Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Separated bike lanes come to Cupertino

October 5, 2019

The Good. Separated lane on both sides of McClellan Road in Cupertino.

I support separated bike lanes in concept when done right. Cupertino’s new separated bike lanes on McClellan Road are a work in progress.

McClellan Road is a gateway to at least six nearby schools, including DeAnza College. It’s an understatement to say this road is a vital route for cyclists and pedestrians. Road riders use McClellan on their way to Stevens Canyon Road and beyond.

I’m sure the city of Cupertino has had every intention of making the road safer, and well they should after the cyclist fatality that occurred here in 2014.

The driver of the double trailer shouldn’t have been on the narrow road when he struck the cyclist who was just trying to get to class.

Today the separate bike lane is open, my first opportunity to ride it since completion.

McClellan is somewhat better or “safer” than before, but I found issues. Some issues are being addressed, but others I’m not so sure about.

The Bad. Where the cyclist died in 2014. You’re telling me this is safer now? Move the railroad crossing barrier so the road can be widened. I hope that’s in the plan.


For one, the surface is uneven in many locations, making for an unsteady ride. Half the lane is taken up by a gutter. There’s a telephone pole in the lane that needs to be removed. I figure that will be done down the road.

Aside from those problems, I’m concerned with the locations where the separation ends, especially at New Life Church just past Stelling Road.

McClellan is narrow here, only one lane in each direction.

As I approached the end of the divider I saw a car parked only feet away. This stretch of road between Stelling and McClellan Place should prohibit parking.

Imagine a cyclist pedaling along at 15 mph suddenly faced with merging into traffic. During rush hour that’s a strong possibility. Will the motorist assume that he has the right of way? Who has the right of way here?

These locations need to be monitored to see if there are conflicts between bikes and cars. I can see it coming.

I’m disappointed by the absence of “no parking” signs this stretch of road. Considering that traffic volumes are much worse than they were 15 years ago, this location needs a serious review.

There are two “no parking” signs before New Life Church, and one after that, but that one is only for street sweeping days.

The Ugly. Good luck merging with cars here. Please, no parking signs!


Now it may be that the protected lane will be extended here one day. I hope so.

Motorists can no longer turn right on red lights at Stelling and Bubb Road. I’m sure that’s going to ruffle some feathers, but it’s being done in the name of pedestrian safety.

I’m wondering, does the no-right-turn sign apply to bikes? I assume so since there isn’t a sign saying otherwise.

Separated bike lanes are the latest road design to protect cyclists on busy roads. If they’re done right, I think they’ll do their job, but points of conflict do occur. They need to be monitored closely in the days ahead.

Loma Mar Store – open at last

August 18, 2019

A view of Loma Mar Store from the patio. Spacious.


The colorful sign posted on 8150 Pescadero Creek Road outside Loma Mar Store sums it up best — Open at Last. It took 5 1/2 years, but the wait was worth it.

I stepped inside and marveled at the spacious, open floor plan. Every detail said quality. Anyone can see that the owners put heart and soul into their store and brought a dream to life.

Over the years since its closure, I’ve stopped by from time to time and watched the store being rebuilt. I think all that’s original is the tree out front.

The store became a favorite way station for Jobst Brandt since he started cycling in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 1950s. He was joined by a cadre of riders in the 1960s. They were engineers, bike racers, programmers, machinists.

This band of Merry Pranksters, minus the drugs, explored the Santa Cruz Mountains by bike. Jobst knew every trail and abandoned road in the area, and all roads led to Loma Mar, eventually.

Jobst Brandt sits outside the store in 1987.


Jobst became our Pied Piper, our bard, our Francis Bacon in the saddle as he made astute observations about the world around us. In the 1970s-80s he liked to stop at Loma Mar and visit owner Roger Siebecker, who served as the town’s postmaster, store owner, and volunteer firefighter.

On one occasion in the 1970s, Roger came to the rescue of Jobst and several riders who crashed on the frozen Wurr Road bridge one winter day. Bones were broken.

I got to meet the gracious owners, Jeff and Kate, this Sunday morning as they greeted local residents come to see the beautiful store that opened six days ago. It has always been the heart and soul of Loma Mar, a tiny community tucked away in majestic redwoods.

Fuel for the return ride.


It’s hard for me not to feel nostalgia about this place, as I’ve been riding here since 1980. Jobst’s adventure rides became the highlight of every weekend, an escape from the pressure cooker atmosphere of Silicon Valley.

Visiting the store gave me a feeling that “community” really means something. The appeal of the small town hearkens to simpler times when people knew each other by first name and life moved at a slower pace. I enjoyed that feeling every time I stopped by, if only briefly.

Jeff encouraged me to return and I promised I would try. But it’s a long way from where I live and the miles aren’t getting any easier. Cyclists heading down to the coast may want to stop and pay a visit, enjoy a coffee, pastry, sandwich. You too can be part of the Loma Mar community.

Loma Mar Store, open for business.

Homeless encampments a fire hazard

July 20, 2019

A grass fire consumed most of a homeless encampment at the Guadalupe River Trail and Hwy 237.


When you think about it, humans were all homeless fifty thousand years ago. We’ve come a long way since the stone age, but homelessness still has its place in our society.

A scorched field next to a homeless encampment along the Guadalupe River trail at Hwy 237 brought this sad reality into focus once again during my bike ride.

The grass fire broke out Thursday afternoon around 2:30, cause unknown. KPIX 5 has some footage, no audio.

I reported this encampment to San Jose officials in December 2017, but what can they do?

Meanwhile, there’s also dredging underway along the river that will close the trail occasionally near Montague Expressway. The other side of the river has a dirt road that can be used during closures.

I hope the dredging takes into account all the turtles living in this location. I’ve seen more than a dozen at a time along the shore.

Marin Museum of Bicycling pedals history

July 3, 2019

A velocipede built around 1865, from the Ralph Igler collection.


I have to admit I’m a fan of history, so a visit to the Marin Museum of Bicycling had me from the get-go.

The museum opened four year ago in Fairfax, a town at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais in woodsy Marin County.

This location is sacred ground for the first mountain bike, and just about everyone involved in fostering the pastime and perfecting the bike technology still lives nearby.

Let’s start with Joe Breeze, museum curator, and his wife Connie. The other board members are Ojeda Bodington, Lena Maria Estrella, and Marc Vendetti. Breeze built the first “modern” mountain bike frame in 1977.

I’m not going to try to mention everyone involved with running the museum, because it’s a long list — all volunteers, including the board.

For details about what’s inside, I’ll refer you to their website and a YouTube video.

A curator is usually available to give a guided tour. The museum promotes the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and an extensive collection of historic and one-of-a-kind bikes, but not just mountain bikes.

Breeze, who happened to be on site, expressed pride in having some of Ralph Igler’s bike collection.

That brought back memories. I met Igler in 1988 when I had a bicycle column with the San Francisco Chronicle. He lived in Palo Alto.

He invited me to see his collection — dozens of bikes stored in his modest-sized ranch house. He had bikes in every room but the kitchen and bathrooms.

This wasn’t a hoarding situation, rather, well organized and neatly arranged artifacts with documented histories.

I wrote a column about Ralph’s passion, published in September 1988. Breeze hadn’t seen the article, so I sent him a copy.

Breeze revealed that the museum came about after he worked with the San Francisco International Airport to create a mountain bike history mural.

“The artwork you see here was donated after the display ended,” Breeze said. A few years later they opened the museum in a former grocery store in downtown Fairfax.

I saw that mountain bike history mural, located in the international terminal, while on a trip to the Philippines.

Next time you’re north of the Golden Gate Bridge, stop by and see the museum. It’s open Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mountain bike mural at SFO in 2012.

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.