Monthly Archives: August 2013

Part 2: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

*But was afraid to write about until I had data to back me up. The is the second post in the series.

Last week the League of American Bicyclists released their Women on a Roll research report on women and bicycling. The report breaks down results into five key areas: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence and community. Here’s my take on convenience based on my personal experience.

What I knew about CONVENIENCE: Female cyclists shop and run errands by bike more than male cyclists.

Grocery Shopping

Some Statistics from the Women on a Roll report:
Women are far more likely than men to report the following as barriers to bicycling:

  • “Lack of time” (29% vs 21%)
  • “Inability to carry children and other passengers” (19% vs 7%)
  • “Inability to carry more stuff ” (32% vs 20%)

My Personal Experience: If I couldn’t carry things on my bike except what I could fit in a messenger bag I wouldn’t be a daily cyclist. Period. I need to carry a laptop to work every day, I like to pick up groceries and shop for random things after work, and I don’t like how my sweaty I get when I wear a bag on my back.

It wasn’t easy to find equipment I have now. To start, bikes you find at most shops don’t come with racks or baskets and putting them on anything except a touring bike or cruiser is discouraged. When I bought my ’97 Lemond Tourmalet the guy at the shop flat out told me “you can’t put a rack on this bike” when I asked about it. Six years later I did it anyway and it works and looks great.

I now ride a city bike to work because it means I can dress professionally which eliminates the second change of clothing. It also leaves room in my panniers for shopping after work and holding extra layers of outerwear for all sorts of weather. My city bikes are also more practical for big shopping loads on the weekends. Three bags of groceries? No problem. Throwing down the plastic for a new dress coat at Macy’s? No problem. Too bad it took bike industry outsiders like Public Bikes and Linus Bikes to build a bike that lets me do that.

Macys After Work

And that’s for me, a woman who’s not a mom with kids to take to day care, to school, to soccer or dance or to the doctor. How easy is it for mothers to find proper equipment locally? Are these places close enough to home or work to have time to zip between them, especially if they were originally chosen based on driving times?


The Impact: In addition to the gear issues mentioned above, traditional programs like Bike to Work Day promote commuting to work (often the longest trips people make all week) and neglect the shorter and often simpler shopping, errand and kid ferrying trips. Often there’s a competition that only measures mileage instead of number of trips which could be just as effective at reducing congestion, pollution and traffic noise.

The emphasis on work commutes also means that routes are planned with office parks and city centers in mind more than short cross-town destinations. So cities create neighborhood greenways that avoid busy retail corridors and then people scratch their heads when they still see bikes riding busy roads. They don’t realize that cyclists are doing the same errands to the grocery, the drug store, the hardware store that they do by car.

I’ve heard people at meetings discourage putting bike lanes on retail streets because of all the driveways, but I’m guessing they don’t shop that much. I don’t love watching out for cars entering or leaving parking lots, but if that’s your destination, you need a comfortable way to get there even if that means you ride a little slower.

For mothers bicycling with children the bike infrastructure discussion from yesterday is even more important. It’s one thing to accept risk for yourself and respond to others’ concerns. Riding with your kids requires a much higher level of confidence that the route will be safe for both of you and your little sweeties.

How often do you shop or do errands by bike? Do you ride with your kids to school or after-school activities? What were the biggest barriers you faced doing so?

Elly Ciaran 2


Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


Five Things I Already Knew About Women & Bikes*

*But was afraid to write about until I had data to back me up. This is first post in the series.

The League of American Bicyclists released their research on women and bicycling last week in a brief report titled Women on a Roll. The report compiles survey and other data from a variety of sources throughout the United States on when, where, why, and how women are riding bicycles (or not). The good news is that women overwhelmingly like bicycling and more women are riding, with evidence from the report like:

  • Bicycle riding ranked #9 of 47 popular sports for female participation, surpassing yoga, tennis and softball.
  • The overall number of women who bike commute grew 56% from 2007 to 2011.

The report then breaks down results into five key areas: Comfort, Convenience, Consumer Products, Confidence and Community. As a woman who has bicycled for daily transportation for three years, for sport for 12 years, and for fun her whole life, there was little in the report that surprised me. But I’m so grateful that they put hard data behind what I already knew was true, but often hesitate saying for fear of offending people.

The problem is that people are individuals, not demographics. Many women bristle at statements like “women are afraid of car traffic” or “women aren’t competitive” which carry a value judgment more than stating a fact. A significant number of female cyclists have preferences similar to typical male cyclists, and a significant number of male cyclists have preferences similar to typical female cyclists. So that’s my disclaimer before I begin…

What I knew about COMFORT: Women will go out of their way for better bike lanes and low-stress routes.

Bike Path

Some statistics from the Women on a Roll Report:

  • Women will ride an additional 5 minutes further than men to access a bike facility, like a bike lane or path.
  • 47% of potential cyclists in Portland, OR, who are “Interested but Concerned” about bicycling are women.
  • In another Portland survey, 94% of women agreed that separated lanes made their ride safer vs 64% of men.
  • A 2011 bike count in New York City showed that 15% of the cyclists on a street without a bike lane were women, compared to 32% on a nearby streets with a bike lane.

My Personal Experience: Although my friends and I will ride on the shoulder of highways with 45+ mph traffic like Highway 1 along the California coast, we avoid it if there’s any alternative. It’s true for commuting too, where time is more critical. When I ride the whole way to work I have three options: 11 miles on the shoulder of a 45 mph expressway, 12 miles on 35 mph 4-lane office park arterial roads with bike lanes or 14 miles where half is on arterials and half on off-road bike paths. Guess which one I choose.

My friend Cindy C commutes on busy Central Expressway when she’s pinched for time because it’s faster, but my other female roadie friends won’t. And I’ve never heard a woman say she enjoys the thrill of riding an expressway. Yes, I’ve had men say that, usually in the context of why they don’t enjoy it anymore: the thrill is gone. There’s a reason car insurance companies charge men under 25 higher rates. They’re risk takers.

Riding on Central Expressway

Not that women always choose streets with bike lanes. When I turn off of a faster street with door zone bike lanes and take its parallel neighborhood street suddenly I see women and girls, despite there being stop signs every 500 feet. It’s not a matter of experience either. I know an experienced couple that disagrees over which of these two routes to choose. She likes to leave five minutes early and take the lower-stress route, he doesn’t understand why. No names on this one, but you can guess.

The Impact: When a city installs bike lanes it says that bikes belong. Despite long-standing laws giving bikes full rights to the street, the public is more accepting of bikes on high-speed roads where there are bike lanes. Social acceptance is more important to women who often have a harder time ignoring the safety concerns of others. “You ride there? That’s dangerous. Are you crazy?” has greater negative impact when it’s said to a woman than a man. Especially when it’s her husband, mother or best friend saying it.


Having only male cyclists weigh in on bicycle infrastructure can skew it toward designs that fewer women will choose. In particular, the preferences of “vehicular cyclists” who believe bikes should be “driven” like cars in standard travel lanes instead of ridden in bike lanes are far less appealing to women. Given that 94% of women prefer separated bike lanes, I’d say that people who fight against them are being unintentionally sexist.

Is it that women are too nervous to learn to ride in car traffic? Nope. Over half of the participants in classes offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are women. My take: women are willing to learn to ride confidently and safely, but they’d rather not have to ride in fast traffic that doesn’t think they belong there.

Do the results in the Women on a Roll report surprise you? Does it match what you see in your area? How do you think the preferences of women riders impacts bicycling in your city?



Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


Fashion Friday: Back to School for Brian

A midlife shift from tech to teaching has Brian rolling onto campus as a student teacher. His wardrobe has shifted as well: jeans to trousers, t-shirt to dress shirt, and a brand new tie for making an impression on the first day of class. What’s not changed is his transportation, a eye-catching belt-driven Trek District single speed.

Prof Brian

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.


Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


You’re Invited: A Ladies Tea & Bike Social

You are cordially invited to a Ladies Tea & Bike Social on Saturday the seventeenth of August, two thousand and thirteen at eleven o’clock in the morning at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, California.

When I started daily bike commuting three years ago, Dottie and Trisha of Let’s Go Ride a Bike became a major influence on how I ride. I stumbled upon their blog one Saturday and ended up reading for hours. Coming from a sport-oriented bike background, their how-tos and stories of how they ride around town in dresses and heels and arrive looking great in all sorts of weather were eye-opening to say the least. I owe them a world of thanks.

Their influence doesn’t stop with dressing for the destination. For over two years Dottie has been hosting monthly Women-Who-Bike and Brunch gatherings in Chicago. The women ride to a cafe for brunch or a park for a picnic to chat and share their experiences. It’s just the kind of kinship women often seek out in an activity that’s predominantly male. Now it’s my turn to follow Dottie’s lead and play host out here on the West Coast.

Tea in Garden

So, for all you women who bike in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m hosting a Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the lovely and historic Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition on Saturday, August 17. It’s the perfect season for a garden party: the dahlias and zinnias are in bloom, the apples are ripening in the orchard, and the weather is ideal for morning tea under the old oak tree.

We’ll bring the tea, you bring your favorite tea cup and cookies or a tea time snack to share. Hats and gloves are encouraged, but not required. What’s really important is bringing your desire to meet other women who ride in our area to share stories, share advice and just relax in the company of other bicycle-loving ladies. Word on the street is that Corinne Winter, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will be joining us too.

For those riding up from the south or arriving by Caltrain, I’ll also be leading a pre-party ride starting at Caltrain’s San Antonio Station in Mountain View at 10:25, timed for the #427 train from San Jose & #448 train from San Francisco. The route is about four miles one way along low traffic, mostly shady neighborhood streets. I’ll be pulling a trailer full of teapots and tablecloths so the pace at the back of the group will be easy.

Will you join us? Please RSVP to so we’ll know to bring enough tea for everyone, and don’t forget your tea cup. I’d love to meet some of you ladies that I only know in the virtual world.

Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, California
Saturday, August 17, 2013, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. RSVP


Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Around Town


Bike Rack FAIL: The Ankle Biter Torture Rack

I saved the best for last. This is the torturous bike rack that inspired the whole series. I had seen the Jaws of Death all over town and never used it properly. I had seen the Throat Choke and never tried it out. But this Ankle Biter was so perplexing I was compelled to figure it out. It wasn’t obvious to me, or painless for Zella.

Ankle Biter

The shopping center clearly made an attempt to serve bicyclists by putting in so many racks in a little covered area with landscaping. Too bad they’re way in the back of the parking lot next to the garbage dumpsters.

Location: Menlo Station Shopping Center, Menlo Park, California, USA


Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Commute Diaries: Fierce Cat 6 Race Action

They fly down the path, challenging each other in undeclared races for no reward beyond feeding their egos. As a former racer, I find their little game comical. It’s a bike path, not a velodrome. When they blow past my elbow without so much as an “on your left” I’m no longer smiling. Knock it off, you’re harshing my commute zen.

Cat 6 Racers

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 August 5, 2013 in Commute Diaries


Bike Date Friday: Riding South to Old Town Campbell

Choosing a different place every week for our bike dates is easier than you might think. Here on the San Francisco Peninsula, there are small cities every few miles with historic downtowns offering plenty of dining options. Within five miles of our home there are hundreds of restaurants in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Sunnyvale. By hopping on Caltrain we’ve gone north to Burlingame, San Mateo and San Carlos.

Going south is trickier. While San Jose has great spots downtown and new bike lanes that make bicycling pleasant, as you go further south, the valley widens and becomes more suburban. The restaurants are more likely to be in strip malls than walking districts, the roads are designed to move cars fast, and neighborhood streets are labyrinths to keep cars from cutting through. Not a recipe for a fun bike date.

But there’s a sneaky way out of downtown San Jose to the trail along Los Gatos Creek, I discovered. So last Friday, we rode south five miles through Willow Glen to the old railroad and orchard town of Campbell. (map)

Los Gatos Creek Trail San Jose

When the railroad came to Santa Clara Valley, the crops shifted from easy-to-transport grains like wheat to perishable orchard fruits like apricots, peaches, pears and plums. The process for canning fruit was developed in the Dawson family’s woodshed along the Alameda at Taylor Street in San Jose in 1871. Orchards filled the Valley of Heart’s Delight and fruit drying yards and canneries were built along the rail lines.

The orchards and canneries have been largely replaced by office parks and suburban housing, but we could see signs here and there on our ride down to Campbell: old Del Monte canneries converted to townhouses and lofts in San Jose, and turn-of-the century buildings and the 1928 water tower in Campbell.

Campbell Water Tower

When we rolled across the Los Gatos Creek bridge and into Campbell, downtown was hopping. A band was playing on the corner, classic cars were cruising the streets and everyone was out for First Fridays. I was glad we had dinner reservations. It would have been tough finding a table, even though it wasn’t 7 o’clock yet.

Lowrider Caddy

After dinner we strolled the avenue checking out the bands, the still-open shops and classic cars before riding back up to San Jose. Next month’s First Fridays theme is “Cyclemania.” We may have to come back then and bring a few bike friends. I even scoped out a couple of restaurants just in case.

When you ride from home, do you favor one direction over another? What makes you turn south vs north or east vs west?

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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.


Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Bike Date, Local History


Fashion Friday: Ladies Night with Deanna in Lace

Friday night may be reserved for bike dates with my sweetie, but I’m declaring Thursday nights for going out with the girls. Deanna straddles the line between ingenue and femme fatale in a black lace over ivory tank dress and snakeskin pumps. Perfect for feeling like a single lady even if only for after work drinks on the avenue.

Lace Dress

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.


Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

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