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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fashion Friday: Something Old, Something New

When it comes to our wardrobes, most of us play favorites. We pull the same things out of our closets day after day, and rue the day they wear out. I’ve loved everything about this knit dress for over five years: the slit neckline and cap sleeves, the empire waist and A-line skirt in a flattering print. How much longer will it last?

Black & White Dress

It was sad to retire my go-to shoes for this dress: closed toe Mary Jane heels. But I love my new wedge heels.

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 May 31, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Spotting: Caution! Looooooong Load

My friend Irene saw a side-by-side tandem recumbent trike pulling another recumbent trike pulling a baby trailer pulling a flatbed trailer. The rig was carrying two garbage bags of who-knows-what plus something that looks like foam mattresses and more. It’s a good thing Irene had a camera. No one would believe her otherwise.

Maxi Trailer

Location: Palo Alto City Hall. Click here to see the photo at maximum resolution.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Bike Gallery

 

Why I Can’t Wait for Bike Share in San Francisco

New York City’s Citi Bike bike share program opened today with huge fanfare from supporters and grumbling from skeptics. With over 15,000 new annual members already subscribed at $95 a pop, I’d say the program is off to an amazing start of the most ambitious roll-out stateside of a bike share: 6,000 bikes in 300 stations.

While most of the skeptics are people who don’t want to lose valuable parking spots to bikes docking stations, some are cyclists who can’t see themselves riding bikes that are 45 pounds of clunky slowness, and who don’t look forward to navigating the crowded streets of NYC with a bunch of newbies on bikes. What’s in it for them?

Plenty. Susi Wunch gave some good reasons for cyclist to use bike share: for riding on spontaneous trips, for riding with non-cyclist friends and out-of-town guests, and for riding that last mile in areas not well served by transit. David Byrne, lead singer of Talking Heads and NYC bike advocate, adds that they’ll be convenient when it rains and you don’t want to take out your own bike and leave it in the wet.

But both missed one important reason for using bike share vs your own bike, which Dick and I learned the hard way in San Francisco today. Here’s a hint: What’s missing in this picture?

20130527-190946.jpg

Yep, someone stole the saddles off our bike while they were parked outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art today. We wanted to catch China’s Terra Cotta Warriors at the Asian Art Museum before they closed today and to see the Gerry Winogrand photography exhibit before SF MOMA closes for 2.5 years next weekend.

I was worried about parking our bikes at the Asian Art Museum since it’s near City Hall in the notorious Mid-Market/Tenderloin neighborhood. But it was in the more respectable SOMA where we lost our saddles. We U-locked our bike frames to sturdy racks, ran cable locks through our front and back wheels. As I walked away, I was pleased that we brought our saddle covers that not only would protect our high-end Brooks B17 and Selle Anatomica saddles from the threatening rain, but also disguise them as more ordinary saddles. It didn’t work.

Unlike NYC, San Francisco’s planned bike share is far more modest at only 35 stations vs 300 stations. The SF program has been criticized for not going big enough, and that may limit its success indeed. But it would have worked for us today. We made four stops in the city today and each had a bike station within a few hundred feet.

SF Bikeshare Map

We could have grabbed a SF bike at Caltrain station, ridden to the Ferry Building and docked it while we ate breakfast, then grabbed another SF bike for the trip to the Asian Art Museum. Ditto for the SF MOMA and then back to Caltrain. We could have taken four bikes for four trips and all for no more than the basic membership fee since all trips were within 30 minutes riding time. (That’s close to what we did in Paris on the Velib bikes)

But most important: our personal bikes would have been safe from cruel bike thieves.

We didn’t have much time to recover from the shock of our bikes’ violation. We had a train to catch! Riding out of the saddle across the pothole-infested South of Market section of downtown San Francisco for the mile back to the Caltrain station, and then another mile to get home from Caltrain in Mountain View is not a trip I care to repeat. Lessons learned: you can’t safely use hand signals out of the saddle, potholes are more dangerous, and my ankles get tired faster than my thighs. I’m glad I was wearing sensible flats instead of heels.

Now we’re left assessing the damage and scraping up replacement parts. Two seatposts, two saddles, two saddle rain covers, two seat packs with multitools, spare tube and patch kits, and a tailight on Dick’s bike. Dick doesn’t want to add up the total cost of our loss but I’m guessing it’s between $500 and $800.

Have you ever had something stolen off your bike? Or even your whole bike? Did it change how you locked your bike or where you parked it?

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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Around Town

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Play Clothes

When my oldest sister Susan was a little girl, she suddenly decided she wouldn’t wear shorts or pants anymore, only dresses. So my mother went straight to her sewing machine and whipped up a set of play dresses. I think little Susan was on to something. This loose-fitting cotton dress has become my go-to outfit for kicking around town on the weekend: easy to throw on, comfortable and girlishly feminine with a sporty twist.

Weekend Fun

We took these photos for Bike Fun with Dick and Janet, a new blog I’m writing for the Mountain View Voice.

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 May 26, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Anything Goes Challenge: Megan & I Take the Bus

Megan lives within 10 miles of me in Silicon Valley but I’ve never met her. Her challenge: getting to a medical appointment two cities away without driving or biking after surgery. For her entry into the Anything Goes Commute Challenge, she compares hitching a ride with a friend vs taking the bus. This is her story.

Because of recent surgery, I can’t drive my car or ride a bike for a few weeks. I needed to get to the medical clinic for some tests and I considered taking a friend up on her offer of helping me during my convalescence, but it just didn’t seem right to ask her to drive a total of about 40 miles just to get me to the clinic that is only seven miles from my house. My solution was to get a family member to drive me to the clinic then take the bus home.

Driving to the clinic:
Driving during Monday morning commute traffic using mostly Central Expressway and Evelyn Avenue took 30 minutes. Cost: It’s hard to analyze. My best guess is $2 to travel seven miles. [Editor's note: US federal reimbursement rate is 56.5 cents/mile so I'm estimating it at $3.95]

Rush Hour Expressway Traffic

Transit home from clinic: The return trip home took 58 minutes by walking and taking the VTA 22 bus. Considering the fact that the return trip from the clinic was during mid-morning which meant that the local bus that I transferred to from the 22 was running only every 30 minutes, I think that only 58 minutes to return home was not too bad. If I had taken the 522 Rapid bus, I probably could have traveled home even faster.

Cost: $4 ($2 for each leg of trip home). Note to self: figure out how to buy a day pass using the Clipper card.

No Bus Lane

LadyFleur had recently mentioned using an iPhone app for the VTA bus routes so I checked it out then bought it while at the clinic when I was between appointments. After using the SJ Transit app for this morning’s trip, I find that I really like it. It helps me overcome my hesitation to using the VTA bus system to get places since I don’t always have a paper schedule with me. Frankly, the paper schedules were harder for me to use than this app.

Bus Map vs Bus App

The Clipper card is another innovation that has helped me get out of my car and on to the bus. As an infrequent bus rider, it was always hard to make sure I had exact change for a bus trip. Scanning a Clipper card is much easier than digging around in my purse for $2.

Sorry, but while juggling my iPhone, checking the timer on my phone, checking the SJ Transit app for route info and watching for my bus stop, I didn’t take any photos.

Megan

Never fear, Megan, I took your bus challenge and snapped some photos on the trip. After digging up my old transit maps I realized it had been almost 20 years since I’d ridden the bus! Thanks for getting me back on the bus, and even more for taking the Anything Goes Commute Challenge.

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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Anything Goes

 

Anything Goes Challenge: Frank Crosses the Border

When most people think of bike commuters in the Netherlands, they imagine dressed-up people riding upright Dutch bikes rolling short distances along on cyclepaths in compact city centers. While many Dutch commuters do fit this mold, there are others like Frank, whose commute is roughly 20 miles, a distance that’s more typical for suburban America. But his Anything Goes Commute Challenge is hardly American. This is his story.

Since February 19th this year, I’ve started a new job which offered a new commuting challenge, riding 60 km (37 mi) per day instead of 21 km (13 mi). But as cycling is my main hobby, I took on the challenge and started out with at least three or four times per week cycling to work.

My daily trip takes me from the Netherlands to Belgium. As soon as I cross the border a significant change in road maintenance becomes painfully clear. Roads in Belgium are very much in worse state then in the Netherlands, especially the secondary roads. [Editor's note: The well-kept road below must be Dutch.]

Cycle Path

Based on this, driving by car would be the most obvious option, but after finding my definitive route I still prefer to take the trip by bike. Not because of the costs or the compensation, but because of these advantages:

  • Almost 3,5 hours relaxing work-out, clearing my mind while listening to my favourite music
  • I arrive more “mentally fresh” by bike than by car
  • The 2,5 km ride through the woods is beautiful in any season and I consider it an extra bonus for my efforts

Tree Path

Another, more medical, reason for commuting by bike is the fact that my doctor suspects I’m narcoleptic, so cycling is a bit safer for me than driving a car.

The disadvantages of doing this commute by bike I find are:

  • I start work between 5:30 and 6:00 am, so every day I have to get up at 3:00 am. :-\
  • The prevalent wind direction is southwest, so every day on my way home I’ve got to face headwind.
  • Depending on the weather conditions, the trip can take up to two hours.

Driving to Work

The advantages of driving by car are straightforward. It’s quick and dry. The disadvantages of driving by car are that it’s a boring trip with lots of speed bumps. It’s a longer distance that can be stressful during rush hour.

My personal score card of this commute:

Anything Goes Frank

The compensation is a government ruling in Belgium which is paid through my salary. That’s one advantage of working for a Belgian employer. Here in the Netherlands the compensation is much less.

Note that I don’t have to pack clothing due to the nature of my job and I pass three shops along the way and always carry panniers, so (some) shopping is no problem. Also, in the village where our company is located are several options to go for lunch, even in work clothes (it’s easy, people).

Personally, I don’t think my ride time by bicycle is wasted time as I work out and relax. I really found this challenge a very good idea and I liked it lot. Hope you can come up with more of these ideas!

Dutch greetings and safe riding, Frank.

Thanks, Frank, for participating in the Anything Goes Commute Challenge, and for not letting a longer, earlier morning commute with a tough headwind keep you off the bike!

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Anything Goes

 

Fashion Friday: Wrapped in Confidence

In an interview during a product launch enhanced by flash mobs of young women chanting “Be the woman you want to be!” and dancing by the Eiffel Tower, Diane von Furstenberg said, “My mission is to empower women to feel beautiful and secure and confident. Because when you are confident you are beautiful.”

No wonder her iconic wrap dress has been embraced by women of all ages, shapes and sizes for over 40 years, including me. I’m always confident in my wrap knit dresses, on or off the bike. Mission accomplished, Diane!

Wrap Dress

P.S. Diane, sign me up to dance in your flash mob at your next launch. I’ll even fly to Paris for it.

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 May 17, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Spring Rain, Morning Peace

When you live in a city that averages over 300 days of sunshine and less than 15 inches of rain a year, riding in light rain along a quiet path is a special treat. And for me this morning, a peaceful way to start my day.

20130516-092947.jpg

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 May 16, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Anything Goes Challenge: Margaret Walks in L.A.

There’s a famous saying: “Nobody walks in L.A.” If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles you know that the saying is close to the truth. L.A. is where cars were crowned king and their kingdom spread across the nation and the world through the movie industry. But not everyone drives in L.A. just to cross a street. Margaret rides her bike to work every day, and for her Anything Goes Challenge she did the unthinkable–WALK. This is her story.

I like to ride my bike to work from my home near Los Angeles International Airport to my job in Manhattan Beach. Door to door one way is 30-60 minutes and 4.5 miles if I take the city route and 9 miles if I take the popular bike path along the beach known as “The Strand”. My commute takes me past the stereotypical SoCal landscape…aerospace industry, movie studios, million dollar homes and the beach.

Margaret bike crop

When I read about the Anything Goes Commute Challenge, I was intrigued. I’ve always wanted to try, just once, to walk to work. But I didn’t want to walk all the way home. For this challenge, I decided to take public transport TO work and then walk home FROM work.

The Commute To Work: Transit

To complete this challenge I needed public transit timetables and routes. Living a 10 min walk from the Metro Line station, I am familiar with the Metro train service. However, I have only a vague idea of the bus service. I know which bus passes by my office, but have no clue where to board near my house.

7  not my train

Using Metro Trip Planner, I plugged in my travel details and came up with a dizzying array of possibilities, which I narrowed down to three:

  1. Walk 0.6 mi to bus stop, catch City bus #1. Transfer to Metro bus #2. Walk 0.1 mi to office. Total: $1.40.
  2. Walk 0.9 mi to Metro Line. Take train, transfer to Metro bus #2. Walk 0.1 mi to office. Total: $3.00
  3. Walk 1.3 mi to bus stop, catch Metro bus #2. Walk 0.1 mi to office. Total: $1.50

I chose the most expensive option, #2, because I wanted to get in three modes of transport. Also, I could use my Transit Access Pass (TAP) card for the entire trip.

12 ads on bus w small portion for GPS bus map

Advantages of Transit: The bus and train stop are an easy walk from my house. The service is frequent during rush hour, so no stress about missing my boarding and the TAP card was easy to use. I enjoyed being in the hustle and bustle of morning commuters. My commute is just short enough to be a pleasant experience and almost as fast as commuting by bike. I enjoyed experiencing little moments such as the man selling steaming hot tamales and coffee at the bus stop.

Disadvantages of Transit: Riding the bus and train are more expensive than riding my bike, and my exercise is limited to just 13 minutes of walking. By 10:00am I was tired because I didn’t have my ‘wake-up’ ride. And the bus does not pass by the stores I frequent, making it inconvenient to run errands after work. I was initially concerned that the walk to the Metro station might not be safe in the dark since it passes liquor stores, run-down motels and a former strip joint. But after I walked it I decided my fears were unfounded.

11  0610 under watchful eye of Tom,  brisk tamale & coffee biz at bus stop

The Commute Home: Walking

For the commute home, I walked the 4.5 miles. I couldn’t have picked a better day. Temperature was sunny and 65F, light winds at my back and a downhill or flat walk. I chose not to walk my bike route home, which is quiet and mostly through residential neighborhoods, but instead a route that includes 2.7 miles along a major, six lane boulevard. I chose this route so that I would pass small shops and a mall.

Walking down a major boulevard is just as stressful as biking it. What an eye opener! I was hyper-vigilant to the cars exiting driveways as well as drivers making turns from intersections, all without bothering to check for pedestrians. After one mile, I abandoned the plan to continue on the boulevard and instead cut through a mall parking lot. I stopped for a half hour break to collect my wits and enjoy a Happy Hour appetizer of baba ganoush and water, before heading off to a ‘quieter’, yet major street.

13 0305  busy blvd

Advantages of walking: I noticed even more walking than when biking. Retired professional soccer player and sports commentator Alexi Lalas jogged right past me. That’s a different type of exercise than biking.

Disadvantages of Walking: It takes a long time to get to destinations and probably won’t be as pleasant once the warmer weather arrives. I must wear proper walking shoes (Skechers, ftw!) and am limited by what I can carry, so it’s not ideal to pickup groceries along the way.

Anything Goes Margaret

Overall Assessment: Biking to work everyday is by no means a ‘rut’. However, it was nice to mix it up for a change by taking the train and bus. I really enjoyed the feeling of living in a city with proper public transportation, even though L.A. isn’t quite there yet. The bus and train were clean and on time. I liked seeing all types of commuters taking advantage of public transport. I was pleasantly surprised when my train arrived at 06:07a with standing room only. Also, by taking a different route to work, I was able to see that there are a lot more cyclists out there (I only see a few when I bike).

What’s Next for Margaret: This will not be my last time utilizing public transport to get to work. I am positive that I will not be walking home anytime soon, but instead taking option #3 and walking 1.3 miles home. Thanks Ladyfleur, for putting me up to the challenge!

Thanks, Margaret, for participating in the Anything Goes Challenge and proving that somebody walks in LA!

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All photos in this post are courtesy of Margaret and are used with her permission.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Anything Goes

 

When Mom’s Taxi is a Bike

When I speak up at public meetings for improving bicycling in my city, I regularly hear the naysayers: “You can’t carry groceries on a bike,” “You can’t ride in the rain,” “You can’t ride a bike in professional clothes,” “It’s too cold and dark in the winter.” I can speak from personal experience to handily dispel all these myths.

But for “Mothers need cars to take their kids all over town” I have to rely on stories from my friends. Like Karin, my former housemate who bought a bike trailer and started taking her son Anthony to day care on her way to work as soon as he could hold up his head. The 10 mile round trip gave Karin regular exercise that fit within a tight mommy schedule. And trust me, Karin isn’t a happy camper without regular exercise.

Now Karin has another job that doesn’t work for a bike commute with a day care drop off, but she and Anthony regularly ride around town: to the park, the farmer’s market, the swimming pool and even Baskin Robbins.

Karin and I met Elly through Girl Scouts where we formed a group we called the “leaders without daughters” because we didn’t have kids. Like Karin, Elly now has a son who rides with her to day care and around town. Elly says: “He sings to me while we ride (and makes up songs). I think he enjoys it because everything is closer and more immediate. He can say hello to people we pass, point out dogs and interesting sights.”

When Karin starting riding baby Anthony to day care on her work commute, she was the only parent I knew who did it. Now, I’m seeing more and more riding parents their kids to day care or to school. I rarely get the opportunity to snap a shot. They’re rushing to get to school while I’m rushing to catch the train.

But at the Energizer Station on Bike to Work Day last week I met this family. The mom and baby were riding to work and day care at Stanford University. The dad and sibling were along for the ride. All were perfectly content.

Mom & Dad at Caltrain

Karin told me a long time ago I should write about balance bikes. She said that Anthony learned to ride a two-wheel pedal bike in less than an hour because he had ridden a balance bike first. Since I only write about what I experience directly, I wish I had been there to see it. I can only imagine the smile on Anthony’s face.

But I did meet this two-year-old girl rocking a balance bike as she and her parents rode through our cul-de-sac. They had come from the grocery store almost 1/2 mile away and had another 1/2 mile to go before the reached home. That little girl has both endurance and some mad downhill skillz as you’ll see below.

Do you use a bike to take your kid to day care, to school or just around town? What were your biggest challenges? What tips do you have for parents who are curious to try it?

Photos of Karin and Elly in this post are courtesy of them and are used with their permission.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Family Rides

 
 
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