Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Mt. Hamilton road repair completed

January 19, 2018

A retaining wall near Crothers Road on Mt. Hamilton is officially complete.


Last year Mt. Hamilton Road underwent two big repairs, the slide just before the descent to Grant Ranch Park, and at Crothers Road, just completed.

The Crothers Road retaining wall work didn’t close the road like the big slide farther up, but it was a hassle nonetheless.

That’s not bad for road repairs considering all the rain we had last year. The recently completed repair on Skyline Boulevard just east of Castle Rock State Park cost a whopping $30 million.

There’s going to be some offices built on the McCarthy frontage road near the gas-fired power plant and Coyote Creek. That brings back memories when Jobst Brandt and I took this route on one of his really long Mt. Hamilton rides.

We started from his house in Palo Alto and went over to Livermore, then back on Calaveras Road. We found our way on Hwy 237 picking up frontage roads where possible. There was a big fruit stand at this location. That ride will never be repeated.

At the Hwy 237 frontage road near Coyote Creek and Hwy 237, new office buildings are going up.

Jobst Brandt calendar raises $110 for open space

December 12, 2017

Your contribution added $110 toward open space in the Bay Area through POST.


Yesterday I donated $110 to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) to go toward its mission of preserving open space and farmland in the Bay Area.

Thank you to all who donated with the purchase of the 2018 Jobst Brandt tour of the Alps calendar. Jobst was a long-term contributor to the land-preservation fund founded in 1977, based in Palo Alto on High Street in the same building as Wheelsmith bike shop. Back in the day.

I may make this an annual event to go toward the POST cause. Recently POST preserved beach property at Tunitas Creek, a location where many cyclists pass by on their rides up and down Tunitas Creek Road.

One of their campaigns is to create conservation easements on private property, something the freewheeling, adventuresome Brandt advocated.

China pedals toward Copenhagen lifestyle

December 1, 2017

A 7.6 km bicycle skyway opened recently in Xiamen, China. (Dissing+Weitling photo)


It comes as no surprise to me that China now has the world’s longest elevated cycle path at 7.6 kilometers. The world’s most populous country also happens to have the world’s worst traffic, so you can bet the country will be the champion of transportation alternatives for years to come.

Dissing + Weitling Architecture, a company based in Copenhagen (of course), sold China on the concept and design of the futuristic bike path.

Denmark has similar structures, but not nearly as long.

Lest we forget our bicycle history, the California Cycleway opened in Pasadena in 1900. It was supposed to be six miles long, but only 1.3 miles was ever built. The bike craze ended and that was that.

California Cycleway in 1900. (Wikipedia)


Judging by what I’m seeing on YouTube, China’s elevated bike path is being used, maybe more out of curiosity than anything else at this point. There’s also an elevated bus road next to it.

The cycleway is located in Xiamen, population 3 million, a port city about 300 miles north of Hong Kong.

Mt. Umunhum’s popularity puts cyclists in peril on Hicks Road

November 24, 2017

Hicks Road at Guadalupe Reservoir in 2010. Need shoes?


UPDATE, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017: I rode Hicks today to see if Black Friday was an anomaly. It looks like it was. Not as much traffic today. Still much more than a weekday, with 44 motor vehicles observed in about six miles mid-day. There’s only about 125 parking spaces on all of Mt. Umunhum. If it does get crowded on a summer weekend, that could be an issue. Who wants to drive all that way to find there’s no parking?

Imagine my surprise riding Hicks Road today as car after car whizzed by on the narrow road with no shoulders bound for, no doubt, Mt. Umunhum summit.

Was there a Black Friday sale underway at the summit? I can’t think of any other reason for so much traffic. Now that the summit is open and this Friday being a semi-holiday, it makes sense. I didn’t find any planned events in New Almaden that would cause traffic.

If this is going to be the pattern going forward, then cyclists must avoid riding on Hicks Road weekends starting at Camden to the Mt. Umunhum junction. I’m guessing the New Almaden side of Hicks will have less summit traffic.

It’s really sad to see yet another country road turned into a Laguna Seca training course.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) needs to take responsibility for managing traffic to the summit. There should be a car limit and registration for access, similar to what is happening at the popular Muir Woods National Monument.

While I’m on the topic, why doesn’t MROSD/county/state arrange for a shuttle bus service on weekends to the more popular parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains? I’d wager that half the traffic on weekends is generated by well intentioned mountain bikers and hikers out to enjoy park land.

Road diets and protected bike lanes the new norm

November 22, 2017

Tantau Avenue and Apple HQ looking north. Will employees ride bikes to work?


While I don’t think road diets and protected bike lanes will make much of a dent in the way people get to work, those who do ride bikes today will not be complaining about changes coming down the road.

Local residents (read Nextdoor) were up in arms about the road diet that went into effect on Hedding Street in November between Coleman Avenue and Winchester Boulevard in San Jose.

Some people who contributed their thoughts favored the change, but most were against it. The main argument — and a valid one — is that too few cyclists take Hedding and the road change would have little effect.

On Nov. 14, from 6:43 a.m. – 9 a.m., I conducted a traffic count of bicycles and pedestrians at the Hedding – Park intersection in San Jose. Here’s the result:

Cyclists:
Hedding – 30
Park – 27

Walkers:
Hedding – 21
Park- 52

The transportation/housing problems we face today are systemic and a road diet for one street isn’t going to make much difference. However, it certainly does make the pedestrian’s walk and the cyclist’s ride safer. I noticed minor backups on Hedding eastbound, but it was hardly apocalyptic as characterized by some who posted comments. By 9 a.m. there was no traffic to speak of.

Apple backs protected bike lanes

Now Apple is pumping $1.8 million into Cupertino city coffers for protected bike lanes on Stevens Creek Boulevard. With their spaceship HQ about to open, they must be nervous about its affect on commuters.

Over the years I’ve slowly changed my thinking about protected bike lanes and multi-use trails from neutral to all-in. It’s the best way to reduce the number one objection to bike commuting — dangerous in traffic.

The plan is to head west from Tantau in phases. Details have yet to be worked out.

I’ve long advocated greater commitment by corporations for supporting non-auto commuting. They should flat out pay employees to ride to work, as well as cover bus and train expenses. The use of corporate buses is a step in the right direction.

As far as systemic changes, we need to see more people living close to work. City governments are doing their part now by requiring sufficient housing near business parks. Our sacred American way of life– single-family homes — is a big part of the problem. European and Asian communities don’t have them. Concentrating populations makes commuting by bike and public transit less of a burden without urban sprawl.

In the meantime, our governments are doing their best with what they have to work with. They look to the bicycle. It’s a fantastic machine, no doubt, but making it the commuter silver bullet is asking a lot.

San Jose completes Hedding Street transformation

October 17, 2017

West Hedding after restriping. Bike lanes for all.


There are now bike lanes the entire length of Hedding Street in San Jose, East and West. That’s good news for the handful of cyclists that use the road, not so good for motorists. At least that’s the sentiment on the Next Door website, Santa Clara neighborhood.

On my ride today, I noticed a few more stripes need to be added between Coleman Avenue and Winchester Boulevard, but that’s about it. Hedding has been squeezed down to one lane each direction, with a center turn lane.

Santa Clara resident motorists can breathe easy. There is no plan to do the same to Pruneridge Avenue, which links up with Hedding at Winchester. Santa Clara’s road diet effort on Pruneridge between Pomeroy and Tantau was not well received, although I’m not aware of any plans to return that stretch to two lanes each direction.

I rode Hedding both directions on my way to the always enjoyable Alum Rock Park. I saw a total of five bikes on Hedding, although it was between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. when there is little traffic to speak of — cars and bikes.

The spirited discussion on Next Door leaned heavily toward the motorist’s viewpoint, which makes sense. Most people drive cars, not ride bikes. I can appreciate where they’re coming from. They perceive the change as anti-car, reducing lanes and increasing congestion.

The same reaction happened on East Hedding when the road diet went into effect several years ago. That debate boiled over on the pages of the San Mercury News, Roadshow column. Over time people quit complaining and moved on, finding a different route to work or putting up with the hassle. The problem with finding a different route these days is that ALL roads are congested at rush hour, including side streets.

Riding on Hedding you get a look at life in Silicon Valley, up close and personal. The good and the bad. I rode past houses bordering the Rose Garden, an enclave of wealth and privilege where multi-million dollar homes are the rule. As I continued east, the scenery changed from tree-lined streets and stately homes to industrial and lower/middle class housing. A homeless man talked to himself as he sat on the sidewalk outside the Santa Clara County Clerk Recorder’s Office.

Farther along, a deranged elderly man struggled in his wheelchair against the efforts of his homeless friends trying to help him.

I wondered what kind of clientele would frequent a newly furbished hotel at the corner of Hedding and 13th Street. I wish them well.

Hardscrabble would be the operative word in this neighborhood, where people scrape out a living making minimum wage. The depths of despair came into view as I turned the corner onto Mabury Road, the detritus of a homeless encampment scattered about. The fence has been repaired, but for how long?

I continued through more industrial hodgepodge, riding next to the busy Hwy 101, and then turned left, crossing over the now placid Coyote Creek. The new Berryessa BART station stands empty, ready to open next year, many hope. I wonder what traffic will be like when it opens, when Apple HQ opens, when more and more new businesses near Hedding kick into gear?

Finally, I entered a place of refuge in the Valley — Alum Rock Park. As I stopped for water I noticed a sign plastered on the wall. Due to budget cutbacks, San Jose has to reduce maintenance. At least they’re not closing the park.

I rode on and passed the concrete abutments of a past achievement in public transportation — an efficient, practical light rail that was the pride of Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800s. Of course, it was ripped out along with all the other light rail when Detroit took over.

Looking back on the ride, two areas of improvement hit home: the 880 underpass and the railroad overpass near Coleman. I never enjoyed riding there as traffic zoomed by at 45 mph or more. The bike lanes did wonders.

I don’t know what will become of our car-centric world, but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s unsustainable. I’m not saying bikes are the answer. I’m not sure there is an answer. Maybe the autonomous car will be our savior, but I’m not betting on it.

In the meantime, just like the patrons of our public golf courses, I’ll be one of the few making the most of the bike lanes while they’re still here.

Traffic in a Manila suburb. And we’re complaining?

Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 Calendar available now

September 4, 2017

A 2018 calendar with images of Jobst Brandt’s rides through the Alps is available now.

UPDATE: We have decided to donate 100% of 2018 calendar profits to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Jobst Brandt donated generously to POST and other conservancies during his lifetime. (To date, 11/26: $110)

For anyone who knew of Jobst Brandt and his epic rides through the Alps, you won’t want to miss this 2018 calendar (including January 2019).

It has 18 photos taken between 1960 and the late 1990s, some never before published. Others were turned into posters for sale in the Palo Alto Bicycles catalog during the 1970s-80s.

All photos come from the Jobst Brandt photo collection, but obviously images of him were snapped by his ride partner at the time.

The 28-page calendar (8.5 x 11) is printed on demand. Important U.S. holidays are dated.

Because the calendar is sent by mail, you’ll need to give a shipping address and provide payment details to Magcloud. Cost is $7.60 (shipping not included, but runs about $5).

Proceeds will help defray the considerable expense of scanning Brandt’s thousands of slides. Thanks to Richard Mlynarik for scanning the transparencies.

A preview is available on the Magcloud website.

Viva CalleSJ on Sept. 17 returns streets to the people

August 29, 2017

Shiloh Ballard, SCVBC executive director, recognizes Ed Solis for Viva CalleSJ success.


I can imagine the reaction from the police when San Jose parks and recreation superintendent Ed Solis submitted a request to shut down six miles of streets in San Jose for a recreational event in 2015.

Most other public agencies also balked, but Solis persevered. He saw first-hand the success of a similar “Open Streets Project” held in Guadalajara, as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Solis built a coalition of the willing, including the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SCVBC). Solis was recognized by the SCVBC for the San Jose event at its annual bike summit held in August.

Viva CalleSJ, as it’s called, now in its third year, expects more than 100,000 participants to join in the fun on streets between Japantown and Lake Cunningham Park.

Solis said that in addition to allowing people to get out and exercise safely, this is a social experiment in bringing residents together from all walks of life. Looking at the photos of smiling faces cycling, walking, skateboarding, and more, I’d say the results make it worth the effort and occasional inconvenience.

Viva CalleSJ will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Shoulder widening a welcome addition on Watsonville Road

July 30, 2017

Widening on Watsonville Road is a welcome improvement.


I’ve never been a fan of riding on busy county roads like Watsonville Road between Morgan Hill and Hwy 152, and it looks like Santa Clara County road planners know why.

It’s narrow with no shoulders and traffic moves at the speed limit — 45 mph — which translates to 55 mph in the real world.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I saw a two-foot wide shoulder addition to each side of Watsonville Road. It’s mostly between Uvas Road and Sycamore Drive, popular routes for weekend cycling.

I’m not sure if Uvas Road got the same treatment, but from what I can find online, it’s a countywide effort. I also noticed some widening on one side of McKean Road near Oak Glen Ave.

Autonomous vehicles will one day make all this street widening unnecessary — we’ll need much better road striping — but for now it’s a welcome change. At this rate though it will be decades before all the roads are widened so, as I said, it won’t be needed as we slowly adopt autonomous vehicles that will forever make cycling safe on our busy roads.

I don’t think this is pie-in-the-sky thinking. For sure, it’s going to be much more difficult than making all commercial airlines autonomous, but it’s doable as long as people go along with the plan.

My fear is that, just like gun owners, there will be a large segment of the population that believes their personal freedoms are being robbed and they’ll swear, “over my dead body I’ll give up driving.”

I’m optimistic that this sentiment will not play out to any meaningful degree. Once people see the advantages of driving without fear on roads with smoothly flowing traffic and the ability to sit back and snooze, they’ll be on board in a heartbeat. I hope I live to see the day.

Niles Canyon bike rides could get safer

June 9, 2017

Niles Canyon on my 2012 ride. Widening two bridges will help, but a trail is needed for safe cycling.


I can see the day when cyclists (and hikers) will safely ride through Niles Canyon on a beautiful recreation trail. More importantly, so can members of Alameda County, East Bay Regional Parks, the city of Fremont, San Francisco Water Department, the town of Sunol, and other agencies that have a hand in determining Niles Canyon’s future.

This historic canyon, where the transcontinental railroad snaked its way through starting in 1869, now hosts two railroad lines, both active, and busy state highway 84.

You might think there wouldn’t be room for a trail, but as it turns out there is ample space, and East Bay Parks has already done some preliminary research to show how a trail could be built in three stages.

Judging by the turnout at public meetings and a “Stroll and Roll” event held in 2015 (another one planned for this fall), there’s plenty of public support. Finding the estimated $70 million needed to complete the project is going to make this a long-term effort over a couple of decades or more.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story about the trail plan in early 2016. A year later, I wanted to find out more. Suzanne Wilson, project manager for the Niles Canyon Trail Connectivity Feasibility Study, answered a few questions.

So, just how much of a priority is the trail with East Bay Parks? “While the Park District is very involved in and supportive of the project, Alameda County is ultimately the lead agency at this time,” said Wilson. “Supervisor [Richard] Valle and [Scott] Haggerty’s respective offices have continued the effort, with the support of the Park District, to keep the momentum going as this is a project that is important to their districts.”

While I won’t go into the details, you can read up on the trail plan on the East Bay Parks website. It’s a PDF file and takes some time to load.

Assuming the trail gets the go-ahead, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, it’s going to take money from many sources. How about the recent increase in gas tax? Wilson said the parks agency is keeping an eye out for opportunities, but noted that most of the money raised will go toward shovel-ready projects.

It’s hard to put into words the importance of a trail through Niles Canyon. Ask any cyclist who has ridden in the area and they’ll express their frustration with riding from the Bay to East Bay/Livermore Valley. Niles Canyon is ridden, but it’s one of the worst routes for a bike. My opinion.

I know of two cyclists killed on Hwy 84 through Niles Canyon and no doubt there may be more. A trail through Niles Canyon is more than a “nice to have” for the cycling community. Future generations will enjoy rides through a scenic canyon cut by Alameda Creek.