Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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, 11/13: $106)

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.

Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 Calendar planned

June 7, 2017

A sample of the Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 calendar.

As a tribute to Jobst Brandt’s bike rides through the Alps over 50 years, I put together a 2018 calendar.

I’ve got enough good photos for several more calendars.

It won’t be available until September. There’s not much point in selling them now.

This teaser will also alert area bike shops that might want to sell them.

Any money raised will go toward the cost of scanning the thousands of transparencies taken by Jobst.

Some of the images in this calendar were made into posters back in the 1980s.

Safe cycling a matter of political willpower and a change in values

March 23, 2017

A short stretch of Pruneridge Avenue in Santa Clara was restriped from two lanes to one in 2012.

San Jose Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold delves into the reasons why more cyclist don’t commute to work in today’s paper. The answer, he says, and as we all know, is that it’s not safe.

Robert Ford, the late mayor of Toronto, summed it up best when he said cyclists are “swimming with sharks.” He said that as downtown Toronto eliminated a bike lane, putting the cyclist even more at risk for being hit by a car.

I’m no longer a cyclist who believes that safe cycling is simply a matter of learning to ride your bike in traffic. I’ve concluded that the only way for there to be safer cycling is to separate bikes from cars. One way to do that is by putting some busy streets on a “road diet.” It’s a term many people disparage, myself included.

A great example of road restriping is Hedding Street in San Jose. It went from two lanes each direction to one lane with a center turn lane and wide bike lanes. I use it all the time and I feel safer here than on, let’s say, Pruneridge Avenue, the extension of Hedding through Santa Clara.

It’s not that Santa Clara doesn’t appreciate the value of this road restriping on Pruneridge. The city has the street listed for restriping in its 2009 bike master plan. However, these days it’s looking more and more like it won’t happen anytime soon.

The reason is pretty simple. It’s not politically popular, considering the hue and cry raised by the January 2012 restriping for a short distance on Pruneridge between Lawrence and Pomeroy. I guess the city decided it would dip its toe in the political water. It got burned. Lots of motorists complained.

I can see why. Lawrence is a huge bottleneck during commute hours. Cars stack up both sides of Pruneridge. I would have started at Hedding and worked my way west for the restriping.

While the complainers were loud and numerous, a study proved them wrong. Kimley-Horn Associates concluded that traffic volumes dipped by less than 5 percent after the restriping. Bicycle counts went way up, weekday usage increasing 350 percent. Admittedly, the numbers are small, but it means fewer cars on the road and that’s the lesson we need to take from the road diet.

Given a chance, restriping encourages more people to ride bikes to work and that means fewer cars on the road. If just 15 percent of all commuters biked to work you’d see a noticeable improvement in traffic.

The reason this matters now is because the new Apple campus is weeks away from opening. More commuters will be using Pruneridge. Wouldn’t you rather see those Apple employees riding bikes?

Mt. Hamilton Road repair underway

March 18, 2017

Mt. Hamilton Road is closed for repairs about 1.5 miles up from the Grandview Restaurant.

UPDATE (March 30, 2017): The road will be closed another 4 weeks. Don’t try to get by because there’s a cliff at the construction site. Caltran is building a steel-reinforced support wall and will fill it in with dirt before paving. A couple of mountain bikers didn’t take “no” for an answer and headed off-road down the steep embankment. It’s unknown what happened to them, but they didn’t come back up. At the bottom of the ravine there’s a creek and conceivably they could have taken Alum Rock Falls Road back to Alum Rock Park, or hiked uphill over to Grant Ranch Park’s dirt roads.

California state highway 130, otherwise known as Mt. Hamilton Road, is closed for repair about 1.5 miles up from the Grandview Restaurant. Estimated completion is six weeks from today.

Quimby Road is the only alternate route and believe me, you don’t want to take it.

A culvert got plugged or gave way and so went half of the road on the steep embankment’s eastern slope.

I can’t tell you if road crews work on Sundays or give any insight as to whether or not you can get through as the days go by. Right now though it’s impossible. There’s someone there at all times during construction assigned to keeping people out.

Mt. Hamilton Road is open up to the slide construction area, so you can still enjoy rides on Crothers and Clayton roads.

Spring weather favors Pescadero

March 13, 2017

Pescadero from Bean Hollow Road overlooking the flood zone.

I decided to check out Pescadero and the area after the recent flooding downtown. Pescadero Creek wraps around the town, so it’s always at risk during wet winters like this one.

Fortunately the damage was minor even with the downtown flooded. Dozens of families visited the town to enjoy a Spring day with plenty of sunshine and gentle breezes.

Having ridden Bean Hollow Road only once, I tried it again to get a better view of Pescadero below. The road, I believe, is part of the old Coast Highway, and it sure looks like an extension of Stage Road as it climbs quickly to a plateau where I found farmland in abundance.

Wildflowers on Haskins Hill.

The view did not disappoint. It’s a great place to see Pescadero.

I headed south on Hwy 1 to Gazos Creek Road. As you might expect, the road has plenty of sags and creek erosion of embankments. This is one of my favorite roads. Too bad it’s always at risk from the creek.

Finally, no ride report on Pescadero Road would be complete without mention of the Loma Mar store. It creeps toward completion. I’m wondering if it will be a private residence and a store, or just a residence?

Loma Mar store creeps toward completion.

Treadmill bike turns heads

March 4, 2017

Last weekend while riding on Foothill Expressway I had to do a double-take. Some guy was riding a treadmill bike. Now I’ve seen everything.

I’ve run across the elliptical bike on Foothill, a contraption that looks like giant grasshopper legs, but the treadmill bike does it one better for being out there.

Apparently there’s a company in Europe that means to sell them. Another version has been around since at least 2009, so it seems. Good luck with that.

The 2009 version below.