Friday, September 26, 2014

Jake Shimabukuro Mix

Board of Supervisors violate Brown Act by lengthy discussion of housing element off record.

Flap erupts over Marin board's 'off agenda' housing chat

By Nels @nelsjohnsonnews on Twitter

A legal kerfuffle involving the public's right to know erupted this week as an attorney representing housing policy foes squared off with county officials on state anti-secrecy law.

Attorney Ed Yates of San Rafael, representing Community Venture Partners, says county supervisors violated key provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act by discussing housing issues that were not on the agenda of a public meeting last month. His client, Community Venture Partners, an organization headed by housing policy critic Bob Silvestri, says it believes "those most in need of affordable housing solutions are best served by a bottom up approach to planning, development and government decision making."

Yates, citing "substantial violation of central provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act," filed a letter with the county Board of Supervisors that "demands that you cease and desist such violations." The county must respond within 60 days, at which time the matter could proceed to court.

County Counsel Steve Woodside, saying Yates' Brown Act complaint is all bark and no bite, asserted nothing illegal or otherwise inappropriate was done regarding the board's "off agenda" exchange.

At issue is a housing discussion requested by Supervisor Katie Rice during a period for supervisors' statements as a regular board meeting began Aug. 19. The matter was not on the agenda, but she inquired about housing policy procedures, and development chief Brian Crawford, alerted to attend, outlined issues. No deliberation or decision was made.
Yates, noting the discussion lasted 26 minutes, said the law requires notice be given, including an agenda listing, and added that the county violation of the Brown Act was "crystal clear."

The county's top lawyer begged to differ. "I looked at the tape of the meeting," Woodside said. "Nothing illegal was done."

"Asking staff to provide information on a subject not on the agenda ... is not a violation of the Brown Act or anti-secrecy law," Supervisor Rice said. "I asked Brian to provide information about the housing element update so as to highlight the opportunities for public participation throughout, including upcoming Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors' meetings," she said. "Seems like providing clarity on the process is a good thing ... encouraging public participation and assuring an open and transparent public process."

Next time, Yates indicated, make sure the discussion is posted on the agenda so that those interested can attend and opine.

Editor's Note:  Referring to a legitimate discussion of a Brown Act Violation is not a "kerfluffle'.  It is a fundamental violation of citizen rights.  We simply want to be part of the conversation of public policy.  The county attorney's response that "nothing illegal was done" which was not alleged but the fact the discussion needed to be properly noticed is undisputable

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marin Voice: Why we need to keep speaking out on housing plan

Marin Voice: Why we need to keep speaking out on housing plan

By Bob Silvestri

The proposed Marin County Housing Element has produced a great deal of discussion lately. Unfortunately, it's been "dumbed down" to being a "for" or "against" argument. This kind of "straw man debate" distracts from the real issues, does a disservice to the community and does nothing to address our affordable housing challenges.

We're also told that those who disagree with the element are only "against" things and have no solutions. Nothing could be further from the truth. But sometimes one has to stop bad solutions in order to make room so better solutions can prosper.

Public criticism of the element is a good thing. But the devil, as they say, is in the details and that is what this discussion is and should be about.

Community Venture Partners, a nonprofit I recently founded, has taken an increasingly active role in monitoring local government and supporting a more responsive public process. Toward that end we've made comments on the element and how the county has been conducting its hearings. These comments serve simple objectives: to bring about better governance and decision-making, to ensure that our county's public process is based on accurate information and adheres to the law, and to promote greater transparency and accountability.

If sometimes accomplishing that requires legal action, so be it.

We fully acknowledge and understand the county's responsibilities to adopt a housing plan that makes a reasonable and good faith effort to address the state's growth projections and affordable housing quota for Marin. While many of us may feel the entire system of state quotas is nonsensical, that's an issue we need to deal with separately and one that we're going to have to take higher up the ladder to be effective about.

But at the local level, what we object to is a public process that is increasingly driven by state and regional agencies stepping outside of their legal authority to compel local municipalities to meet artificial and legally questionable requirements.

We object to public hearings that make a mockery of public input and consistently arrive at predetermined conclusions. We object to a plan that exceeds the county's legal obligations by over 400 percent, while ignoring its infrastructure and public service impacts.

And we object to decision-making based on incomplete and often inaccurate information, which is repeated over and over at public hearings, even though the county has been advised otherwise.

So when Supervisor Katie Rice sends out a newsletter stating that "proposals for development of any parcel are required to conform to local code, community plans," etc., when state housing-density bonus law specifically overrides all of those, we feel a need to correct that.

And when Planning Commissioner Wade Holland tells his colleagues that it's "too late" to change the number of sites or units based on public comment (when Ms. Rice has just assured us in her newsletter that it's a long process with plenty of time to comment), we feel a need to protest that.

I'm sorry if democracy is "messy," but the law applies to us all. And that is a very good thing. This is the spirit in which we bring our arguments and criticisms.

In fact, I believe it's our fundamental civic responsibility to question the actions and decisions of our government and elected representatives on any matters at any time, regardless of whether the views expressed are "left" or "right," Democrat or Republican, or popular or unpopular or politically correct to discuss.

And in the meantime, some of us will continue working diligently on more socially equitable and economically and environmentally sustainable solutions that must come next.

Bob Silvestri of Mill Valley is president of Community Venture Partners.

Six Iranians arrested for making a "Happy" Video

The Richmond Bridge Bike Path – A Bridge too Far?

The Richmond Bridge Bike Path – A Bridge too Far?

The Richmond Bridge Bike Path – A Bridge too Far?
While acknowledging that bicycle infrastructure is behind the curve and merits increased expenditure, we are seeing bike path projects where expenditures have been getting out of hand. Transportation funding is dwindling, the SMART train already diverted $11.4m of funding earmarked to solve congestion at the 101 Greenbrae interchange.
Thanks to highly effective bicycle lobbyists and “transit oriented development” Marin’s commuters face another diversion of transportation funding.  The Cal Park tunnel  project works out at a cost of $675,000 to remove one car from our roads. That’s quite an extraordinary expense.  And we now look set to follow this boondoggle with another bike path costing even more over the Richmond San Rafael Bridge.

The Cal Park Tunnel – the $27m Bikers Boondoggle

SF Streetsblog, a pro-cycling and TOD site, reports:
After 17 years of planning, the Cal Park tunnel will open to Marin County cyclists today, providing a shorter, safer route between San Rafael and the Larkspur Ferry for an estimated 800,000 riders a year.
The 1.1-mile project includes class 1 bike lanes to connect the 1,106-foot bore with Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on the south and Anderson Road in San Rafael
So how much did the project cost? The initial estimate was $3m but by completion the cost had ballooned to $27m.

Claim: 800,000 Annual Riders. Reality: 40 an Hour at Peak

It’s claimed that tunnel will be used by 800,000 riders a year –  a seemingly enormous number. This translates to 2,191 riders today if the claim is to be believed. Consider for perspective that the population of Marin is only 258,365 according to the latest US Census figures.
This 800,000 figure is conveniently manipulated – inflating ridership into an annual figure. Google does not reveal any source or basis from which this figure were derived as a future projection. If we were to use the same basis of calculation to assess 101 traffic today (not the future) at N San Pedro Road we could arrive at this comparson:
Cal Park Bike Users:        800,000
(projected annual future, date unspecified)
101 Users :  135,050,000
(2013 actual)
Even using this highly inflated 800,000 pie in the sky number the annual bike count in the future is 0.6% of 101 use.
Today, nearly four years after the tunnel’s completion the reality is far from the story we’ve been sold of 800,000 annual or 2,191 daily users. Walk Bike Marin publishes bike counts for 18 locations with the total ridership at peak hour for weekdays an aggregate of 963 last year. This peaked 2 years prior in 2011 at 1,295 cyclists per hour across the 18 locations. Cal Park tunnel was one of those locations.
Cal Park Tunnel Bike Counts
Click for larger image
The actual bike counts for Cal Park tunnel itself are dismal – attaining an initial 60 riders average per hour during weekday peaks in 2011 but since dropping to just 40 in 2013 (see chart, left).
If the 800,000 riders per year claim is to believed we should be seeing 2,191 riders per day – most during those peak hours. Not a mere 40.
Then we need to translate the benefit –  it might be argued that the tunnel removed 40 riders from Marin’s roads during peak rush hour. Of course this is  optimistic – it’s likely that some of those 40 were already commuting by bike, the tunnel improved their commute.
Here’s the math using the optimistic assumptions:
Expenditure: $27 million
Cars Removed: 40 at best (some cyclists may have cycled prior to the tunnel’s construction)
Cost per Car Removed: $675,000
Compare this to the Novato Narrows project to add HOV lanes to 101. A recent 1.3 mile section of the project cost just $9m and will increase capacity by 1,200 cars or 1,356 people at peak – equivalent to add a capacity of 1 person for $6,637. That capacity will get used. The Novato Narrows increases transportation capacity for less than a hundredth of the cost of the Cal Park tunnel bike path.
Imagine – how many people would take transit or bike or work from home if we paid them anything even close to $675,000. This represents an almighty benefit from the taxpayer to a very small  group. Name another group that receives anything like that amount. Imagine if we had spent that same $27m on genuine traffic choke points in Marin – how much could we have increased mobility and road capacity?

The Richmond Bridge Bike Path – the Next Boondoggle

RichmondBridgeBikesOne would have thought we would have learned from the Cal Park Tunnel boondoggle. But no – the next boondoggle is lining itself up – the Richmond Bridge bike path.
Here are the actual statistics on Richmond Bridge traffic counts vs. likely bike usage. On page 108 of  Caltrans “2013 Traffic Volumes on California State Highways“ the Richmond Parkway traffic count for peak is 13,000 vehicles per hour. This bridge has acute traffic issues with substantial daily backups.
The US Department of Transportation’s 2009 Travel Trends Survey  tells us that average vehicle occupancy for trips to and from work is 1.13. This means 14,690 vehicle users who are directly delayed or inconvenienced; this traffic routinely backs up onto highway 101 further delaying an additional 14,000+ vehicles per hour at Lucky Drive or 15,280 people. That’s 131m users annually if we apply the bike lobbies counting method (but this is an actual, not an unsubstantiated forecast). This lost time of those 131m road users translates into real impact, in terms of both time wasted and economic waste. For instance in the time spent in traffic:
  • a plumber or electrician could have fitted in another call (e.g. a plumber, electrician…)
  • someone who would have taken a shopping trip would be dissuaded from doing so due to known traffic delays
  • a worker who could otherwise have commuted to Marin would discount considering a job in our county due to the severe traffic delays
  • a company considering locating in Marin might be turned away by our transportation issues, causing an economic opportunity loss
Walk Bike Marin's Bike Path Counts - click for larger image
Walk Bike Marin’s Bike Path Counts – click for larger image
By comparison Walk Bike Marin’s bike count figures show 963 bikes were counted at 18 different Marin locations during peak hours. That works out at 53.5 cyclists per location. Therefore we might reasonable assume bridge usage would look like this during a peak hour:
Vehicle users: 14,690
Bike users: 53.5
Bike users as a percentage of vehicle users: 0.37%
(It’s a near meaningless figure, almost a rounding error).
The cost of adding an extra lane to the Richmond San Rafeal Bridge is estimated to be $70m (Source: MarinIJ, Sept 22nd 2014). But the majority of the expense and reasons for delay is that complex planning is needed to build the entrance to the bike path that is planned along the upper deck of the bridge. The author would suggest that at least half of the $70m is to plan the bike path. This is the Cal Park tunnel all over again – $35m+ to help a small number of cyclists.
The real impact is that tens of thousands of vehicle users on the Richmond Bridge and on 101 (caused by backups) are being delayed all for the benefit of a tiny handful of  cyclists. This just isn’t sustainable – either economically or in terms of emissions.

Benefits of a Bike Path Network

Richmond Bridge current car users vs. likely cyclists - click for larger image
Richmond Bridge current car users vs. likely cyclists – click for larger image
It’s important to point out that Marin does not have a complete bike path network. Creation of such a network could double or triple bike usage. But even when tripled the numbers remain in the weeds compared to car use.
Only the most hardened riders would cross a long, cold, windy bridge such as the Richmond San Rafael.
Instead of channeling money into “hero projects” we should be seeking to improve the most popular bike paths where there is a realistic return on investment. How many miles of regular bike paths could have been built using the millions spent on the Cal Park Tunnel or now set to be spent on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge bike path?
Ultimately this misallocation to “hero project” bike paths is a disservice to bikers. How many accidents could have been avoided? How many more might have cycled to school and removed cars from our roads?

The Moral – Let’s Restore Accountability

Federal Gas Tax Revenue is Falling
Federal Gas Tax Revenue is Falling. Source Pew analysis of Federal Highway Administration Data. Click to see larger image.
Transportation funding is being squeezed:
  • Gas taxes are dropping as cars are becoming increasingly fuel efficient, with more hybrids and EVs on our roads – especially in Marin
  • Funds generated by cars through gas taxes and bridge tolls are being diverted to pet projects such as the SMART train and these hero bike projects.
We simply cannot afford to be ineffective with our tax dollars. This is affecting thousands of people every day through delays, lost income, lost economic benefits and time spent in traffic we’ll never get back.
Let’s demand sanity and ensure that adding an additional Eastbound lane to the Richmond San Rafael Bridge is not delayed any further.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In Europe and America, Segregation Continues

Editor's Note:  I find the obsession with race, one of the more unfortunate aspects of ABAG urban planning and HUD mandates.  What does someone's ancestry or skin tone have to do with good social policy?  The policies focus on the superficial while ignoring true diversity of culture and freedom of choice.  We don't expect everyone to eat the same food or listen to the same music.  Why should we expect that everyone wants to live in the same neighborhoods?  Diversity enriches us.  The marketplace of ideas and cultures will thrive WITHOUT government social engineering.  Let us be free.

In Europe and America, Segregation Continues

A new report outlines drivers and patterns of residential segregation—and why they are so hard to break.
A mural in the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The city is one of the most racially and economically segregated in America. (Stephanie Barto/Flickr)
Chatham, a historically working-class, majority African-American neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, has had its share of post-recession struggles. Joyce Sallie has lived there for a year and a half, and says the area has declined in several ways. In the time she's lived there, she has witnessed three shootings.
"People be shocked that I still live where I live because it's so bad ... gang-infested, germ-infested, dirty," says the 25-year-old Boston Market employee. "I wouldn't wish my neighborhood on my worst enemy."
The Chatham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. (Google)
Chicago is one U.S. city where residential segregation is especially visible, something that a new report released by the Migration Policy Institute backs up. The report examines patterns and drivers of segregation in cities in Europe and America along racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines.
There's nothing inherently bad about segregation, says John Iceland, sociology professor at Penn State and author of the report. It's natural that people want their neighbors to share their experiences and culture. But in practice, residential segregation is an indicator of social distance between groups. It reproduces and reinforces social inequalities—school quality, joblessness, poverty, and crime—which persist over generations.
"It’s kind of the legacy of these 'black ghettos' in these rust belt cities … they don’t go away," he says.
This map, based on 2010 Census block data shows the racial segregation in Chicago's South Side.
The report shows that the structure of cities has a large influence on residential segregation. American cities tend to be sprawled out, which isolates spaces where low-income groups and minorities live, says Iceland. European cities, on the other hand, are denser and more compact; fewer physical divisions means that these cities are less segregated in general, the report says.
In America, African-Americans are still most residentially segregated as a direct result of Jim Crow segregation laws and discriminatory housing policies that gave blacks little choice as far as neighborhood mobility. Vestigial discrimination from these policies remains, even in Hispanic and Asian populations, which tend to live in more "integrated" neighborhoods.
In Europe, on the other hand, it's immigrant populations—specifically Muslim ones—that live in insular neighborhoods. In Britain, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis clot together; in the Hague, it's Turkish and Moroccan communities; and in France, North-African and Caribbean groups. 
When immigrants arrive in a new city, they move into what Iceland calls "ethnic enclaves" because they seek familiar faces and culturally similar support networks. The report says that subsequent generations of immigrants actually tend to move away from these enclaves, signaling a higher degree of assimilation. Despite this, these generations still show restricted upward mobility.
While the roots of segregation may be different, the effects are similar across the board, the report says. So if segregation is both the disease and the symptom, what's the cure?
In European cities, policymakers have had a neighborhood-focused approach to chipping away at residential segregation, trying to improve conditions in situ. In France, for instance, the government has tried urban renewal programs and given tax breaks to businesses to lure them to the neighborhoods, says Patrick Simon, research director at National Demographic Institute at Sciences Po inParis. Other cities, including Berlin, Rotterdam, and Frankfurt, have experimented with housing-allocation programs aimed at diluting the concentrations of ethnic populations in certain neighborhoods. In America,housing vouchers and scattered-site public housing initiatives enable low-income families to move to neighborhoods with better resources. All of these have helped to some extent, but the overall the effects are small, says Iceland. A mixed approach tackling the economic inequalities and a broader look at immigrant integration are strategies to consider, he says.
A new initiative called Cities for Citizenship aims to do the latter. The campaign, launched by the mayors of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and in partnership with nonprofit organizations, offers eligible immigrants help with the naturalization process. Despite working lawfully, 52 percent of permanent residents are low-income, and making the switch to U.S. citizenship is one of the most important things immigrants can do to advance economically, says Joshua Hoyt, director of National Partnership for New Americans, one of the partnering nonprofits.
Iceland thinks this might help.
"Helping people feel a part of their host society—be it in the U.S., or in France, or any other place—is critical,” says Iceland.
New United States citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a naturalization ceremony in July. Reports show that citizenship unlocks significant economic benefits for immigrants.  
But a comprehensive solution to this historical, complex, and multi-layered problem remains elusive, and stereotypes keep the physical divisions intact. A white resident of downtown Chicago, for example, might not consider the South Side a safe or viable place to live, even though not all neighborhoods are in the same condition as Chatham. A black South Side resident, may just as well not want to live in an all-white area because of the threat of discrimination, says Iceland.
If Sallie had the resources, she would personally love to live in downtown Chicago. But for the moment, anywhere else is better than Chatham.
"I don't know what other people do," she says. "Me—I got to go."

Alternative Transportation experiments

Reliant Robin, a failed experiment in three wheeled Automobiles Ecomobile

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

If Senate Bill 628 is signed by Gov Brown, this could mean the end of Marin County as we know it.


This is a huge deal.   Under this new law, a group of government agencies can form their own PDAs and force the local residents to pay extra taxes for the "improvements" to their neighborhoods.   We must all oppose this outrageous attack on local neighborhoods by politicians and crony developers.


Stephen Nestel




SB 628-Infrastructure Financing Districts
(redevelopment on steriods)
(sounds like SB1 under another name)
Stop Plan Bay Area
SB-628 Could Help Fund PDAs
(Tell Gov Brown to VETO this bill)

Senate Bill 628 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, surfaced just four days before adjournment.
It would re-establish local government redevelopment agencies
as "enhanced infrastructure financing districts" with virtually all their former powers.
But it eliminates many of redevelopment's safeguards, such as a requirement to establish "blight," and also lowers the vote for bonds to 55 percent. Thus, it would re-establish - and even enhance - cities' ability to engage in crony capitalism with subsidies for favored developers. Read the full article here
Lawmakers Approve Legislation Giving Cities More Robust Tools for Building Infrastructure
By Justin Ewers.
After years of seeking more authority to make much-needed investments in local infrastructure and economic development projects, California's local governments were handed a robust new financing tool by the Legislature last week when lawmakers approved Senator Jim Beall's SB 628, a bill that expands the authority of an existing investment mechanism known as Infrastructure Financing Districts.  Read more here
State Senator Jim Beall
(author of SB 628)
SACRAMENTO -- Furnishing local governments with a new way to pay for improving and expanding their infrastructure, the Legislature today approved Senator Jim Beall's SB 628. The bill now goes to the Governor for his consideration.  
"This bill will help local jurisdictions finance transportation projects and transit-oriented development,'' Beall said. "The cost of maintaining or building much-needed transportation projects is estimated to be over $500 billion over the next decade for the entire state".  - See more here
The bill is sitting of Gov Brown's desk

Contact Info for Gov. Brown's office: Ask him to VETO
California Governor Jerry Brown
State Capitol, 1st Fl., Sacramento, CA 95814
Citizens MUST oppose this law 
Speak Up



Monday, September 22, 2014

Marin Voice: Marin sustainability plan pushes housing densities

Marin Voice: Marin sustainability plan pushes housing densities

By Kevin Haroff

Bridge Housing's Apartment complex in downtown San Rafael is a model for Marinwood Village.

Marin County recently announced its intent to move forward with an ambitious plan to address the growing challenge of global climate change.

The plan is described in the county's 255-page draft Climate Action Plan 2014 Update that is now out for public comment.

The plan promotes a variety of climate-related strategies, from encouraging energy efficiency to the adoption of greenhouse gas performance standards for new project development.

There is widespread agreement that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face as a society. While policymakers have struggled to respond at the national level, California has taken a leading role through adoption of a statewide GHG cap and trade program, improved standards for vehicle emissions and transportation fuels, and similar measures.

Our ability to effect change at the county level, however, may be more limited.
Ironically, the 2014 update promotes the county's use of land-use and transportation planning strategies as a key climate-change mitigation tool.

Land-use management strategies are highlighted as an "essential part" of the new plan, with "far-reaching community co-benefits," according to the draft document.
These measures, the draft says, will "directly target land-use patterns to allow appropriate densities and improve the diversity of housing types," while promoting "an integrated, multi-modal transportation network."

Yet the projected benefits are relatively trivial — barely 3 percent of the total GHG reductions envisioned by the year 2020.

What is going on here?

It is far from clear how continued promotion of high-density, transit-oriented development will really enhance the fight against global warming in Marin County. At the same time, it raises legitimate questions as to whether climate change is just another way to provide cover for a higher level of urbanization in our traditionally rural and suburban communities. 
We have seen this before.

SB 375, the 2008 legislation underlying Plan Bay Area, explicitly encouraged transit-oriented development as a way to achieve the state's GHG-reduction goals.
At least some Marin residents don't seem to buy that connection, as evidenced by the widespread community rejection of proposed high-density development in the now-scuttled Larkspur Landing SMART Station Area Plan.

One of the more troubling aspects of SB 375 was its endorsement of exemptions for qualified projects from the environmental review requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

This trend has been carried over into the county's update, which also would streamline CEQA review for future development projects deemed consistent with purported GHG-reduction measures identified in the plan.

One wonders whether this kind of shortcut around the requirements of state law — ostensibly in the name of attacking global climate change — is really something our community leaders should be advocating.

The county expects to hold public workshops and receive feedback on the update in the near future. Hopefully, that input will reflect a healthy skepticism over the plan's policy justifications for development proposals that could alter the character of our community for years to come.

Kevin Haroff is an environmental and land-use attorney with Marten Law PLLC. He is also a member of the Larkspur City Council and the city's representative on the Marin Clean Energy board.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bicycles That Blur the Line Between a Bike and a Car

Editor Notes:  When I moved up from Southern California, I wanted to live in Marin to be close to nature, good schools and close enough to the City for commuting. As a bike commuter in Los Angeles, I knew the benefits.  Sadly, the location and requirements of my job changed, making bicycle commuting impractical for me.  I still love biking but recognize for most people whose jobs are not in employment centers or require the movement of materials or efficient movement between locations, bicycle commuting will never be more than a tiny percentage of commuters.  If you are fortunate to bicycle commute, check out these cool bike products.

Bicycles That Blur the Line Between a Bike and a Car

Bicycles with integrated headlights, anti-theft systems and other auto-like features are making it safer—and more fun—to pedal the streets. A look at the Stromer ST2, Trek Lync and Denny

Updated Sept. 19, 2014 9:07 p.m. ET
Oliver Munday
ONE DAY, bikes that don't change gears for you automatically could seem as quaint as a stick-shift car. And riding a model without built-in lights will seem as crazy as driving with your headlights out.
That future is closer than you might think. Batteries that power these upgrades have gotten smaller, lighter and longer lasting—enabling bike makers to trick out their new models with carlike features. This improves both safety and performance. The goal isn't just to wow bike enthusiasts; it's also to attract people who may be reluctant to bike on busy streets.
Here are three new models that begin to blur the line between auto and bicycle.
The High-Performance Hybrid | Stromer ST2
The Stromer ST2 electric bike has regenerative braking similar to a hybrid car.
The ultimate autolike bike at the moment is probably the Stromer ST2 ($6,990,, an electric model from Switzerland that's the Tesla of the transportation-biking world. It has a "boost mode" to give riders super-pedaling powers (with potential to reach nearly 30 miles an hour) and a system that recharges the battery when you brake or coast down long hills—similar to a hybrid car.
A touch screen on the frame's top tube lets you adjust the bike's performance and lock the rear wheel to prevent theft. If your bike does get stolen, you can track it down via the built-in GPS. Because the Stromer ST2's system can be accessed over a cellular network (as well as Bluetooth), all of these functions can be operated from afar using your smartphone: Lock or unlock your bike from anywhere, or even let Stromer's technicians run diagnostics on your ride remotely.
Stromer CEO Christian Müller said it makes sense that bikes are adopting more features like these. "There are people who are replacing their cars with bikes," he said. "It is beginning to happen in the United States. In Europe it has been happening for at least five years."
The Everyman Ride | Trek Lync
The Trek Lync's powerful head- and taillights sit nearly flush with the bike's frame.
At first glance, the integrated LED headlight and taillights that are built into the Trek Lync's lightweight aluminum frame may not seem so revolutionary. After all, for about $50 you can buy lights to screw onto your handle bar and seat post. But those lights' output of around 50 lumens is puny compared with the Lync's system. The Lync's 550-lumen headlight is comparable to high-end aftermarket bike lights costing $200 or more.
The look is also much cleaner. The lights sit nearly flush with the bike surface, and wires running to the removable, USB-rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (about the size of an iPhone but lighter) are hidden inside the frame tubes. The two-button controller is nested discreetly on the underside of the top tube.
"Even a couple of years ago, integrated lighting like this would have been cost prohibitive," said Trek senior product manager Darren Snyder. The battery cell used in these types of lights is similar to that of laptop batteries, which have become smaller, more powerful and less expensive, allowing Trek to deliver integrated lighting relatively affordably: The 9-speed Lync 3 ( costs $990, which is midrange for a city bike, while the Lync 5—with 27 speeds, a few nicer parts and a haul rack—costs a reasonable $1,320.
The Next-Gen Auto Bike | The Fuji Denny
The Denny's front rack has a strip of lights on each side that function as turn signals.
Meanwhile, Fuji is working to debut a model next summer that's intended to take the place of a car entirely: the Denny. The bike's prototype design was the winner of the recent Oregon Manifest Bike-Design Project, a competition to create an "ultimate utility bike" that includes what are essentially carlike features, such as an antitheft system, lighting and more cargo capacity.
In addition to features like integrated turn signals, brake lights and an electric motor that kicks in to help you pedal up steep inclines, the Denny also has the equivalent of an automatic transmission: Its battery-powered auto-shifting feature senses when you're pedaling faster or slower than you need to be, and will shift gears up or down accordingly.
Lower-tech details include innovative fenders with stiff, strategically-placed bristles that sweep aside water and grit as they fly off the tire so they don't hit the rider.
The challenge now for Fuji is figuring out how to mass-produce the Denny. The company may have to modify the design to ensure it meets industry requirements for world-wide sale. Fuji may also release a midprice version with fewer features to appeal to more price-conscious consumers (price to be determined,
Car-ify Your Ride // Four Auto-Inspired Safety Accessories for Bikers
Zackees Turn Signal Gloves
Signals That Shine
Hand signals may be old fashioned, but Zackees Turn Signal Gloves make these simple gestures as conspicuous as a car's indicators by putting a big, bright, blinking arrow on the back of each hand. Zackees have tiny contact plates on the thumb and index finger that you touch together to activate the arrows. A light sensor allows the gloves to shine brighter during daytime than at night. These padded gloves are waterproof and machine washable (on a delicate cycle), their batteries rechargeable via USB dock. $75,
A Horn That Roars
The Orp bike horn emits two very different sounds. Flip the switch up for a friendly, singsong chirp; press down to unleash a shrill screech that, at 96 decibels, is on par with some car horns. The Orp has a setting called "Anti-Dooring Mode," during which the alarm beeps and the light flashes to alert parked drivers that you're cruising by. $65,
Revolights Skyline
Lights That Blaze
The Revolights Skyline is a ring system that's outfitted with 24 LED lights. As your wheels spin, a micro controller figures out which lights are at the front or rear edges of the wheel and turns only those on. Not only are these de facto head- and taillights visible from every angle, but the rear lights blink when you slow down, creating an eye-catching brake-light effect, and the front light is bright enough to illuminate road ahead. $199,
A Concealed Cam
Many cyclists attach GoPros or other mountable video cameras to their handlebars or helmets to document any run-ins they may have with aggressive drivers. The Fly6—a wide-angle, high-def video camera tucked inside a typical blinking safety light—is a sleeker solution. After you push a button to start taping, the Fly6 records a five-hour continuous loop, automatically writing over old footage. $159,