Category Archives: Issues & Infrastructure

Bike Path Revisited: The Little Trailer That Could

Remember those chicane fences on the Stevens Creek trail I wrote about a few months ago? I got a comment from Andrew who didn’t agree with my assessment that the fences were wide enough apart: “Try getting through these easily on a cargo bike,” he said. He has a point. I don’t have a cargo bike so I can’t say it works.

But I DO have a bike trailer, so I decided to test the trailhead fences on the way home from a Costco trip.

Ready to roll.

It was my first cargo grocery trip and I didn’t hold back at Costco, buying big and heavy items like toilet paper, dishwashing soap and bulk food items. Everything I would never dream of buying with just panniers.

I learned a lot more than whether the trailer could navigate the chicanes. I learned that an empty trailer is an unstable beast, that typical bike parking doesn’t work for trailers, that the angle of a curb cut can make or break you, and how hard it is to accelerate when you’re dragging 70 pounds of cargo. It was eight miles of hard work.

Did the trailer work on the chicane fences? Yes, much better than much of the ride.

The chicane fences on Shoreline Creek Trail: no problem!

To all you parents out there who haul kids and gear like this every day: you are truly amazing! Those eight short miles and four overpasses were more tiring than 40 miles of rolling terrain on my road bike.

Have you ever ridden a cargo bike or a bike with a trailer? What did you notice that was different?

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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Around Town, Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Path SUCCESS! Bollard Be Gone

A round of applause for the City of San Jose! In less than a week after reporting this bike path hazard, poof! the bollard is gone. Kudos go to Yves Zsutty and his San Jose parks team who manage the city’s extensive trail network. They investigated it immediately, determined the bollard wasn’t needed, sent a removal crew out quickly and kept us informed at every step through twitter. That’s service! (And it’s not the first time either)

Bollard Be Gone 2

Location: Guadalupe River Trail at Hwy 880, San Jose, California, USA.


Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Path FAIL: Oh, Bollards!

They stand like sentries at trail entrances, guarding paths dedicated to people on foot or on bikes from the intrusion of motor vehicles. But bollards can be a hazard to more than cars when placed improperly, like this one that mysteriously appeared on the Guadalupe River Trail at the Hwy 880 undercrossing. Woe to the unsuspecting bicyclist rolling along at full speed who hits this iron guard standing in his or her path!

Guadalupe Bollards

Location: Guadalupe River Trail at Hwy 880, San Jose, California, USA.


Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Lane FAIL: Hack of a Bike Bridge in Sunnyvale

Little known fact: I have a degree in Computer Science and worked as a software developer for 12 years. It’s why I moved to Silicon Valley right after I graduated. As a software developer, I aspired to only create elegant solutions where the code flows naturally to meet the requirements for the software’s necessary functions.

As often as not, new requirements were thrown in after release that didn’t fit the existing structure. With no time to change the structure, I was forced to make a workaround, a kludge, a hack. It killed me every time because I knew that a kludge that solves the problem at hand has the potential to create bigger problems down the line.

Like this bike bridge, which provides a critical connection between Yahoo!, NetApp, Juniper Networks and Lockheed-Martin offices and their employees’ homes. A great idea, but it’s a hack in so many ways.

Moffett Park Bike Bridge FAIL 2
Yes, that’s a guard rail in the bike lane forcing you into traffic with a stop sign that drivers often blow through.

What bothers me most about this bridge is the wide, unused lawn on the other side of the road. If this were a freeway project, that land would have been appropriated to make a better interchange. Sadly, cities often shoe-horn bike projects to save money and everyone–on bikes, on foot, and in cars–are stuck with a hack.

Location: Borregas Bike Bridge at Moffett Park Drive, Sunnyvale, California, USA.


Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Lane FAIL: Construction for the America’s Cup

The America’s Cup is sailing into San Francisco this summer and the city is scrambling to get its waterfront ready. When Dick and I took our anniversary bay cruise on New Year’s Day we saw the preparations firsthand.

Americas Cup SF

Construction spread from the piers across the sidewalk and into street. Since it was a holiday, no one was working and yet the bike lane was blocked needlessly. Couldn’t they move the signs closer to the curb before they went home? Such a small thing, but so considerate to the streams of people that ride there every day.

Embarcadero SF wide

I was back in San Francisco the other week to meet with our ad agency and cruised the Embarcadero again. The workers were on duty, construction was in full swing, and the bike lanes were still out of order. And I was left wondering what the waterfront would look like after the America’s Cup sails away.

Location: The Embarcadero near Piers 9-29, San Francisco, California, USA.

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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Rack FAIL: Bad Rack Redux at Hobee’s

First I complained about the rickety, useless bike rack at Hobee’s in Mountain View. Then I was (mostly) pleased to see they had installed a new rack. On Sunday, we discovered an ill-placed, immovable garbage can that blocks the walkway when bikes are parked. A complete FAIL that makes bikes look like the problem.

Hobees Rack 1
There’s barely room between the bikes and the garbage can for walkers, and no room for the family with a child in a wheelchair that walked up just as we finished locking the bikes. We slid the bikes over to let them pass.

The good news is that when I reported it to the manager, she came out and looked carefully at the situation and agreed it was a problem. Anyone willing to guess what their solution will be? Will they move the garbage can, move the bike rack or removed the rack completely?

Location: Hobbee’s on Central Expressway at Rengstorff Avenue, Mountain View, California, USA.


Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


Law Enforcement FAIL: Red Light, Green Light

An incident this weekend reminded me of this letter I drafted last year but never sent. I really wish I had.

Dear City of Palo Alto,

I am angry that a Palo Alto police officer did not cite the driver who ran a red light and nearly hit me on my bike. I appreciate that the officer lectured her, but that’s not enough. We need law enforcement to crack down on careless drivers that threaten others, especially vulnerable people who are walking or bicycling.

I was on West Bayshore waiting to cross Oregon Expressway in the left traffic lane. When the signal turned green, I starting crossing. I saw that a driver approaching from my left was rolling through slowly instead of stopping, so I put a foot down and yelled: “What are you doing!! You have a red light!” and pointed at the signal.

She was halfway into the intersection and less than five feet from me when she stopped. As I rolled away, I saw a police car behind her and thought: “For once they’re here to see it.” I smiled when I saw his lights come on.


From the bottom of the bike bridge I saw that the cop had pulled her over. She gave him something, probably her license and registration. He talked to her. I waited and watched for almost 10 minutes. He didn’t write a citation or warning, and she drove away. I shook my head and pedaled to work.

What’s your experience with your local law enforcement as a bicycle rider? Have they been helpful in protecting you from aggressive or careless drivers? Or do they seem to have more sympathy for the drivers?

Location: Oregon Expressway at West Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, California. Streetview from my vantage point.


Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL, Issues & Infrastructure


Crosswalk FAIL: Skyport Drive at Guadalupe Fwy

How many buttons do you have to push to cross under this freeway? How many minutes does the crossing take? This dull video goes on and on, just like crossing this road. It’s no surprise that everyone jaywalks here.

The crosswalk connects workers like me in nearby office towers to an entrance to the Guadalupe River Trail. Fortunately, there aren’t many scofflaw pedestrians. Since there aren’t any trail signs, few even know it’s there.

Location: Skyport Drive at the Guadalupe Freeway, San Jose.

Update: I contact the City of San Jose’s Bike and Pedestrian group within their Department of Transportation. They agreed that the crosswalk signal wasn’t timed well. Unfortunately, the State of California’s DOT regulates this particular intersection so they urged me to contact them. I’ll do it after they open tomorrow.


Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL


Bike Commute Diaries: Bike the Vote

I live in a state that offers vote by mail so I don’t have to wait in line to vote. But there’s something about dropping off my ballot at the polling station that feels right. Lucky for me I skipped the line in the parking lot too.

Note: If you haven’t already voted and you’re undecided about which local candidates support bicycling, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offers these endorsements. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition cannot endorse candidates, but has posted results to “ask the candidate” surveys related to bike-related issues.


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 November 6, 2012 in Commute Diaries, Issues & Infrastructure


Bike Lane FAIL: Warning! Construction Signs Ahead

Sigh. What to you call signs warning of danger that ARE the danger? From what I’ve seen lately it’s standard operating procedure all over town, despite the guidelines from the US Federal Highway Administration. I could write something clever or get fired up for a rant, but I just don’t have the energy today. Sigh.

Do construction crews ever consider putting signs off the roadway instead of in the middle of the bike lane?


Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL

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