Mosswood Park: New Basketball Courts (*squeal!*)

It was roughly a month ago that I noticed that the basketball courts at Mosswood Park had been closed down and encircled by an unsightly chain-link fence.  I live less than a block away from the park and am quite familiar with these courts.  I have spent a fair amount of time playing pick up games there and have gotten my ass handed to me by some of the best hoops players in Oakland on more than one occasion.

These courts have history.   Several local NBA legends were groomed here including Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Brian Shaw.  It was here that Street Ball legend Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell wowed the neighborhood on a regular basis with his gravity-defying dunks.  Mosswood Park is even featured as a playable level in the popular NBA Street video game series.

Perhaps most importantly, these courts mean a lot to the neighborhood.  At a time when the Oakland Parks and Rec budget is being slashed, the basketball courts at Mosswood Park serve as a shining example of how public space can and should be used to bring a community together.  Perhaps more so than any other public place, a basketball court provides a safe place for men and women of all ages, color and socio-economic status to interact with one another, literally on an equal playing field.

So, you can imagine my panic when I saw the courts boarded up.  I promptly emailed the Greater Mosswood listserv to see if anyone knew what the hell was going on.  I let out a huge sigh of relief when a neighbor informed me that no, the courts were not being shut down.  Quite the opposite, they were going to be given a makeover – a total resurfacing, new hoops and even benches!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched as the Good Tidings Foundation (in conjunction with Kaiser) transformed the courts from this:

OLD Mosswood

OLD Mosswood

To this:

NEW Mosswood

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Mosswood Basketball Courts.  Current Golden State Warriors star, David Lee was in attendance (I saw him eating Fentons ice cream!) along with Warriors legends Alvin Attles and Nate Thurmond.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain outside and the ceremony was totally scripted and cheesy.  Still, I couldn’t help but feel excited and a tad giddy about the fact that our little park was finally getting some love and much needed attention.

When I got home tonight, I walked over to the courts to try them out.  It was late, but people were still out playing hoops.  The court was smooth and the rims were stiff.  It’s going to be a good summer.

Click here for the official press release.

The Significance of Bike to Work Day

So the latest Bike To Work Day numbers are in: last Thursday, over 10,000 people rode a bike to work in Alameda County.

While the methods used to arrive at these figures may be a tad dubious, BTWD makes one thing clear: hella people ride bikes in the Bay Area.  And I’m not talking about recreational riding.

Despite how the predominant “bike culture” portrays urban cycling every other day of the year – an exclusive activity persude largely by affluent, white hipsters or roadies – BTWD exposes bike life by the Bay for what it really is: ordinary folks choosing to use their bicycles for practical reasons every day.  In this case, coming to and from work….or school… or wherever!

For the second consecutive year, I helped man the Energizer Station at rideSFO in West Oakland.  Set up began ’round 6:30am – just in time for the early bird commuters.  In addition to the traditional BTWD tote bag filled with goodies, cyclists who stopped by our station helped themselves to delicious baked goods donated by Sweet Adeline, coffee donated by Kinetic Koffee, and…um… Muscle Milk.  No joke.  While I mingled with the volunteers and passers by, Phil was busy setting up the speakers and it wasn’t long before we had Jay-Z shaking the neighborhood.  My goodness, I had a great time.

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Bike To Work Day has an additional, personal significance for me.  It was on a BTWD six years ago in Santa Cruz that I discovered cycling as a method for promoting social, environmental and economic justice.  I was riding up to Oakes College, totally unaware that BTWD even existed, when I ran into an Energizer Station hosted by the local bicycle advocacy organization, People Power.  I stopped, grabbed a banana and began searching through my free bike bag.  I found a People Power pamphlet and began to read…

… A few months later I was an intern at People Power.  Then at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  Then the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition.  After graduation, I moved back to the Bay, settling in Oakland where I continued to be involved in the bicycle advocacy movement, serving on the Board of Directors of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and helping to start the East Bay Bike Party.

Bike To Work Day literally changed my life.

A Beautiful Trend

While riding in downtown Oakland this afternoon, I noticed not one but two HUGE murals being worked on, each in various stages of completion.  All I can say is, it’s about time.  For the longest time, Downtown has looked flat-out drab.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not without it’s charms – Downtown Oakland is littered with beautiful architectural and historical gems.  But I think that most people, if asked to characterize the aesthetic character of Downtown Oakland, would use words like “sparse,” “empty” or “disconnected.” By taking advantage of one of downtown Oakland’s most abundant commodities, empty wall space, the people of Oakland have taken an active step toward combating urban blight.  Instead of zipping past two of Downtown’s many surface parking lots, I stopped to admire these gigantic works of art – and I was not alone.  The impact of these murals on the community was, to me, immediately apparent.  They are at the same time powerful, thought provoking and absolutely gorgeous.  A welcomed addition to the neighborhood, indeed – a beautiful trend that I hope will continue.

Oaksterdam Mural at 17th & Broadway

Oaksterdam Mural

With multiple panels, showcasing some of Oakland’s most iconic features and landmarks, Oaksterdam’s new mural will welcome visitors to the heart of Downtown Oakland for years to come (I hope!).  Click here for more information regarding the creation of this mural.

Water Writes Mural at 21st & Broadway

Water Writes

Pieced together by a number of local organizations and schools, “Water Writes” paints a vivid portrait of the many complex issues that arise when considering one of our most precious and increasingly scarce resources: water.  Peep this for more info on the creative process:

Water Writes Oakland Mural from New America Media on Vimeo.

And a few more pics for good measure.  Cannot wait to see the finished products *squeal!*

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The Bike Shuttle

Load 'em up!

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.  Damn it!”

The Bike Shuttle is a great service, but reliable it is not.  With a very limited run time and room for only 14 riders, if you don’t show up 20 minutes early, there is no guarantee that you’ll get a spot.  And even if you do, there’s still no guarantee.

“Why put yourself through this?” you might ask.

Reason #1: At $1 each way, it’s by far the cheapest way to get into/out of the City with your bike.  Compare that to a $3.30 BART trip or a $6.25 ferry ticket and the choice is clear (and it’s not really much of a choice for the notoriously frugal cyclist).

Reason #2: I live about two blocks from the Shuttle pick-up/drop-off point at the MacArthur BART station.  So not only is the Shuttle cheap, it’s incredibly convenient for me.  In the mornings, the shuttle is generally on-time and it offers the fastest way into San Francisco via the Bay Bridge – roughly 20 to 25 minutes.

Reason #3: Instead of crossing under the Bay through a dark, loud tunnel, a la BART, the Shuttle takes you over the Bay Bridge allowing the rider to enjoy the sights of one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I have been taking the shuttle for roughly two years now and I never get tired of the view.  It’s amazing how many different ways you can see the same thing.  I imagine this is the way commuters sixty years ago must have felt riding across the bridge on the KEY System trains.

Reason #4: The people.  My people.  Bike people.  I’ve met and mingled with all kinds of folks while riding the Shuttle.  Being crammed into a van with 13 other cyclists  at 8:30 in the morning offers a much more intimate commuting experience than say a BART ride where I often feel unwanted trying to cram my bike onto a crowded train car.  On the Shuttle, there is a common understanding shared by the passengers that feels quite refreshing.  It’s not all peaches and cream, however.  Some Shuttle patrons are dicks, but such is life.

Here are some things that SUCK about taking the Bike Shuttle:

  • As I mentioned at the top of the post, the Bike Shuttle is not reliable.  With only 14 seats, you can show up 20 minutes early and it’s still not a guarantee that you will get a spot.  Getting bumped from the shuttle is something that all riders experience sooner or later and it can be a huge drag.  (Conversely, when you are that 14th person to arrive, you are hit with a wave of euphoria and an undeniable sense of relief/accomplishment.  “I made it!”)
  • It only runs during peak commute hours and has limited pick up/drop off times.  If you miss one, you have to wait 45 minutes for the next one (if there is a next one) or find  another way to get across the Bay.  For me, this often means sneaking on to a crowded BART train during rush hour with my bike.  Ugh.
  • The Bike Shuttle is still a car and as such is beholden to all the inconveniences of rush hour i.e. traffic.  Generally, this hasn’t been as big an issue as you would think.  However, there have been a few times where I have been stuck in traffic for 45 minutes to an hour.  Or, I’ve been stuck waiting for the shuttle that never showed because it was stuck on the bridge in horrible traffic.  You never know.
  • It’s obvious that the Shuttle is of little to no importance to those who operate it: CalTrans.  There has been no attempt by the agency to address any of the glaring issues noted above, or make the service more convenient, comfortable or efficient for it’s patrons.  I’m totally not surprised, by the way.  I’m sure the shuttle was CalTrans’s attempt to silence those pesky bike advocates that had no way to commute across the bay.  Still, can’t we get some benches or maybe a little shelter, please?  How about some lighting?  After a long day of riding in the rain, the last thing I want to do is stand at the corner of 1st and Fremont in the pouring rain, in the dark, freezing my ass off while I wait for a shuttle that may or may not show up.

Ultimately, most of the bad things about the bike shuttle say more about the lack of transit options for cyclists in the Bay than about the bike shuttle itself.  The bike shuttle is cool.  It’s cheap.  It’s quick.  Knowing about it is like being part of a secret club.

And that’s how I get to work every day.  Well, as long as I’m not number 15.

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Scattered Thoughts on Bike Camping & Touring

Just returned from an awesome lil’ event: BikeShare: Camp, at Homespun Bikes.

I can’t even begin to express how glad I am that Homespun exists.  Super mellow vibe, community-minded and unpretentious, they’re a great addition to the neighborhood.  I had a wonderful time tonight listening to the presentations, wandering around the shop and mingling with my people.  I’ve never seen so many cycling caps in the same room, at the same time in my life.  Good lord!

The format of the event was similar to that of TED Talks, with several people sharing ideas and stories on the topic of bike camping and touring.  I didn’t plan on posting anything about the event.  However, I feel full of bike Love right now and want to share a few scattered thoughts/notes/shout outs with you before I hit the sack…

  • Your bicycle turns the world into a play ground.
  • Unlike other, faster forms of transit, the pace of travel by bicycle provides the rider with a more intimate sense of time and space.
  • Bikenoir.blogspot.com
  • When preparing food for bike trips, consider the following: you can dehydrate pretty much anything; hit up Asian markets for packaged goods; EmergenC packets are great for replacing electrolytes; you can buy dried shrimp at Berkeley Bowl!
  • Post-Car Press
  • I want to visit Mercy Hot Springs.
  • Camping hammocks sound like a good idea in theory…
  • I want to take BART to Walnut Creek, stop at Rivendell, then ride to the top of Mt. Diablo, camp, wake up, and ride home.
  • It costs $50 to ship a bike one-way on Southwest.
  • Mid-week, overnight bike camping trips are totally doable.

And, because I’m totally vain, a picture of my Surly Long Haul Trucker:

My ride, near the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

A Community Bike Ride Through North Oakland.

Tues. March 1, 2011

Stop the Injunctions spoke card.

I first heard the term “Gang Injunction” about a year ago.  The definition varies depending on who you ask, but my interpretation goes something like this:

The injunction would make it illegal for certain “gang members” to be together in public or take part in a range of activities that are already illegal. Gang injunctions are civil orders that are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.  Supporters of such measures say they make neighborhoods safer by cracking down on gangs and crimes.  Opponents say injunctions criminalize daily activities, lead to racial profiling and give police too much power.

What I see here is yet another misguided attempt to make our communities safer by pumping increasingly scarce public funds into law enforcement.  In so doing, we perpetuate oppressive systems that rob the most vulnerable in our communities – poor/working class, people of color, youth – of their civil rights without making anyone any safer in the process.  What’s more, these injunctions fail to address the root causes of violence in our communities: high unemployment, rapidly deteriorating public services and an overall lack of opportunity for any kind of upward mobility.

Regrettably, I have not been very involved in the anti-gang injunction efforts that have been taking place around the Fruitvale and North Oakland neighborhoods for over a year.  So, I was stoked to hear about the community bike rides being organized around the affected areas to help spread the word…

At dusk, we met at the Bushrod Community Center.

 

We rolled down Alcatraz...

...stopping at Actual Cafe on San Pablo.

 

"Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Gang Injunctions got to go!"

A ride organizer gets interviewed by Channel 2 News @ 55th/Market.

Fixie kids from the Bikery Crew.

Final stop at It's All Good Bakery @ 55th/MLK.

The spirit of the Black Panthers is still strong in North Oakland.

Why?

I’ve wanted to start up a little blog for awhile now. Why? Well, I think that I have something interesting to say –  a unique perspective on the world. Only time will tell if this is true or not, but in the meantime, I’m gonna give it a go. Hope you enjoy it! (And if you hate it, that’s ok too.)

Hooray for spOakland!

The plan is to offer a commentary on life in the Bay Area through the lens of  myself, Dominic, a self-identified cyclist, nerd, community activist/organizer, hip hop-head, working class, 20-something male of mixed racial descent.  I live in Oakland, California and spend many of my waking hours traversing the greater Bay Area via bicycle and public transit.  (Probably more hours than I should.)  I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from living as car-free as possible – which is often challenging given my current employment as a bike messenger/mechanic/do-it-all for City CarShare.

On my initial foray into the blogosphere, expect spOaktown to offer an ongoing exploration of Bay Are “bike culture,” local  politics and the occasional, unrelated rant.