Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Welcome! Start Here.


All our efforts are currently being focused on the No on Measure WW campaign.
Please click here to visit

We are leaving this site up for historical and archival purposes, and we may return here once the election is over...but don't expect to see anything new here until then. For now, all the action and new updates are over at

Thanks, and we'll see you over there!
-Better East Bay Parks

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Brief Essay on Selfishness

We have been accused of selfishness, both by the EBRPD and by proponents of Measure WW. Let's think about this for a moment.

The EBRPD, Sierra Club, Regional Parks Association, and other "environmental" groups are saying "These public parks and trails, paid for by everyone, are only for us. You are not allowed to come here."

We are saying "These are public parks and trails, and they should be for everyone: hikers, equestrians, and cyclists alike."

Who's being selfish? Us -- or the EBRPD and the "environmentalists"?

It's not selfish to demand equal treatment, and it's not selfish to vote against someone that denies it to you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Breaking News: It's "Measure WW"

It's official. The EBRPD's $500 million tax and bond measure is called:

Measure WW

We're busily updating our flyers and website. More to come!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meeting Wrapup: The EBRPD Forces the Issue...the wrong way

We don't want to be here, doing what we're doing.

We would much rather be supporting Measure WW, so we can have more parks, preserve more open space, and build sustainable trails in them for everyone to enjoy. We were willing to forgive fifteen years of stonewalling and outright lying by the EBRPD, if they would come to the table with anything at all for their second largest user group.

We already have city and state park departments, each of which is already competently maintaining parks and open space in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties -- so strictly speaking, the EBRPD is redundant. Now, you might think that people from a redundant public agency that is 100% dependent on tax dollars for its funding -- and which is coming to us, hat in hand, to ask for $500 million dollars of extra tax money over and beyond their current allocation -- would be polite and courteous.

You might think the EBRPD would be asking us "How can we serve you better, so as to justify our request for $500 million more of YOUR MONEY?" Especially when Measure WW, being a tax increase, requires a 2/3 super-majority vote to pass.

You would be wrong.

1) The meeting opened with a 30-minute harangue which blamed all their problems on us not asking them nicely enough. This went over like a lead balloon with the BTCEB, which has done trailwork and cleanup days, volunteer bike patrols, uncountable presentations to employees and the Board, and supported all the previous EBRPD bond measures, for over 15 years. The condescension was breathtaking, and it's a testament to the good nature of cyclists that the BTCEB didn't walk out of the meeting right then and there.

2) Most importantly, they told us unequivocally that people on bicycles will never get any more access to existing narrow or singletrack trails. Their claim: It's too hard, and the Sierra Club and Audubon Society sue them if they try. (It wasn't clear how asking more nicely would help with this.)

3) In the future, people on bicycles might get access to two miles of trail on Brushy Peak (currently tied up in lawsuits), the Martin Canyon Creek trail (sometime in the indefinite future), and 10-15 miles of singletrack way back in the hills that aren't even laid out yet. They agree that the process of opening new trails is broken, but they have no intention of addressing it until they write a new General Parks Plan -- which won't even be started until 2009 or 2010.

Translation: in return for your $500 million, you're going to get nothing but promises -- and it's your own fault for not asking right.

4) The best part was that they had the temerity to ask "So, since we're doing SO MUCH for you now, what are you going to do for us?" Let's see: $500 million for...15 more miles of trail access...someday...maybe? That's $33.3 million per mile. You can build a BART extension for that kind of money.

The arrogance here is stunning. The EBRPD has been so well-funded for so long that they apparently believe they're entitled to the $500 million Measure WW would give them. Our suggestion that they need to justify their request -- by actually allowing the 30% of the public that rides bicycles on dirt to quietly, sustainably visit their own public land -- has not only been has been met with derision and outright hostility.

We don't want to oppose Measure WW...but by treating the herds of cattle that trample our parks better than the people that want to quietly ride bicycles in them, the EBRPD has forced us to do so.

And it's their own fault.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The EBRPD Wants to Talk to You, on July 29th

The EBRPD has invited the mountain biking community to discuss "issues of mutual interest" on Tuesday July 29, 2008, from 7 PM to 9 PM! This is great news, because it means that your letters are having an effect, and that we are being taken seriously. Thanks to everyone who's written letters so far: click on the flyer for instructions if you haven't written one already.

Meeting place: the Trudeau Center, 11500 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, CA, 94619
Click here for a map -- it's just past JMP on Skyline.

(The "issue of mutual interest" is obvious: they want the $500 million dollars of taxpayer money that a Measure AA extension would give them, and are afraid that we will vote it down unless they placate us somehow.)

Our position remains the same: equal access for people on bicycles. New "trail access procedures" are unacceptable: hikers and horses require no "trail access procedures" to enjoy their own parks. Partial access is unacceptable: we are the second largest group of EBRPD park users, and deserve to be treated as such. Promises of future access are unacceptable: we've had ten years of promises that, like the "Checklist", use up all our time and energy and never actually give us anything.

The EBRPD could take all the "No Bikes" signs down in a day if they really wanted to, and it wouldn't cost them a thing. Then we could spend our energy building and maintaining trails for everyone to use, instead of wasting it in battles with their bureaucracy. Everyone wins!

Please be calm and courteous at this meeting -- but be firm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The EBRPD's fundamental policy problem

Since the EBRPD closed East Ridge without providing any alternate route for people on bicycles to complete the single legal ride in the park, they've received a lot of justifiably angry letters. Their response?

Quote: "Although some day riders will be affected, the majority of riders can still complete the loop after 5pm and on weekends. We do have other options at Anthony Chabot which is just a few miles away."

[In summary, "Too to be you."]

Quote: "We are not able to open up trails to bikes without a thorough review process and approval from our board of directors."

This response highlights the fundamental policy problem: The EBRPD assumes that hikers and horses are legitimate park users, and that any impact they have, no matter how substantial, is acceptable. Any restriction on hikers and horses is viewed as a special case.

In contrast, the EBRPD assumes that people on bicycles are not legitimate park users, that any impact they have (even though it's substantially less than horses and roughly equal to hikers) is unacceptable, and that allowing cyclists to use any part of their own parks is a special, exceptional privilege requiring approval at the highest possible level.

This policy must change. Bicycling is a low-impact, human-powered, environmentally sound way for people to explore their parklands and open space, and as such, people on bicycles deserve no less than equal treatment and equal access.

Until then, the EBRPD doesn't deserve our support -- or our money. No "Measure AA extension!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

EBRPD gives bicyclists the middle finger yet again

Here's the EBRPD's latest insult to bicycle riders, their second-largest user group:
"The following trails will be closed weekdays only, beginning as soon as Tuesday, July 15, and lasting possibly through September, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a hazardous tree and fuel mitigation project: Phillips’ Loop, Eucalyptus Trail, and East Ridge Trail between Skyline Gate and Prince Trail. Equestrians and hikers may use Stream and Prince trails to bypass the project zone. Bicyclists will not be able to bypass the project zone and will need to turn around at the junction of East Ridge and Prince trails."

For those who don't know Redwood Regional Park well, the only legal bicycle ride in the park is a loop of East Ridge and West Ridge -- both wide, dusty fire roads. Meanwhile, hikers, dogs, and 1000-pound horses can use all the beautiful, narrow-gauge trails throughout the entire park. (You can see the map here.)

With this trail closure, the EBRPD has blocked bicycle riders from the only legal ride in the park. As is usual in the EBRPD, horses and hikers get a detour...but bicyclists just get a middle finger. Did you think you were almost done with your ride? Out of water? Too bad! Turn around and do your entire ride again, but in reverse.

The EBRPD continues to make it clear that once you get on a bicycle, they view you as a second-class citizen that doesn't deserve to use your own public lands. This is why we oppose giving the EBRPD any more money until people on bicycles have the same access to their own parkland as people on horses or people on foot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

EBRPD Hall of Shame, Part 2

(Fremont meeting this Thursday, Oakley this Saturday! Click here for times and places.)

The EBRPD insists that people on bicycles must be banned from public lands because they cause "serious damage to the natural resources, including erosion and loss of plant life."

This is false. As multiple controlled studies done by everyone from the USFS, to USC, to the University of Guelph, to our very own City of Oakland have shown, and as any experienced trail designer and maintainer can tell you, a person on a bicycle has similar impact to a person on foot, less impact than a horse, and many times less impact than any of the ranger or ranch trucks that always seem to be driving around in our parks -- not to mention the cattle and sheep that trample them daily. Any person who claims they are qualified to run a parks district should know this and be familiar with these studies, yet the EBRPD's Board of Directors continues to claim the opposite.

Here's a sadly typical photograph from Mission Peak. This is "trail maintenance" in the EBRPD's world. (Click pictures to see the damage at full-size.)

Here's a typical piece of EBRPD-maintained "trail", also in Mission Peak: a wide, loose, machine-churned mess.

For contrast, here's a bicycle-legal trail that the EBRPD does not control. Doesn't this look more fun to hike on, too?

All this would be merely comical if the EBRPD's segregationist policies didn't have the force of law. The EBRPD destroys trails in our public parkland with impunity, while they fine people over $300 for quietly riding a bicycle on that same trail.

(And sometimes they blame the destruction on bicycles! See Part 1 of the Hall of Shame.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The EBRPD's Fake "Checklist" Procedure

The EBRPD banned people on bicycles from their entire trail system overnight, unilaterally. Yet to regain access, they demand each individual section of trail go through a year-long process called the "Checklist".

This process is fake, and was created to give the appearance of listening to the 30% or so of the population that rides bicycles on dirt, while continuing to exclude us from our own public land. Here is the proof:

Over the last ten years, 40 trails have been requested for bicycle access under the Checklist process and its predecessors.
Of these requests, the EBRPD refused to consider 32, leaving just 8 trails to enter the process.
Of these 8 trails, they approved 4.
One has since been bulldozed to road width and is no longer a trail.
One is still not open to bicycle use years after being "approved."
This means that two trails, with a total length of under 1.5 miles, have been opened to people on 10 years.

There are 138 miles of narrow-gauge or singletrack trails on public land the EBRPD controls. At this rate, we will have equal access by the year 2994.

(Do you think this is too long to wait? So do we. Tell your EBRPD board representative that you oppose any renewal of Measure AA as long as people on bicycles are excluded from East Bay trails.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spreading The Word

Big ups to all the Oakland and Alameda bike shops that let us leave stacks of our information flyer for their customers today! None of us are experienced activists, so we don't really know if we're "doing it right"...but judging from the enthusiastic support we got all over town, there is a lot of pent-up resentment over the EBRPD's anti-bicycle bigotry, and a strong desire to do something about it.

The East Bay is big, though, and we need help. If your local bike shop doesn't have the flyers already (which it definitely won't if it's not in Oakland or Alameda), you can help by printing or copying a stack and dropping them off. The printable flyer is available here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

EBRPD Hall of Shame, Pleasanton Ridge Edition

Back in the winter of 2002-2003, someone in the EBRPD had the bright idea of "maintaining" Pleasanton Ridge trails with bulldozers and other heavy machinery during the middle of the rainy season. The result was predictable: a big, muddy, erosive, environmentally destructive mess. Check out the zig-zags in the middle, where the machine got stuck! (Click images to see them full-size.)

Here's a nice close-up of some high quality EBRPD trail work:

The ground was torn up so badly that they had to put straw down to cover the mud pits! Remember, these trails were mostly singletrack cow paths before the EBRPD's machines got there.

The herds of cattle didn't seem to mind so much...after all, they made the trails in the first place...

But wait a second. Let's take a closer look at that yellow sign. What might it mean?

It means "We've hugely screwed up our responsibility to public lands in a really obvious way. What do we do? Apologize? Restore some of the trails we destroyed? No, that's too much work. We'll BLAME BICYCLISTS! They FORCED us to run bulldozers through the mud! We'll call a news conference to tell everyone this, and then ban them from the public land that we have somehow got control of."

And that's exactly what the EBRPD did.

(All photos by "scooderdude" @ MTBR. Thanks!)

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are we? We are East Bay voters, taxpayers, and environmentalists. Sometimes we ride bicycles.

What do we want? We want equal access to trails in our parks and open space, and we oppose giving the EBRPD another $500 million in taxes and bonds as long as we are excluded. (This is "Measure WW", and it will be on the November ballot for residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.) If you want the longer explanation, read our flyer.

How can you help us? That's easy!

  • Read our flyer. (Note: we're in the middle of an update...pardon our dust.)
  • Write a letter to your EBRPD council member. If you haven't done this already, do it now.
  • Register to vote if you haven't already.
I've already done that, how can I do more?
  • Spread this website to your family, friends, and riding partners, or give them a flyer if they don't like dealing with the Internet.
  • Print and make copies of the flyer (double-sided, please, to save paper) and distribute them to local bike shops, cycling clubs, or anyplace else East Bay cyclists and voters congregate.
  • Help us make a nicer-looking website, better flyers, and so on. Got pictures of trails damaged by cows, horses, or EBRPD trucks, or fading away into invisibility because they're no longer used? Got more nutty stories of EBRPD mayhem? Are our facts wrong somewhere? Talk to us: info23 bettereastbayparks org
How can I contact you? info23 bettereastbayparks org

Thanks for your attention and support!