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Category Archives: Issues & Infrastructure

Why We Need a National Bike to Shop Day

“I can see people biking to offices here and even to the movie theater, but I can’t see people biking to shop here. Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up,” said the planning commissioner at a city meeting on the redevelopment of a major shopping center. I was stunned. I had just stood up and spoken about why bicycle access there was important to me.“The center is where I buy my groceries, my clothes, my household items,” I had explained. “It’s only two miles from home, so I ride my bike.”

I was so angry at not being heard (or believed) that it took me an extra two hours to fall asleep that night. Didn’t the commissioner see the busy bike racks outside the center’s two grocery stores? Didn’t he realize that purchases from a jewelry store are small, and that when people buy mattresses they have them delivered?

Trailer at Trader Joes

For the past 20 years we’ve pushed hard to promote bike commuting through Bike to Work Day, and it’s worked to get many commuters hopping onto bikes instead of into their cars. Like me, back in 1997. I got a little route advice from an expert at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, then pedaled to work. I kept it up once a week until daylight saving time ended, then went back to driving until Bike to Work Day the next spring.

My dedication to bike commuting waxed and waned over years. My next job site didn’t have a shower so I drove. The next one had showers and was close by so I started riding again. Then I took a job 14 miles away and was back down to once a week in summer only. It wasn’t until I realized I could ride in my work clothes for short distances and combine my commute with transit that I became the daily bike commuter I am today.

But even when I didn’t commute to work I biked for my weekly errands. Most things I needed were within a few miles of home, I could wear whatever I wanted, and I could schedule trips during daylight hours. Errands were fun, as evidenced by this Facebook post five years ago: “Long day in saddle again: Farmer’s market/noodles/bookstore/bike shop/Target/Bev Mo/Trader Joe’s. Only 8 miles, but it took some creative packing.”

Errand Bike

I wasn’t the only one doing errands back then and there are even more today, especially in shopping areas with limited parking and/or slow moving traffic. The bike racks are getting fuller and no one blinks twice when you roll away with big vegetables sticking out of panniers or toilet paper indelicately strapped to a rack.

Still, shopping by bike isn’t seen as mainstream. Few bikes come equipped with racks or baskets and bike shops and bike manufacturers rarely actively promote that kind of riding. I could elaborate on this, but I already have before, and if you’ve ever shopped for the perfect bike bag or basket you probably know what I mean. And there’s no national Bike to Shop Day program like there is for Bike to Work Day.

Grocery Bikes

But I think its time has come, and I’ve been working behind the scenes to make it happen this year in Silicon Valley. I sketched out a plan, convinced the staff at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to sponsor it, recruited some hard-working volunteers and we’re all off and rolling. In two weeks we’ve recruited 22 businesses to offer incentives to shoppers who arrive by bike for Bike to Shop Day Silicon Valley on Saturday May 17, 2014.

Oh, and we have a Bike to Shop Day web site with merchant profiles, sign-up forms and a zoomable merchant map. Plus lot of how-tos, from how to convert an old bike into a grocery getter, how to pace yourself at Costco, and what you can stuff in your road bike’s seat bag for impromptu shopping trips.

Bike to Shop Day web site

I have no idea how far Bike to Shop Day will go, but dammit I had to do something. Anger is a powerful motivator. Maybe next time city commissioners discuss plans for shopping center redevelopment, we’ll hear this instead: “There’s not much space for car parking, we’ll need more bike racks.” That’s my dream.

Do you do your daily or weekly errands by bike? What makes it easy (or makes it hard)?

Cherie

 
29 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Bike Rack FAIL: Stinky Situation in Mountain View

You can tell at a quick glance how much a business values its customers that arrive by bike. When there’s a sturdy bike rack next to the main door it says, “Welcome, we love you!” When the bike rack is far from the door, falling apart or hidden away it says, “You’re not important customers.” And when the bike rack tucked in an back alley or next to smelly garbage dumpsters the message is clear, “Our valued customers don’t ride bikes.”

Dumpster Bike Rack

To that I say, “Your attitude stinks, just like your garbage.” Time for me to find a new noodle shop.

Location: Luu Noodle at San Antonio Shopping Center, Mountain View, California, USA

 
12 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Nothing Could Rain on Our Wine & Chocolate Parade

After four bone-dry winter months and declarations of the most severe drought in 500 years, a healthy rain storm blew in three days before the party. Before the drops even hit the ground the question came in: “Is the party still on?” “Yes,” I said, “Unless the governor declares a State of Emergency the party is on. And unless the weather service declares a Severe Weather Alert the ride is on too.” Or as Adina quipped, “Apocalypse cancels. Or in case of apocalypse the four horsemen will join our ride.”

The rain was heavy elsewhere around the bay, but in San Jose there was little more than a few sprinkles. No horsemen of the apocalypse joined our pre-party ride, unless they were in the back of the pack riding sweep.

Virginia Bike Share

Fifty women had RSVP’d for the party, but given the 60% chance of rain I only expected a dozen or so to show up at Diridon Station for the pre-ride to the party. I should have known better. After all, women who ride are built tough, whether it’s dealing with hostile traffic on their commutes or soldiering on through wind and fog on century rides. Especially when there are others along for moral support and tasty treats waiting at the end.

Bike Statue

The fortitude of women who ride doesn’t stop when they dismount. The party attracted women who seek change: better bike routes for themselves and their families, better bike parking at workplaces and shopping destinations, better support from law enforcement to keep our streets safe. That doesn’t come easy.

But when you get determined women together, great things happen. Candice and Carmen’s home runneth over with strong women in influential positions like: Sally Lieber, former California House Speaker pro tempore; Kim Walesh, Director of Economic Development for San Jose; Shiloh Ballard, Vice President of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group; and Ellen Barton, the new Alternative Transportation Coordinator for San Mateo County.

At the same time there were inspired leaders of grassroots efforts like Wendee Crofoot, co-founder of Great Streets Mountain View; and Adina Levin, co-founder of Friends of Caltrain and the Drive Less Challenge. Plus a half dozen staff and board members from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, our event sponsor.

Garden Party

Who knows where a little networking over wine and chocolate will take us? I’m hoping very far, and by bike.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Around Town, Women & Bikes

 

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

 
19 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

 
 
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