Two intersections in Diamond Bar: The Grand Avenue Beautification Project

In 2015 the city of Diamond Bar completed their Grand Avenue Beautification project, which included redesigning the medians and parkways of the Grand Avenue / Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue / Longview Drive intersections. The landscape architecture work was done by David Volz Design.

Happily enough, Diamond Bar Boulevard aims directly at Mt. Baldy, creating a view no photographer can resist*:

Mt. Baldy (Mount San Antonio) seen from the southern side of the Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue intersection in Diamond Bar. Rocks, median art, and flowering plants (yellow yuccas - Hesperaloe parviflora) are all visible, including a car. The stoplight is showing all green lights and a green left turn signal. This was part of the 2015 rebuild of the Grand Avenue and Diamond Bar Boulevard intersection for Diamond Bar's 2015 "Grand Avenue Beautification" project, landscape architecture for the project was by David Volz Design.
Mt. Baldy (Mount San Antonio) seen from the southern side of the Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue intersection in Diamond Bar.

The Longview Drive intersection is at the eastern edge of the city, and features a new entrance sign for the city:

A full view near sunrise of the sign at the eatern edge of Diamond Bar's Grand Ave. This was part of the 2015 rebuild of the Grand Avenue and Longview Drive intersection for Diamond Bar's 2015 "Grand Avenue Beautification" project, landscape architecture for the project was by David Volz Design.
A full view of the sign at the eastern edge of Diamond Bar’s Grand Ave.

The sign is pretty just after sunrise, but the copper elements really stand out when it’s diffusely lit:

The entrance sign to Diamond Bar on the eastern edge of the city. This image, taken in the shade, highlights the coppery accents of the sign. This was part of the 2015 rebuild of the Grand Avenue and Longview Drive intersection for Diamond Bar's 2015 "Grand Avenue Beautification" project, landscape architecture for the project was by David Volz Design.
The entrance sign to Diamond Bar on the eastern edge of the city.

Iron plates form a repeating theme through the project, serving not just as elements on the entrance sign, but also as artistic inserts on parkway columns, display pieces in medians, and tree grates.

Metallic cutouts with a windmill pattern are frequent in the Grand Ave. corridor; this one is on the large entrance sign on the eastern edge of the city. This was part of the 2015 rebuild of the Grand Avenue and Longview Drive intersection for Diamond Bar's 2015 "Grand Avenue Beautification" project, landscape architecture for the project was by David Volz Design.
Metallic cutouts with a windmill pattern are frequent in the Grand Ave. corridor; this one is on the large entrance sign on the eastern edge of the city.

Continue reading Two intersections in Diamond Bar: The Grand Avenue Beautification Project

Polaris above Prescott Valley, AZ

When I first started reading up on night photography years ago I remember looking at star trail images with wonder: simply by leaving the lens open for a long time one could capture the movement of the stars across the sky.  Even more wondrous were images that included Polaris, the north star, which aligns with the planet’s rotational axis and thus does not move during the night (while all the other stars appear to spin around it).  I promptly put capturing a long-exposure star-trail image with Polaris on my bucket list.

And last week while visiting Prescott, AZ, I finally got one I’m happy with:

A long-exposure night image with moonlit illuminated hills and stars rotating around Polaris.
A long-exposure image of the moonlit hills above Prescott Valley, Arizona.

This is a single-frame capture based on a roughly 30 minute exposure; the hills in the foreground are illuminated by moonlight.

Take a look in my Prescott, AZ gallery for a few more images from my recent trip there (though this is the only star trail image I’m sharing from the trip).

Memories: Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery uses my images

I got a little reminder today of a neat use of my images: the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery purchased two of my cat tongue closeups to illustrate an article on the medical implications of cat hairballs.  The article was behind a paywall when it was first published, but the full text is now freely available.

Here’s the reference:  Cannon, M. 2013. Hair Balls in Cats: A normal nuisance or a sign that something is wrong? Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 15: 21-29. doi: 10.1177/1098612X12470342.   http://jfm.sagepub.com/content/15/1/21.abstract

 

My Mirrycle MTB Bar End Mountain Bicycle Mirror mounted on my hybrid.

Bicycle mirrors: the eye on the back of your head you’ve always wanted

You’re coming up to an intersection and want to go straight, but suddenly realize that the lane you’re to the right of is turning into a right-turn-only lane.  You know  bike safety: you need to get to the left of this lane before the intersection, but you’ve only got a few yards to do so.

Is it safe to pull out into the lane?  Is there a car behind you?

A protected bike lane ends abruptly and turns into a right-turn-only lane. Do you know if it's safe to move left so you can keep going straight? (this is the intersection of Placentia and Adams in Costa Mesa)
A protected bike lane ends abruptly and turns into a right-turn-only lane. You need to merge left to keep going straight; is it safe to do so?

Like most riders, I started riding without a mirror.  When I was on bike trails and low traffic streets this was fine, but as I started commuting and utility biking more, I found myself wishing for eyes on the back of my head.  Turning to look behind me caused me to wobble left (into the cars I was trying to avoid!) and also only gave me a snapshot of what was behind me (did that car keep gaining on me, or did it slow down to let me over?).

When I finally bought a mirror, my cycling world changed.  All of a sudden riding on busier streets and navigating complicated intersections got easier: with a single glance I could immediately tell whether cars were behind me or not1.  And, even better, I could predict when the road would be clear – by regularly glancing in the mirror I could see, for example, that after one car passed me I’d have an open road behind me, allowing me to swing into that left-turn lane three lanes over.

Riding with a mirror has given me tremendous amounts of confidence in traffic, yet very few road cyclists use mirrors2, and that’s a shame.  They’re not expensive, they’re easy to mount, and dead simple to use.

There are two primary types of mirrors used on bikes: Continue reading Bicycle mirrors: the eye on the back of your head you’ve always wanted

As we approached the finish line we got our very own lane!

Ride report: A great first century at Tour de Palm Springs 2016

When I got my road bike last July I discovered that I loved to take it on 20 or 30 mile rides, and started dreaming of going further.  So, I asked around about good first centuries to aim for, and one event kept getting mentioned again and again: Tour de Palm Springs (with Cool Breeze in Ventura also getting many votes).

The timing was perfect – Tour de Palm Springs happens every year in January or February, so that gave me months to train up.  I followed a training plan from Burke and Pavelka’s The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling, which helped me slowly increase my cycling distances from ~50 miles a week about 3 months ago to 150 miles a week in the two weeks before the century*.

The route

The Tour de Palm Springs has 10, 25, 50, and 100 mile cycling routes, all of which begin and end in downtown Palm Springs.  I did the 100 mile route, which looked like this: Continue reading Ride report: A great first century at Tour de Palm Springs 2016

Fog at the Huntington Beach Pier.

Sights: Fog at the Huntington Beach Pier

One of the reasons I love cycling is that it gets me out, exploring the environment and seeing sights I otherwise would have missed.  Today was a great example of that.

I was on one of my usual loops up Huntington Beach and then down around Newport Back Bay; the weather seemed like nothing special (you know, it’s January and 70F outside).

As is usual of mid-week rides this time of year, the Huntington State Beach trail was nearly empty:

The Huntington Beach Trail midweek in the winter is a lovely place to bike.
You can zip along the Huntington State Beach Trail midweek – whee!

I rode past the pier, and paused to enjoy the view and snap a couple pictures with the sun barely visible through the clouds:

Huntington Beach Pier, when I first arrived.
Huntington Beach Pier, when I first arrived.

I went just a bit further on up the trail, then realized that the white blur in the distance and cold breeze I was feeling meant that fog was rolling in.  I turned around, and the pier was nearly gone: Continue reading Sights: Fog at the Huntington Beach Pier

Map for my Costa Mesa to Newport Back Bay loop. Map data from Google 2016; ride details from RideWithGPS.

Ride: Newport Back Bay loop from Costa Mesa

Introduction

Newport Back Bay seen from Castaways Park.
Newport Back Bay seen from Castaways Park.

Newport Back Bay is a gem of central Orange County.   It’s a wetlands estuary located just inland from Newport Harbor, and has roughly six miles of paved bike path that allow you to ride only feet away from nature.  The views can be gorgeous, and I’ve seen many stunning sunsets while riding it.

For years I suggested that my students do an outdoor project at Newport Back Bay, and many came back saying “I never knew this was there; I loved it!”

However, actually cycling around Newport Back Bay is more complicated than it should be because the bicycle path does not actually form a complete loop around the bay.  On the eastern side the bike trail ends about a quarter mile north of PCH, and then doesn’t truly start up again until about a mile and a half north of PCH on the western side.  Thus, riders wanting to do a true loop must fend for themselves and figure out how to get through PCH and city streets to get back to the trail.

Route

I’ve created a complete loop with detailed notes in RideWithGPS: Costa Mesa -> Newport Back Bay Loop, and embedded a live view of the route below.  When starting from Estancia Park in Costa Mesa the route is just about 19 miles round trip and gains a total of 450 feet of elevation. Continue reading Ride: Newport Back Bay loop from Costa Mesa

Laguna Beach: my new favorite city to bike in

Okay, the headline might be a bit exaggerated, but when I come across a sign like this in a city, my heart goes pitter-pat:

A sign on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach saying "Welcome to Laguna Beach", seen on December 24, 2015.
Welcome to Laguna Beach
A sign on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach saying "Welcome to Laguna Beach", seen on December 24, 2015.
Give Bikes 3 Feet

Thanks Laguna Beach!

And in case you don’t know what the sign is referring to, it’s referring to California’s 2014 “Three Feet For Safety Act” (AB-1371), which mandates that

21760. (b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.

(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

So, basically, cars must give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing them, or slow to a reasonable speed and pass without risking injury to the cyclist.  Given the frequency with which cyclists need to dodge debris (and just plain lose their balance), a three foot passing margin is really a good idea.

Of course it’d be nice if police actually wrote tickets for violations of this law … but hey, I’ll take a sign as a good start.

Seen on December 24, 2015 as I enjoyed a lovely ride down PCH.  

Gisler Ave. connects to SART via a cool little bridge, seen here from on the trail itself.

Entering and exiting the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa

The length of the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa. Image from GoogleMaps
The length of the Santa Ana River Trail  in Costa Mesa (highlighted in blue). Image and map data from Google 2015; click for a larger version.

I live in Costa Mesa and love riding on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART), a multiuse paved trail open to walkers, runners, bicyclists, skaters, and more (pretty much anything non-motorized). If you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve got to: the Santa Ana River Trail runs more than 30 miles inland from the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Huntington Beach, where it connects up seamlessly with the beach’s bicycle path. And for that length it’s 100% car and crossing free – you have dozens of miles of paved trail to roll on continuously without stopping.  Insanely useful for getting places in central Orange County while avoiding cars.

But getting on the trail isn’t always intuitive, especially as the trail crosses  from one side of the river to the other within Costa Mesa’s borders. Starting near the ocean and heading inland, here are all the entrances from Costa Mesa:

The Santa Ana River Trail between Victoria/Hamilton and the beach is beautiful at high tide.
The Santa Ana River Trail between Victoria/Hamilton and the beach is beautiful at high tide.

I’ve also included two bonus entrances for people coming from Huntington Beach:

And I also point out where the bridge is:

PCH / southern end of Huntington State Beach

The PCH and Huntington State Beach entrance to the Santa Ana River Trail. Image and map data from Google Maps 2015.
The PCH and Huntington State Beach entrance to the Santa Ana River Trail; entrances are circled in green. Image and map data from Google 2015.

Continue reading Entering and exiting the Santa Ana River Trail in Costa Mesa