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Category Archives: Issues & Infrastructure

Bike Rack FAIL: The Throat Choke Torture Rack

The Jaws of Death isn’t the only old-school torture rack in my ‘hood. At the beautifully bucolic Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, next to the delightfully shady picnic area and between the espalier apple orchard and the sapling hut the kids love to play inside, there it is: the Throat Choke Torture Rack. It looks sinister, doesn’t it?

Throat Choke

The Gamble Garden in the only place I’ve seen this particular model, although Richard of Cyclelicious has seen them in action in the Santa Cruz area and found it alive and well for sale on the internet. Cities, if you’re tempted to buy this model, don’t. It doesn’t fit large tube bikes and terrorizes ones that have the misfortune of fitting.

Like the Jaws of Death, we never locked up to the Throat Choke as intended. It seemed too cruel to subject beloved bikes to such cruel treatment. Once again, Zella takes one for the team and submits to the torture.

How would you compare this rack to the Jaws of Death? Which torture would you prefer for your bike?

Location: Elizabeth Gamble Garden Picnic Area, Palo Alto, California, USA.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Rack FAIL: The Jaws of Death Torture Rack

I’m all for creative ingenuity and building a better mouse trap. I probably wouldn’t appreciate living in Silicon Valley otherwise. And bike theft is rapidly increasing in the area. But when I see attempts to make bike racks more secure that are more like instruments of bike torture, I scratch my head: Who designed these things?

Behold the Jaws of Death. I see these racks all over town, outside shopping centers, movie theaters, strip malls and government buildings built or remodeled in the 1970-1980s. The bike’s frame and wheels are secured in its jaws while an open-ended cage blocks thieves from cutting your ordinary school locker padlock.

Jaws of Death Whole Bike Wide

As many times as I’ve seen these racks, I’ve never attempted to use them as intended. Why subject my bike to the torture of jamming metal rods in its spokes? My cable and U-locks don’t work with the little lock cage either.

Then the other day I talked to an old-time bike commuter who said he likes them. So I grabbed my old mountain bike, bought a padlock and took the old-school racks for a spin. They worked much better than expected.

Although it seems secure, I’m not sure I’ll regularly subject my nicer bikes to this torturous rack. Would you?

Location: Bloomingdale’s at Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, California, USA.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Lane SUCCESS! Hedding Street in San José

Breathing room. That’s what you get when a city gives you more than a skinny strip for riding your bike. And when the city paints it a bold green that make its purpose clear, the city gets new riders in return. Like Sarah, who rode with me on the newly minted Hedding Street bike lanes. With the wide lane, it was easy to chat.

Sarah and her girlfriend recently bought new bikes to ride on the rapidly expanding network of buffered bike lanes near their home in San José’s Japantown. Before the lanes she never considered bicycling. In fact, she hadn’t ridden a bike in 15 years. “The fast cars were too intimidating,” she said. Now when her girlfriend rides to work on Hedding Street and the Guadalupe River Trail, Sarah goes along for the ride. “We rock climb together. Now we can ride bikes together too,” she explained. Bravo, San José!

Sarah Thumbs Up

The Hedding Street green lanes run from the Guadalupe River Trail east to 17th Street (near Hwy 101). The lanes provide a critical east-west route that complements existing north-south bike lanes in central San José.

Location: Hedding Street between Guadalupe River Trail and 17th Street, San José, California, USA.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Lane FAIL? Median Path in Los Altos Hills

If you’re designing a way for bikes to navigate a tough intersection, a great place to start is to ask bicyclists, right? Sounds great in theory but in practice, but you’ll find that bicyclists don’t always agree on what’s best.

Take this median path on El Monte Road, a high-speed four lane road that crosses under Interstate 280. At a local bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee meeting, one of the BPAC members proposed it as a good model for a redesign of a similar undercrossing just up the freeway. I strained to understand. Did he really think a narrow sidewalk would work for the packs of road riders that frequent this area? I mean, it’s so narrow that there’s even a “walk bike” sign. And the path is 1/2 mile long. No roadie would ever walk that far in their Sidis.

Median Path

The reality is that few people actually walk their bikes on this path and it’s very useful for people who don’t want to ride on the roadway and deal with high-speed traffic merging on and off the freeway. While I’ve ridden on the roadway on weekly basis and have had little trouble with drivers, not everyone wants to ride like that. Ironically, the day I took these photos, a driver nearly right-hooked me in his impatience to get on the freeway.

So is this path good for bicyclists? Yes, provided the city ditches the “walk bike” sign and doesn’t expect all cyclists to use the median pathway. Bicyclists don’t always choose the same path and that’s OK by me.

Note: “No Bikes” photo from Greg McPheeters. More on the Los Altos Hills attempt to ban bikes is here.

Location: El Monte Road at Interstate 280, adjacent to Foothill College.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

The Rail + Bike Commuter Capital of the Bay Area

Move over, San Francisco. Close, but not quite, Oakland. San Jose has you beat when it comes to flexible commuter train options. “How could this be?” you say. “There’s no BART in San Jose.” True, BART connects many cities in Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Fremont, Concord and Pleasanton.

But there are three heavy rail lines and a light rail line that run out of San Jose’s Didiron Station, and all allow bikes on board, something that BART has only been testing during commute hours. And BART doesn’t dedicate space for bicycles, it just allows bikes to ride if space is available (and BART workers aren’t on strike).

Diridon Trains

But the real story isn’t the number of train lines anyway, it’s how many places and how far you and your bike can go from downtown San Jose: San Francisco, Oakland, Gilroy, Stockton and Sacramento, plus frequent bus service to Santa Cruz and light rail that span San Jose from bay to hills. All these trains and buses allow bikes during rush hour and dedicate space just for bikes.

What this means for bike commuters became very obvious one day when I was riding home on the Guadalupe River Trail. Up rolled my buddy Richard of Cyclelicious with another rider. We were all headed to Diridon Station: me to take Caltrain up the Peninsula to Mountain View, Richard to take the Santa Cruz Metro bus over the hills to Scotts Valley, and his friend to take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor to Oakland. Three long distance commutes made more manageable by bikes on board programs on three transit lines radiating from downtown San Jose. Maybe next time we’ll meet a rider headed for the ACE Rail to Livermore or Stockton.

Have you taken a bike on a bus or train before? How far did you go? How convenient was it?

Happy Trails to You

 
10 Comments

Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Bike Rack SUCCESS! About-Face at Mollie Stone’s

You see these bike racks at Mollie Stone’s Market? They’re lovely, aren’t they? They’re right next to the main entrance so they’re easy to find, and they’re sturdy ones that let you lock the frame, not just a wheel. The store owners obviously value bicyclists as customers, right? Yes, they do. But it wasn’t always this way.

Most shoppers were set up with racks that hold two bags of groceries.

Mollie Stone’s Market is located in the California Avenue business district in Palo Alto, a three block long, four lane street that’s been slated for a street makeover for years. The plan includes reducing it from four to two lanes with left turn lanes and bike lanes, but no reduction in street parking. Merchants feared the worst: “Traffic will be terrible!” “How will our customers get to our stores?” “Bikes are bad for business.”

That’s pretty much what a Mollie Stone’s co-owner said at a city council meeting. He even threatened that removing lanes could mean closing his store, an anchor for the business district.

What the co-owner didn’t count on was the reaction of his staff, who took him to task telling him how many of the store’s customers arrived by bike. He got the message and contacted volunteers at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition‘s Palo Alto local team who advised him on what customers who arrive by bike want and need. The result was top tier bike parking and a steady stream of happy bike-riding customers.

The owner is now an advocate for bicycles to local businesses. In a press release co-owner David Bennett stated: “As more Palo Alto residents get around on their bikes, it’s vital that we have the infrastructure in place to support them. We wanted to make sure that we had the ideal setup, so we implemented all of the SVBC’s recommendations. We’re very excited to offer these additional racks to our Palo Alto community.”

Thank you Adina, Andrew, the rest of the Palo Alto team and SVBC for supporting everyday bicycling!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Location: Mollie Stone’s Market, 164 S. California Avenue at Park Blvd, Palo Alto, California, USA

 
8 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Signal SUCCESS! Patience is a Virtue

If you ride a bike on city streets you probably have encountered it: the traffic signal that rudely ignores you. So you wait for a car to arrive or drag your bike out of the lane and onto the sidewalk to push the pedestrian button. You complain to the city and they say they’ll fix it. Then one day six months later, on your same old commute home there it is–marking exactly where bikes need to wait to trip the signal. Patience is a virtue.

Bike Signal Loop

Location: Wright Avenue at N Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, California, USA.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 
 
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