Charting New Commuter Routes for Bike to Work Day

06 May

The heat was on last weekend, just in time to kick off the outdoor festival season. But instead of riding over to the A la Carte and Art festival in downtown Mountain View, Dick and I rode across town to REI to represent the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) at REI CycleFest. In addition to working with government and businesses for improved bike facilities, SVBC also provides education and encouragement for riders through programs like Safe Routes to School and Bike to Work Day, which is coming up this Thursday.

REI CycleFest

Bike to Work Day is the kickoff of the biking season for casual riders, who will dust off their bikes, pump up the tires and dig out a messenger bag for a bike commute to work. For people who ride every day, Bike to Work Day can lack excitement. It’s just another work commute, albeit with a few more riders out on the road and a chance to get a free muffin or banana along the way at an Energizer Station.

For Dick and me, REI Cyclefest was a perfect way to help people jumpstart their riding. The other booths had gear covered, so we spent most of our time pointing at the bike map talking about where to ride: efficient, low-traffic routes to work or stores and scenic, quiet routes for fun. About half the attendees were neighborhood and bike path only riders, while the rest were comfortable with on-street routes. All were looking for new options.

Dick Gives Route Ideas 3

First it was a couple from East Palo Alto that was curious about riding across the bay on the Dumbarton Bridge. Then it was a double century rider looking for a cross-valley route to Mt Hamilton east of San Jose. Then a woman in her 70s who sees the Guadalupe River Trail from the freeway but can’t find a trail entrance. Then a teenage boy from Palo Alto who loves roam the gravel levees in the Baylands–how far they could take him?

For all the rhetoric about why people don’t ride, I think what limits cycling is how many nearby places there are where people feel comfortable riding. People love bikes, but if they don’t have a good route to work or school, or they have to load bikes on a car for every social ride, they won’t ride as much. It all starts with the route.

Do you find yourself doing same old rides? How do you find new routes or ideas for places to ride?

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6 responses to “Charting New Commuter Routes for Bike to Work Day

  1. chargin mah laz0r (@M4NH0)

    May 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Since I don’t have a car, I often use errand trips as an opportunity to try out new routes. I plan my routes out ahead of time on Google Maps, though I only use their directions as suggestions. Google doesn’t always choose the most bike-friendly route, so I will modify it when needed; for example, I would rather bike an extra mile on a bike path vs a shorter distance on a busy road. Street view can give you a good idea of about the width and placement of bike lanes, as well as general road condition.

    • ladyfleur

      May 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      I use Google Maps bike directions and StreetView too. The Google bike directions are a starting point, but the StreetView is how I make sure I don’t end up on an unpleasant road. A picture is work a thousand words and a hundred maps.

  2. pep

    May 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    One year, I found excitement on BTWD by doing “Le Tour d’Energizer Stations.” For the past few years, though, I lead a ride for my coworkers. My route is easy and tranquil. A skeptical mountain biker was surprised, loved it, and became an avid commuter and road cyclist. A woman on a cruiser bike revealed that her husband insisted that she bring her cell phone, he was sure she would need to be rescued. (Wrong. She made it.) Passing through one neighborhood, a guy remarked “Where are we? I grew up in this town and I have never been here.”

    To add to your routing tips: Notice where other cyclists choose to ride. After observing a popular turning point, I studied the map and learned a new shortcut.

    • ladyfleur

      May 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      I did Le Tour d’Energizer Stations one year myself when I was between jobs. I went with a relatively new rider which made it a lot more fun. That’s funny about the woman who’s husband didn’t think she’d make it. Then again, maybe he just wanted to be a hero.

  3. Matt

    May 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I was so hyped to do my first Bike to Work Day! SJ to Redwood City. No, not the whole thing. I would normally bike to Caltrain and then take the train in. But I wanted to stop by the Energizer Station near my work. So, I planned to plop the bike in the car, drive to Palo Alto, and then bike from PA up to Redwood City.

    Alas, my plans were scrapped when I realized that I had various appointments scheduled for May 9, which means that I’m taking the day off from work!

    • ladyfleur

      May 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Bummer. Maybe you could do one or more of your appointments by bike since you can’t ride to work.


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