On a Road Trip Around the World, French Family Parks on Bernal Hill

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Large vehicles modified for mobile habitation tend to attract lots of attention when they’re parked on Bernal Hill. Last weekend your Bernalwood editor paid particular attention to a very large vehicle parked on Bernal Hill that was very clearly intended for mobile habitation.

But this was no ordinary house on wheels. It was a giant-ass overland truck, equipped with four-wheel-drive and substantial cross-country modifications. Specifically, it was what’s called an expedition vehicle — the kind of thing you drive when you’re doing a road trip, say, from Morocco to India. It even had French license plates:

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So stylish. And so clever! Our Municipal Transportation Agency does not yet have an extradition treaty with the government of France, so French license plates are a handy accessory to avoid paying San Francisco parking fines. But we digress…

The graphic on the side of the truck pointed us toward the  Martin autour du monde website:

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That’s where we began to unravel why this apocalypse-ready intercontinental French RV was parked on the top of Bernal Hill. The introduction video provided a mission statement (in French):

A family. A house on wheels. Five years. Five continents. The world is theirs. In search of exceptional places, they cross deserts, oceans, lakes, and towns. On all their routes, they stay close to the people.

Well, at least that’s what I think it said — my French is a little rusty. The basic idea seems to be a kind of modern-day Swiss Family Robinson, only with a French family, a badass RV, an environmental education mission, and a video production contract.

Anyway, Bernalwood also found photos of the truck that’s parked on Bernal Hill, parked in some other rather exotic places. Like this:

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And this:

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At the very least, our new French neighbors are quite good at scenic parking. It was time to welcome them to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood knocked politely on the side of the truck. Frederic Cébron opened the door, and welcomed us inside, where we met his wife Laure, their son Martin, age 9, and daughter Chine, age 6. The interior of the vehicle looked compact, modern, and efficient, like one of those tiny IKEA display apartments they set up inside the stores.

In the back, Martin and Chine were laughing and playing:

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Laure was making some snacks.

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Frederic said the family is in year four of their five-year tour. Along the way, they’ve been documenting innovative ways people are practicing good ecology and sustainable living. They came to San Francisco to visit Recology, our globally fashionable, zero waste-aspiring trash processing facility, as well as several other waste management and recycling initiatives in the Bay Area.

Frederic explained that the family’s journey began with a comprehensive tour of South America. Then they shipped the truck back to Europe, and drove it from Turkey to Tibet via Iran and India. From there it was off to Mongolia, then down to Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In between they make videos like this:

There was a hop to Japan, and an arrival in North America at Montreal. From there they drove to Alaska, down to Vancouver, and eventually to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood encouraged Frederic to call ahead next time they decide to visit Bernal Heights, so we can  arrange a more proper welcome.

As things stand, Frederic said they had a nice stay here, that they’ve enjoyed their view of the I-280 Spaghetti Bowl, and that that only one Bernal neighbor warned the Cébron family that their planet-traversing home on wheels had been parked on Bernal Hill for more than the legal maximum of 72 hours. He also spoke very highly of the neighborly hospitality the family had received when they were parked in Teheran.

The Cébrons are overlanding to San Diego next. After that, they drive into Mexico and around much of Central America, before bringing their five-year journey to an end in Panama.

Against that backdrop, Bernal Heights might not be the most exotic place the family has been. But it may well be one of the most glamorous. Bon voyage, Frederic, Laure, Martin, and Chine!

PHOTOS: Cébrons in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Hey Muni, We Need a Bus to Dogpatch & 22nd Street Caltrain via Cesar Chavez

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Neighbor Mark lives on Alabama Street in Bernal Heights. He’s not a transit planner, but he’s a transit rider, and he sees a gaping hole in Muni’s bus service along Cesar Chavez Boulevard to the (booming) 22nd Street Caltrain Station.

To remedy this, Neighbor Mark wants MUNI to create revive a bus line that goes from Noe Valley to Dogpatch via Cesar Chavez. Here’s his modest proposal:

There isn’t very much industry along the eastern part of Cesar Chavez, east of Hwy. 101, anymore. But there are two big reasons for a line that goes along Cesar Chavez to Third Street and thence to the 22nd St. Caltrain station.

First, Yellow Cab and FedEx drivers could take the bus to their workplaces, which are within a block of this stretch of Cesar Chavez. But primarily, Caltrain has become an essential way for SIlicon Valley workers to get to their jobs. Catrain ridership is at historic highs, and 1500 workers now board Caltrain at 22nd St. every morning, headed for points south.

Right now, there’s no easy way to get to the 22nd Street Station. Yes, you can take the 48-Quintara down 24th St. and over the hill, but this takes a very long time. It would be so much quicker for the bus to head down our remade Cesar Chavez, bypassing Potrero Hill, making a turn at Third St., and heading straight for the station. I’ll bet it would save at least 15 minutes vs. a comparable trip on the 48.

You could start the route at Castro and 26th, or (as I have it) at Church and Cesar Chavez to connect with the J-Church.

Curious as to whether Muni ever had a line down Cesar Chavez, I looked around and found a 1947 Muni map posted by Eric Fischer.

Sure enough, this map shows that a 54M bus began at Castro and 26th, went down 26th and Army Streets all the way to the very end of Army, east of Third Street. Here’s a highlighted version of the 54 line from that 1947 route map:

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As a recovering Caltrain/22nd Street commuter, your Bernalwood editor would like to second Neighbor Mark’s proposal.

Muni, let’s do this.

Extremely Sexy, Extremely Short Raised Bikeway Coming to Part of Our Part of Valencia Street

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As we all know, infrastructure is sexy.

Not the building and construction part… that’s a big honking mess. But when it’s done, infrastructure represents an investment in our collective future, which is why Bernalwood is always glad to learn about new infrastructure projects coming to our humble corner of the citysphere. Extra credit when the new infrastructure is the first of its kind.

Recently, the City unveiled a plan to build some particularly sexy new infrastructure along the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Mission and Cesar Chavez, alongside St. Luke’s Hospital. Its all part of that proposal to improve the sewer system and streetscape for that segment of Valenica, which we told you about a year ago. Well, now the design has solidified, and it includes a plan to create a Scandinavian-style raised pathway for bicycles that will be insanely cool and the first of it’s kind in San Francisco. But oddly, this completely cool new raised bikeway will only extend along part of the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Duncan and Cesar Chavez — which isn’t very big in the first place.

In other words… for one block

Let’s visualize the proposed elevated bikeway site, using the futuristic Google Earth Pro map tool thingy that Neighbor Vanessa generously provided to Bernalwood. Shall we?

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As you can see… Infrastructure! Sexy! First of its kind! The best bikeway in all of San Francisco! But just not very much of it. Hmm.

Here’s what the San Francisco Bike Coalition said about the project:

San Francisco is set to get its first raised bikeway next year! The showcase bikeway is part of the Mission/Valencia Gateway project and will stretch southbound on Valencia Street from Cesar Chavez Street to Duncan Street. This one-block bikeway heralds a completely new type of bicycle infrastructure to our city, one that will become more common in the next few years, as raised bikeways are integrated into the Masonic Avenue and 2nd Street projects.

Raised bikeways are common in great bicycling cities like Copenhagen, but relatively new in the United States. Raised bikeways create a protected bikeway without bollards or barriers, instead building the bikeway at an intermediate level between the sidewalk and roadway.Learn more about raised bikeways and see designs here. 

The raised bikeway is an unexpected but very welcome enhancement to the Mission Valencia Green Gateway project, which wrapped up public outreach last year after three community open houses as well as feedback from hundreds of neighbors and SF Bicycle Coalition members. In addition to the raised bikeway, the final project design also includes wider sidewalks, permeable pavement and two new plazas, one at Mission and Valencia and a smaller one at Duncan and Valencia.

So when this sexy new bikeway is completed sometime in mid-2016, it may herald the beginning of a much larger elevated bikeway network that could extend… all the way across Cesar Chavez! Someday! Or maybe it will even extend all the way to the fabled Southern Crossing. Someday!

In the meantime, come mid-2016, if you want to make the new bikeway feel more substantial, you can simply ride back and forth along it a few times, very slowly. Go back and forth six times, and you’ll cover about a mile. Do that while listening to ABBA on your headphones, and you may even begin to feel like you’re in Scandinavia. So sexy!!!

IMAGE: Elevated bikeway rendering via NACTO

Tonight: Party at The New Wheel to Celebrate a Homegrown Electric Bike

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Miss Karen Wiener, co-founder of the newfangled (and devilishly successful) New Wheel electric bicycle shop on Cortland, shares news that there’s a party at the store beginning at 6 pm tonight to celebrate the release of the Faraday Porteur,  a supersexy new ebike created in San Francisco.

Since you are supersexy and newfangled too, you’re invited to tonight’s party. Plus, FREE CARROTS!  FREE CUCUMBERS! Go crazy!

Miss Karen says:

The New Wheel is throwing a grand party for the Faraday Porteur, a beautiful electric bicycle designed right here in San Francisco. The New Wheel and Faraday have been working together for over two years as Faraday developed their product, ran a successful Kickstarter, and started production.

The party will be the official launch of The New Wheel taking pre-orders for the second production run of Faraday Porteurs, which will be available Spring 2015 in classic white and fabulous British racing green. It will also be an opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine, munch a fresh crispy cucumber and carrot, meet the founder and engineers at Faraday, and take a test ride on the best bicycle for Bernal. So stop by The New Wheel on Thursday, August 7 from 6 to 9pm to experience the future of urban transportation!

PHOTO: A Faraday Porteur climbs Cortland, via The New Wheel

New Wheel Offers Free eBike Loaners During Bike to Work Week

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Miss Karen from The New Wheel, our newfangled electric bike shop on Cortland, writes to share a cool opportunity to borrow one of their impressive ebikes — for free! — during Bike to Work Week:

We have partnered with a bicycle company called Felt to do two group rides (which double as fundraisers for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition) and two days of free ebike rentals during Bike To Work Week. It’s going to be a super-fun way for the fine people of Bernal to participate in Bike To Work Month (even if they don’t have a bike) or to spend a day with an ebike if they are just curious. Here are the details:

E-Bike to Work Day* – May 7, 2014 8am 

Get your legs loosened up the day before the annual Bike to Work Day on an electric bike! The New Wheel is leading the ultimate group ride – to work! We’ll guide you on a scenic ride downtown over Twin Peaks to the Ferry Building astride a pedal assist electric bicycle from Felt. From there you can take the bike for the day to work, or leave it with us. Come in work attire: no need to worry about sweat, traffic bottlenecks, hills or distance!

Meet at The New Wheel (across the street from the Bank of America)
Ages +18
Free to SF Bicycle Coalition Members, $10 suggested donation for non-members

RSVP (Space is limited)

May 8 and 9, 2014 8am – Bike to Work Day (on a loaner Felt ebike)*

Commute by ebike for a day for free! The New Wheel and Felt are partnering to offer 20 lucky riders the opportunity to experience the best ride to work ever on a Bosch powered pedal assist bicycle from Felt.*

May 8 RSVP | May 9 RSVP

May 10, 2014 8am – Breakers to Bay*

On this group ride we’ll guide you on a trip across San Francisco like never before. Trade pain in for fun! You’ll see how fun San Francisco is to cycle on a pedal assist ebike- defying all of your expectations and concurring even the scariest hills. We’ll start in Bernal Heights, head over Twin Peaks and then down to Trouble Coffee at Ocean Beach. From Trouble, we’ll head back across town to the Ferry Building.

Meet at The New Wheel (across the street from the Bank of America)

5-10 miles, gloriously hilly and super fun!
Ages +18
Free to SF Bicycle Coalition Members, $10 suggested donation for non-members

RSVP (Spaces limited)

*Electric bicycles from Felt will be supplied based on RSVP. To borrow a bicycle, we must make an imprint of your credit card and authorize your card for the value of the bike.

Tuesday: Meeting to Discuss Rerouting the Muni 67 Bus on Ripley Street

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There’s been a long-simmering dispute between a group of north Bernal neighbors and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency over the location of the existing 67 Muni bus stop on Ripley Street near Folsom.

Bernalwood is told that a group of neighbors on Ripley really really really want the stop relocated, to avoid gumming up their street with two-way bus traffic.

Here are the specifics of the proposed change, along with the details about a community meeting taking place on Tuesday, January 28 to discuss the matter, via the SFMTA’s public announcement:

Proposed Change

The SFMTA, in response to neighborhood concerns, is proposing a reroute to the inbound 67 Bernal Heights (towards 24th Street BART) via Bernal Heights Boulevard. Buses traveling to the Mission District and 24th Street BART Station would travel on Bernal Heights Boulevard between Bradford and Folsom Streets. Buses traveling towards Cortland Ave. will travel on the existing routing. The proposed routing leads to the following stop changes:

  • The stop at the northwest corner of Ripley St. and Alabama St. would be discontinued.
  • The stop on Ripley at Folsom would move across the street to a stop on Folsom Street before the intersection with Ripley.
  • The stop on Bradford at Esmeralda would move back to the stop sign where Bernal Heights Boulevard and Bradford meet (approximately 80 feet south).

There are no proposed parking changes at this time. There are no planned changes to the street design as part of this project.

Public Outreach Meeting

This proposal will be discussed at a public meeting at the following date and time:

Tuesday, January 28 at 6:00 pm
San Francisco Public Library – Bernal Heights Branch 500 Cortland Avenue

If you have further questions or would like to submit comments regarding the reroute proposal, please contact:

Jeff Flynn
Transit Service Planning Manager – San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Phone: 415.701.4646
Email: jeffrey.flynn@sfmta.com

In advance of the meeting, Bernalwood has received some strongly-worded commentary about the proposed rerouting from several Bernal neighbors. A flyer circulated by Neighbor Veronica says:

Long term residents are been left out of the conversation regarding changes – the notices are limited to a small number of people and not given enough time.

  • We having people who don’t use the service attempt to change something that has been working for over 30 years.
  • The issues they are attempting to tackle can be easily tackled with technology (i.e. communication or mapping devices we use on our phones to see where the buses are.)
  • Our taxes pay for this service.

From your neighbors who use this service all the time, we ask that you support us in keeping this service intact by EMAILING:

Another neighbor summarizes the state of play this way:

The Ripley folks between Alabama and Folsom are lobbying the SFMTA and David Campos to reroute the inbound 67 (toward BART) over Bernal Heights Blvd to avoid the buses passing and getting “stuck” on Ripley.  There’s only one bus line that serves the North Slope and moving the stop at Ripley and Alabama to Bradford and Bernal Heights Blvd effectively cuts it down to ½ bus service.  I use the bus every day to get to BART and I’m perfectly capable of walking to Ripley and Folsom (although my dogs are going to be barking in my high heeled shoes) but there are a number of elderly and disabled persons who may not be able to swing the uphill walk.

A neighbor who now rides the 67 regularly comments:

I moved offices and can now take the 67 every day to work. Its proximity to my house was in the plus column when I bought this place 4+ years ago, after having lived in Bernal 7 years prior. When I had surgery, and couldn’t drive for a month, that stop being across the street meant I could go to the farmers market and up to Cortland for groceries and to be in the world. I would have been isolated otherwise. When I imagine myself being twice my age, still living here, it’s comforting to imagine the same could happen. […]

I worry about the elderly neighbors on Alabama who I think will be more isolated if this goes through. I worry that total ridership might go down and that that might catch the eye of downtown number-crunchers looking at lines to cut. The 67 is really a connector for Bernal, and I don’t want to see that go away.

I’m sure people who live between Alabama and Folsom on Ripley would be thrilled to see the change. That block is narrow and driving it can be kind of a pain. Frankly, though, it feels very Bernal-y, every time I drive that block and see an approaching 67 and pull over so it can pass. The driver and I wave to each other. It’s friendly and neighborly.

And a neighbor on Folsom writes:

Wow! The SFMTA actually listened to the neighbors. I’m impressed. Ripley neighbors will rejoice!

This isn’t so bad, but then, I don’t know anyone who will be directly affected by the changes. I’m not sure how many people use the Ripley/ Alabama stop [that will be discontinued], but making the bus stop at the top of Folsom at Ripley isn’t so bad. I like the idea of the bus stopping at the top of the hill. It seems like people would want that, instead of having to walk a couple more blocks up. There were more extreme options, including making Ripley one way.

My only concern is that there is much more traffic on Folsom that will have to stop or go around buses. Perhaps that will slow people down but… probably not.

Proposals like this are inevitably contentious, so if you have an interest in the matter, Tuesday’s meeting at the Bernal library will be a good place to make your views known.

PHOTO: Top, Telstar Logistics

Heartfelt Introduces Citywide Delivery Service via Newfangled Electric Bike

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Miss Darcy from Heartfelt on Cortland wrote Bernalwood to give us the scoop on Heartfelt’s new online store and the eco-sexy bicycle delivery service that will support it around town:

Heartfelt is proud to announce the launch of their online store and accompanying bike delivery service within San Francisco.  Our goal is to offer folks an alternative to the sometimes bland online shopping experience of larger companies.  We offer a unique selection of gifts with a personal flair.  [Unsure what to get an acquaintance or even a close friend? Email Darcy Lee at darcysheartfeltpix*at*gmail.com and she will personally send you 3-4 recommendations to choose from.]

We think of this launch as a Bernal collaboration of local business. The bike itself was purchased at the electric bike shop The New Wheel, and Heartfelt will be offering gift boxes from fellow Bernal vendors such as Succulence, Little Bee Bakery, Paulie’ s Pickling, and Anda Piroshki.

Wave if you see us delivering around town!

PHOTO: via Heartfelt