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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amsterdam: Neighborhood Bike Racks

Today I stepped out from the trade show for a walk in a nearby neighborhood. Being Amsterdam, there are bikes everywhere, on the cycle paths and locked to anything imaginable. In this little neighborhood, I found large bike racks on the sidewalk for the residents. The racks were overflowing. I guess when your bike weighs 40 pounds, dragging it upstairs to an apartment doesn’t make sense.

A few weeks ago I read an article about why San Francisco doesn’t install bike racks in residential areas. The short answer: they’re focusing on racks at commercial locations because they have more demand. But based on the article’s comments, there’s also a fear that the racks would be used by residents for long-term parking, not by visitors. Sounds reasonable at first—why fill up city-provided bike racks with resident parking? Shouldn’t residents or the building owners foot the bill for bike parking?

But take a step back and consider that long-term car parking in neighborhoods by residents is not only allowed, it’s demanded. That’s why converting street parking to bike lanes meets a lot of resistance. Some neighborhoods go so far as to restrict parking to residents only through permit programs, giving them priority over visitors. So why not give bike owners the same privilege as car owners?

What do you think? Should cities provide bike racks in neighborhoods, just like they provide street parking for cars?

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Fashion Fridays: Pinstripes & Pink

A soft pink top, coin pearl necklace and ballet flats add a feminine touch to wide leg cropped trousers in pinstripe gray, on Juliett.

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

 

A Song Stuck in My Head

This cute little song was stuck in head for days after i heard it at the San Francisco Bike Expo’s fashion show last fall. I just made the mistake of watching the video while waiting for my plane to Amsterdam. I’m afraid I’ll be hearing it throughout my looooong flight, but at least the lyrics seem fitting.

Is there a song that you know will get stuck in your head every time you hear it?

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Around Town

 

Yes, I Married This Man

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a goofball with good bike handling skills. He’s goofy enough on an everyday basis, and when you pull out the camera he takes it up a notch. Like last Saturday, when my GoPro caught him flying by doing a Contador-inspired “doble pistola” maneuver at the top of the Kings descent.

He doesn’t stop at imitating pro cyclists, either. His attempts at femininity are completely unconvincing, but they still make me smile. Yes, I married this man, and I haven’t regretted it a single day.

What goofy things do you find endearing about that special person in your life?

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Backroads

 

Tracking Your Neighborhood Mountain Lion

This morning I read in the Mercury News that the town of Los Altos Hills activated its emergency alert system over the weekend, phoning residents that a mountain lion was seen in the open space behind Foothill College.

I’m sure the residents of the Emerald Hills area of Redwood City weren’t surprised. They’ve had numerous mountain lion sightings this year, including one closer into town near Sequoia Hospital. There have been so many sightings that the Mercury News now provides an interactive sightings map on their web site.

Are all these sightings a single cat, or are the hills full of them? That’s what scientists at Santa Cruz Puma Trackers are trying to figure out by using sophisticated gps collars to track these big cats. Their research in habitat fragmentation tells interesting stories about the lives of mountain lions.

On their web site, I found maps tracking cats in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains such as a territorial young male in the Boulder Creek area. His range is approximately 20 miles in diameter, from Big Basin to Swanton to Ben Lomand. That’s further than the distance from Emerald Hills to Los Altos Hills.

A neighboring cat is 5 year old female, possibly with cubs. Her range? Almost as large as the young male’s, and clearly overlapping. And there are at least two other cats being actively tracked in this same area.

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After watching videos on their web site, my guess is that the sightings in Emerald Hills are probably multiple cats, and it’s completely possible that the cat in Los Altos Hills is from Emerald Hills. But without a formal program tracking them, we’ll never know how many are out there or where exactly they go.

Does knowing mountain lions are out there affect whether you go out onto the backroads or on the trails? Would you be afraid or excited to see one?

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Backroads, Dirt Trails

 

Reflections on a Year of Bike Commuting

One year ago this week I challenged myself to ride my bike to work every day. It wasn’t to save money or to lose weight or to save the planet. I was just getting burned out from my usual road and trail riding, and I needed to slow down and do something different. I will admit, though, that I did feel a little guilty driving my car in freeway or city traffic to a job less than five miles away when I could ride there in less than 30 minutes.

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After working out a few details like buying a briefcase pannier for my laptop and finding some better lights, I was all set. Bike commuting every day was much easier than I expected, which is why I’m still at it a year later. When I reflect on what I’ve learned the past year, it falls into three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

  • There are far more overly nice drivers who wave you through stop signs than jerks that buzz by you or honk.
  • Riding to work actually saves me time. I trade 40 minutes of driving for 60 minutes of exercise every day.
  • If I ride slowly, dress cold and peel off layers as I go, I barely sweat, so I can ride in street clothes.
  • With flat pedals I can wear almost any kind of shoes, even heels. Platform shoes don’t work, though.
  • Even when I wake up tired and don’t feel like riding, I feel better by the time I get to work.
  • I can pick up groceries on the way home if I bring the right panniers and leave my laptop at work.
  • With good lights, riding in the dark is much safer than at sunset.
  • For some reason, my chronically dry skin isn’t so dry anymore. Sweat therapy?
  • No car maintenance! I only drove 1800 miles, so I haven’t even had a oil change. This makes me happier than saving money on gas.
  • Even in a rainy year, it doesn’t rain much on the peninsula. Unless it was already raining in the morning, I rode. I only got soaked twice, and both times it was on the way home.
  • When cars drive 20 mph vs 30 mph it’s not only safer for pedestrians and bikes, it’s much quieter.
  • On my bike, I’m more in touch with my neighborhood. I see the same dog walkers, I smile at the kids walking to school with their parents, and I get to see and hear teams practicing sports after school.
  • My city and its neighbors get high marks for making bike commuting easy, safe and comfortable.

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The Bad

  • The noise pollution of fast traffic grates on my nerves. Riding on a freeway frontage road is not relaxing.
  • The closer drivers are to the freeway, the more they drive like they’re already on it.
  • When the freeway backs up, aggressive drivers spill onto nearby local streets and try to make up lost time.
  • Few drivers respect 25 mph neighborhood speed limits, and I resent laws that make enforcement difficult.
  • Street parking for cars often takes precedence over bike lanes. I resent that valuable roadway space is used for free storage of private property when it could be used for bicycle traffic.

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The Ugly

  • Twice, women honked at me for taking the lane on very narrow, but short, stretches of 25 mph street.
  • Another woman yelled at me for waiting for a red light on top of the bike sensor instead of in the crosswalk.
  • A teenager in a BMW floored it on a straight stretch of a neighborhood street, blowing by at about 50 mph.

So the good far outweighs the bad, and the ugly is rare, with only three significant incidents. Not bad for 6-7 days of riding every week for a whole year.

But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that bicycling makes my suburban city “walkable.” The only thing within a 15 minute walk from home is a grocery store, but 15 minutes on my bike gets me to restaurants, specialty stores, drug stores, farmers market, bookstore, the movie theater, and lots more. My bikes give me the advantages of a more densely built city, but without giving up the green spaces and small town feel of the suburbs.

How does my list compare to yours? What’s the good, the bad and the ugly of transportation bicycling for you?

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Another Weekend, Another Coast Ride

Since Katie, Dick and I missed out on the San Gregorio coastal loop ride two weeks ago, we convinced Michelle to do the route again with us. Some rides are worth repeating, but it was far from the same ride. The coastal fog had let up and we were treated to sunshine and warmer temperatures. Today, I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Do you have a favorite route that you find yourself riding again and again?

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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Backroads

 

Bike Date Friday: Mayfield Bakery & Cafe

Are bike dates becoming a phenomenon? For the second week in a row, we were not the only couple out for dinner on our bikes.

With a big ride to the coast planned for Saturday, we decided to keep it local at Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Town & Country Plaza. As we rolled across town, we realized that we were really early, so we took a quick tour through Professorville. The neighborhood, built around the turn of the century by Stanford professors, features some of the oldest and most interesting homes in our area.

We were so engrossed we had to hurry to make our 7:00 reservation. Town & Country Plaza re-landscaped the parking lot a while back, adding some great bike racks. Still, we noticed two old school road bikes leaned up against the patio seating planters. Another bike date, perhaps? One bore the Peter Johnson name, a local bike builder that Dick knows. We each glanced into the patio for the owners, but couldn’t guess who they were.

The restaurant was busy, we took a table inside rather than wait for a patio table. Like Flea Street Cafe, Mayfield Bakery features on locally grown or raised ingredients, with a focused, regularly changing menu. I chose the lamb shank with figs and fried okra, while Dick went for a pork chop with polenta. Both tasty. I particularly liked the okra and figs and wished they had given me more of then and a smaller shank.

While we were eating, I saw two people get up from the patio. The man’s classic wool jersey gave them away as the owners of the bikes. It was Peter Johnson himself and his wife Jan. As they pedaled off, I wondered where they were headed and whether they are bike date regulars too.

We finished our meal with dessert, received a complimentary loaf of challah bread, and headed home. Our route took us past Palo Alto High School where they were hosting their first football game of the season. We stopped for a bit and watched the players running, the cheerleaders jumping and the students and parents enjoying the warm night out. Then we pedaled off into the darkness.

Are you noticing more couples out for the evening on bike dates? If not, do you ever notice any?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Fashion Friday: Hot August Nights

The days may getting shorter, but the heat’s still on with this Asian-inspired knit dress and wide strap heels, on Juliett.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

 

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Slower Traffic Keep Right(s)

What’s wrong with this picture? Hint: it’s the sign.

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The sign is on the descent of Page Mill Road just uphill from Moody Road. There’s nothing wrong with the top part of the sign, warning cyclists that the hill steepens ahead. At 10%+ grade on a narrow road with tight turns, it’s a problem area for less skilled cyclists. The problem is the “keep right” at the bottom. It’s unsafe advice and not consistent with the California Vehicle Code.

The CVC 21202 states: “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.”

Take a look at the width of this lane. It’s clearly not wide enough for a “bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.” So the sign is clearly inconsistent with CVC 21202. Furthermore, on a steep descent with tight corners like Page Mill, many cyclists, like my friends and I do not “operate our bicycles at less than the normal speed of traffic.” In fact, we sometimes ride faster. Then there’s passing another bike, making left or right turns–all legitimate reasons to not keep right regardless of lane width.

But the most dangerous aspect of these signs is that they not only encourage cyclists to hug the edge of the pavement on a technical descent, increasing their chance of running off it, but they also send drivers the wrong message that cyclists don’t have the right to use the full lane, a right granted per CVC 21202.

I suggest that the transportation official replace the “bicycle keep right” signs with signs with more “vehicle neutral” language, or simply post “may use full lane” signs that reflect what cyclists are truly entitled to.

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Are there bicycle-related road signs in your area that are inconsistent with your rights as a cyclist?

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Backroads, Issues & Infrastructure

 
 
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