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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bike Date Friday: Oktoberfest at Teske’s in San Jose

“Prost!” That’s about all we could muster as the crowd in the beer garden chanted “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” and “Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa, Zicke-Zacke-Zicke-Zacke Hoy, Hoy, Hoy!” at the urging of the band. It’s Oktoberfest time not only in Bavaria, but all over the world, including Teske’s Germania in San Jose.

Teske’s is an institution in downtown San Jose, a family-run restaurant serving traditional German fare for decades. Set on the outskirts of downtown in a Victorian building surrounded by new office buildings and expansive parking lots, Teske’s and its neighbor Trials Pub are an oasis of fun on an otherwise bleak block.

Years ago I ate in the indoor dining room at Teske’s, but celebrating Oktoberfest in the beer garden with a live band was a completely different experience. The band was much more fun than anticipated and the shared long tables had us rubbing elbows with a variety of folks, from octogenarians with noteworthy dancing skills, to a trio of beer loving guys with a hankering for over-sized portions of meat.

For all of them and for us, Teske’s delivered: beer, meat and dancing in unusual setting. Not quite Bavaria, but definitely worth the short ride from the Caltrain station. And if you are drinking your beer from the larger liter-sized steins in true Oktoberfest style, there’s the VTA light rail that runs right past Teske’s front door.

Are you an Oktoberfest fan? If so, what is the biggest attraction for you: music, beer, or hearty German food?

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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 30, 2012 in Bike Date

 

Fashion Friday: Little Red Riding Shoes

Hey there little red riding shoes, you sure are looking good. You’re everything that a bicycling girl could want. Oh, yes, mid-height boulevard heels and a soft leather upper cradling my pedaling feet, all in a bold bold red. These shoes catch everyone’s eye, even the big bad wolf’s. Owoooooooo!

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

How Bike Friendly Is Your City? Ask the Census

If gold is luxurious and platinum is even more precious, what’s next? Diamond, of course. Last week, the League of American Bicyclists added a new “Diamond” designation to their Bicycle-Friendly Community program, which recognizes communities that actively promote bicycling. With communities like Portland, Boulder and Davis having achieved Platinum years ago, it was time for the League to expand the challenge.

The program evaluates communities on the five E’s: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation, and gives awards from Bronze to Diamond. But how effective is the rating? My city achieved Bronze, the same as my hometown of Baton Rouge. But no one would say they’re equally bike-friendly.

Most of Baton Rouge’s neighborhoods are isolated by fast roads with no bike lanes, while Mountain View has bike lanes throughout town and bike trails with bridges over freeways. But my city hasn’t improved its bicycling programs as aggressively lately as it did in the past. Could be why it’s been stuck at Bronze for eight years.

Still, it seems like more and more people are bicycling around town. And according to census data released last week, there are. The US Census’ American Community Survey samples a small percentage of the population every year, measuring a variety of things from income to health insurance to transportation, including bike commuting. Its data shows that 6.2% of my city’s residents commute by bike, up from 4.1% in 2010.

Note that the survey has some limitations. First, if you combine travel modes the mode that covers the most distance is what counts. So my work commute is considered transit, even though I spend more time riding my bike than riding the train. Second, it only measures work commutes, not trips by retired and unemployed folks, travel for errands and social activities, and the “mom’s taxi” trips taking kids to school and other activities.

Even for people that drive to work, by my calculation it only measures only about half of their mileage. Here’s the math: the average work commute is 30 miles round trip. Multiply by five days a week for 50 weeks a year and that’s 7500 miles. Since the average automobile mileage of working age people is about 15,000 miles, only half of most drivers’ annual mileage is commuting to work.

Still, I’m pleased to see data that shows Mountain View has bike commuting rates comparable to Platinum rated Portland, and that distinguishes it from other Bronze-rated cities with much lower bicycling rates. To see how your community rates, you can query the ACS database by following the steps outlined in the screenshots below (click image to expand). Or you can check out the US state and California county maps created by my buddy Richard for his Cyclelicious blog.

How does your city rate? Is is increasing? What percentage of your car’s annual mileage is work commuting?

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure

 

Bike Lane FAIL: Sharrows on the Edge in Los Altos

Sometimes a good plan becomes a FAIL when it hits the street. The Los Altos Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) clearly advised city staff that sharrows should be centered 5 feet from the curb in a narrow lane like this stretch of 1st Street. Somehow the sharrows got shoved to the gutter, just like the cyclists will be.


Location: 1st Street between Main and State Streets, Los Altos, California, USA.

City staff, listen to your BPACs! Sharrows should instruct bicyclists where to safely position themselves in standard travel lanes, not encourage them to hug the curb and invite cars to unsafely pass them.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

(PARK)ing Day: From Parking Space to People Space

Reclaim your city! So say the organizers of (PARK)ing Day, a global annual event where citizens turn street parking spaces into temporary public places. It’s one of those cool ideas that I’m proud to say began in my neck of the woods. In 2005, Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, rolled out sod, plunked down a park bench and shoved coins in a parking meter. For the two hour legal parking limit, they created a parklet where city dwellers could rest their feet and relax on-street in the middle of downtown San Francisco.

The idea took hold, and this year close to 1000 parklets were created in 95 countries on six continents to celebrate (PARK)ing Day. This year, five parklets were hosted in downtown San Jose by organizations like Greenbelt Alliance, Cool Cities and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. I rolled past them on my way home last Friday before I caught the Caltrain to meet Dick for a Bike Date Friday dinner in Los Altos.

We don’t often go out in Los Altos. It has a quaint downtown, but it leans toward the sleepy side, serving established older couples or upwardly mobile families with kids. Not the best mix for nightlife.

But this year Los Altos hosted their very first parklet for (PARK)ing Day. Being Los Altos, the parklet was an elaborate affair that spanned three parking spaces, from a Peets coffee shop to the 359 State Street bike shop, which became an art gallery with live music that night. A lot of life for sleepy Los Altos, even if only for one night.

Meanwhile, in my neighboring town of Mountain View, (PARK)ing Day is an everyday event. In the late 1980s, Mountain View reconfigured its downtown Castro Street from a fast four-lane road to a three-lane walking-oriented street. Key to the redesign were flexible on-street spots that can be used however the adjacent businesses desire, from patio seating to curbside car parking to bike parking corrals.

The redesign earned awards, but more importantly it works. Castro Street is now a destination for locals and residents of neighboring cities that makes Mountain View more than a place to work and sleep. It’s a lively place that offers a variety of things to see and do, a place where I’m proud to call home.

What do you look for in a place to do more than sleep and work? Does your city or town have any street life?

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure

 

Fashion Friday: Bike Date Duds for Dudes

The well-dressed man knows how to look put together even in comfortable casual clothing. For a casual Bike Date Friday, Dick sports a rugged canvas jacket by Kühl Clothing, a soft brushed cotton shirt, Levi’s classic jeans and Euro comfort shoes by Josef Seibel. My date’s duds are certainly no dud.

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About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Let Me Pull Over and Check

So you’re driving down the freeway or a busy city street and your phone makes that irresistible sound: whoop! It’s a text message, probably from the friend you’re driving to meet. Or you’re lost and you need to read the map and there’s nowhere to pull over. So irritating! But rarely a problem for me when I’m riding my bike.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Gallery: Historic Mountain Bikes at SFO Airport

When I was searching the San Francisco Airport web site for details on how to bike to the airport last week, I was surprised to find “SFO Museum presents: From Repack to Rwanda. Now on view.” Who would have guessed that SFO had a museum and that mountain bikes would be on exhibit in time for my trip?

Despite the unusual location, the exhibit wasn’t out of place since the sport of mountain biking was born on the slopes of Mt Tamalpais across the Golden Gate from San Francisco. I already knew some of the early history from watching the movie Klunkerz, and from hearing pioneers like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher speak at events hosted by our local mountain bike club. But I had never seen the actual early mountain bikes before.

Of the dozen or so bikes on display, my favorites were the 1941 Schwinn fat tires that the early riders modified to charge down a steep dirt road they named Repack because they had to repack the coaster brakes with grease after every hard-braking run. Maybe I was drawn to them because I just met Alex LaRiviere of Faber’s Cyclery, who sold Joe Breeze one of those 1941 Schwinns from his original shop in Santa Cruz.

Or maybe because they were the kind of bikes my dad and his brother rode to deliver newspapers in small town Louisiana during World War II. The streets were dirt and bike parts were scarce, so the boys developed some mad mechanical and riding skills tout suite. Even at 81, my dad rocks the bike off-road with surprising grace.

To see the Repack to Rwanda exhibit in person, visit the International Terminal at SFO airport through February 2013. No airline ticket is required. For more photos check out the online slide show courtesy of SFO.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Bike Gallery, Dirt Trails

 

Planes, Trains, Buses, Bikes and Feet

When it comes down to it, we have more choices on how to get from Point A to Point B than most people consider. There are the obvious parameters–cost, time, comfort–but most of the time people choose the routes they’ve done before, not what necessarily the ones that are most efficient or convenient.

When I registered for the National Women’s Bicycling Summit, I wanted to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight down to LA and then ride the Los Angeles River Trail down to Long Beach the next morning. But I couldn’t afford the time off work for the all-day train ride and didn’t want to ride downtown LA alone at night, so I opted to fly.

Flying brings more choices: there are multiple airports on either end of the trip. Because I prefer smaller airports I usually fly Southwest from San Jose to Burbank or Irvine, but JetBlue flies from San Francisco directly into Long Beach at a low price and with no LAX hassles so I was sold. Sorry, SJC, SFO won this time.

I had heard the folks at SFO bragging about their bike facilities and knew that the Millbrae Caltrain station was about 2 miles from the airport, so I rode the train and my bike to get to the airport. Baggage wasn’t a problem. From my business trip to Seattle I knew I could carry bags for a two-day trip on my bike, including my laptop.

For ground transportation on arrival, I took a chance with the city bus instead of my usual taxi. My iPhone gave me explicit instructions, the bus was on time, and I got to my hotel in 45 minutes in air conditioned comfort, albeit with blisters from walking in my “sensible” shoes. It was painfully obvious I don’t walk much.

The reverse trip was equally smooth with another bus ride and a handsome man who met me at the airport for our standing Friday night bike date. With several good restaurants along the bay by the airport there were plenty of choices. There almost always are, if you are willing to look for them and take a risk.

Total transportation costs: $186 plane + $11 train + $2.50 bus + $35 bike + $0 feet = $241.50.

How comfortable are you with taking risks when you travel? Do you like trying something new or do you prefer to stick to what you’re comfortable with?

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Fashion Friday: Long Beach Cruisin’

It may be September, but it’s still hot hot hot in Southern California. I scored this Nuu-Muu exercise dress at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit, the perfect swimsuit cover-up for cruising the beach in style. With pockets in the back, you can tuck away everything you need for a day in the sun. Don’t forget the sunscreen!


The super stretchy fabric of this simple A-line dress make it both comfortable and flattering. Available in sizes from XS-XXL, the dresses are particularly popular in plus-sizes. No surprise to me, I find it very slimming.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 
 
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