Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Vision Zero

Last month, I attended a ceremony where a ghost bike was placed for a man killed while bicycling home from his job.  That man was killed by a hit-and-run automobile driver.

I do my best to avoid calling cars "death machines" as I bike around town, but some days are tougher than others.  When someone actually dies at the hands of a motorist, in the area where I've just moved to, it shakes me up.

I am calling this an act of terrorism defined as: unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

Militant motorists want to keep the streets purely for vehicles, with unrestricted flow, at high speed. There are groups of residents who exert political pressure on city council to maintain this agenda.

The man killed in Winnetka is said to have been the victim of a purposeful crime.  A truck swerved in order to hit the man on his bicycle.  Has the criminal been found?  Yes.  But what will be the consequences?  What value will be placed on the human life that was ended?

Victims of terrorism tend to want to do something.  Feelings such as shock, outrage, sadness, rage, depression, and anger are normal.  At the placement of the ghost bike, we were directed to pray for the 2nd man who was in critical condition at a local hospital.  This did give me something (peaceful) to do.  Has the second man recovered?  What were the extent of his injuries?  Will the motorist be financially liable for the hospital bills of this man?

Of cyclists, I am of the populist vehicular variety. At a recent community meeting where a "road diet" was presented, a resident of my city suggested that if I were cycling in the street, he may just "tap" me with his truck to let me know that he's there.  He asked me what I'd do.  I told him that I would turn over GoPro footage of the incident to the police.  He asked if I've ever done that before.  I said, "not yet."

I feel like some motorists are engaging in intentional intimidation in an effort to reduce the number of people who will ride their bicycles on city streets in a vehicular manner.

While I agree with John Forester, that creating off-street bike paths reduces the visibility of cyclists and therefore does nothing to bridge the bikes vs. cars debate, if you want to see more miles of bike paths, consider signing this petition to support a feasibility study for the Verdugo Wash.  If you prefer to sign in person, come visit me at CicLAvia ~ Glendale Meets Atwater.  I'll be at the Walk Bike Glendale / LACBC / Bikecar101 booth at the Central Hub from 1-3pm.

I don't think the idea of Vision Zero is to actually reduce the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobiles to zero, but to invest in infrastructure improvements that would continue to make the streets safer for the most "vulnerable road users."  I actually don't like that term, but it's true.  When I don't have 2000 lbs of steel and airbags surrounding me, I am literally more vulnerable!  Maybe I don't like the term because I have to believe I will survive out there in order to continue the vehicular cycling behavior I enjoy.  I don't like to think about how vulnerable I am out there.

One thing I got out of the ghost bike placement is that we acknowledged that "that could have been me."  Or any number of other people I know and love that engage in vehicular cycling.

My personal reaction to my fear (generated from the man killed while cycling on Winnetka) was to put on more blinky lights than usual and bike to the ceremony.  My husband thought I was being crazy, but if you let your fear prevent you from vehicular cycling then the terrorists win.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


In the Web of Science you can use a star as a wildcard.  Therefore trans* would return articles about any of the following topics:

  • Transportation, transect
  • Transformation, transmutation
  • Transcription, transmission
  • Transparency, translucent
  • Transient, transition
  • Transpiration, transplants
  • Transcendental, transfixed
  • Transference, transfusion
  • Transnational, translation
  • Transformers: The Last Knight (in theaters June 23)

When I get a theme in my head, I want to flush it out by writing.  I have a lot about transportation on my mind right now.  It's bike month.  I didn't go to the "ride of silence" this year, but I think I'll go to the placement of a ghost bike on 6530 Winnetka St.  It's shameful that cyclists are being hit by cars on such wide roads as we have here in the valley.  It's like cyclists are transparent (invisible).

Summer is here and the cacti are flowering.  Other plants are transpiring a lot of water and I'm not sure if they'll survive the summer without being transplanted into a different container or being transported to a different location.  We're surviving our transition to living in Northridge.  It's easier to get to campus, for sure.  But harder to get to Walk Bike Glendale meetings and events in LA.

I'm hoping people can get more transnational.  The science march was almost pointless, the rest of the world saw us carrying signs with "nerd jokes" that only other science people would understand.  The new acronym now is STEAM'D which stands for Science Technology Engineering Art Math and Design.  We need a transfusion of political will to deal with the current reality.
The summer classrooms where I'll be teaching have gender-neutral restrooms near them.  I went in there to scope it out.  Transgender people are welcome at CSUN.  I have transcripts from my CHEM 101 lectures that still need to be edited and uploaded to the videos on YouTube.  Why do I have 55 cycling videos on my YouTube channel?  Nobody really watches them.  Hopeless transmission.

I had transformers (toys) as a child.  That was my favorite toy.  I've always wished I were a boy.  I feel it's hard to be taken seriously as a girl.  But I do love biking in a dress.  In my new free time, I feel like I should do some more meditation.  Go transcendental.  Become transfixed.  But so far, the only way I can really clear my head is rollerskating or cycling.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

23 Reasons Why You Need a Milk Crate on Your Bicycle

If you've never had a milk crate on your bike rack, you are missing out on one of the most versatile ways to haul a diverse array of items.  I will present some of the most compelling reasons here. Invest in yourself to celebrate Bike Month and consider adding a milk crate to your commuting setup.  It's more affordable than a set of the cheapest panniers.

You can find a milk crate in the office supply store, hardware store, or superstore in the home organization section.  Or better yet, find one in the trash to upcycle.  I've had 3 different milk crates on bikes in my life (in the past 20 years).  Sometimes people attempt to steal or vandalize your milk crate, and sometimes the plastic just wears out.  Mount it securely to your rack with nuts & bolts. Carry an adjustable wrench and screwdriver to tighten the mounting hardware if it gets loose.

1. Hazardous Materials - Pictured here is a jug of bleach bungeed onto my rear rack.  It would have been safer in a milk crate.  I could see this would also be a safer way to transport paint.  Anything you wouldn't want to spill or explode in a pannier.  A milk crate can be easily detached and rinsed out in the event of a leak.  If the milk crate gets ruined, you can buy another for less than $10.  

May 5, 2017

2. Bags - Pictured here is my typical backpack (containing a computer) and a dog-hiking saddlebag turned into a bicycle toolbag.  The milk crate offers various positions for your bungee hooks, so it's easy to keep everything tight and secure.  You can put all shapes and sizes of bags into the milk crate, make an 'x' of bungees across the top and go!  

November 18, 2010

3. Water - If you don't have a water bottle cage, a milk crate is a great place to store your water.  This was a bikeshare bike that I rode from Geneva, Switzerland to Evian, France

September 14, 2007

4. Cakes - I transported numerous cakes from my house to school in an upside-down Tupperware container (so the lid supports the bottom of the cake).  You wouldn't put that in a pannier, since it could tip over, but a milk crate is perfectly level.

July 31, 2008

5. Costumes - This is a mole costume which requires a bicycle helmet under the 'hood' part of the head.  Celebrating 'mole day' is a thing chemists do periodically.  It's really fun to arrive at a party with your costume (and several cases of beer) in a milk crate.

October 23, 2008

6. Rocks - If you're into geology, a milk crate is a great way to bring back rock samples.  You wouldn't want them weighing you down in a backpack.  And you also wouldn't want them to get your bags dirty.

February 15, 2009

7. Plants - Maybe you're not into inorganic (rocks) but you're more of a biologist... it's really awesome to transport plants in a milk crate.  Here, I'm showing a flat of Arabidopsis on my rear rack but it would really have been better to have the plants in a milk crate in case the bike tilted left or right too far.

September 15, 2009

8. Ice Cream - The last thing you want is melted ice cream in your saddlebag.  It's much better to have an insulated bag in your milk crate, then pedal at top speed to get that frozen treat home before it melts.  In Germany, I did all my shopping by bicycle.  I would buy frozen fish fillets regularly.

December 29, 2009

9. Locks - it's no problem to bring your U-Locks if you can toss them into your milk crate.  That way you can secure your bikes while you enjoy your destination.

January 1, 2010

10. Maps - There's nothing less safe than looking like a tourist.  Some people go around on bicycle tours with a cue-sheet, remarking on ooh! and aah! and ooh-la-la!  When I'm in a foreign country, I try to blend in as much as possible.  Keeping the maps on the down-low and only discreetly peeking at them to plan your next segment on a trip to the restroom (in full privacy) ensures that you don't become a target of pickpockets.  In Italy, I stayed at several hostels and heard horror stories of travelers who had lost money, passports, phones, and other important travel documents.  If you keep your maps in a milk crate, you'll think twice before pulling them out in public.

June 26, 2010

11. Take-Out - Imagine hot liquids, such as Phở or Sweet-and-Sour Pork. You wouldn't want to risk that spilling in your saddlebags!  A milk crate is the perfect way to pick-up your to-go foods.

July 19, 2010

12. Farmer's Market - Because the seasons change, you never know what you'll find at the Farmer's Market.  It's so much safer to transport items such as plums and tomatoes in a milk crate because if they're ripe, the skin can break, releasing sticky sweet juices that could be hard to get out of your panniers.  I like how there are all ages of people in this photo.  It's not only for the young and fit to use a bicycle as a primary means of transportation.

August 28, 2010

13. Workout Gear - Imagine sweaty socks, ballet slippers, swimsuits, wetsuits, anything that would stink up your panniers or carry a good amount of sand and surf.  Those items lend themselves perfectly to a milk crate on the back of your bicycle.  You could also bungee your yoga mat directly to the milk crate.

May 27, 2011

13. Dog - Our dog didn't love riding behind me in a milk crate, but I've seen other dogs quite content to do so.  We would employ the harness that came with our 'dog hiking backpack' which resembled a kind of strait jacket to keep her from jumping out.  This was a 30 mile bike ride in Death Valley.

December 23, 2014

14. Books - The best way to get stronger legs is to put your heaviest books in your milk crate and bomb some hills.  I used to put Chemistry, Calculus, and Biology, top it with a bungee and then head out. This photo is from when a bookstore was closing and we took home a big haul of books!

September 14, 2014

15. Sound System - I've never done this, but I know lots of people who do for open street events like CicLAvia.  You don't have to abandon your tunes when you get out of your car.  There is plenty of space in a milk crate to set up speakers loud enough to share with a group of your friends.

October 24, 2014

17. Cosmetics - I buy cosmetics regularly from CT Organics.  You don't want to put those oily lotions, soaps, and creams into a bag that you also have your cell phone in.  Especially if you have a long, hot ride back to The Valley from Santa Clarita. Throw them in a milk crate and you can be sure that your electronics can be well-segregated from the essential oils.  Speaking of which, SHOUTOUT to the Mother's Day Boutique, which is TODAY.

18. Coffee - Instead of buying coffee at school, I'd take about 6 Cups of drip-coffee in a Hydroflask and bungee that to the inside of my milk crate.  Then I would put the half-and-half in a 700 mL water bottle with a coozy around it. I could refill my travel coffee mug (in the water bottle cage) at will during my commute on the Metrolink train.  It is a glamorous way to travel!

October 20, 2014

19. First-Aid Kit - If you're spending all day in the sun with the family, your adorable nephew may end up with a skinned knee.  This day, his pedal was threaded backwards and consequently fell off three times, each time our nephew fell to the ground and skinned his knee.  If we had been carrying more tools and a first aid kit (and a picnic lunch) in a milk crate this family day wouldn't have had to be cut short.

April 7, 2012
20. Pizza - Who doesn't love pizza?  An easy way to deliver your own pizza is to bungee the pizzas right on the top of your milk crate.  It's already a flat surface.  You can put the drinks, dipping sauces and breadsticks in the milk crate and the pizzas form an automatic lid.  That's what we did this day!

September 27, 2014

21. Campaign Signs - Although I had a good time doing some last-minute campaigning for the passage of Measure M, this sign would have been more effective on the sides and back of a milk crate.  Think of the milk crate as advertising real estate.

October 23, 2016

22. Firewood - Our bicycle camping trip was fantastic.  I had to ride several miles to the Albertson's to buy firewood and it would have been convenient to put the bundle of wood in my milk crate. Instead, I bungeed one bundle to the front rack and one bundle to the rear rack, which was OK, but that's another thing you wouldn't put in a pannier.

December 29, 2015

23. Teaching Supplies - In this photo, you can see I fitted my milk crate with a custom-trimmed paper box lid to make it somewhat padded and also have fewer holes.  I brought everything I needed to do my job in this milk crate for years.  Candy, cookies, molecular and solid state modeling kits... anything somewhat fragile that wouldn't do well banging around in a backpack is ideal to be transported in a milk crate.

In closing, I will offer a word of caution.  The high center of mass created when you fill your milk crate will change the dynamics of stopping, starting, turning, and overall handling of your bicycle.  Make sure your brakes are in working order (read: tight).  If you are riding with a group, remember that a fully loaded milk crate will alter your stopping distance (because you have more momentum). 

If you find that a milk crate makes your bike too difficult to handle, panniers will be better since they have a lower center of mass.  I have more trouble with weight on the front of my bicycle than the back.  Front baskets are good so that you can see what's going on, but when you let go of the handlebars, the front wheel will turn rapidly so that the load has the lowest potential energy.

If your weight is in the rear, however, and you are stopped at a red light, simply use your legs to stabilize the bicycle frame.  Take care when not moving to stabilize the bicycle.  You may want to investigate in a heavy-duty two-legged kickstand if that's important to you, but I've always found a bike rack or tree nearby to prop the bike against.

Share your thoughts, suggestions, experiences and comments!  HAPPY BIKE MONTH!!!!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2017


The last few weeks have been busy! I'm feeling like I've reached the slide into finals week. Or maybe I'm still in push towards finals week. Either way April has been blossoming with activity. I'll be participating in a summer eLearning institute to address achievement gaps in CHEM 100, so I've been gearing up for that. On a related note, this upcoming week, I'm having training on TopHat.

A post shared by Kayla Kaiser (@hamerk02) on

Friday, April 7, 2017

Going Greyhound

Going Greyhound to the ACS meeting was a risk, I was warned.  Everything people suggested was true.  The bus depot in downtown LA was surrounded by crack dealers.  The electrical outlets and the toilet on the bus (on the way up) were out of order.  When the electrical outlets and toilet were working (on the way back) we were delayed 2 hours (in the middle of the night) so that we arrived to LA right when morning rush hour was in full effect.

Arriving in downtown San Francisco at 5:30am was kind of strange, but a brisk walk along the Embarcadero was just what I needed after the bus ride up.  I had a fantastic breakfast at Mel's Drive-In on Mission St.

Listening to talks all morning in Marriott Marquis level B2 (the lower basement) with no wifi was awesome, but when I came up to level B1 to send a few tweets, I ran into these Matadors!

The Sunday evening poster session was great!  I got to meet some new people and exchange ideas.  It was a lot of traveling for that one moment, but I'm really happy I got the opportunity to go.  Formalizing your ideas in writing (by a poster or slide presentation) is so good.

I enjoyed wearing the Alpaca scarf my husband gave me at the last minute.  I didn't enjoy wearing the Cole Haan saddle shoes that seemed sensible but always give me a blister.  I walked 16,000 steps that day.  The Greyhound cost around $81 but since it was late, I had to take a $40 Uber to get to campus on time to teach my Monday classes.  Still cheaper than Amtrak!

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Feels

I'm enjoying the new house.  Although moving is stressful, we did it!  Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Cooking in the new kitchen has been fantastic.  I am even enjoying washing dishes.  The lack of clutter is inspiring.

One thing we Nebraskans always say about the month of March is: "In like a lamb, out like a lion" or vice versa "In like a lion, out like a lamb."  The weather has been mondo windy (lion-like).  But I feel a sense of contentment (lamb-like).

I'm getting ready to attend the ACS meeting in San Francisco.  Taking a "red-eye" Greyhound bus from LA to SF.  My poster is printed and so are my tickets and name badge!

I've been biking to school all week and LOVING IT!!!!  For St. Patrick's Day I wrote a post for Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) about our motivation for moving to Northridge.

I'm feeling so much.  Making new friends.  Finding new places.  Biking new routes.  Getting lost.  Going to the dog park.  Getting mail.  Rollerskating.  It's scary and exhilarating, exhausting and comforting, risk with rewards.  Trying to pace myself.  I do not need to make everything perfect immediately.

And happy anniversary to my husband of 9 years.  I'm grateful to have found such a super teammate to run this rat race with.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Goodbye tiny house

Home gym and shoe rack
There were many things we learned by living in less than 400 square feet for almost 6 years. The (lack of) space will help you realize what is really important in your life (and what you can live without).

I wanted to make a video touring our tiny house, but it was so messy that I was too ashamed to let anyone see how we actually lived.

There were at least two huge piles of clothes on the floor. Usually the oversized dining room table was covered with junk (and stuffed with junk below it in bins). There was no way to clean up because we had nowhere to put things away. 

Every year we gave more and more items away, and didn't buy anything new (except bicycles) but we still couldn't fit all our stuff in that house. We had a storage unit 1/2 mile away for $177 per month, which complicated planning for trips.

If you are considering tiny house living, here are a few photos that show items that made our lives in the tiny house more bearable.

A key rack, mounted to a bookshelf

The spice rack

The coffee cup rack

The vanity bench added extra storage

The hat and coat rack

The lipstick rack + tiny wall-mounted shelf

The sunglass rack