Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tearing it Up at San Antonio Shopping Center

What is it that makes watching big machinery tearing big things apart so much fun? Is it seeing things that seem so permanent and strong go down so quickly?

Today, they started demolition of the Sears store at San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View. The kind folks at the nearby Milk Pail Market were on hand to record the drama–or not–with the video below. At this pace we’ll never get a new Safeway, apartment complex, three major retail stores and other shops and restaurants completed.

Intrigued, and needing an excuse to pick up some Makers Mark at Bev Mo, I pedaled over there tonight after work. Would Sears be rubble? Would the main shopping center entrance, the one that hooks up to the bike route from Palo Alto still be open? Most importantly, would I still be able to get to Trader Joes on my way home from work?

No, yes and yes. Here’s what I saw at the end of the day. Not much torn down, but I was very pleased that they didn’t fence off access through the shopping center.


Turns out the demolition today was more ceremonial than functional, with vice mayor Jac Siegel at the controls. Whew! Maybe we’ll see this project completed before the end of the decade.

Is there a shopping center near you that you wish they’d rip and replace? What stores would you want in your new and improved shopping center?

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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Around Town


Speed Kills: Why 15 MPH is Better for School Zones

It was a simple question posed to Gary Richards, aka Mr Roadshow at the San Jose Mercury News. His Tuesday column mentioned the new 15 mph speed limits for school zones in San Francisco, but didn’t take a stand. I posted a quick comment on the online edition: “Hey, Gary, you didn’t say whether you thought a 15-mph speed limit in school zones in San Francisco is a good idea. What do you think?” I never expected it would be the leading question for his Wednesday column.

Before I comment on Gary’s response, it’s only fair that I take a stand. It’s even simpler: speed kills. This is not an opinion, it’s a fact supported by studies worldwide. For both stopping distances and severity of crashes, speed matters. Look at this chart showing the effect of vehicle speed on pedestrian injury.

Speed dramatically affects stopping distance, which translates to collision avoidance. According to this report: “Traveling at 40 mph, the average driver who sights a pedestrian in the road 100 feet ahead will still be traveling 38 mph on impact: driving at 25 mph, the driver will have stopped before the pedestrian is struck.”

On my five mile morning commute from Mountain View to Palo Alto I ride my bike through school zones for four elementary schools. I don’t ride directly past any middle schools, but I see a dozen or more middle school aged kids riding to school from their homes a mile or two away. Unfortunately, I see few cars respect the 25 mph speed limit, until congestion sets in just before the school day begins. The prevailing attitude is that 5-10 miles over the speed limit is “normal.” It may be normal, but it’s not safe.

As a society, we’ve lost track of the fact that speed kills. If drivers slowed down by 10 mph, people walking or riding bikes would be a lot safer. So, my take on 15 mph speed limit: If it means that majority of drivers will slow down from 30 to 20 mph, then I’m all for it. I’m sure the families of the 40% fewer children who will be killed when a collision occurs would agree (see chart). Like the family of 4-year-old Christopher “Buddy” Rowe who was killed in a Santa Rosa crosswalk on his way to soccer practice. And I’m sure the kids who would avoid being hit by vehicles due to slower speeds would agree too.

What was Mr. Roadshow’s take? Gary wrote:

“I’m all for drivers slowing at school zones at all times of the day. I wish legislation would pass allowing photo radar cameras to be used on city streets, similar to programs once in place in Campbell and San Jose. Combine that with a 15-mph limit and you bet people would slow down. The big worry isn’t just the speed of motorists, but how they drive when dropping off or picking up kids — making illegal turns, double parking, yakking on cellphones, etc. If a lower speed limit would help make them more attentive, then I’m for it.”

Thanks, Gary, I agree. I’m proud you took a stand that will surely get you a lot of flack from your readers. Bravo!

Would you support a reduced speed limit in your neighborhood? Would you change your commute route to avoid a school zone?


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure


Hwy 101 Bike Bridge Plan Unveiled

It may look more like a flume ride than a bike bridge, but the City of Palo Alto has announced plans for a new bike bridge over Highway 101 near San Antonio Road. Even though it will take years to build, I’m excited.

The existing crossing near San Antonio Road is an underpass that is only open during the dry months, and this summer it was closed from June until last week due to a broken tidal gate. The underpass is a dark, dank, narrow sidewalk just inches above the swampy muck. Not my favorite crossing. Did you even know that this underpass existed?

The city considered many options, and I’m really happy that they chose a light, airy, safer bridge that has the bonus of being visible to everyone stuck in traffic on Highway 101. Plus, the new design won’t need those silly gates to slow people down. They may be handy for practicing switchback skills, but they’re no fun for people on bikes with trailers or on tandems, not to mention in wheelchairs. Look at how Dick’s Bike Taxi Service handled the gates when I got a ride to work last Friday.

What bike skills do you get to practice when you ride around town?

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Dick’s Bike Taxi Service

Last week, Dick and I were invited to a concert in San Francisco. Because of its location and 7 pm start time, it made sense that Dick should pick me up at the office and we would drive from there. The problem: If I rode to work in the morning I’d have to leave my bike either in or on top of the car, risking theft. If I drove, we’d have to stop back at my work on the way home. The solution: Dick’s Bike Taxi Service.

With our tandem, Dick will drop me off or pick me up anywhere up to 5-10 miles from home, free of charge (gratuities accepted). So far I’ve used the service three times: when buying my Dutch bike, when dropping it off for overnight repairs, and for last Friday’s after work concert. That’s more times than we’ve ridden the tandem for recreation this year. Not exactly what I expected when we bought it, but very very useful.

Do you have a bike that you bought for one purpose, but now value for something completely different?


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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Around Town


The Road Not Traveled

The plan for third and final week of hill training for Jill’s Ride for Hope: ride from Woodside to the coast and back via the Old La Honda/84/Tunitas loop. At 45 miles and 4500 feet climbing with a 2 mile stretch at 9-10% grade, it’s hard work. Yet it’s one of my favorite routes: two shady, winding climbs through redwoods, interesting rest stops, a stellar descent down Kings and most of all, the satisfaction of knowing you made it to the Pacific.

But after feeling strangely lethargic all day Friday, I was definitely sick on Saturday morning. So I stayed home while my friends rode without me and tried not to be bummed. Lucky for me, Cindy took lots of photos, which is the next best thing to being there. Thanks, Cindy!

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Backroads


Bike Date Friday: Picnic in the Garden

One dark, chilly, damp night commuting home last winter, I dreamed of a warm evening where Dick and I would pedal off to a park for a picnic for a bike date. But with distractions like vacationing with family in Florida, mountain bike racing with my girlfriends, and even waiting for the UPS man, it was August and alas, no picnic.

With sunset getting earlier each week, it was now or never. First task: find a location. Most park picnic areas are designed for kids’ birthday parties and loud family gatherings. I wanted something romantic. I considered going back to the Rodin Garden at Stanford, but was worried it wouldn’t be private enough.

After a bit of searching, I found a promising spot: the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto. With a historic home, carriage and tea houses, plus formal gardens it was romantic. After scouting it on my bike one evening, I found wooden picnic tables under a heritage oak tree and even a bike rack.


So I went shopping, prepared a picnic meal and packed it in Juliett’s ample single pannier and front basket and headed for work, telling Dick to pick me up that evening for a bike date picnic at a surprise location.

When we arrived we took a slow stroll around the gardens first, along with a dozen or so visitors: a young mother showing her toddler insects on a flower, two women friends in a deep discussion, a man pushing his elderly father in his wheelchair. You can see from the gallery of photos below why people are drawn to this beautiful public space. But by the time we poured a glass of white wine and unpacked Juliett’s baskets for our meal, we had the garden to ourselves.


What is still on your “to do” list for this summer? What summer fun do you still have planned?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.


Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Bike Date


Fashion Friday: Garden Party

Watercolor chintz dress and ballet flats on me and spacious basket and pannier on Juliett. That’s what a garden picnic is made of.



Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

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