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About ladyfleur

One woman. Many bicycles.

Fashion Holiday Edition: Bike to Work Day

Irish-Americans have St Patrick’s Day, Mexican-Americans have Cinco de Mayo, Cajuns have Mardi Gras and bike commuters have Bike to Work Day. The theme for the festivities at the SVBC Bike Away From Work Party this year was “Dress Like Your Bike.” For a classy, vintage-inspired bike like Susie Q Public, that meant giving a nod to Jackie Kennedy in a pill box hat, Chanel-style jacket, classic pumps and kidskin gloves.

Mad Men portrait

Only a few people at the party dressed for the theme (like Winona, Dick & Jill) but who cares? We had fun.

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 13, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

You’re Invited: Shopping Tours for Bike to Shop Day

For the past few months, I’ve put my heart and soul into Bike to Shop Day. With an amazing team of volunteers and staff at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition we’ve built a web site, recruited local businesses, printed, translated and delivered posters and written press releases promoting this one-day event.

We’re down to the home stretch now. All we need is people like you to hop on your bikes to shop, dine and do errands on Saturday, May 17. If you’re in Silicon Valley, we’d love it if you stopped in at our participating businesses or joined one of our shopping tours described below. If not, just knowing that you’re shopping by bike, wherever you are, will put a smile on my face. And that smile will be even bigger if you send me photos.

Want to try shopping by bike in a new neighborhood? Or just want to meet other bike shoppers in your area? Join one of our three Bike to Shop Day tours in two Silicon Valley cities. Each ride has its own distance, style and shopping districts visited, but all are designed to let you ride a little, shop a little, ride a little, eat a little. Stops will be oriented to allow you to visit businesses offering special Bike to Shop Day incentives.

Shopping Tour

San Jose Tour #1, Caltrain Station. Starts 10 am at the San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station and cruises 10 miles with stops in three shopping districts: shorter shopping stops in Willow Glen and Japantown, plus a longer lunch stop on the Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose. Moderate to low-stress route includes off-street bike trails and bike lanes where possible, with some shared lanes on city streets. Returns to Caltrain Station for 2pm train. Tour leader: Janet Lafleur (moi!)

San Jose Tour #2, Naglee Park. Starts 10:30 am at House of Bagels in Naglee Park and cruises 5 miles with stops in two shopping districts: a shopping and coffee stop in Japantown, plus a lunch stop on the Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose that meets up with San Jose Tour #1. Low-stress route includes off-street bike trails, bike lanes and quietest streets possible. Tour leader: Candice Stein.

Mountain View Kid-Friendly Tour. Starts 10 am at the Mountain View Public Library and cruises 2.5-3 miles. At the library, pump up your tires at the new bike repair station and pick up your goody bag, then cruise over to Diddams for special kid-friendly offers. Then roll downtown to finish with an ice cream stop at Ava’s Market and shopping on Castro Street. Family-oriented route chosen by and tour led by a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor. Tour leader: Winona Hubbard.

All rides are free and open to all ages. Please RSVP through the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition so we can plan to have enough ride leaders to keep the tour safe and pleasant for everyone.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Around Town

 

Fashion Holiday Edition: Kentucky Derby Day

There’s nothing subtle about fashions for spectators at horse races, starting from the top down with the signature Kentucky Derby hats embellished with any manner of flowers, feathers and figurines. A simple white lace dress (a strong trend this season) creates the perfect backdrop for a bold flower necklace and a flouncy wide-brimmed hat in red organza. What am I betting on? That I picked a winning combination.

Kentucky Derby Portrait

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 4, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Strava Heatmaps: What Do They Truly Measure?

Last week, Strava, the company that provides tools for cyclists to track their rides via GPS, was making the news for their Global Heatmap A project of Strava Labs, the Global Heatmap compiles GPS tracking data from 100 million rides and runs by their members (about 80% are rides). Routes that Strava users travel more frequently light up brightly on the Heatmap. In this map red is highest use, then bright green, then faint green.

The Heatmap for Palo Alto is what I’d expect. The most popular routes are a pair of roads with bike lanes that offer direct, fast routes, and a bike boulevard designed with few stop signs and diverters that reduce car traffic.

Palo Alto Routes Heat Map

Bike advocates, who often struggle to get ridership data, jumped on the Heatmap with glee. With this data, they could refute claims that people don’t bicycle on certain roads or streets. One example: El Camino in Mountain View shows green sections, meaning significant use, something city officials and the public are quick to deny.

I see that value, and yet I’m concerned about how Heatmap data is used, namely because it’s gathered from a select subset of cyclists. Strava doesn’t reveal demographics on who uses its service, but I’ve seen estimates in reports that it’s about 90% men. And I know that within my circle of cycling friends, Strava is more heavily used by those who are training to race or complete an endurance event. They’re mostly road riders and mountain bike racers who have raced at some point, if not currently training to race.

That mirrors Strava’s goal-oriented “prove it” marketing messages highlighted on their web site: “Prove It: Track your progress and challenge your friends” and “Prove Your Story”, “Prove Your Efforts”, “Prove To Others”, “Prove To Yourself.” These are all messages aimed at the Type A folks in the bike world.

I’m sure there are significant numbers of Strava users who never race (unless you count the Cat 6 racing on the trail), and others who track both their training rides and their casual rides. But I agree with a friend who wrote: “The data is skewed to longer rides done be people who take the effort to log their ride on Strava using a smart phone or GPS. A 4 block ride for shopping or to the library is not likely to be logged.”

A bigger problem is what he wrote in the next sentence: “Since [Strava users] are likely to be more experienced riders, they tend to know the easiest, safest, fastest routes.” I accept that Strava users are more experienced riders. But are they choosing routes that are easiest and safest? Or just popular with Strava users, who likely prefer straighter routes with fewer stops, even if that means it’s on the shoulder of a 50 mph expressway with heavy vehicle traffic. That’s hardly a representative set of riders to use for bike infrastructure decisions.

Without demographic data, it’s hard to counter or defend these assessments. But I got new insight from examining “hot spots” on the Heatmap where cyclists stop on their rides, based on a story by Cyclelicious.

Here’s the Town & County shopping center in Palo Alto near Stanford University. Car parking is painfully crowded so many visitors arrive by bike. Where do they go? According to the Heatmap, these two locations: a Peet’s Coffee Shop and a bike rack around the corner by Gott’s Roadhouse, a popular restaurant.

Strava Heat Map Hot Spots Palo Alto

What’s missing? The mass of people who park their bikes to shop at Trader Joe’s on the other side of the center. The main rack holds a dozen bikes and has frequent turnover. It’s often full or crowded so bikes spill over to a nearby rack at Calafia. This was the situation last Sunday at around 12:30 pm: 13 bikes near Trader Joe’s, five at Peets and four at the Roadhouse. Why don’t the bikes at TJs create a hot spot?

Strava Heat Map Palo Alto

Sunday at 12:30 pm isn’t a peak time for groceries, nor a slow time for a coffee shop. It’s clear that people who shop by bike at Trader Joe’s are not tracking their trips on Strava. That’s a lot of everyday bike trips to ignore.

So before you’re tempted to use Strava data to support bicycle policy or infrastructure changes, think carefully. If Strava data included trips by the average Joe, Jane, José or Jin-Wei biking across town to grocery shop instead of training data from cyclists tracking achievements, how would your recommendation change?

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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Issues & Infrastructure

 

Fashion Friday: Power Dressing with a Power Dress

A touch of red against a backdrop of navy: a classic combination for exuding confidence in a professional setting. A suit may be the ultimate in power dressing, but when done right, like this Diane von Furstenberg-inspired wrap dress in a strong modern print, a power dress can be just as suitable.

Power Dress Portrait

I bought this dress at Boutique 4, a dress shop that’s offering 15% off to bike shoppers on Bike to Shop Day.

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 April 26, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky in Los Altos

What makes a bicycle a bicycle? Ask the Department of Motor Vehicles and it’s a device a person rides that’s propelled by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears and has two or three wheels with at least one wheel bigger than 20 inches. Ask the UCI, racing cycling’s governing body and the answer for road bikes is much more specific, including weight limits (at least 15 pounds), and geometry requirements (triangle frame, equal sized wheels). It even has standards for saddle length (24-30 cm).

The designers of most bikes are not bound by UCI regulations, which makes the “Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky” exhibit currently running at the Los Altos History Museum so intriguing. From penny farthings to recumbents, from wooden bikes to bamboo, from cruisers to folding bikes, to bikes too hard to describe, you’ll see them all. For the purists there are historic racing bikes from Greg Lemond that meet the UCI regulations, plus a variety of mountain bikes from the pioneer builders that screamed down Mt Tam.

Entrance

The opening reception for the exhibit is next Sunday evening but I rushed to get there early. I had met one of the contributers at the Wine, Women & Chocolate party who asked if they could display one of my photos. I sent her a link to my Flickr photostream and she said she found one she liked for the display on town bikes. To my surprise, I found several more photos I took of family and friends in the “Wear What You Like… Go Where You Want” section, along with some lovely shots of Los Altos native Melissa of Bike Pretty.

I’ll have to go back for the opening reception, though. I spent so much time talking to Jan the exhibit’s designer about her options for buying a city bike that I didn’t get to read all the displays. Plus bike builder Craig Calfee will be there to talk about how bike designs have changed over time. If you’re on the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d love to meet you too. It’s Sunday, April 27 from 4-6 pm. Admission is free. (details).

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Bike Gallery

 

The No Sweat Way to Bike to Work

I’m cross-posting this story from my Bike Fun blog in the Mountain View Voice because I think the message bears repeating: It is possible to ride a bike and not be a hot mess on arrival!

It’s the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area, celebrated this year on Thursday, May 8. For two decades, casual riders have pumped up their tires and dusted off their bikes for a short ride across town, while weekend warriors have charted longer commute routes and come up with a post-ride cleanup strategy. For people who bike to work year-round, the weeks ahead of Bike to Work Day are a time for answering questions from and giving advice to new bike commuters, like me back in 1997.

Like so many others, Bike to Work Day launched me into bike commuting. I went to a short “getting started” information meeting at my workplace, learned the best way to cross Hwy 101 from the local bike expert, then pedaled the 12 miles to my office in North San Jose. The ride was about an hour so I stowed my clothes in my new bike panniers and cleaned up at my workplace’s gym locker room when I arrived.

bike-gear-on-coat-rack

Over the years I kept it up once or twice a week during daylight saving time, whenever my work sites gave me access to a shower. Bike commuting was a great way to get miles in when I was training for triathlons and long century rides. When I wasn’t training per se, two hours a day a couple of times a week was a great workout.

Then I took a job in Palo Alto that was less than five miles from home. It was too short to be a workout and hardly seemed worth putting on lycra and packing my work clothes, plus a towel and toiletries. Five flat miles just wasn’t worth the trouble.

Then one day in late summer I slapped myself on the forehead and said to myself, “It’s only a 25 minute ride, why do you need to change clothes anyway? Just wear your work clothes.” I put a summer dress with bike shorts underneath, slipped on flat shoes and stowed my laptop, purse and heels in my bike pannier. I rode slowly, keeping my heartbeat down at the equivalent of a walking, not running, pace. When I arrived at the office I took a moment to switch into my heels and cool down before walking in the building. No sweat!

It worked so well I was biked every day that week, then the next, and the next. Somewhere along the way I figured out that heels aren’t hard to bike in so I stopped packing my shoes. And I learned that if I stopped and took off a layer as soon as I started to warm up I could arrive sweat-free wearing almost anything, even a suit.

Bike in Suit

It helped that I started reading blogs from bike commuters in cities like Chicago, Boston and Portland. If they could ride in a professional dress there, even during the cold and stormy winters, California would be easy. And it was. Once I got a proper raincoat and boots, I was able to keep riding every day through the rainy season.

When I switched jobs two years ago to one back in North San Jose, I learned to combine my bike commute with a Caltrain ride so I could keep commuting in my work clothes. Occasionally, I’ll pack my work clothes and ride the full 13 miles to the office when I want a workout. But 95% of the time I choose my multi-modal bike + Caltrain commute. That way I can bike to work every day instead of 1-2 times a week.

There are lots of ways to make your commute no- or low-sweat. Here are my top tips:

  • Ride slowly. Save your workouts for the weekend or the times you’re planning to clean up on arrival.
  • Don’t worry so much about wasting time going slower. If you don’t change clothes at the end of your ride you’ll save at least five minutes.
  • Remember that it’s cooler in the morning here than in the evening. If you sweat on the way home you can always shower there.
  • Nothing heats you up like wearing a backpack or messenger bag. Get a rack or basket instead and get that bag off your back.
  • Underdress so you’re a little chilly for the first 5 minutes of your ride. As soon as you feel like you’re starting to warm up, pull over and strip off a layer.
  • Stow some wet wipes or a towel at work just in case you sweat more than you expected.
  • Consider partial clothing changes for your commute. Replace a dress shirt with a t-shirt or flat shoes instead of heels.
  • Wearing a helmet doesn’t have to mean you’ll have a bad hair day. Sweating, not the helmet, is the bigger cause of helmet hair. Experiment with different helmets and/or hair arrangements until you find what works. For me, all I have to do is finger comb my hair on arrival.
  • Riding a more upright bike helps. The extra windchill from being upright cools you, and somehow being upright discourages riding hard.
  • I installed a front basket so I can grab everything I need while I’m riding or walking my bike. I can strip a layer off and stow it without pulling over and my train pass, my phone, and my sunglasses are all at my fingertips.
  • Not packing clothes means I have room in my panniers to pick up a few items at the grocery store on the way home from work.

Are you riding to work on Bike to Work Day this year? Will you wear your work clothes or wear cycling gear and change on arrival? How far is your trip?

Bike in heels

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Around Town

 
 
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