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Category Archives: Around Town

Bike Commute Diaries: One Step Forward

One day you’re flying high seeing bold green lanes installed on a major east-west bike route. The next you discover a bike lane on a high-speed north-south boulevard is being quietly rubbed out. You ride the green lane and you’re bullied by a bus into the coned-off area before the paint is dry. Where the paint is dry, there’s a car stopped and waiting in the green lane for no obvious reason and you have to merge back with the buses.

One step forward, how many steps back? It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes.

San Fernando Green Lane

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 November 26, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Gear Check for Fall Riding

Leather gloves, check. Full-length coat, check. Warm scarf, check. High-powered headlight, check. Backup headlight, check. I’ve made a few adjustments for morning temperatures in the 40s and 5 o’clock sunsets. What about you? Does your work commute change at all with the change in season?

Really, I’d like you to tell me. I’m opening up a “Fall Edition” of the Anything Goes Challenge that focuses on how darkness, snow, ice and rain also affect your commute choices. How to enter is below, but you can read stories from our Spring participants to see how it works. Leah has already started on hers. Who’s next?

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To enter the Anything Goes Challenge: Take two or more distinct transportation modes to a specific destination you visit regularly (work, school, store, etc). Take the same mode a least twice in different conditions to give it a fair shake. Collect data, tabulate your scorecard, and assess each mode according to your own value equation. Explain which mode works best for you and why.

Send your summary to ladyfleur500@gmail.com by November 22. Please include one or more photos that I can include in a post about you, as well as your scorecard data and your personal value equation. Selected stories will be featured on this blog as they come in. If you’re private about things, just let me know and I’ll use your first name only or an alias of your choosing. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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 November 5, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Roadside Attractions: Little Free Libraries

When you travel down a street at 10 mph in the open air instead of boxed inside a car moving 30 mph, you’re bound to notice more. Last week I was rolling through Palo Alto’s Professorville neighborhood on my way to meet a girlfriend for dinner downtown, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something jutting above a picket fence. Mounted on a post with a steep A-line roof, it was too large to be a mailbox.

I pulled over to investigate. The sign said “Little Free Library.” Inside was a small collection of books protected behind a glass door and instructions that simply said to take a book and return it when you’re done.

Palo Alto Little Free Library

Little did I know that know that Little Free Libraries are found worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. The first little free library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading. He placed on a post in his front yard with a sign “Free Books.”

It was so popular he built more and gave them away for other locations. The concept took off. In three years they met their initial goal of 2500 Little Free Libraries and by January 2014, they expect to pass 10,000.

San Jose Little Free Library

I checked their map for ones near me and found two that weren’t far out of the way of my daily commute: one in front of an Victorian in downtown San Jose and one in front of a suburban ranch-style home in Mountain View.

Mountain View

Now I want one. Given I live in a managed neighborhood, I don’t know where I can put it and be in compliance with the association rules. But I have a father who’s really handy in the woodworking shop and is always looking for new projects. And what design? Would I go with a red British phone booth? A Scandinavian cottage? Or maybe a Cajun shack made of reclaimed materials like my cousin’s chicken coop?

Would you like a Little Free Library in your yard? What style would you choose? What kinds of books? Is there a Little Free Library in your neighborhood?

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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides

 

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You’re Invited: Art Lovers City Cruise & Picnic

You and your friends are invited to a Art Lovers City Cruise and Picnic on Saturday, October 19, 2013. Tour rolls out from the Caltrain Station in downtown Menlo Park, California at 10:35 am.

Art is best savored at a slower pace, by walking through a gallery or through a sculpture garden. When public art is sprinkled all over town, the whole city becomes an art museum and your bicycle lets you wander from gallery to gallery at a leisurely pace. On a bike, it’s easy pull over, hop off and reflect.

This 10 mile city cruise rolls through low traffic, relaxing neighborhoods in Menlo Park and Palo Alto sampling public art and then heads into Stanford University, home the world’s second largest collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Twenty large bronzes, including Rodin’s massive “The Gates of Hell” grace the sculpture garden at the Cantor Center on the Stanford campus. But this is just one of three art sites we’ll visit.

Art Tour Profile Pic Adam Wide

The agenda is simple: we’ll cruise, stop, gaze, reflect, chat, and then picnic at the well-shaded tables at the Rodin Garden. We’ll have an artist or two along for a little color commentary and give us a little insight into the mind of an artist. So pack a picnic lunch, grab your favorite cruising bicycle and join us.

Start & Finish: The Menlo Park Caltrain station at 10:35 AM, timed for Caltrain #427 and #424 train arrivals.
Route: 10 miles on quiet streets with no hills. See map for details. Contact me for mid-ride starting points.
Please bring: Picnic lunch, water, bike and bike lock. Feel free to bring a dessert to share at our picnic.
RSVP: Please RSVP through Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, our event sponsor.

Art Tour Map

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Around Town

 

The Bright Colors of Summer Have Washed Away

Here in sunny California the festival season is officially over. Not because summer is officially over (which it is), but because an early season rain storm blew in and shut down the fun at festivals throughout the Bay Area. For those who don’t realize how good we have it here, California is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, so rain is concentrated in late fall, winter and early spring, leaving summers predictably and pleasantly dry.

That makes it easy for event planners, from weddings to baseball games to street fairs. Plan something between June 1 and October 1 and you’re 99% safe weather-wise. Except this past weekend, where heavy rain sent people scurrying at outdoor events from San Francisco’s Tour de Fat to Lafayette’s Art & Wine Festival. But I think the hardest hit was San Jose’s Luna Park Chalk Art Festival. Chalk art and rain is a disaster.

Luna Park Chalk Art Festival

Being optimists, we ignored the weather report which said 75% chance of rain between noon and 1pm. Most storms in the South Bay are pretty light, especially in the off-season. But there we were, riding in heavy rain to an outdoor chalk art festival. Whose dumb idea was it anyway? That’s right, mine. I owe Dick big time.

Riding in Rain Wide

As expected, most of the chalk art was smeared into a watercolored mess by the time we arrived. As cold and wet as we were, we felt worse for the disappointed artists who could do little to save their art.

Disappointed Chalk Artist

The sun is back out today and it’s warmed up a bit, but there’s no mistaking that fall is on its way. Time to hunt down my raincoat and boots, and my heavy coat too. The carefree days of warm-weather riding are numbered.

What signs of the end of summer do you see? What will you miss? What do you look forward to for fall?

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Around Town

 

Bike Commute Diaries: New Digs for Susie Q PUBLIC

Just because my workspace got downsized from a private office to a cubicle doesn’t mean Susie Q lost her climate-controlled, secure parking space. In fact, she’s settled in nicely and even has a name plate on the wall.

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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 September 11, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Pretty Little Speed Demon

I never knew my little mixte had such speed. Then again, I can’t recall ever clicking her Nexus hub into eighth gear before, and certainly not for over three miles on the trail. But when your boss keeps you late and the next train is 45 minutes after the one you’re about to miss, your prissy little upright bike knows how to haul ass.

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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 September 5, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Share: Solving the Last Mile Problem

Inter-city transit commutes are rarely fast or efficient when one of the cities suffers from less-than-reliable public transportation and the other suffers from suburban sprawl. That was Alex’s challenge.

Alex lives in San Francisco and works 50 miles away in downtown San Jose. I first met her and her lovely city bike in the bike car on Caltrain. Her commute started with a short bike ride to the train station, then a speedy hour on the bullet train, and ended with a quick one mile bike ride from San Jose’s Diridon station to her office downtown. At around 90 minutes, it wasn’t a bad commute considering the distance.

But when a conductor hassled her about her bike’s wire front basket not meeting Caltrain guidelines, she was forced to park her bike in San Francisco and take the shuttle bus down in San Jose. That is, assuming her train was on time so she didn’t miss the shuttle. But now, Bay Area Bike Share has her rolling in San Jose again.

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I ran into Alex and her co-worker Dennis this morning as they were undocking bikes outside Diridon station. It was Alex’s third commute day since the system opened and she was thrilled. No more worries of missing the shuttle, no more risk of overcrowding on the bike car, and no more dodging nit-picky conductors.

Dennis was pleased too. Also a resident of San Francisco, he works in their San Jose office only occasionally, but now he knows that there’s a bike available so he can zip over to the office and back again in the evening.

For both Alex and Dennis, bike share gives them convenience and options. For Caltrain, it means more riders without adding more bikes aboard. For the Bay Area, it means more people getting to work without increasing car congestion and the air pollution that comes with it. That’s why the Bay Area Quality Management District invested in the Bay Area Bike Share pilot, after all. Glad to see it’s working here in San Jose.

Do you have “last mile” issues with using transit? If there were a bike share bike available, would you take it to work, school, entertainment or to do errands?

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Around Town

 

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Bike Spotting: Real Men Ride Pink Road Bikes

I spotted the ice pink vintage road bike on Caltrain, obviously too large and too old to be designed for women. “Who owns the pink bike?” I asked the group behind me. “It’s mine,” said Dean.

Dean’s no girly man, nor is his 1987 Schwinn Prelude a girly bike, as you can see in his feat of strength outside the station. Dean’s lovely pink bike was built lightweight for racing speed, and with a 25″ frame, built for a rider well over six feet tall. That’s 63.5 cm for you folks too young to remember when road bikes were measured in inches. In 1987, Schwinn still made their bikes at their headquarters in Chicago, you see.

Real Men Ride Pink Bikes

Dean isn’t the only manly guy I know who rides a pink road bike. There’s Ron who has a 1991 Diamond Back Master TG bike in a far less demure shade of pink. I found many others, like this 1972 Sekine, this La France, this Miami Vice inspired Centurion and these two by Francesco Moser. Lovely, lovely, manly pink bikes.

1987 Schwinn Prelude 25"

Location: Caltrain Diridon Station, San Jose, California, USA.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Bike Gallery, Bike Spotting

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Once in a Blue Moon

Sometimes the right tool for the job is my car. We’re moving offices and my new window cube won’t have wall space for framed art. While I’ve carried some crazy things on my bike, large frames with glass is not on the list.

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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 21, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 
 
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