a few times before, but in a formal way, only twice. About a year ago in Austin, TX and almost two years ago in my hometown of Overland Park, KS (and its neighbor, Olathe). A Fake Commute is an opportunity to get out of one’s daily life and imagine what one’s life would be like if one lived somewhere else. It’s a chance to indulge in a fantasy life for a day. For example: when I made the Olathe/Overland Park commute, I pretended that I lived in a sprawling Midwestern suburb and worked at the vast corporate headquarters of a telecommunications company. Exciting!

For this commute, I pretended that I worked in San Carlos, but I lived in Emeryville… and I don’t really have any better narrative than that. Maybe I’m a software engineer or something, who knows. I also pretended that I only worked on weekends because that’s when the singing was taking place.

It was about a 2 mile ride from my starting point to the MacArthur BART. Bay Area Rapid Transit only allows bikes on the trains during non-peak times, but fortunately, weekends are non-peak all day long. I parked my bike, and settled in for the 50 minute ride.

guerciotti on BART

Bikes are required to stay in one particular part of the train, where there is not quite enough room for a full-sized bike. No matter how you park it, one of your wheels will stick out in front of the door, or out into the aisle. There just seems to be no way around it. However, I had an aha moment while riding BART:

bicycle parking brake on BART

That’s one of the velcro straps that I usually wrap around my ankles in order to keep my pants from getting chain grease. Instead, I’ve used it to secure the brake lever, thus creating a sort of parking brake. THIS WAS EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE NEVER THOUGHT OF IT BEFORE! I often ride the MBTA commuter rail between Providence and Boston, but this thought never came to me. I used the other velcro strap to secure the wheel to the frame (you can see it in the first BART picture). This was also awesome, but not quite as much as my velcro parking brake.

Well, I think that’s enough revelations for one blog post, I’ll save the rest of my fake commute report for another post.