Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Bike and Walk to Quaker Meeting 2016

On Sunday, May 22, a group of Quakers of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley celebrated Bike Month by bicycling to our meeting room. The week of May 22 to 29 was also celebrated as Bike to Worship Week by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

We started at North Berkeley BART Station, pedaling a short distance along the Ohlone Greenway to where it connects to California Street. We then rode California to Channing Way, Channing to Milvia, then Milvia to Derby, where we completed our travel to 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  California, Channing, and Milvia are three of Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards.

Leaving North Berkeley BART, from left: Henri Ducharme, Laura Magnani, Jay Cash, Marian Yu, Beth Rodman, Paul McCold, and Tom Yamaguchi

Arriving at Strawberry Creek Meeting, we were joined by Josh Gallup and Deborah Marks.

The following Sunday, May 29, we walked to meeting. This time we started at the downtown Berkeley BART station. Again, we walked down Milvia Street and right onto Derby. The last two blocks we walked in silence.


Leaving downtown Berkeley BART station. From left: Phyllis Malandra, Beth Rodman, Jay Cash, Paul McCold, and Charlie Lenk. On route, we were joined by Lisa Hubbell (on scooter) and Barbara Birch, who walked up from Emeryville. I took the picture with my iPhone and walked with my bicycle.

Thanks to Jay Cash for helping to organize, as well as bringing bagels, donuts, bike bags, bike stickers, maps, other printed material, and other biking and walking goodies; all given away after meeting.

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Leap Day 2016

Leap days have a special meaning for me. It was on Leap Day in 1980 when I moved from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area. That was 36 years ago or 9 Leap Years ago. As I enter my 66th year of life, I am amazed that I have spent over half of them here in Berkeley.

I was married then with a four-year-old daughter. Life in the progressive town of Ocean Beach had been exciting,but my wife Melissa and I were beginning to feel claustrophobic.What little culture we had then was mostly within those small town limits. We had the Strand Theater for movies, OB People’s Food for grocery shopping, and house party fundraisers for various political causes. That was a good thing, too, as Proposition 13 had decimated the local bus system. The bus to Ocean Beach stopped running at 8:30 pm, so we could forget going downtown for nighttime events.

Transportation was becoming a major focus of my political activism. The first gas shortage caught me dependent on a car to get to work. I switched to a job that allowed me to commute by bike. It was a long commute, but the ride got me into excellent physical shape. It was that love of cycling that brought me to friendship with Bob Berry, a former a native of OB who had moved to Berkeley to attend UC. Bob was living without a car. When we met, he told me of his commute to work at a freight airline based at SFO. Working graveyard shift, Bob took his bike on BART to Daly City station, which was then at the end of the San Francisco line. He then biked to SFO. The next morning, he loaded his bike on one of the airline’s DC3s, flying from SFO to Oakland airport. Then he would ride to the Coliseum BART station. If he got there early enough, that is before morning commute hours, he would be able to take his bike on BART. If not, he would have to ride back to Berkeley by bike.

After several visits to see Bob in Berkeley, we decided that Berkeley was the place for us. At the end of 1979, I had finished a full time job which was my first as a political organizer. Bill Press had left Governor Jerry Brown’s administration after failing to get the legislature to pass an oil profits tax that would fund public transit and alternative fuel research. When I read that Press was trying to qualify the tax as a ballot initiative, I signed on as a signature gatherer. The Tax Big Oil initiative did get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, though it failed to pass in the following election. The experience did succeed in firing me up to engage in more bike and transit activism. I was ready for Berkeley.

So it was on the early morning of February, 29, 1980, that we loaded up our small pickup truck and drove all day. We arrived in the Bay Area that evening. My daughter Dharma later told me that she did not know we were actually moving to a new home. She thought we were going to her grandparents house and was confused when we passed the exit and kept going.

When we got to Bay Area, Bob took us on a quick cultural tour. First stop was the house where Patty Heart was kidnapped on Benvenue Avenue. We then drove to a house on the north side of the Cal campus, where Bob had heard about a party. When we got there we found that the house was owned by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Realizing we had ended up at a Moonie party, we left quickly.

Our first home was an apartment in North Oakland. Bob had a friend who was moving out and still had one last month of paid rent. We used up her last month’s rent, hoping that we would be able to stay. That was not to be. We ended up living with Bob in his basement apartment in a South Berkeley Victorian. Space became available in the flat above Bob, and we were able to move out of the cramped basement.

Our roots in the Bay Area became more secure when I was able to find a job in Point Richmond. I was once again a bike commuter. The following year, we bought the house where I am stilling living today. On Leap Day of 1980, I took a leap of faith and am glad I did.

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Bike Month

I’ve been a bicycle advocate for a long time now, even before I knew about global warming. I started during the first gas shortage in the early seventies. I bought a ten-speed bike and committed myself to finding a job that did not require me to drive to work. Learning how to ride again as an adult showed me how much out of shape I was. Fortunately, I was still young and, through persistence, was able to attain that goal. By the late seventies, I was riding almost 10 miles one way from my home in Ocean Beach in San Diego to my job in Kearny Mesa, much of it uphill. When I moved to the Bay Area, I was able to maintain that commitment to bicycle commuting, first from Berkeley to Point Richmond and later to jobs within Berkeley. I still ride to work today. In addition, I have made a new commitment to never own another car for the rest of my life. I sold my pickup truck a few years after moving to Berkeley. 

Today, if I need a car, I use City CarShare. Most of the time, I can get around on bike and public transit. I am much happier that way. I don’t envy those who are stuck in their cars on crowded freeways. People express fear for my safety on a bike, but I feel much safer than in a car. I have more visibility on a bike, especially when I’m riding in the rain. I usually ride on residential streets where there is less traffic. Yes, I’ve had a few accidents. Fortunately, the injuries have been minor. I know more people who have gotten more messed up in car accidents than by bikes. The exercise I get on a bike keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. I call it bicycle therapy, and I am thankful to be able to do it every day.

Sitting in long gas lines during the first gas crisis got me realizing the damage that car culture was doing to the environment and society. Our dependence on cars had led to suburban sprawl. Those who could afford to own cars were able to move out of cities. Jobs followed with them. The poor left behind in the cities were stuck with underfunded public transit systems. Without cars, good jobs and housing were out of their reach. 

Today, we see a rebirth of our cities. Cars, freeways, and suburbs have lost their charm. I see more people getting on bikes and have more bike lanes to accommodate them. Public transit has improved as ridership has increased. The challenge now is allow more growth in cities without forcing poor people out through gentrification. 

Global warming continues to be a challenge, too. Bicycles alone won’t solve the problem, but bicycles can help a lot. A lot more people could ride that are not riding now. They would ride if they felt safe on the road with other traffic. They would ride if the places they want or need to go are close enough to get to by bike. And they would ride if they realized how fun it is, as well as being a lot cheaper for getting exercise than a yearly gym membership. I would still be a bike advocate, even if there was no global warming. Global warming adds another reason to the list. 

This Thursday will be the twentieth annual Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area. I will celebrate by volunteering at the North Berkeley BART station. Maybe, we’ll see you there, 7:00 am to 9:00 am. Have a happy Bike Month.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment