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Category Archives: Issues & Infrastructure

Bike Lane SUCCESS! A Safer Route to Middle School

Boy, am I jealous of the kids who go to JL Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto. When I was their age I was stuck on the school bus with annoying boys who called me giraffe (I was tall) or gorilla (my arms were hairy) depending on their mood. There was no safe way for me to ride my bicycle the 1.5 short miles to school.

Palo Alto recently repaved Cowper Street, a key route to JLS Middle School, and marked it with super-sized sharrows and an virtual bike lane through the intersections. The markings make it very clear that bikes own the lane and don’t need to weave in and out of cars parked along the curb.

Cowper Super Slot Sharrows

The new bike markings are just the latest in a well-organized effort to get more kids biking and walking to school in Palo Alto, turning around the sharp decline that started 30 years ago. In 2000, only 17% of JLS students biked to school. By 2010, the rate was up to 45%, roughly the same rate as in 1985.

And the success is not limited to JLS Middle School. Overall, over half of the students at Palo Alto’s three middle schools bike or walk to school. Way to go kids! And way to go City of Palo Alto!

Location: Cowper Street near East Meadow Drive in Palo Alto, California, USA

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

You’re Invited: Wine & Chocolate Ladies’ Bike Social

You are cordially invited to Women, Wine & Chocolate, a gathering for women who love bikes, on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm at 245 S 12th Street, in the historic Naglee Park district of San Jose, California.

“When will you do another ladies’ tea again?” That was the #1 question I got after our Ladies’ Tea & Bike Social last summer, both from those who attended and those who couldn’t make it. Well, it may still be too chilly for a garden tea party, but it’s the perfect time to celebrate our bike love with a little Valentine’s Day decadence. This one’s for the chocoholics, fruit and cheese lovers, and the ladies who aren’t teetotalers.

If you’re in the throes of a grand love affair with your bike and want to meet other women with that same fiery passion, pedal over to San Jose’s historic Naglee Park district on Sunday, February 9. There will be wine, chocolate, cheese and fruit, plus an afternoon of stories, laughter, and tips on gear and secret bike routes. And of course, a chance to show off our two-wheeled babies. You may want to bring your bike family photos.

Wine Women & Chocolate

If the weather is fine, we’ll be in Candice’ lovely garden. If not, we’ll cozy up around the fireplace and mingle in her turn-of-the-century home. So grab your favorite wine glass and something to share: chocolate, cheese or a bottle of wine or your preferred party drink. We’ll take care of the rest.

Those arriving by bike can join our pre-party ride crossing downtown San Jose on the new green lanes on San Fernando Street followed by a short tour through the historic homes of Naglee Park. Our route will be about four miles one way along lower-stress streets. Meet in front of San Jose Diridon Station at 1:00 pm. (Train arrivals: Caltrain local 12:51, baby bullet 1:03; VTA 902 NB 12:38, SB 12:59) We’ll roll shortly after the last train arrives.

Where: 245 South 12th Street, San Jose. A private home in the historic Naglee Park district. (map)
When: Sunday, February 9, 2014. 1:30-4:00 pm. Note that sunset won’t be until 5:40 pm that day.
Please bring: Your favorite wine glass, plus chocolate, cheese or bottle of wine or other drink to share.
RSVP: Please RSVP and indicate what you’ll be bringing through SVBC, our event sponsor .

Pre-Party Bike Ride: Meet at the San Jose Diridon Station at 1:00 PM for a four mile tour on lower-stress streets with no hills. A route will be posted here at least one week before the event.
Transit: Party location is well-served by VTA transit lines (22,23,72). Santa Clara Street is 2.5 blocks away.
Parking: Bike parking will be provided in the backyard or basement in case of rain. On-street car parking is available with no weekend restrictions.

Please RSVP so we can make sure we’re ready for what’s sure to be a fun group, and so we send you any last minute details about the party. We hope to see you there!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Women & Bikes

 

Bike Lane FAIL: The Case of the Vanishing Bike Lane

The young woman pedaled slowly across town, the sun warming her back and offsetting the morning chill of a California winter day. She stops at the signal and waits in the bike lane, counting the seconds until she can cross the dreaded San Antonio Road. Little does she know the danger awaiting her on the other side.

Crossing San Antonio Road

The signal changes to green and she pushes hard on the pedals to cross the intersection as quickly as possible. First she’s riding alongside a vintage Chevy, then a sedan. As she reaches the center line she discovers the lane ahead has room for either her, or the pickup that’s now beside her. What will she do?

Normally I’d be excited by this newly painted bike lane on my former commute route. But when a bike lane vanishes without warning and forces people to merge in an intersection, it’s a bike lane FAIL.

Location: W Middlefield Road at San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, California, USA

 
18 Comments

Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Lane FAIL: Bike Lanes That Stink in San Jose

There’s something rotten about the bike lanes in San Jose’s Hensley district. Every Monday morning the hard-won, lovely wide bike lanes are taken over by garbage bins. City of San Jose, please clean up your act! The comfort and safety of people riding bikes should rate higher than what you send off to the dump.

Stream of Traffic Wide

Location: N 3rd Street near E Empire Street, San Jose, California, USA.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

From Far and Wide, Ladies Ride, Ride, Ride!

To anyone out there who still thinks bicycling is a just young man’s sport, guess again. Women loves bikes. Even “women of a certain age” whose parenting is more about waving goodbye to college-bound kids or sharing holiday recipes than changing diapers or back to school nights.

Sometimes all it takes to get them on the road is a little encouragement, like having a friend to ride with. Point them to a fun group ride and they’ll ride in like the cavalry.

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That was what I discovered (yet again) last weekend on a women’s ride hosted by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. I had heard the organizer Candice wasn’t really sure if she’d have four or 40 women show up. Since she recruited at least a half dozen helpers, her low estimate was too conservative. So was her high estimate. I counted 50 just before we divided into three groups and headed across downtown San Jose. Our destination: the old port town of Alviso, a 20 mile roundtrip via the Guadalupe River Trail.

I rolled out with a faster group of about a dozen led by Marnie, a charity ride junkie who spins a yarn as fast as she spins her wheels. We stopped for the lowdown on the sights along the way, from the “Hands” mural on the parking garage at San Jose Airport to the site of the Lupe the Mammoth fossil unearthed on the river a decade ago to the cannery and salt flats at Old Alviso.

The ride was a delightful spin on a lovely day filled with female camaraderie. But like many events, it was the after-party that made the news. Instead of taking us back to the fountain plaza where we started, Marnie led us straight to her house in Naglee Park where recovery drinks and food were waiting. For this demographic, that means wine, fruit and cheese. No one complained about the change in direction.

Relaxing on Patio

As we chatted over our recovery drinks, I learned more about the wide range of women in my group. Many were local to San Jose, but others had trekked in from the Peninsula and East Bay. Some were new to group rides, most had cut their teeth in women’s groups with names like Feather Pedals and Velo Girls.

A few, like me, were daily commuters, but most were strictly recreational riders, with a strong showing of the charity ride regulars. The most commonly cited reason for not running errands on their bikes? They couldn’t bear the idea of leaving their “babies” unattended.

Some came to the sport as a gentler alternative to running, others hadn’t really exercised in years before they started cycling. There was discussion over what being a “cyclist” meant. To one woman, a bike rider earns the title “cyclist” when she starts wearing cycling jerseys. Another was quick to say she didn’t consider herself a cyclist, despite the jersey on her back. She didn’t explain why before the conversation turned.

While most were old enough to have college-age kids, there were young’uns along for the ride and the fellowship which knows no age. A shared love of bikes is usually all it takes to bring women together.

Will you travel far to join a group ride? If so, what makes it worth going the extra distance?

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10 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Backroads, Women & Bikes

 

Bike Lane FAIL: Old School ‘Rithmetic in Menlo Park

Johnny and Jenny need a 5 foot bike lane to ride their bikes to school. Sam needs 7 feet to park his small car plus a 5 foot buffer to unload his son for school drop-off. Melissa needs a 5 foot lane to ride her bike to work. Teacher Jessica needs 7 feet to park her SUV during school hours. Wilbur needs 10 feet to park his RV on the street all day, every day. And car traffic needs 12 foot travel lanes in each direction.

If Laurel Street in Menlo Park is 42 feet wide, how do you divide the roadway so everyone gets what they need? Or should some people’s needs get higher priority than others?

Bike Commute Kids

The northbound bike lane on Laurel Street is filled with kids and parents on their way to school every morning.

There’s a neighborhood meeting on Thursday, October 3 in Menlo Park where they’ll discuss prohibiting parking all day in the morning-only bike lane near Nativity School, a proposal that’s expected to be unpopular with the school’s parents and teachers. If you think safe bike travel is more important than parking, please speak up at this event or contact Jesse Quirion at (650) 330‐6744 or jtquirion at menlopark.org.

Location: Laurel Street at Oak Grove, Menlo Park, California, USA.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

What Makes a Bike Shop Attractive to the Ladies

Last spring at the Women’s History Ride in San Francisco I met young woman who had worked for one of the “Big Three” bike manufacturers on their successful women’s product line. On the long train ride down the Peninsula, we chatted about how, why and when women buy bicycles and gear, based on her experience and her company’s extensive research on how to reach this huge, largely untapped market.

Part of her job as a product marketing manager meant visiting retailers and training them on best practices for selling to women. As surprising as it may sound, some of her company’s dealers were able to do over half their business selling to women. Their key strategies included hiring women to work in their shops, offering repair classes for women, organizing women’s group rides, and hosting “ladies nights” at their shops.

She found it frustrating that many dealers weren’t receptive. Maybe they didn’t think there was much demand out there. Maybe it was too big a shift from the status quo. Maybe they didn’t know how to take that first step.

Lots of Bikes

But some shops do get it right, like Passion Trail Bikes in Belmont. That’s remarkable since Passion Trail focuses on mountain biking, a market that in our area is even more overwhelmingly male than road cycling. Even more remarkable is that it focuses on high-end bikes that are more commonly purchased by men.

Passion Trail’s founders started off building community by setting aside a beer and root beer lounge area for customers and by hosting “Wednesday Wrides” with post-ride BBQs that regularly draw over 50 riders. Then they went one step further by reaching out specifically to women, starting with founder Patty teaching new mostly female riders in small groups as a part of the Wednesday Wrides, and expanding to host monthly “Female Fridays” where dozens of women gather to ride together and are given the royal treatment.

This crowd was just the middle group. The chill and fast pace groups were elsewhere in the park.

All rides leave from the shop and roll a couple of miles across town to Water Dog Lake, a small city-owned open space that’s is known for challenging trails, most built by experienced mountain bikers, including founders and staff from Passion Trails. Water Dog is all about skinny singletrack carved into sides of steep canyons and tight turns and narrow wooden bridges. More technical than most local parks, it can be intimidating for less skilled riders. Many have been bitten by the ‘dog and have limped home with severe sprains or broken bones.

So how does a shop selling high-end mountain bikes entice women to a group ride on technical trails? They started by recruiting a few female customers with experience as ride leaders that also had female riding buddies. Then they recruited men as BBQ chefs and bartenders (that part was pretty easy). They promoted the event in the shop’s weekly newsletter, on their Facebook page and asked their ride leaders to promote it too.

Start by recruiting friendly, fun and experienced ride leaders.

At the event, the ride leaders helped the women divide into groups: a “chill” group taking a slower pace on less technical trails; a faster-pace group with fewer regroups for riders wanting a workout; and a large middle group that wanted to do the same technical trails as the fast group but at a more casual pace.

After the ride, the shop hosted a party with a gourmet dinner and cocktails prepared by the guys. I can’t tell you how much the women appreciated being served and how proud the men were to show off their culinary skill. The shop was also open for minor bike repairs and shopping for that next pair of favorite shorts or a new cute new jersey. Having other women around for gear advice and to help with important decisions like jersey color choice made shopping not only more efficient but a lot more fun too.

Jersey Shopping

I’m sure my friends can add more, but here’s my advice for bike shops who want to sell more to women:

  • Host a women’s ride. If you don’t have enough women on your staff or among your loyal customers to host one, take a hard look at how inviting your shop is to the average woman who walks in off the street.
  • Offer bike repair classes for women. But avoid implying that riders “should” be able to do much more than pump their tires and fix a flat. Many women do want to learn how to repair their bikes, but not all. Don’t assume one way or the other, just ask: “Do you want me to show you how to do this?”
  • Don’t call mellow, less technical trails “beginner” trails. Many riders who prefer gentler trails (or roads) have been riding for years, they just may not be looking for technical or physical challenges when they ride. Don’t imply they should be advancing their skills or strength.
  • Put some women specific items out front. When women walk into a store and see items designed for women they get the message that they belong, even if the bike or jersey isn’t their style. Don’t worry, the guys will find mens clothing. Most are probably paying more attention to the bikes and gear anyway.

Women Specific Gear Wide

What’s in it for retailers? Women’s products currently only account for 14% of sales in bike industry, but they account for 34% in snow sports and a whopping 46% in running. I’d say there’s a huge opportunity knocking.

Women, does your local bike shop do anything special that you like? Are there things they could do that might make you a more loyal customer? Are there things you wish they would quit doing?

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12 Comments

Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Dirt Trails, Women & Bikes

 
 
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