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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Bike Lane FAIL? Median Path in Los Altos Hills

If you’re designing a way for bikes to navigate a tough intersection, a great place to start is to ask bicyclists, right? Sounds great in theory but in practice, but you’ll find that bicyclists don’t always agree on what’s best.

Take this median path on El Monte Road, a high-speed four lane road that crosses under Interstate 280. At a local bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee meeting, one of the BPAC members proposed it as a good model for a redesign of a similar undercrossing just up the freeway. I strained to understand. Did he really think a narrow sidewalk would work for the packs of road riders that frequent this area? I mean, it’s so narrow that there’s even a “walk bike” sign. And the path is 1/2 mile long. No roadie would ever walk that far in their Sidis.

Median Path

The reality is that few people actually walk their bikes on this path and it’s very useful for people who don’t want to ride on the roadway and deal with high-speed traffic merging on and off the freeway. While I’ve ridden on the roadway on weekly basis and have had little trouble with drivers, not everyone wants to ride like that. Ironically, the day I took these photos, a driver nearly right-hooked me in his impatience to get on the freeway.

So is this path good for bicyclists? Yes, provided the city ditches the “walk bike” sign and doesn’t expect all cyclists to use the median pathway. Bicyclists don’t always choose the same path and that’s OK by me.

Note: “No Bikes” photo from Greg McPheeters. More on the Los Altos Hills attempt to ban bikes is here.

Location: El Monte Road at Interstate 280, adjacent to Foothill College.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

A True-Blue, All-American Fourth of July

Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. Those are the all-American traditions for celebrating Independence Day, even if it’s not what Dick and I usually do. But this year, after researching local Fourth of July activities for my Bike Fun blog for the Mountain View Voice, I jumped headfirst into the holiday like never before. Truth is, I was curious whether the events I recommended were worth it.

Was the Rose, White and Blue parade worth buying silk flowers and carefully zip tying them to my bike? Was it worth rolling out of bed early to hop on a bus to San Jose? Even more important: was it worth convincing my friend Cindy to get up early, decorate her bike and ride in the parade with me? For all I knew, we could be the only adults riding our bikes in a sea of cute little kids under the watchful eyes of suspicious parents.

Tissue Paper Wheels

As usual, my fears were unfounded. Cindy and I had a blast decorating her bike, showing it off to her friends next door, and then riding over to the parade start in the nearby Rose Garden neighborhood. There we found fire trucks, marching bands, classic automobiles and families on elaborately decorated bikes. Most importantly, we met a welcoming trio of flamboyant friends: Raymond, Ken and Diamond Mike. We had found our bike gang.

Cindy and the Boys

Fortunately, neither the parade nor our ride to downtown San Jose for lunch afterward was too taxing (despite the heat) because Dick and I had plans for the evening. Based once again on my research for the Voice, I had picked up residents-only discounted tickets for the San Francisco Symphony and Fireworks Show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre back in Mountain View. We had ridden out to the adjacent Shoreline Park to see the fireworks display before, but never had the pleasure of hearing musical accompaniment to the fireworks.

Like the Rose, White & Blue Parade, the symphony was worth it. Unlike the Rose, White & Blue Parade, we’ll definitely be going back next year and inviting some of friends. Then again, if some of y’all want to do the parade with me, it won’t take much to convince me. I’m always game for decorating my bike.

What are your Fourth of July traditions? Do you ride to a traditional event? Or perhaps do an epic ride?

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides

 

Fashion Holiday Edition: Rose, White and Blue

When a good old-fashioned 4th of July parade marches through San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood it emerges as the Roses, White & Blue Parade. Susie Q turned heads with her garlands of red floribuna and white tea silk roses with sprays of lilac as she rolled slowly down the shaded avenues on a hot summer day.

Bedecked with Roses

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 July 4, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Indicator Species for What?

I sometimes feel a little lonely on my bike commute, seeing so many men riding along and so few women joining in on the fun. It’s not like my route along the river trail is on treacherous high-speed roads with hostile drivers scaring away female riders, often called the indicator species for a healthy cycling environment.

The answer came to me at lunch when I looked around the sandwich shop. Maybe it’s not about bicycling, it’s about Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry. There aren’t many female commuters here, with or without bikes.

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 July 2, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Nothing Stirs Up Trouble Like a Bike Date

When the editor of my local newspaper asked me to write a weekly bike blog for their online edition, I was interested but concerned. The Mountain View Voice has a reputation for attracting nasty comments about cyclists, even on stories where bikes aren’t involved. Like a story about man in a wheelchair who was struck by a car in a hit and run. The victim was using the bike lane so I guess that made it fair game for anti-bike rants.

But I knew that writing about fun things to do on a bike might get more people off the couch and into the saddle, so I forged ahead into the unknown. After five weeks, I had only positive comments for stories on topics like how to get an old bike rolling again, the best ice cream shops to bike to, and how to find secret bike-only passages. So I was genuinely surprised which story brought out the bike haters: “The Rolling Romance of a Bike Date”.

Bike Date Wide

Here’s what I wrote. What do you think set the bike haters off?

A few years ago my husband Dick and I were in a dining rut. Unlike when we were dating, we just didn’t go out anymore. We decided that we needed a standing weekly date night, one set in stone on our calendars. Otherwise, it would be too easy to say we were too tired, or to fritter away time at home and then decide to eat in rather than face the crowds and a long wait for a table.

Dick’s day off from work was Friday, so that was an easy decision. I wanted the romance of him picking me up like a real date, so Dick offered to come by my workplace and get me. The twist: since I rode my bike to work, he would ride his bike too.

At the time I was working in Palo Alto, where a seemingly limitless choice of restaurants were a short ride from my office near the Baylands. That first Friday, I waited for him in front of my office building with all the excitement of any first date. When he rolled up I was tickled to see he was wearing a nice sweater and his going-out shoes. He had swapped the clip-in pedals on his bike for flat pedals just for our date.

We rode across the bike bridge over Hwy 101, rolled down to University Avenue for a relaxed and tasty Italian dinner, and then cruised home by the light of a full moon. With rush hour long over, the neighborhood streets were quiet and peaceful so we continued our dinner chat the whole way home. It was a very romantic night.

That’s why nearly three years later, we’re still at what we now call Bike Date Friday. The rules are simple: we eat at a different restaurant every week and we arrive by bike. In the winter we grab heavy coats and bright lights. If it’s drizzling, we grab our raincoats. And if it’s raining hard, we grab a big umbrella and walk the mile to Castro Street.

Now that I work near the airport in San Jose and commute on Caltrain with my bike, our options have expanded. Sometimes we meet at the Diridon Caltrain station and eat in downtown San Jose. Sometimes we meet at the Mountain View Caltrain station and ride across town or to Palo Alto, Los Altos or Sunnyvale. And sometimes we meet on a northbound train for dining in San Carlos, San Mateo and beyond.

In three years, we have yet to exhaust all our dining options. Some restaurants have been better than others and some routes were more fun than others. But one thing’s for sure: our dining rut is now a romantic roll.

The rest of the story gave some tips on where to go for an easy first date, how to pick a route, and a reminder to bring bike lights, including the laws related to riding after dark. Nothing controversial in my book.

My Dutch Bike Landscape M

The initial comments were not kind. The first was simply: “Or you could just drive.” The second was more harsh.

I just wasted 2 minutes of my life reading this, and probably 2 more responding. Who cares? You have a job you say? And still find time to write this article? When you worked in Palo Alto you said you crossed over 101, did you work in east palo? Or just dine there? Cause I’m sure the latter would make for a better article.

Whoa! Where did that come from? Riding bikes out to dinner is so far-fetched that I must be lying about even having a job? (For the non-locals: East Palo Alto is lower income with higher crime rate than Palo Alto) I responded in a non-challenging way and encouraged a few friends to comment with something positive. I didn’t want readers to only see rude reactions from grumpy people.

When I reflect on these reactions, my take is that I indirectly exposed how far and wide a bike can take you. In three years, we’ve gone out to different places every week through all sorts of weather, after dark, and in dress clothing without a car. I think it make people defensive because it takes away excuses why bicycling can’t possibly work. It’s one thing to talk about recreational rides to ice cream shops or to see a historic farm, but riding to dinner in the rain at night in a dress? That’s radical behavior.

It really doesn’t matter what the haters and naysayers think, we’re finding plenty of people out on bike dates, especially in the warm months. I was only a little surprised to see families with young kids out in downtown San Jose last Friday night. Considering downtown San Jose didn’t have much bike action or action in general a decade ago, that’s pretty darn impressive. And the kids were pretty darn happy too.

What radical bike behaviors have you been doing? How are you challenging the status quo?

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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 July 1, 2013 in Bike Date

 
 
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