Category Archives: Around Town

Bike Share: Solving the Last Mile Problem

Inter-city transit commutes are rarely fast or efficient when one of the cities suffers from less-than-reliable public transportation and the other suffers from suburban sprawl. That was Alex’s challenge.

Alex lives in San Francisco and works 50 miles away in downtown San Jose. I first met her and her lovely city bike in the bike car on Caltrain. Her commute started with a short bike ride to the train station, then a speedy hour on the bullet train, and ended with a quick one mile bike ride from San Jose’s Diridon station to her office downtown. At around 90 minutes, it wasn’t a bad commute considering the distance.

But when a conductor hassled her about her bike’s wire front basket not meeting Caltrain guidelines, she was forced to park her bike in San Francisco and take the shuttle bus down in San Jose. That is, assuming her train was on time so she didn’t miss the shuttle. But now, Bay Area Bike Share has her rolling in San Jose again.


I ran into Alex and her co-worker Dennis this morning as they were undocking bikes outside Diridon station. It was Alex’s third commute day since the system opened and she was thrilled. No more worries of missing the shuttle, no more risk of overcrowding on the bike car, and no more dodging nit-picky conductors.

Dennis was pleased too. Also a resident of San Francisco, he works in their San Jose office only occasionally, but now he knows that there’s a bike available so he can zip over to the office and back again in the evening.

For both Alex and Dennis, bike share gives them convenience and options. For Caltrain, it means more riders without adding more bikes aboard. For the Bay Area, it means more people getting to work without increasing car congestion and the air pollution that comes with it. That’s why the Bay Area Quality Management District invested in the Bay Area Bike Share pilot, after all. Glad to see it’s working here in San Jose.

Do you have “last mile” issues with using transit? If there were a bike share bike available, would you take it to work, school, entertainment or to do errands?



Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Around Town



Bike Commute Diaries: Once in a Blue Moon

Sometimes the right tool for the job is my car. We’re moving offices and my new window cube won’t have wall space for framed art. While I’ve carried some crazy things on my bike, large frames with glass is not on the list.


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


Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Commute Diaries


Hats On for a Rolling Ladies Tea Party

What happens when you invite ladies who love bikes to a garden party on a warm summer day? Laughter, stories, advice and new friends. Cucumber sandwiches, macaroons, cookies and fruit. Nicely hot tea poured from real tea pots in tea cups of all shapes, sizes and styles, just like the women who rode to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for the Ladies Tea & Bike Social I hosted Saturday with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

Did I mention hats? From floppy cloth to prim straw, plus gloves and even a parasol for dramatic flair.

Monica Portrait Fun

I was a little nervous before the event. Would the 15 women who RSVP’d show up? Since few knew each other did we need a game to get the party started? Would the tea, prepared at home, stay hot in the insulated pitcher I MacGyvered? And would I be able to squeeze it all in my little trailer and ride without dumping it over? I didn’t weigh the load but I’m guessing 60-70 pounds. Eleven quarts of tea and water is not light!

My fears were for naught. Twenty women arrived for the tea and a few more stopped in for a quick visit. Nine women rode to the garden with me and my little trailer and escorted me back home afterward. Cheryl kept riding past her house. I guess she wasn’t ready for the party to end. The happy faces are evident in the bike portraits.

Tea Table

My great-aunt always said that food tastes better when you eat with a sterling silver fork. Maybe that’s why I don’t like paper plates and cups, especially at parties. I didn’t plan for the party to be low waste per se, but since we used cloth tablecloths, ceramic tea pots and cups, and leftover reusable plates, the waste was little more than paper napkins and some packaging from the snacks. The party’s “green-ness” went beyond the fact that almost all of us arrived by bike, transit and walking. All because ladies prefer real tea cups and linens.

The number one question at the end of the event was the same one I got from women who couldn’t attend: when will you do it again? I can’t say today when exactly it will be, but this party is sure to be the first in a series of grand affairs. Hang tight, sign up on the SVBC mailing list and follow this blog for the next party invitation.

Ladies, are there group rides or other activities for women in your area? What kinds of themes or other special focuses do they have? What makes them fun (or not)?

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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Around Town, Women & Bikes


You’re Invited: A Ladies Tea & Bike Social

You are cordially invited to a Ladies Tea & Bike Social on Saturday the seventeenth of August, two thousand and thirteen at eleven o’clock in the morning at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, California.

When I started daily bike commuting three years ago, Dottie and Trisha of Let’s Go Ride a Bike became a major influence on how I ride. I stumbled upon their blog one Saturday and ended up reading for hours. Coming from a sport-oriented bike background, their how-tos and stories of how they ride around town in dresses and heels and arrive looking great in all sorts of weather were eye-opening to say the least. I owe them a world of thanks.

Their influence doesn’t stop with dressing for the destination. For over two years Dottie has been hosting monthly Women-Who-Bike and Brunch gatherings in Chicago. The women ride to a cafe for brunch or a park for a picnic to chat and share their experiences. It’s just the kind of kinship women often seek out in an activity that’s predominantly male. Now it’s my turn to follow Dottie’s lead and play host out here on the West Coast.

Tea in Garden

So, for all you women who bike in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m hosting a Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the lovely and historic Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition on Saturday, August 17. It’s the perfect season for a garden party: the dahlias and zinnias are in bloom, the apples are ripening in the orchard, and the weather is ideal for morning tea under the old oak tree.

We’ll bring the tea, you bring your favorite tea cup and cookies or a tea time snack to share. Hats and gloves are encouraged, but not required. What’s really important is bringing your desire to meet other women who ride in our area to share stories, share advice and just relax in the company of other bicycle-loving ladies. Word on the street is that Corinne Winter, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will be joining us too.

For those riding up from the south or arriving by Caltrain, I’ll also be leading a pre-party ride starting at Caltrain’s San Antonio Station in Mountain View at 10:25, timed for the #427 train from San Jose & #448 train from San Francisco. The route is about four miles one way along low traffic, mostly shady neighborhood streets. I’ll be pulling a trailer full of teapots and tablecloths so the pace at the back of the group will be easy.

Will you join us? Please RSVP to so we’ll know to bring enough tea for everyone, and don’t forget your tea cup. I’d love to meet some of you ladies that I only know in the virtual world.

Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, California
Saturday, August 17, 2013, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. RSVP


Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Around Town


Bike Commute Diaries: Fierce Cat 6 Race Action

They fly down the path, challenging each other in undeclared races for no reward beyond feeding their egos. As a former racer, I find their little game comical. It’s a bike path, not a velodrome. When they blow past my elbow without so much as an “on your left” I’m no longer smiling. Knock it off, you’re harshing my commute zen.

Cat 6 Racers

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

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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Commute Diaries


Katie Pimps Her Ride as a Grocery Getter

This post is an excerpt of the Bike Fun story I wrote for the online edition of the Mountain View Voice today.

When people think of bicycling for practical reasons, bike commuting usually comes to mind first. But since work commutes are often the longest trips we make all week, it may make more sense to bike around town for short errands at the pharmacy, post office, bank, coffee shop or grocery store instead. While it’s easy enough to slip a bottle of pills into your pocket or a small package to mail into a backpack, for errands like groceries you’ll want a bike that’s set up to carry a load. You need what my friend Katie calls a grocery getter.

My friend Katie works as the marketing director at Giro, which means she has all the hottest performance-oriented bicycles: sleek road bikes, plush mountain bikes and a custom cyclocross bike so hot it made the rounds as a display bike at trade shows internationally. What she didn’t have was a practical bike for errands. But she did have her 1995 Trek Mt Track 850 in the back of her garage.

Before the Transformation

With a little work and the same cost as two trips to the gas pump we gave her old bike a new life as a grocery getter. First, we pumped her tires, checked the brakes, cleaned and lubed the chain and wiped the bike down. Then we replaced her worn saddle with a spare she had on hand, and rode a couple of miles to her local bike shop to get geared up. She chose a basic rear rack, grocery-specific panniers and a kickstand which we installed ourselves in less than 30 minutes. Total cost: about $120.

We tested out her new rig with a quick trip to the grocery store and discovered a quieter route on the way back. Katie was thrilled. “I live within 2 mile of all the stores I need: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, coffee, restaurants, the farmers market. Doing errands by bike makes sense,” she said. “Panniers rock.”

Katie and her Grocery Getter

If you’re a cyclist that doesn’t have a grocery getter, go get one. Doing errands is so much easier with the right equipment. And when it’s not your prized bike you don’t worry as much when you lock it up outside a store. You probably have an unloved bike in the back of your garage that’s itching to get back on the road. For tips on recommended gear and how to shop by bike, read the full article in the Mountain View Voice.

Do you have a bike set up for carrying groceries or other big loads? What’s the most you’ve ever carried?

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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Around Town, Gear Talk


Bike Commute Diaries: Brief Encounter on Caltrain

“Nice bike,” he said. “Nice bike,” I said. “Is that special edition Golden Gate Bridge orange? It goes with my dress.” “Yes, and it matches my pants.” “Can I take your picture for Silicon Valley Bike Style?” “Sure.”

The only way to meet people on your commute that’s better than riding transit is riding transit with a bike.


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


Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Commute Diaries


A True-Blue, All-American Fourth of July

Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. Those are the all-American traditions for celebrating Independence Day, even if it’s not what Dick and I usually do. But this year, after researching local Fourth of July activities for my Bike Fun blog for the Mountain View Voice, I jumped headfirst into the holiday like never before. Truth is, I was curious whether the events I recommended were worth it.

Was the Rose, White and Blue parade worth buying silk flowers and carefully zip tying them to my bike? Was it worth rolling out of bed early to hop on a bus to San Jose? Even more important: was it worth convincing my friend Cindy to get up early, decorate her bike and ride in the parade with me? For all I knew, we could be the only adults riding our bikes in a sea of cute little kids under the watchful eyes of suspicious parents.

Tissue Paper Wheels

As usual, my fears were unfounded. Cindy and I had a blast decorating her bike, showing it off to her friends next door, and then riding over to the parade start in the nearby Rose Garden neighborhood. There we found fire trucks, marching bands, classic automobiles and families on elaborately decorated bikes. Most importantly, we met a welcoming trio of flamboyant friends: Raymond, Ken and Diamond Mike. We had found our bike gang.

Cindy and the Boys

Fortunately, neither the parade nor our ride to downtown San Jose for lunch afterward was too taxing (despite the heat) because Dick and I had plans for the evening. Based once again on my research for the Voice, I had picked up residents-only discounted tickets for the San Francisco Symphony and Fireworks Show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre back in Mountain View. We had ridden out to the adjacent Shoreline Park to see the fireworks display before, but never had the pleasure of hearing musical accompaniment to the fireworks.

Like the Rose, White & Blue Parade, the symphony was worth it. Unlike the Rose, White & Blue Parade, we’ll definitely be going back next year and inviting some of friends. Then again, if some of y’all want to do the parade with me, it won’t take much to convince me. I’m always game for decorating my bike.

What are your Fourth of July traditions? Do you ride to a traditional event? Or perhaps do an epic ride?

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides


Bike Commute Diaries: Indicator Species for What?

I sometimes feel a little lonely on my bike commute, seeing so many men riding along and so few women joining in on the fun. It’s not like my route along the river trail is on treacherous high-speed roads with hostile drivers scaring away female riders, often called the indicator species for a healthy cycling environment.

The answer came to me at lunch when I looked around the sandwich shop. Maybe it’s not about bicycling, it’s about Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry. There aren’t many female commuters here, with or without bikes.

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


Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Commute Diaries


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


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

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