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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fashion Friday: A Gray Day with a Threat of Storm

On a day that’s not clear, with situations neither black nor white, I go with the flow in a gray print knit dress, gray tights and basic black boots. And carry a raincoat for when the storm rolls in.

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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

 

I Ride My Bike Because My City Believes in Bikes

I googled my name today. For professional reasons, of course. On Monday, my company was acquired by a company with a different market strategy. So I’ll probably be looking for a new job soon, and I was wondering what a prospective employer might uncover in an internet search for my name. The good news is that (a) I am mayor of my own name, with 7 of the top 10 search results referring to me and (b) the results make me look like more of an industry expert than I truly am.

Just for fun I also searched for my name + bike, which led to some old race results, a video from Monitor Pass that I took from the back of a Goldwing motorcycle, and blog posts about the Low-Key Hill Climb that I coordinated in October. Then there was a “Share My Story” that I had submitted to the People for Bikes web site last July, something I had forgotten about. It even had a photo.

The story I submitted was more or less a letter I had sent to my congressional members when funding for bike infrastructure, and in particular, bike paths was are risk of being cut. It sums up why I ride rather than drive around town these days:

My Bike Makes My Neighborhood “Walkable”
I live in Mountain View, California, in the heart of suburban Silicon Valley. My neighborhood was built during the 1950s and 1960s, when cars were assumed to be the only means of transportation.

  • I live five miles from my workplace, my doctor, my dentist, and a top-tier shopping mall.
  • I live two miles from my pharmacy, the hardware store, the garden center, and a movie theater.
  • I live one mile from the library, the post office, trendy restaurants, and a weekend farmers market.
  • I live 1/2 mile from the grocery store.

When I moved here 25 years ago, I drove my car to all these places. But because my city invested in bicycle infrastructure, I now ride my bicycle instead.

Each year, my city has used a small fraction of their transportation dollars to build bike lanes, to adjust traffic signal sensors for bikes, to install bike racks, and calm traffic in my neighborhood. My city has also built a 5 mile “recreation” trail that doubles as a car-free route for children attending four elementary schools, and as an alternative to a bumper-to-bumper freeway commute for employees at companies like Google and Microsoft.

Because my city and its neighbors believed in bicycles as transportation, I save money on gas, reduce wear-and-tear on my car, and get exercise everyday. If more people used bikes instead of cars for their daily errands, our air would be cleaner, our neighborhoods quieter, and our businesses could use their valuable real estate for creating or selling products or services instead of housing parked cars.

Surveys show that people would ride bicycles more if our streets were made safer for bicycles. I know it made a difference for me.

The transportation bill managed to get out of congress with bike funding intact. Whew! But I know that bicycle and pedestrian programs are often the first parts cut. The reason? Many lawmakers and their constituents have never lived somewhere where bicycling was an easy, safe, pleasant alternative to driving a car. So sad.

What could your town or city could do to be more bike-friendly? Have you told your elected officials?

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Bike Date Friday: Shokolaat and Christmas Lights

When the going gets tough, the tough reach for chocolate. So when an unexpected announcement at work late last week signaled a BIG UNKNOWN, it was only natural that our dinner choice for Bike Date Friday be Shokolaat, a restaurant known more for their desserts than their meals.

If you haven’t sounded out the name yet, Shokolaat is phonetic spelling for chocolate in French. We had a nice dinner followed by much nicer chocolate desserts and waited for the endorphins to kick in.

The endorphins did kick in, but I think it was more due to the relaxing ambiance of the intimate restaurant than the chocolate. Or maybe it was due to our cruise on our way home through the Old Palo Alto neighborhoods all lit up for Christmas. Outdoor lights are one of my favorite things about the holidays, more special to me than Christmas sweets and gifts.

This year, Christmas Tree Lane on Fulton Street was a disappointment since their official opening was Saturday, but their neighbors on surrounding streets made up for it with a good show. And yet, my favorites of the night were around the corner from our home in Mountain View, as Dorothy would say, in our very own backyard.

At the end of our little tour, I rolled into the garage with a small smile on my face, peace in my heart, and a feeling that everything would work out just fine.

When you’ve heard some unsettling news, what do you do to pick your mood up?

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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.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Fashion Friday: Frosty Mornings

Brrr. Frost on the ground means a cozy sweater dress, tights and ankle booties for the office, and a belted wool coat, fleece beanie, fluffy scarf and tall boots for the ride, on Juliett.

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OK, I admit this was a bit of overkill for 38 degree weather. What do you wear when it’s frosty?

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

 

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bike Lights

Decisions, decisions. It’s time to decorate our Christmas tree, starting with the lights. But which color? Red like last year? Traditional clear? Or Mardi Gras colors to honor my Louisiana heritage: purple, green and gold?

At least there’s one decision we won’t have to make–whether the lights should blink or not. Dick and I both prefer steady Christmas lights over blinking, which is why I don’t miss that crazy set we once had with three different blinking patterns. Every year we’d run through all the different modes and then settle on steady.

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With bike lights, though, Dick and I don’t agree. I’m all for keeping it steady, while Dick likes to flash. You could also say that I’m Paris while he’s London. Paris’ Velib bikes and the London’s Barclays bikes are both equipped with always-on front and rear lights. A great little feature not only for nighttime riding, but also for improving daytime visibility. And you don’t have to remember to turn them on, or remove them when you lock up the bike since they’re permanently attached and can’t be stolen. I wish my bikes were so well equipped.

But the difference is that the Velib lights burn steady while the Barclays flash, which to me reflects the two cities’ attitude toward urban cycling. Steady bright lights say to me: “I have lights like cars and motorcycles. I’m just another vehicle on the road.” In contrast, flashing lights shout out a strong warning message: “Be careful. Watch out. Don’t hit me.” The presumption is that drivers can’t be expected to see you.

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Philosophical arguments aside, here’s my case for steady vs. flashing:

  • With today’s bright lights, flashing ones can be very annoying to drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. I refuse to ride behind Dick when he has his rear light flashing.
  • A steady front light will help you see the road ahead better so you can avoid potholes and other obstacles.
  • Steady lights help other road users gauge your distance from them better than flashing lights.

That said, there are times when I will set my lights to flashing:

  • At dusk, when there’s little contrast between the bike lights and the ambient light, I’ll set both front and rear lights to flashing.
  • After dark, when the route takes me through an area with a lot of lighting distractions, I’ll set the front to steady and have two red lights in the rear: one steady and one flashing.
  • Ditto for when it’s raining at night, for the same reason.

Finally, be aware that technically speaking, the California vehicle code only allows flashing lights to be used on emergency vehicles, a rarely enforced law that at least one cop with an attitude has used to harass cyclists with before. I wonder what that cop would have said if he had seen me with my Down Low Glow lights.

So, do you like to flash or keep your lights steady? Do you use the same mode for both front and rear, and for all occasions?

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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Gear Talk

 

Blazing Trails at Water Dog

It was a sunny, crisp late fall California morning, the kind that promises to warm up quickly. So Jill, Cindy and I were itching to hit the trails with their post-rain tackiness. But this time, instead of grabbing our bikes we grabbed McClouds, Pulaskis and other trail building tools and got to work. ‘Cause Mother Nature may have created the forests and grasslands, but she doesn’t build the trails we ride, run and walk on. Volunteers do.

Our destination: Water Dog Lake Park in Belmont. Water Dog offers a rare taste of wilderness in the middle of the urban Bay Area: its canyons are deep, its bay-facing vistas expansive, and its streams largely untouched. How wild is it? Well, mountain lion sightings are not unusual.

Water Dog is also rare in that its trails not only welcome mountain bikers, its trails were largely built by mountain bikers. The singletrack designed by John Finch, Berry Stevens, Patty Ciesla and others is often technical, with ladder bridges and narrow boards allowing the trail to hug the canyon’s steep slopes. Water Dog delights thrill seekers, but has a reputation of leaving less skilled riders battered and bruised. More than one of my friends has been badly bitten by the ‘dog.

But on Saturday, my friends and I came out to Water Dog to build an easy-rated trail around the lake and tame the beast just a little. Led by Kevin Sullivan, a Belmont Parks & Recreation Commissioner and fellow mountain biker, we joined a team of other volunteers working on the new-and-improved Lake Trail. Volunteers have been working on this trail since before 2008, when I first joined a trailbuilding crew and helped pry out a small boulder.

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After a few hours of scraping hillsides, lifting lumber, digging foundations and drilling boards, we reaped the sweet rewards with a spin around the park. I strapped on the GoPro to capture the dizzying descent down the 17 well-banked switchbacks on the Finch Trail. Thank you, John, Berry, Patty and Kevin. It was totally awesome and only a little gnarly.

If you were building a mountain bike (or walking) trail, what would you want it to be like?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Dirt Trails, Issues & Infrastructure

 

Fashion Friday: Autumn Chill

A cozy sweater dress with a thick rolled neck, a lightweight poplin coat and sassy spike-heeled boots take a bite out of the early morning chill, on Juliett.

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Cycle Fashions

 

High Viz: Smart Style or What Not to Wear?

Nothing screams “Look at me” like high visibility jackets and vests, which come in oh-so-fashionable colors like fluorescent yellow and bright orange. The resulting look is often so ugly that many wouldn’t want to be caught dead on the side of the road in it, much less seen riding around town in it.

Before anyone jumps to defend their favorite jacket, I believe wearing high viz is smart for many situations, such as riding along high speed highways or in foggy weather. I have a high viz jacket I wear sometimes, like on this weekend trip my friend Deanna and I took to San Francisco back in 2005. It made me feel a lot safer, especially on that often foggy stretch of Skyline Boulevard where it crosses Hwy 1 in Daly City.

My problem with high viz clothing is the expectation that it’s essential gear for all riders. Or in the case of London, for pretty much anyone on the street. The hot fashion trend on the streets of London we saw on our recent trip was high viz, and not just for cyclists and road crews. We saw police, sanitation workers, delivery van drivers, schoolchildren on field trips and even horses flashing their high viz outfits in London.

London stood in sharp contrast with Paris and Amsterdam, where I can’t recall seeing anyone wearing high viz, not even cyclists or police directing traffic. In Paris, you can find police on bikes, on skates, even on Segways–none wearing high viz. (Just kidding about the Segways)

To me, widespread promotion of high viz clothing reinforces the belief that streets are inherently dangerous places for everyone not protected by a large metal box, and that it’s the duty of vulnerable street users to SHOUT OUT their presence. Otherwise, shame on them for not taking a necessary precaution.

Instead, it should be the duty of the drivers of motor vehicles to slow down, pay attention, and not bully cyclists and pedestrians on the street. It’s no surprise to me that the city where I felt most threatened by cars both on foot and on the bike is the one where high viz clothing is most popular. And that city wasn’t Paris.

Note: Photos below were liberally taken from various internet sources.

Do you have a high viz vest or jacket? If so, when do you wear it?
If someone suggested that you wear a high viz vest to walk the streets of your city, what would you think?

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Cycle Fashions, Issues & Infrastructure

 
 
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