Linka LEO 2 Smart Bike Lock Review

The Linka Lock is a smart bike lock that can be added to many bikes. It certainly falls into the category of “Should it be smart?” and we’ll discuss that later. The unique feature it provides is a simple way of having some peace of mind regarding your bike. 

The Linka is a frame lock (or a “cafe lock”) – because it attaches to your frame, so it’s always ready to go – say if you run into a cafe real quick! When you stop riding, locking a frame lock keeps your wheel from moving. It’s a basic step to keep your bike from rolling away, even if there isn’t something to secure it to. 

The Linka LEO 2 attached to the front wheel
The smart features of the Linka start by linking it to your phone. The standard Linka can lock and unlock from your phone, and warn you if your bike moves (if you’re in bluetooth range – which isn’t far). The Linka LEO has cellular capability, and can both notify you and track your bike’s location. This is pricier, but gives you more serious protection. This can give you increased peace of mind, as you’ll know your bike is safe. 
A great feature is that you can get a loop chain to plug into the Linka. This is a great addition to any frame lock, and an arguably smart feature is that when you click it in to the Linka LEO 2, the lock auto-locks. The LEO 2 also has a key fob which lets you lock and unlock without needing a phone. 
So, should it be smart? I’m not sure the standard Linka is a huge improvement over a keyed frame lock. It can be set to auto-unlock when it senses you return to your bike, which is nice. But what if your phone dies? It also has a tamper alarm, but will it be ignored just like car alarms? 
And does the smart nature of the lock make it more secure? A friend had a locksmith put smart locks in their home, and asked him if they could be hacked. His response was [cue up Russian accent here], “why hack when so easy to pick?” I’m actually guessing the lock could be defeated, but I would get notified if my bike is jostled, and updates if it moves. 
One final consideration is if the Linka company will be sustainable, as they provide the behind-the-scenes service that makes the connectivity features keep working. They’ve been around for a while, but there’s certainly a risk that they’ll go out of business or get bought, and the expensive locks will become fancy bricks. I hope this isn’t the case, and they do seem to be diversifying into locks for shared bikes, so it seems a fair bet that your Linka Lock will keep working for the foreseeable future. 
Personally, I find the peace of mind aspect to be the killer feature here – more so than even just being a good lock. Being warned about movement could mean I potentially wouldn’t lose the bike. It also means that if I’m concerned no news means I can relax – and to me, that’s pretty worthwhile!
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Broadview Thomson Neighborhood Homelessness Meeting

I went to a Seattle School District meeting for the community about the people who are homeless next to Broadview Thomson K-8. It got to be problematic.

As a member of the Broadview community, I walked over to Broadview Thomson, the school my child will enter as a kindergartner this fall. I heard about this meeting from my neighbor, and saw several other neighbors of children at Broadview Thomson present. I’ve also volunteered to bring food and supplies to the people camping here, and I saw a few others involved in this effort, including those from the church across the street. They’ve provided a free pantry, showers, and importantly land on their parking lot for housing. This made it possible for some previously-homeless students at Broadview Thomson to have housing, which has been a community issue for a while.

Good sized crowd in attendance at Broadview Thomson

This meeting had a lot of interest and was attended by members of both the local and surrounding communities, as well as several people who are homeless and living in the area. After a lengthy background by Seattle Schools’ new Deputy Superintendent Rob Gannon and School Board Director Liza Rankin took questions. The voices dominating the “questions” seemed to be quite reactionary and unhelpful, however. This is not to say that wanting to know the details was unwarranted, but that there was very little listening to others, especially those with direct experience and knowledge to answer the questions.

Finally getting to the heart of the meeting, Deputy Superintendent Rob Gannon described “the start of a plan” involving a partnership with the nonprofit outreach provider Anything Helps to connect people with resources. Anything Helps is a new nonprofit run by Mike Mathias, who is a formerly homeless counselor and has worked in providing support for people who are experiencing homelessness. The school district said they’ve provided $5,000 to Anything Helps for material needs, but they’re looking for volunteers and donations.

Although I understand criticism that the meeting should have started with this information, I’m not sure if that would have defused the general pitchforks attitude.

And I do think the background is important. Homelessness is a huge issue, and covers a lot of ground. We aren’t going to change homelessness by September. It’s a regional, and really a national/international one. It will take a long time to reverse many of the reasons that have brought us here.

There were members of the news media present, with Erica C. Barnett of Publicola providing an extensive live-tweet. Barnett and Publicola have done some of the most intensive reporting on local Homelessness issues, and I highly recommend reading and supporting their work. It is also great that Dahlia Bazzaz, Seattle Times’ Education Reporter was also present. I appreciate that the Times has a specific beat for both schools and homelessness coverage.

Additionally, a reporter and camera operator from KOMO were in attendance. Interestingly, despite regular coverage of this specific story, they didn’t have any of the KOMO branding or blue outfits/jackets/vehicles that generally signify their presence. Perhaps the criticism of KOMO of being owned (and controlled) by the right-leaning Sinclair has moved them to be more discrete? At any rate, I’m pretty sure their coverage has been detrimental to public understanding of this issue. I can get into this more later, but after the various propaganda from KOMO, I’m wary of the angle that they’re pushing.

Important Takeaways:

  • Anything Helps has identified the needs of 46 out of 56 of the people camping at Bitter Lake and started the necessary steps to get people the help they need.
  • Deputy Superintendent Gannon reported that 3 people have already moved into housing, and Mike Mathias of Anything Helps stated that 6 people are ready to receive housing.
  • Additionally, Anything Helps has begun working on getting people IDs or replacements and next steps, which are important in getting the process going.
  • People in the camp are specifically not interested in working with “We Heart Seattle”. Hmm…

Their goal is to get everyone into housing by Sept 1 (or Sept 3? – before school starts, anyway). While 100% seems unlikely, it’s certainly possible that a number of people will receive services. And certainly more than if the city had simply done a sweep. We’ll just have to see what happens next.

I’ll be interested to see more coverage, but I’m also a bit trepidatious to step into a school community which seems to be dominated by some problematic voices. It was heartening that some nearby parents were (more quietly) taking a positive approach. I just wish more of us had said something.

This is what I looked like afterwards!

I’ll just have to try to remain hopeful!

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Black Lives and the Police

I have a teenager to discuss this with, so I’m trying to keep this as simple as possible.

I’m seeing people get lost in the details of the latest death, and I get caught up in it myself, but we need to look at the bigger picture: 

Police kill over 1000 people in the U.S. each year.

That is 1000 more than any other country

235 people killed by police last year were Black. 

So about 1 in 4 people killed by police are Black

But only about 1 in 8 people in the U.S. are Black! 

So Black people are twice as likely to be killed by the police*. 

And, Black people are more likely to be killed when they aren’t even posing a threat.

5X more likely.

Let’s back up. Police need to follow the rules. They need to use reason, and they need probable cause. And even with these, the police should be doing as much as they can to take everyone into custody alive. So they can stand trial. That’s our system.

Police aren’t the judge or executioner. Nor should they be.

And yet our police kill 2-3 people… (nearly) Every Day

So almost every three days, police kill TWO Black people. 

We must look past the latest atrocity.

We don’t have to argue about details to see that the overall picture is bad, that it’s wrong, and incredibly unjust.

If we’re caught up arguing about the details of the latest black death by police, without seeing the larger problem and taking action, then another death happens and we just keep on arguing.

So, what do we do?

If we want justice, we must work for it.

Let’s begin.

I’ll let you know how discussing this goes. This is basically a draft, so I’m open to suggestions! Could parts be even simpler? More memes? More relevant cultural references? I’d love suggestions!

Update:

Discussing this went okay, but was only the start to an ongoing discussion.

If I could do it again, I’d recommend more listening. Kids are going to make up their own mind, and a dialogue is more useful than a tirade. I’ll try that next time.

Some friends have pointed out that the numbers have more to do with Black people having more interactions with police, and therefore being more likely to be killed. Their argument being that the possibility of being killed by the police is the same each time, regardless of race.

I think this speaks more to our racist society, and what is the difference to a Black person?

Being more likely to be pulled over, possibly leading to death, because of the color of one’s skin… yeah, I don’t think that changes the overall problem.

Over-policing that leads to racially unjust death is still systemic racism.

Keep fighting for equality.

Notes:

*the numbers change by location, so even these numbers are on the low side: Black people are 3-6X as likely to be killed by police.

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Family Biking: The Tangerine Story

We’ve had Tangerine for a year, and…

I love this bike.

…which is good, as it’s been a bumpy ride.

But let’s go back to the start.

Okay, we’ve had the parts for a year. When we first spotted Metrofiets’ closing sale, we’d been shopping around for an electric-assist bakfiets, and… well, we already loved them. A few friends have Metrofiets and they’re dreamy, but a bit pricey. With a closeout deal, however… we couldn’t pass it up. We’d been talking to Alex at Electric Lady about options. Should we do it? “It could be fun,” he said, bursting into his infectious laugh.

We went for it. All we’d need would be a motor, and… oh yeah, some parts.

It would take a while to come together.

First, for some color. Since we had a raw steel frame, we got to choose our own color, and Seattle Powder Coat has some special sparkle options!

It turned out great!

IMG_2565

Then we had a few conversations and negotiations on what all would go together. We wanted lots of gears, but a front triple just wouldn’t fit on the Metrofiets huge diameter seat post tube, so 10 gears will do. With the assist, it would be plenty.

Alex and Bike Swift recommended a new monster 1500 watt MAC motor, but we’d be waiting longer than we wanted. As regular bike riders, we went with the 500-watt Bafang rear hub motor which still has the power we’d need, and would get us riding sooner. I’m not saying we won’t upgrade someday…

Our friend Shirley offered a battery she had used for a previous motor setup on her Metrofiets… which turned out to be seriously high-powered and badass. I’ve run the battery completely out only once, and was smart enough to ride it uphill before it did. The bike is pretty darn heavy, so I wouldn’t recommend this.

Four-caliper hydraulic disc brakes would bring it all to a swift stop.

With a plan, we gathered the bits and got to work.

We also insisted on a dynamo system for the lights, despite having a huge battery which could easily power such things. This way, the lights stay on even if the battery runs out!

Fenders and a waterproof canopy round out the build for northwest weather. BlaqPaks makes great waterproof covers, the new version of which has nifty magnetic latches.

IMG-1884

There are a few more details: a dropper-post, USB charger, and a serious rear rack.

That’s enough for now, gotta go for a ride. Let’s save some drama for next time!

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Family Biking: Tangerine Dream

We got a new cargo bike and it’s a doozie.

Meet the very last Metrofiets box bike: Tangerine!

Okay, that’s just the frame, and yes, we already have a cargo bike, but hang on…

Metrofiets made front-loading box bikes in Portland, Oregon for 12 years, and they’re fantastic bikes. These bakfiets-style cargo bikes have a solid front box, a long-wheelbase, and a 24” front tire for a cushy ride.

When Metrofiets went out of business, we got our hands on the last frame and set to build up a custom electric cargo bike. Step one was powder-coating, the long-lasting way to “paint” a bike frame. As we got to do this ourselves, we chose a custom sparkly tangerine color from Seattle Powder Coat.

Before adding the box, you can really see the “Long John” style. This thing is 9 feet long!

Tangerine on the stand at Electric Lady.

Electric Lady in Seattle built up the bike, with an electric hub motor from Bike Swift. We haven’t had an electric bike, and the kid is just getting heavier. With both of us riding bicycles regularly, we opted for “only” a 500-watt motor, but it’s a Bafang hub with some serious torque. Henry from Bike Swift says it’ll do “up to 80 N-m”… which I honestly don’t understand, but must be good!

Now Boxed!

It has a bunch of little details, I’ll give a full rundown after the ride home!

Update: read more here!

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Climate and Kids

Perhaps you’ve seen this breakdown of actions and choices that can be made to help us adapt to climate change, and for our children to survive global warming.

Personal choices to reduce your contribution to climate change.

It’s pretty great because it quantifies how effective our choices really are.
The part about choosing to have fewer children has been rightly critiqued, as not everyone has choice or control over having kids. Besides, a bunch of us already have the critters.
Regardless, in the context of climate action, children are an opportunity.

A big problem with taking action is change.

People hate it.

People like driving everywhere in their giant gas-guzzling cars with their stuff, burning carbon-rich fuel to move and air condition and blast tunes.

We hate anything that gets in the way, such as buses or bike lanes, or pesky pedestrians.
Why would we want to be them when we could be comfortable in our cars?
It is pretty nice.
Besides, we need comfort to distract from being stuck. Our growing commutes and drives around town mean we’re often trapped in our metal boxes.
It’s gotten to the point where we feel we must drive our children everywhere, despite the inherent danger in driving itself.
It’s just that we’re warming and dangerously destabilizing our planet.

We’ve gotten too comfortable to change.

Still, children are an opportunity for change. They like riding bikes and taking the bus. It’s all one big adventure.
But driving is so comfortable and convenient, why would we stop?
Of course, cars are dangerous on their own.

The opportunity is that we can choose.

We can choose to transport our children more safely, and choose a safer path for our planet by doing so.

The kids won’t know the difference.

This will just become their new normal.
Let’s get started.

Cargo bike frame and box with soon-to-be passenger.

Soon…

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PR in Space

When I was a kid, my parents let me watch the Space Shuttle launches. They were often delayed, so I remember waiting in the morning, watching the countdown and liftoff, then running off late to 2nd grade.

Then in 1986, the Challenger disaster happened during the launch, and in 2003 the Columbia broke apart on re-entry. The shuttle program was shut down, and I pushed that youthful excitement aside to live a life wondering about global warming, instead of how to terraform a habitable Mars.

This morning, I heard on the internet that SpaceX was launching their heavy booster rocket. Somehow I’d missed that they were launching a Tesla towards Mars. (Wait, a Tesla? Yep. We’ll come back to this.) Ten minutes later, I’d tuned in to the live webcast of the Falcon Heavy launch, and was excitedly showing my son Orion (yes, that’s his name) as we watched the countdown.

It was exhilarating! I was pointing out parts of the process, when suddenly the Tesla was floating in space. It’s more than a little disconcerting to realize your childhood hopes and dreams have been hijacked to deliver a car commercial. (At least it’s an electric car? But electric cars are still a huge part of the problem!) At any rate, I’m not sure I want the future where we go to Mars for the benjamins.

Meanwhile, two of the falcon rockets made their way back for a simultaneous landing. This was stunning to see, but what about that third core? Watching the live feed, you can tell something’s gone wrong. The bubbly hosts are off script and grasping at straws, and you can see (or rather not see, SpaceX has sensors and two cameras on everything, so they definitely have telemetry and footage).

The PR aspect of this whole thing kicks in. If SpaceX had a successful landing, they’d show it. Not showing us feels like damage control. The sucky thing about outsourcing our space program to private corporations is that they control the signal.

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To Outwit a Bike Thief

How to keep your bike from being stolen: 

My favorite advice is “Have a really expensive looking Bike… Lock. (and a crummy looking bike)”

Even new bikes can be made less shiny. Ride it everywhere: dirt/mud/let your kid ride it! Don’t worry about it too much…

Register Your Bike! 

Don’t even take it out of your sight until you do this. 

http://bikeindex.org

There are others, too:

http://www.bikeregistry.com

https://www.nationalbikeregistry.com

Note Your Serial #

This may be the most important part!

Otherwise, you have no proof. I’ve seen some great bikes with the # highly visibly etched or made part of the frame… If your bike is nice enough, consider asking your mechanic to do so.

Lock it up! 

Lock your bike, even if you’re leaving it for a minute.

Lock your bike, even if it’s in a locked garage.

Lock your bike, even if it’s in a locked bike cage.

All of these have led to stolen bikes. So…

Lock your bike to the foot of your bed, or to be extra secure, to your foot.

What to do if your bike is stolen: 

File a police report!

For bikes under $500 in value, you can easily report the theft online: http://www.seattle.gov/police/report/default.htm

Over $500, call the non-emergency number at 206-625-5011 to report it to an officer

More good info here: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/08/26/spd-launches-stolen-bike-recovery-project-get-your-bike-back/

Post a photo and link to your bikeindex profile and your local area Stolen Bikes group (this is the Seattle one), Nextdoor or neighborhood group, and keep an eye out on OfferUp or craigslist (some will let you set up an alert if descriptions matching your bike are posted).

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Can we afford to repeal the ACA?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” or “The ACA”) has been panned for not living up to its promises, but I think what hasn’t been talked about is it’s usefulness as a safety net

The “Patient Protection” part of the ACA is often simply dropped, but it may be the most important part. That made it so that anyone can get covered, and you can’t be denied based on “pre-existing conditions”, i.e. not being able to get coverage for cancer… because someone didn’t have coverage when they found out they had cancer. 

Medical expenses have been growing for decades, but that growth has actually slowed during the Obama administration. Those medical costs can be the largest unexpected household expense. 

Getting sick can lead to defaulting on a mortgage and losing your house. It can hit the poor the hardest, leading to homelessness. People have fallen behind on rent and died on the streets. This isn’t hypothetical, it happened just this week. 

So when we talk about the ACA “not working”, we’re talking about it not living up to specific promises for some people: “You can keep your plan”, etc. But it is working for 20 million people who are now insured, and many more who won’t be denied care. 

The finding that the majority of Americans are only one lost paycheck from homelessness should be a call for a safety net. The ACA is that safety net, tackling the most likely cause for losing out on work. 

More people want to fix Obamacare than want to repeal, which is what we should do for something that just needs to work better. 

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Family Bike, part 2: NEW BIKE!

I’m finally getting a family & cargo bike. I mean, I’ve had one for a while. Any bike can be a cargo bike, as they say! Just add a bungee… but I have been trying to dial this in for ten yeeears. (see Part 1…)

Here’s some variations I’ve tried:
Bike/backpack/rack (…+seat)
+ Trailer
+ Trail-a-bike
Electric bike/rack
+ Trail-a-bike
Folding bike (…+seat)
+ Trailer

But I’m finally getting a bike meant for these things. All of them. At once.

I have a one-year-old, a ten-year-old, a partner that rides, a commute, and everyone has a powerful need to eat – so it needs to hold groceries, too.

Okay, it’s not the ultimate family & cargo bike… such as a bucket bike you can just throw anything in, or the full-size EdgeRunner with a bit more room to grow, but this is perfect for me. For what I need, and for my budget.

I’m getting a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day. Red.

Just look at it!

Basically, it’s a small-wheeled, long-wheelbase cargo bike, set up to carry a kid and anything else we might need. It has 20″ wheels, and an ingenious telescoping frame, which will allow both Aimee and I to ride it, and allows it to fit on a bus rack. They’re locally made in Eugene, OR and are fantastic little bikes.

I am stoked! And so is this guy:

O has already got the hang of the oh-shit handle– er, the U-tube

Already went to the park!

And I’m getting a few more things to make life easier: Lots of storage & carrying options (a nice front basket & front pannier holders, really great bags). Dynamo lights that don’t need charging, (and a usb outlet to charge my phone – ABC: Always Be Charging). This is Seattle, so fenders. Of course, fenders.
(Aside: when I started riding year-round in Seattle I had no fenders. How?!? I actually had full raingear before I had fenders… I’d recommend the other way around.)

I’m getting about $3000+ worth of bike, here. To do this, I’m applying for financing, which actually makes it easier to spend a bit more on what I really want. I’ve never bought a car, but this is actually wayyy better. I’ll pay it off in a year, be improving my credit, and I won’t be stuck with a dang car in the end!

But I’m also stopping short of the electric-assist route. I’m pretty sure I’ll want that later, after the kid eats for a few more years and I get that much lazier. For now: gears. Lots of gears. 24 should suffice. I’ve been riding a 7-speed folding bike, so that should be plenty.

Well, time to get in gear for toddler preschool and some car-free Costco runs. See you out there!

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