Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Pruneridge sees 50 cyclists during 2-hour survey

June 4, 2019

Cyclist pedals to work on Tuesday. Note that one ear bud is OK, but not two.


Is 50 cyclists riding to work on Pruneridge Avenue in a two-hour time span a lot or a little? It depends on who you ask.

My informal survey took place this morning (Tuesday) from 6:43 a.m. – 9 a.m. at the corner of Pruneridge and Pomeroy Avenue. That’s a T-intersection. Perfect cycling weather.

A local grade school was in session, but I didn’t see a single child riding to school. That’s understandable. Pruneridge is recommended for experienced riders.

I counted only 30 cyclists on Hedding a couple of years ago in another informal survey. However, it was colder than today and it had rained.

I also counted pedestrians on Pruneridge/Pomeroy, which totaled 55.

All but four cyclists were westbound on Pruneridge. My guess is that most cyclists were headed to the Apple HQ.

Most of the Pomeroy traffic turned right onto Pruneridge.

This section of Pruneridge has a Class IIB bicycle lane, from Pomeroy to Tantau. It’s made possible by reducing two-way traffic from four to two lanes.

As I watched traffic, I thought to myself. “This is a lot safer than two-lane streets with no bike lanes,” which is true for Pruneridge between Pomeroy and Winchester.

Traffic backs up from the lights at Lawrence Expressway. I observed peak traffic at 8:40 a.m. I’m sure the light cycled once for some cars. However, it wasn’t as bad as drivers like to complain about.

We have absolutely no reason to complain about traffic here. It’s a million times worse in any large Asian, African, and many European cities.

Back to Pruneridge. According to the 2018 Santa Clara bicycle plan update, it is number two on a priority list for bicycle street improvements, behind the number one priority of a separate bikeway on El Camino Real.

What’s envisioned is an extension of the Class IIB buffered bicycle lane to close the gap between Winchester and Pomeroy.

Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see. I have my doubts. The opportunity presented itself last year when Pruneridge was repaved. The public was asked what it wanted in the way of improvements. The Class IIB lanes didn’t materialize.

It’s too bad there isn’t another street with as direct a route as Pruneridge. Forbes Avenue comes close, but it has terrible light sequencing that dissuades cycling there.

I’ve also found that with all the parked cars and “speed limit 25” signs planted in the middle of the street, it doesn’t feel any safer than Pruneridge.

A little trivia regarding the survey: I saw one e-bike, one recumbent. A squirrel survived its dash across the street.

One rider, with a child carrier on back (no child), was on the phone while pedaling. It takes all kinds.

Drivers have their issues as well. A jeep blasted down the center turn lane at high speed, no doubt frustrated by the road diet.

So, what do you think about 50 cyclists riding to work? How many cyclists would it take before you believed the road diet was having a positive impact on reducing car traffic? Or is 50 enough?

Transcontinental railroad completion celebrates sesquicentennial

May 7, 2019

Tunnel 8 west portal at Donner Pass summit, 2015.


Back in 1869 the Utah desert became the scene of a remarkable achievement in railroad engineering with completion of the transcontinental railroad.

What used to take months crossing the United States by wagon and risking life-and-limb could now be done in less than a week by train.

Building the railroad is the stuff of legend. I haven’t seen a movie that captures the grand spectacle, although the highly fictionalized TV show Hell on Wheels had its moments.

Thousands of Chinese toiled for more than seven years to make the dreams of the Robber Barons come true. All the work was done by hand.

Even the granite tunnels through the Sierra were cleared out by hand after each explosion. Pneumatic drills had just come on the scene but were not used.

I decided to write a novel, China Grade, about the building of the railroad as seen through the eyes of a Chinese character. I’ll admit it’s not elegant writing, but it does give some historical background on what it must have been like working on the railroad.

To top off the celebration in Promontory on May 10, Union Pacific invested a ton of money to restore one of their enormous Big Boy steam locomotives, built from 1941-44, and retired in 1959.

The train is making a U.S. tour, so it may pay us a visit. Worth a see.

And to give this some connection to bicycling, Thomas Stevens on his around-the-world bike tour, starting in San Francisco in 1884, took his penny-farthing through High Sierra train tunnels, and basically followed railroads cross-country.

Continental tire has 7,080 miles and counting

April 7, 2019

This Continental Grand Prix 4000 S has 7,080 miles, and counting.


On March 20, 2017, I installed two new Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II 700c Road tires on my Ritchey, and they’re still going strong.

There’s only a tiny spot with sidewall fraying. That’s a sure sign that this tire’s days are numbered. I’ll only tempt fate so much to save a buck.

The tire has some flattening from wear, but I don’t think it’s all that bad. I’ve seen worse.

I’ve only had one flat. An increase in flats is another sign a tire is worn out.

I ride three other bikes, but those miles were omitted in my calculation.

My last tire with a record for miles was a Continental Gatorskin 700×28. It lasted 5,400 miles before I chucked it.

The Continental Grand Prix only cost $35, way less than the $52 I paid for the Gatorskin, back in 2014. So what gives? Why would a cheaper tire last longer?

I attribute most of it to how I’m riding these days — flat roads with little debris. In 2014 I rode a lot of dirt, mostly in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so the tires were stressed way more than they are now.

To be sure, the Continental Grand Prix 4000 S is a well made tire, one of the best. It’s still being sold, for $34-$40.

Skyline Boulevard slide near Skylonda

March 24, 2019

Work continues on Skyline Boulevard slide west of Skylonda. (Mobius image)


I decided to check out the slide on Skyline Boulevard that’s 0.87 miles west of Skylonda.

The damage to the upslope is substantial, so there’s a lot of equipment in place to fix the hillside. That’s why there’s a stoplight. Half the road is taken up by heavy equipment.

Looking at November 2017 Google Map images of this location, there was already sagging in the hillside. I don’t know when it got worse.

The good news is that Kings Mountain Road is free of mudslides, although I rode through Huddart Park, so I didn’t see the lower section.

I think traffic drives too fast on Skyline, but that’s just me. Also, I thought the days of muscle cars came and went in the 1960s.

Many cars I saw qualified as souped up Hemi-engine growlers.

Old La Honda Road succumbs to winter’s rain

March 18, 2019

Old La Honda Road west had a culvert meltdown. Culverts can be blamed for many road problems.


As you already knew, Old La Honda Road (west) took a hit this winter when a chunk of road 0.3 miles south of Skyline Boulevard fell downslope.

Two concrete barricades make it impossible for cars to get through.

This slide resembles the one in 2017, 3/4 mile downhill.

I had other plans, so I continued south on Skyline Boulevard. I was none to happy to see the yellow markers installed down the middle of the road at the scenic overlook. Is this necessary?

Now cyclists have to ride through a narrow section that will make car encounters unpleasant. Drivers often hit 60 mph on this stretch. Let’s hope they slow down here.

Today was one of those days when you wish you were young and strong again. Such lovely weather and so little traffic.

Whoever approved this abomination has no empathy for cyclists.

Add black ice to your list of cycling hazards

March 17, 2019

Black ice sign on Moody Road deserves your attention. Shade, freezing cold, wet is a recipe for black ice.


It’s too late now, but a few weeks ago this sign served as a reminder that black ice lurks in the Santa Cruz Mountains on cold mornings.

If you hit black ice while riding, in all likelihood you’ll fall. It’s so slippery that it takes just a few inches to bring you down.

My black ice encounter went as you might imagine. On a cold, frosty morning climbing Page Mill Road, about a mile up from Moody Road, I was following right behind Jobst Brandt.

He yelled, “Watch out for black ice!” One second later, I hit the ground. Jobst turned and berated me. “I told you to watch out for black ice!”

Hey, I didn’t see anything. That’s why it’s called black ice. You don’t see it until you’re on it.

Follow this precaution: It’s more likely found in shady or wet areas when the temperature drops to freezing. In my case it was not all that shady, but it was a steep spot where water oozed out of the road.

Los Altos Hills has a history of posting bad road signs, but this one gets a big thumbs up.

Skyline Boulevard closure just about over

March 15, 2019

Skyline Boulevard repair is almost complete about a mile southeast of Page Mill Road.


Skyline Boulevard, closed since February 4 due to a road washout 5 miles northwest of Highway 9, will open on Monday, April 18, or thereabouts.

I checked it out today. The road had just been paved. It needs time to settle and the crews need to clean up.

It sure looks like the newly repaired road is narrower. Steel beams reinforce the downslope that washed out and undermined the road.

I’m not sure if the traffic signals were there before the repair. It makes me wonder if this is a temporary fix with a one-way traffic light. It might explain why the road is so narrow.

Skyline Boulevard closure. Note the traffic signals.

If you want to visit the site, you can. Skyline is only closed where the repair crews are working. There’s access to a MROSD trail that borders a Christmas tree farm on the south side. Look for a locked gate before the road closure.

The gravely dirt road has ups and downs for a quarter mile.

Santa Clara Bicycle Master Plan spinning its wheels

March 5, 2019

A main street in Zurich. This is how our main streets should look in Santa Clara (Google Maps).


Santa Clara’s traffic engineering department issued its latest bicycle master plan and it’s more of the same.

We need to shake up the system, if we’re going to fix our transportation problems. Instead of a bicycle plan, we need a Public Transportation Plan, and the bicycle plan would be a subset of the transportation plan. I couldn’t find a transportation plan, but there is a General Plan.

I wrote this response to the city:

“The Bicycle Master Plan [2018] is professional in all respects. In general, I agree with all its recommendations, if we are to follow down the current path, the status quo if you will. What will that get us in five years? 3 percent ridership? Maybe even 5 percent, according to the bicycle plan.

That’s not good enough to warrant spending an estimated $15-30 million in project costs. We’re wasting our money on a lost cause, as things stand now. (That’s cheap considering that the Mary Avenue I-280 overpass cost $14 million.)

We have another choice. Spend our scarce dollars on programs that will incentivize the public to ride bikes. Take $10 million and use it to subsidize bicycle commuting. Money talks. There’s no greater incentive to getting someone to change a habit than a meaningful financial incentive. With today’s GPS systems, mileage can be measured and monitored. The system can be cheated, of course, but most people are honest.

If asked, residents will tell you that riding a bike is onerous during commute hours. It’s not pleasurable in most instances for most people. They’re not going to start riding a bike to work or to the store because it’s the “right thing to do,” or “it’s good for the environment,” especially when it will get them to work 15 minutes slower, sweaty, and inconvenienced in so many ways I can’t list them all here.

That 2 percent figure cited in the report for bicycle commuting is exclusively those individuals who love cycling. They’re crazy in love with bike riding. The rest of the public is not in love with cycling, never will be, no matter how many bike lanes we have. Electric bikes will help though.

However, they might ride a bike, if it can put a dent in their commuting expenses. While it’s true we gain benefits by leaving our cars at home, it’s not tangible. If they see a check in the mail for their riding to work, that will be a little more persuasive. Current dedicated bike commuters would be encouraged to give up their earnings to help fund new bike commuters, or “pay it forward.” These benefits would tend to help lower income individuals who commute to work by bicycle because they can’t afford a car.

Now, this ride-for-dollars incentive is only half the battle. The other half is to build cycle/pedestrian paths. Bike lanes don’t cut it. Take the rest of our money and build a bike network like San Tomas Aquino Creek Path, only wider. Ideally, we need two north-south and two east-west corridors dedicated exclusively to bicycle/pedestrian traffic. It can be done. We just need to think differently.

Commuting is a hassle, whether by car, train, bus, or bicycle, but it’s a necessary evil. Nobody wants to give up his car, but the way things are going, it looks like that’s our future as traffic worsens. Bicycles can play a significant role, but only if we do something radically different. Staying with the status quo won’t cut it.

Remember the old expression. ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.’ Let’s stop the insanity.”

The city’s bike plan could just as well be the city golf course plan. Solving our transportation problems can’t be resolved by increasing bicycle usage a few percentage points.

Light rail would be huge. We used to have light rail throughout Santa Clara Valley.

Light rail ties visible on The Alameda at Camino Drive during road realignment for Santa Clara University in 1984.

Who’s going to pay for it? We are. All we do is shift our priorities and put most of our transportation dollars into light rail. The Green New Deal will help us prioritize. What’s crazy about shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy? Easy oil won’t be around forever.

Finally, it’s true our transportation issues are regional and require cooperation among cities, counties, state, federal agencies. Let’s not forget that Santa Clara has its own fantastic utility. It’s part of a larger power grid. We helped pay for a massive stadium. I think we can do more with transportation.

Peninsular Railway in 1915. From “Tracks, Tires & Wheels,” by Charles S. McCaleb.

Hicks Road slides out

February 26, 2019

Hicks Road slide has a temporary fix. A half-mile south of Shannon Road.


Anyone who has ridden up this road knows why I call it “Horrible Hicks,” besides the simple alliteration.

The road suffered a slump in recent rains, bad enough that the county had to put up a mobile LED warning sign.

The road is open.

By the way, if anyone is missing a hubcap, there’s a whole bunch of them next to this slide on what appears to be another slide. Maybe the caps were on someone’s property higher up and they slid down the hill.

The slide is about a half-mile south of Shannon Road.

Newts and cyclists have something in common

February 18, 2019

Newts enjoying life in Almaden Quicksilver park.


What do newts and cyclists have in common? They get run over by cars.

Anne Parsons can tell you about newts and the death toll on Alma Bridge Road overlooking Lexington Reservoir. She’s at 2,695 and counting.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story this morning. Her website records every death in sad detail.

On my bike rides through the Santa Cruz Mountains I’ve seen thousands of dead newts during the wet winter months. They’re also dying in great numbers on Hicks Road.

What can we do about it? In Tilden Regional Park, they close South Park Drive every winter.

That would be a drastic measure on Alma Bridge since local residents use the road.

I had intentions of recording and posting every cyclist death in the U.S. this year, but after a week I gave up. It’s too depressing.

The one hopeful thought that comes to mind is a wildlife corridor. They’re being employed around the world in greater numbers. One of these days there will be one under Hwy 17.