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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Make It Your Own: High Visibility in High Style

I’m not a big fan of high visibility bike clothing. Somewhat for philosophical reasons, but mostly because it’s usually dog ugly. Between frumpy, boxy shapes and no interesting detailing, it’s no wonder the few companies that offer stylish options are priced at a premium. The other option: design and sew your own like Emma did.

Emma Portrait

A trip to her local fabric store yielded high vis yellow fabric, high vis orange tape and reflective trim. Putting it all together in this sweetly feminine and supremely visible vest was purely Emma’s work. I love, love, love it!

How about that mailbox alternative to a pannier! For how-tos on how to build your own, thank Martha Stewart. That where Emma got her inspiration. The upside is that unlike most panniers, this one can be locked.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

You’re Invited: Bright Lights, Bike City Cruise

You and your friends are invited to a holiday lights tour leading to “Bike Lights, Bike City”, the SVBC Winter Party, on Friday, December 6, 2013. Tour rolls out from the Caltrain Station in downtown Palo Alto at 5:45 pm.

The only thing better than riding down quiet neighborhood streets after dark is riding down streets where the neighbors have decked out their homes and yards for the winter holidays. It takes a pretty hard-hearted grinch to not to smile at shimmering lights brightening a dark sky on a chilly night. And there’s no better way to tour holiday lights than on a bicycle. Fast enough to cover the whole neighborhood, slow enough to take it all in, and easy enough to pull over and gaze in awe and snap photos. No flash required.

City Hall

The 4.4 mile city cruise will roll from Caltrain in downtown Palo Alto with a brief stop at Palo Alto City Hall to see Aurora, a life-size metal and electronic Weeping Willow tree sculpture that is now gracing City Hall Plaza. From there, we’ll cruise down the Bryant Street Bike Boulevard through Professorville and Old Palo Alto.

After a turnaround in Midtown we’ll head back up to the historic Lucie Stern Center where we’ll join Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition members for “Bike Lights, Bike City,” their annual Winter Party. We’ll celebrate the season with delicious food and refreshing beverages, make a play on hot auction items. Then we’ll turn down the lights, turn up the music, and dance under disco lights until they kick us out.

Start: The Palo Alto Caltrain station at 5:45 PM, timed for Caltrain #375 and #370 train arrivals. Meet near the bike lockers near Alma Street and Lytton Avenue.
Route: 4.4 miles on quiet streets with no hills. See map below for details. Contact me for mid-ride meet-ups.
Please Bring: Bike lights! The more the better. Show off your amazing bike lights. And warm clothes, too.
RSVP: Please RSVP for the Winter Party through the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, our event sponsor.

The SVBC Winter Party is a members-only affair. If you’re not a member, or need to renew, you can sign up when you RSVP for the event or at the door. At only $20/person, it’s a fun way to support a great cause.

Click on the thumbtacks on the map to see the holiday lights display locations.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Around Town

 

Anything Goes Challenge: Leah, SPURred by Options

You may recognize Leah from a Fashion Friday photos I shot the day I rode with her on her first Bay Area Bike Share commute just after the system launched last summer. As the Director of SPUR San Jose, Leah works in San Jose four days a week and spends the fifth day at SPUR headquarters 50 miles away in San Franscisco. As an urbanist she defaults to non-driving travel and she’s fortunate to have many transit and bike options available. That makes her Anything Goes Commute Challenge all the more interesting. This is her story.

When Janet asked me to capture not only my commute modes to and from work, but my decision process for each mode, I was anxious to oblige. I had been meaning to see if the data backed up my first choice, my bicycle. As a long time bike lover, it’s my default mode of transportation if given an option. But is it really the most effective? And so here goes – a data comparison of the top ways I can get to work.

Leah in Office

I live two miles from the SPUR office in San Jose. My commute streets are laid out in a straight-forward, flat grid pattern, beginning in Japantown and ending in downtown San Jose. I travel this commute four days a week and head to our office in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena district one day a week.

This October I set out to find out which of my various commutes took the most time, money, energy, planning, etc. And like those combination math problems in middle school, I took to testing the options and used simple parameters: door to door time, ease of travel, cost. Here are the options for my San Jose commute:

Bike (my own)
There are several connecting bike lanes along Third and Fourth Street and low auto traffic speeds that make it particularly easy to commute by bike. We also have a bike rack outside of our office so I can lock up securely.

San Jose Protected Bike Lanes

Walk + VTA Light Rail + Walk
The Light Rail Stations near work are on the same block as our office, which make arrival to and departure from work very convenient. I’m only three stops from work from where I get on at Civic Center and from there it’s about a 10 minute walk home from the station. This works best when I am looking for a walking start and finish to the day, but I need to pay more attention to time in order to catch the train when I arrive at the station and weight/amount of material I need to take to work with me (i.e. carry).

Light Rail

Walk + Bike Share + Walk
The closest bike share station to my house is in Japantown and the closest station to work is at City Hall. Getting to and from this option require upwards of 15 minutes of walking, but the bike share bikes are great with an upright position and place for my bag in front.

Leah Bike Share Bike

Drive
My car commute is a pretty straight forward two mile drive with low traffic. Early bird (arrival before 9:45am) parking at the garage across the street from my office costs $8 for the day.

20131125-092926.jpg

First consideration for commute choice begins with how I organize my calendar. I make a point to coordinate my work meetings and personal errand running to the following criteria (as much as possible):

  • Schedule as many meetings as possible within walking distance of the office so that I don’t have to drive. Aim for this 3-4 days a week.
  • Schedule meetings that require car travel all on the same day. Typically, meetings outside of downtown San Jose or more than 1-2 Light Rail stops away default to driving to maximize efficiency (and because there is rarely a parking cost on the other end of meetings).
  • On days that require car travel, plan errand running (dry cleaners, grocery shopping, ‘big’/bulk shopping, etc) on the same day.

Second consideration with commute choice is weather. Unless it’s raining or aiming to be 90 degrees, I’ll choose not to drive. Otherwise, with such flat terrain and short distance, it’s easy to walk, bike or take transit. Third consideration is time. What is the quickest way I can get where I need to go and how can I travel most efficiently between meetings? Fourth consideration is money. How much will it cost in work time (driving vs. Caltrain), gas and parking vs. the alternatives.

There are other considerations that pop in and out and impact my mode decision (if I need to move things in and out of the office, if I feel at all under the weather, if my bike is out of commission (or stolen…it’s happened), if my work day will go very late, etc), but these are the less frequent occasions.

San Jose Commute

The options for my San Francisco commute are to ride my bike to Caltrain San Jose station, take it aboard and bike to the SPUR headquarters in San Francisco, or drive to Caltrain and walk from the San Francisco station to the office, or drive and pay for garage parking.

Caltrain Night

San Francisco Commute

The Upshot: What I didn’t add above were the other benefits that come with each mode. With any mode except the car, there is exercise, time outdoors and in my neighborhood, taking a car and its CO2 emissions off the road and usually the opportunity to discover something new along the route. But with the car comes a slightly faster commute, complete independence and, at $8 a day for parking, not a terribly expensive option, especially for one day a week. Adding that up over time though would equate to a great deal of cash and it’s quickly the lease desirable option by virtue of cost. And so my winning option is – bike commute!

Leah BIke crop

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Anything Goes

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Sunday Matinee

When you’re too pooped for a Saturday night at the movies, the best thing to do is sleep in and then hit the Sunday matinee. An easy fitting cotton knit dress, contrast tights and clog-inspired heels are just dressy enough to feel like a date and comfy enough for settling into a double feature.

Weekend Dress

My favorite brown summer dress, recast for Fall with 3/4 length sleeves and a floral accent on the skirt.

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 December 1, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 
 
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