USF at Critical Mass, February 2017


students at a much bigger critical mass in 2009

Three of us went to Critical Mass on a chilly February afternoon.

The legendary event was tiny — a dozen or so cyclists clustered in near the Ferry Building.

Vincent had this to say about the occasion:

With only two student, one of which is myself , and the professor, the journey to see Critical Mass on Friday February 25, 2017 was in my view underwhelming. There was a small turnout of people whom congregated in front of the ferry building. Professor Hunt informed me that sometimes there are crowds of cyclists, but this time was very small. I did not participate in the Mass nor anyone else in the group. We went to get coffee instead and talk about life. After coffee we all went away. The professor estimated that the cyclists would venture off around 6 pm, however coming out from getting coffee at around 6:30 the people at the “Mass” were still there. They hadn’t left. I did not stay to see them sent-off….

Using Evidence

For the next few weeks, we’ll focus on evidence.

Presenting the right evidence for your audience and purpose, and presenting evidence in the right way, is essentially for your credibility.

Additionally, we want people to base important decisions on evidence. When a doctor treats me, I want the treatment to be based on evidence (as opposed to tradition, belief, opinion, or superstition). When a new bridge is built, I want the engineers to make decisions based on evidence rather than gut feelings.

As we’ve discussed in class, there are heated debates about the use of bike helmets. In many US states, helmets are required for children, but no US states require them for adults. The primary purpose of bike helmets is to reduce fatal injuries, and there is good evidence that they reduce fatal injuries. However, new knowledge about traumatic brain injuries such as concussion has raised concerns about helmets and non-fatal head injury.

Watch three videos and write a post about the use of evidence in arguments about bike helmets. The first video is about effective communication of technical or scientific ideas. The next two are arguments about bicycle helmets (pro and con).

Don’t hesitate to google these speakers to find out a bit more about them.

Melissa Marshall, “Talk Nerdy to Me.” Marshall is a scientific communications consultant and faculty member at Penn State.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, “Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a Helmet. Colville-Andersen is a designer and urban planning consultant.

Fred Rivara, “The Importance of Bike Helmets.” Rivara is a physician and professor of pediatrics in Seattle.



For further thinking (optional), watch this video about a new kind of helmet, which is essentially an airbag for your head:

Here’s the site of the Swedish company developing the airbag helmet:

Finally (and again optional), consider this opinion piece by Eben Weiss, US author and cycling advocate, who argues against mandatory helmet laws in the US:


A Post about a Bicycle

Write a blog post about a bike you own or have owned
(or wanted to own). Include some visual element
in your post (photo, drawing, graph, chart, map…).

Like this one:

In a barn sale in rural Ohio, my mother found a rusty Frankenstein of a bike: two frames and some iron pipe welded together in a frightening heap. She bought it for $20. I managed to get it to San Francisco & fix it up. I don’t get to ride it much because I live in a hilly area and it’s almost impossible to ride this thing on a hill (up or down).

There is a “tall bike” subculture in the US and around the world, usually centered in urban areas, so it was a surprise that this bike came from a very rural area. Also, it appears to have been constructed 30 or 40 years ago, which is before the current tall bike subculture really got going.

Unfortunately, this bike has a design flaw that can cause the handlebars to detach unexpectedly from the front wheel. Although the bike isn’t super duper tall, this experience is nonetheless unsettling. If I can figure out how to fix this problem, I’ll bring the bike to campus one of these days.

PS. YouTube video of the tallest bike I know of:


Reflection and Self-Assessment

Reflection is a crucial component of any learning task. We have good evidence that if you reflect on a task after completing it (rather than immediately rushing to the next task), you will learn more, learn deeper, retain learning longer, and be better able to apply what you learned to future situations.

Self-assessment is related to reflection. Humans are generally not good at self-assessment: often, people either overestimate or underestimate their ability. But improvement depends on accurate self-assessment. When you write this self-assessment, it helps us figure out if you and I agree on your performance.

As a way to get started in your thinking, consider the following questions. In a blog post of 150-500 words, reflect on your own performance in your S1 presentation.

  • What is one thing that you did well in this presentation?
  • What is one thing that you would have liked to do better, and why?
  • Do you feel that you conveyed the information to the audience or made the impact you wanted to make?
  • How did you feel about your delivery?
  • Did working on this presentation help you learn about credibility (your own and that of others)?
  • Do you feel that you learned about the ethics of public speaking?
  • Think about how you will plan, prepare, and deliver future presentations. Do you think you’ll do anything differently? If so, what and why? If not, why not?

Expedition: the Legendary Rockville Cyclocross Series

On Sunday, February 12, we’ll head to the nearby Rockville Cyclocross series.

This is a friendly and low-key event, and probably the best possible place to enter your first bike race! (Strictly voluntary, of course.)

We will be accompanied by members of the USF Cycling Club and learn a bit about the club.

Sunday, February 12
Depart Koret parking lot at 7:30 am sharp.
Return to USF at approximately 12:30 or 1 pm.
CONTACT ME TO RSVP — space is limited to 9 people


  • warm clothes & layers –it’s outdoors and the East Bay is generally chillier than SF this time of year
  • water bottle

If you want to race, bring:

  • clothes that you don’t mind getting VERY MUDDY
  • a second set of clothes to change into after the race

More about the series:

California’s Rockville Bike Winter Cyclocross Series: Cyclocross Like It Used to Be

Norcal Cyclocross Season Continues Through February in Rockville, Ends with Relays and BBQ


Preparing for S1, the first Major Presentation

Tips for your Outline (just kidding — you don’t need tips for your outline).

Tips for the Write-Out:

The Write-Out

Tips for your Video Rehearsals:

Video Rehearsal

Tips for Writing about Sources:

Sources and Bibliographies

Sign up for an Individual Conference:

Speaking Center site:

Info about Self-Assessment and Peer Comments to follow in a future post.

How to Lock Your Bike

We toured some of USF’s campus infrastructure last week:

  • the new bike racks near Lo Schiavo
  • the bike lockers behind Cowell Hall
  • the public bike maintenance station between Malloy and Kalmanovitz
  • the Class II Bikeway (a.k.a Bike Lane) on Golden Gate Avenue westbound.

Since we talked a lot about bicycle storage and theft, here is some information from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition about the best procedures for locking your bike:

Theft & Locking