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Author Archives: ladyfleur

Breaking Away in Baton Rouge

When I was a little girl, my father taught me to ride a bike. He bolted training wheels on a bike passed down from one or more of my four older sisters and set me loose to ride circles in the driveway. When he decided it was time, he took off the training wheels, then held the back of my saddle while I climbed aboard. I pedaled, he ran, he let go, I fell. We tried again and again until I pedaled down the street into freedom.

Well, as much freedom that living in a subdivision isolated by a busy, shoulderless highway allows.

The subdivision wasn’t small, but it was street after street of ranch style homes with manicured lawns proudly owned by friendly people with lots of kids, and creeks to explore on its fringes. If we asked Mom nicely, she would let us ride down a long gravel road to a 7-11 to buy candy. But that was about it. We couldn’t ride to school or to sports practice or to a friend’s house on the other side of the highway. We were trapped riding in circles, just like my dad does today on his “ride every street” subdivision tour.

Pollard map

I’m sure many kids didn’t mind being cut off from the rest of the city, and I knew others who were willing to sneak through Ford’s pasture. But not a goody-two-shoes like me. I didn’t ride through the pasture until a few years ago, after it was sold to a developer who cut a trail through it where they will eventually build a street.

Pasture Path

This little trail, not even 2/10 of a mile, has become our bike connection to the rest of the city. Now we can ride all the places that we never could before: to the elementary school and church (1.25 miles), to high school (5 miles) and to college (4 miles), plus grocery stores, parks, restaurants and homes of friends and family.

The map tells it all. That small gold shape around my parents’ home was my childhood cruising range. Now, much of the southern half of the city can be reached by bike. What a big difference a tiny connection can make.

BTR Map 4

We haven’t ridden all the way from home to downtown yet, nor to the Mississippi River where a bald eagle nest is. (That would be a bit long for dad) But we did ride to LSU during our last visit, and I did ride to Baton Rouge High a few years ago for a high school reunion party. Next trip I want to ride downtown for a bike date lunch and to my sister’s house to see the latest fabric arts she’s created. So many new places to go and things to do.

How far from your childhood home could you safely ride a bike? What about where you live now?

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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Around Town, Travel

 

You’re Invited: Wine, Women & Chocolate Returns!

You are cordially invited to Women, Wine & Chocolate, a gathering for women who love bikes, on Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 1:30 pm at 245 S 12th Street, in the historic Naglee Park district of San Jose, California.

The party that took Silicon Valley by storm last year returns for a second year of fun and friendship just for the ladies! Space is limited and last year was a sell-out, so please RSVP early.

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 15, 2015. 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.

Bike Statue

If the weather is fine, we’ll be in Candice’s 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 spin through the historic Naglee Park. Our route will be less than 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.

San Fernando Green Lane

Where: 245 South 12th Street, San Jose. A private home in the historic Naglee Park district. (map)
When: Sunday, February 15, 2015. 1:30-4:00 pm. Note that sunset won’t be until 5:46 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 San Jose Diridon Station at 1:00 PM for a short, flat ride on lower-stress streets.
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 on racks in the backyard (with tarps 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!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Around Town, Events

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Tumbling Tumbleweeds

It’s easy to forget that where I live was once the Old West. The cowboys and stagecoaches are gone, and few saloons remain. But there I was on the trail today, drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Lane FAIL: Halfway Job at Central Expressway

Update: A few weeks after this story was posted, the Santa Clara County Roads & Airports department lengthened the signal timing so it’s much easier to ride across before the light turns red. Thank you!

Two years after I first wrote the city about problems with bicycling to the San Antonio Caltrain station and tunnel, there it was: a bike lane. No longer would I have to ride around the corner to push the pedestrian button and use a crosswalk that’s not particularly visible to drivers turning right on Central Expressway.

Bike Lane FAIL Mayfield

It doesn’t do anything to fix the reverse direction, but it’s an improvement, right? Guess again. It fails in two dangerous ways. First, it forces you to merge with the adjacent lane’s traffic to get around an oversized median. More seriously, the green light is so short that you’re likely to still be in the intersection when the light turns red. That puts you in the path of expressway-speed traffic just as you’re slowing to exit onto the sidewalk.

This is the fourth intersection within two miles of my home that has been “improved” since I started this series. All are critical connections across high-speed roads and all are more, not less, dangerous now. They include: a vanishing bike lane at San Antonio Road, a painful squeeze on Rengstorff Avenue, and a take-the-lane situation on Moffett Blvd that I only ride when I’m sure there won’t be vehicles barreling up behind me. Here’s a map.

At this point, I’m losing patience. Why does this keep happening? Don’t the engineers have the skill to design something that doesn’t set people up to be injured? Isn’t ensuring the crossing is safe a priority? Do they ever get on a bike and test these “improvements” when they’re complete? I’m tired of being their guinea pig.

Location: Mayfield Avenue at Central Expressway, Mountain View

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Kathy in Signature Teal

Add a little personal style and a mundane chore takes on a whole new attitude. For Kathy, that means rolling down to Ava’s Market in a cozy tunic sweater, slouch booties and a hat-style helmet, all in shades of teal. Her bike? A cruiser in teal of course. If you see a flash of teal ride by in Mountain View, it’s got to be Kathy.

Kathy Portrait

Whether it’s for her three-bag weekly shopping or a quick stop on her way home from work, Kathy loves Ava’s Market for its custom service. It’s small enough to take requests for stocking items, and big enough to have a deli with a rotisserie. Her secret: call in the morning and they’ll have a roasted chicken ready for her at 6pm.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Surprising Bump in Ridership

It’s January: cold, dark and hardly the peak of the bike commute season. Yet the once-empty Caltrain bike car has been brimming with riders bound for San Jose. New Years resolutions? More jobs in San Jose? Global warming? Your guess is as good as mine. Until I get bumped for lack of rack space, I’m not complaining.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Commute Diaries

 

Barging in Europe: Living Without A Car

A couple of years ago my mountain biking friends Dave and Becky ran off to Europe for a life plying the canals and rivers on a custom-built barge they aptly named Wanderlust. While they adapted quickly to the boat’s tight quarters and living car-free, some things weren’t so easy. They saw photos of me shopping by bike, asked a few questions, and now have made space on board for something to take the hassle out of car-free shopping: a bike trailer. Here is the story of their trailer, re-blogged from their Wanderlust blog.

Wanderlust

Our Croozer in its cart configuration Our Croozer in its cart configuration

Though some barges are designed to carry a car on board, Wanderlust does not have the capability. This means that when we cruise about the waterways, we are car-free. Surprisingly, we don’t miss having a car. In fact, we find the absence of a car to be liberating. But in truth, not having a car does make the practical day-to-day necessities more challenging. Life without a car requires more planning.

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Gear Talk, Travel

 

The Flood of the Decade on the Guadalupe River

We were barely halfway through December when the weather service declared it our wettest in 60 years. I wasn’t surprised. After two weeks of near-daily rain I don’t bother checking the weather forecast anymore. On my way out the door I put on my full-coverage raincoat and rain boots, double bagged my laptop and stow it in my hardiest Dutch panniers along with heels and a second pair of tights. Is this what it’s like to live in Portland?

While 7.43 inches in a month may not sound exceptional, in our semi-arid climate it’s about half our yearly total of 15 inches, and almost twice the meager 3.8 inches we got during last year’s drought. In a normal year, the Guadalupe’s trickle is more creek than river, but last week the Guadalupe lived up to its river name. Add a few bateaux or pirogues and it would look like a respectable bayou back home in Louisiana.

Airport Blvd Bridge

When the “storm of the decade” was forecast for last Thursday with 35 mph winds and heavy rain, there was a brief moment when I considered working from home or driving to work instead. Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I’m glad I went for it. The tailwind was 20 mph at best, the rain was steady, but not blinding, and I got to see the river go from normal to flooded to normal again within 24 hours. It was worth getting a little wet.

What’s your bad weather limit on the bike? At what point do you decide it’s not worth it and drive or take transit instead? How heavy a rain, how low a temperature or how much snow on the ground does it take?

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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Around Town

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Holiday Party Pizzazz

The little black dress wins again. Why search for a new party dress when you can gussy up an old favorite with festive accessories? A peacock blue cropped jacket, a multi-strand jewel necklace and lace stockings turn basic black into a holiday delight. While you’re at it, gussy up your bike with some festive colored lights too.

Party Portrait

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: An Up Close & Personal Look

For over two years I’m shared snippets of my everyday life in the Bike Commute Diaries series. Now, thanks to a local reporter writing a story on the future of bikes on Caltrain, you can follow me on a typical morning commute, hyperlapsed from about 60 minutes into four fast minutes. The video captures everything I love about my commute: relaxing on the train, popping into a coffee shop for a latte to go, cruising down the banks of the Guadalupe River, and chatting with friends I’ve met along the way. Thank you, Caltrain, for making it possible.

For more on the future of bikes on Caltrain, read the full story from the Peninsula Press.

About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 
 
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