Archive for the ‘News’ Category

If there was a cycling hell…

February 3, 2017

Typical street scene in a Manila suburb. Tricycle motorbikes, motorbikes, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks.

Typical street scene in a Manila suburb. Tricycle motorbikes, motorbikes, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks.

It would be the Philippines. You haven’t experienced traffic until you’ve been to Manila. Or Bangkok. Or New Delhi. Or anywhere else in Asia where the climate is tropical.

It’s hot, it’s humid, the air is fetid with the smell of diesel belching from aging jeepneys that the government is desperate to see replaced with newer, cleaner models.

Yet people still ride bikes here, at all hours, with and without lights or even reflectors. Few wear helmets. I saw them all the time, some wearing masks or handkerchiefs to try to protect their lungs from the debilitating air.

While bikes can maneuver around traffic, I can’t imagine an autonomous car lasting five minutes here during rush-hour. It would be laughable. The car would make it ten feet before shutting down, or just sit there waiting for an opening to safely go forward.

I was fortunate to have a relative who knows how to drive here, someone who does it so well he even worked for Uber. It didn’t take long for him to realize it was a money-losing proposition. I had an Uber driver take me home one evening from Makati and it was a paltry 75 pesos. That’s $1.50. It wouldn’t have even covered the cost of gas. Of course I gave him a lot more than that in cash (Uber takes cash in the Philippines).

Manila’s intersections outside of the ultra-wealthy sections of Makati are mostly unsignaled, which means turning left is a daunting task. Near the airport we had to cross three lanes of traffic while turning left, most of the time without any traffic control. There were roundabouts chocked with traffic.

Yet there are very few accidents because people who drive in Manila know how to yield. It’s like a school of fish maneuvering through another school of fish. They’ve got built in radar. It just works.

I’m not saying it’s better than our signaled intersection driving in the U.S., but it does work well enough that people can struggle to and from work daily.

Head for the Hills
There is one place near Manila where cyclists have a respite from the heat and traffic. It’s Tagaytay, where there are a few roads without traffic. Cyclists enjoy riding up a concrete road that spirals upward for 2,500 feet to the summit of Mt. Gonzales.

Cyclists begin the climb up Mt. Gonzales. Those huge fat tires popular here.

Cyclists begin the climb up Mt. Gonzales. Those huge fat tires popular here.

Riders at the summit and entrance to Palace in the Sky prepare for the descent.

Riders at the summit and entrance to Palace in the Sky prepare for the descent.

There they find a Palace in the Sky, literally. Marcos had it built in 1981, but it was never finished because his government was toppled by the People Power revolution from 1983-86. Today it’s a park where Manila residents can escape the ever-present heat in the valley below.

Cyclists face a daunting climb, some sections as steep as 20 percent and longer stretches of 15 percent, hard under any conditions but more so here with the heat and humidity.

At the summit they’re rewarded with cooler temperatures, fair winds and views of Mt. Taal, a volcano inside a lake. In recent years the roads in and around Tagaytay have been widened so cyclists can manage to get around a lot more safely. There’s still the ever-present traffic on crowded weekends.

When I think about any types of problems I have riding in Santa Clara Valley, I remind myself just how good we have it compared to so many places around the world. This is Shangri-La.

Colnago Ferrari. I'm assuming this is a knock-off of the real thing, which does exist.

Colnago Ferrari. I’m assuming this is a knock-off of the real thing, which does exist.

Bike thefts on BART: good news, bad news

September 22, 2016

Bike thefts at BART stations are down.

Bike thefts at BART stations are down.

Today’s San Jose Mercury News has a story about bike thefts being down on BART. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that more bikes secured with U-locks are being stolen. Ouch.

I switched to an OnGuard U-lock a year ago, thinking my bike would be safe. To a degree I was right. The cable locks I used could be cut with a pair of good pliers.

Any lock can be defeated. With a half-hour of practice I taught myself how to open a combination Master Lock, thanks to YouTube tutorials.

The article doesn’t say how the U-locks were defeated. I’m guessing hacksaw (some can be picked). I saw a YouTube video where a guy used dry ice to freeze the metal, then bang it with a hammer. It shattered eventually. Clever.

None of these methods of defeating a U-lock are easy, so I wonder why BART security cameras wouldn’t capture the theft? I’m assuming they have cameras over bike racks.

Most thieves go for the easy first, so a U-lock will dissuade all but the most ardent bike thief. The pros troll college campuses and steal by the dozen. For some it’s a living.

So don’t throw away your U-lock. It’s still the best lock out there.

One way to limit thievery would be to flood public places with free bikes. Pretty soon everyone who wanted or needed a bike, and petty thieves, would have one. It’s the Google philosophy to make bikes freely available on its campus to encourage riding between buildings. Great idea.

Next I’ll look at the current model of renting bikes in public places.

Protected bikeways and intersections all the rage

August 31, 2016

First separated bikeway on a state highway will be located in Albany on San Pablo Avenue.

First separated bikeway on a state highway will be located in Albany on San Pablo Avenue.

Get ready to see more separated bike lanes and bike-friendly intersections in the coming years, just like the Netherlands, our Western world bike nirvana.

I’m all in. Over the years I’ve been a big fan of Effective Cycling principles, espoused by John Forester starting in the 1960s. The “father of vehicular cycling” lived in Palo Alto many years ago and had a profound influence on cyclists near and far.

Forester believed bikes should mix with cars and taught cyclists how to do it safely. However, there’s a sea change underway in the cycling community, a growing awareness that we can increase the number of commute cyclists if we separate bikes from cars. It’s a concept that has been applied with great success in Europe and elsewhere. Not so in the U.S.

Starting this year, California has official guidelines for Class IV bikeways, or protected bikeways as they’re called.

Projects are already underway, the first one for the state being built in Albany on San Pablo Avenue (a state highway) near Dartmouth Street. This according to Sergio Ruiz, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Caltrans District 4, at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit. University Village Bikeway is only two blocks long, but it’s a start. El Cerrito also approved a separated bikeway.

While I believe cyclists should learn to mix with cars, most people are not professional cyclists like myself. They just want to make a quick trip to a local store on their garage bike. In high-density neighborhoods with lots of traffic, separated bikeways are the way to go, and will encourage casual cyclists to make short trips.

To help people get used to the idea of separated bikeways, local bike groups, like Cycletopia in Mountain View, have created pop-up protected bikeways and invited the public to check them out, as was done on University Avenue in Palo Alto recently.

Davis re-built a busy intersection especially with bikes in mind.

Davis re-built a busy intersection especially with bikes in mind.

“Idaho stop” the right way to go, but changing the law unrealistic

August 19, 2016

Here's one stop that requires your attention. Skyline traffic goes 50-70 mph.

Here’s one stop that requires your attention. Skyline traffic goes 50-70 mph.

At the Silicon Valley Bike Summit, Dave Snyder, Calbike executive director, made a good point while answering a question about the “Idaho stop,” (treat a stop sign as a yield sign) and why there’s no effort to make it the law in California.

“Obviously the Idaho law is the way it should be,” Snyder said. “But the task of changing the law is so difficult it would require a huge amount of attention and resources.”

Snyder said he doesn’t want to go off message. He argues that we need to transform our roads so that cycling is safe and not dwell on running stop signs.

Instead, Snyder wants cyclists to work with their local law enforcement to stop enforcing the law. “Use common sense,” Snyder said. The police use their best judgment all the time when they’re out on patrol.

He said that the Netherlands police look the other way (and they ride bikes) if someone runs a stop sign in a situation where it’s not hazardous. Netherlands law requires bikes to stop at stop signs in the bike-focused country.

From what I can find out about the Idaho law, it was passed way back in 1982. In that year the state did a comprehensive review of traffic regulations.

By a stroke of luck, the Administrative Director of the Courts in Idaho, Carl Bianchi, was a cyclist. He wanted to modernize the bicycle law as part of the traffic code revision.

He had first-hand experience in dealing with bicycle traffic tickets (a criminal offense!) clogging the courts. Judges didn’t want to have to deal with such petty violations, which pretty much assured that the law would be approved.

Some police officers disapproved the law, and even some cyclists.

I’ve never been to Idaho, so I can’t comment on how well the law works.

In San Francisco, cyclists recently drove home their argument in favor of the Idaho stop. They stopped at stop signs and immediately snarled traffic.

There’s a video with the above link that doesn’t do a good job illustrating the problem. That’s a busy intersection and I can’t imagine anyone riding right through without stopping. I know I wouldn’t.

I do the “Idaho stop” all the time, but only when there are no cars around. At busy intersections I always stop, and you should too.

Here’s a good video that shows how the Idaho stop law can work.

NOTE: According to Wikipedia, Richard Masoner, Scotts Valley author of the Cycleicious blog, coined the term “Idaho stop” as a noun in 2008.

Bicycle lobbyist gives outlook on state priorities, hot issues

August 15, 2016

Shiloh Ballard, SVBC director, interviews Dave Snyder, Calbike.

Shiloh Ballard, SVBC director, interviews Dave Snyder, Calbike.

After attending the bike summit, I came away realizing that “lobbyist” is not a dirty word. “Our” lobbyists are the cyclist’s best friend when it comes to influencing public policy drafted by elected representatives.

Dave Snyder, Executive Director of Calbike, is one of our best lobbyists. He gave his observations on advocacy wins and losses in the California state legislature at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit held on Aug. 11.

He said that Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination, state transportation agency (and avid cyclist) is helping “turn the ship of Caltrans.” “I have hope,” Dave continued. “It may not look like it from the outside, but the new strategic plan Caltrans adopted calls for tripling of bike mode share by 2020. Bicycle objectives we back are filtering down into the massive Caltrans bureaucracy.”

While there’s a lot to like about Gov. Jerry Brown’s fiscal conservative slant, Snyder said he wished it didn’t apply to bicycle facilities. “Quick and early investment in bicycle infrastructure saves us money in the long run, transit, health…”

Snyder touched on a theme of the day — equity and how to achieve it — by highlighting an effort in Los Angeles to redesign Figueroa Street in Cypress Park and Highland Park, a predominantly low-income, minority neighborhood. While the redesign also included pedestrian safety, residents focused on the loss of a lane and parking issues. Things quickly heated up, resulting in the district councilman deciding to delay the project.

Snyder credited Tamika Butler, Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, for being a calming influence and working with the councilman to see the benefits from the cycling community’s perspective. Tensions ran high, with cyclists doing a die-in in front of the councilman’s condo.

On matters of state legislation and funding, Snyder said it hasn’t been a great year, but he said there’s a bright spot with low-carbon transportation funding that will expand to low-income neighborhoods.

Another win has been the protected bikeways act, Snyder said. Now every community can build a protected bikeway under state law.

He said California Sen. Jim Beall (pronounced Bell) has been a great help with a variety of bicycle issues, including side-by-side riding and clarifications to the state law that let cyclists take the entire lane.

Bike share facilities were discussed at the summit and on that topic Snyder said that bike share systems need to be supported the same as a public transit system. In other words, they’re most likely not going to make a profit and they shouldn’t be run with that in mind. “Bike share systems need to serve every neighborhood,” Snyder said.

On another funding matter, Snyder made it clear that the proposed half-cent sales tax measure for Santa Clara County will probably do more for cycling than any state financing could hope to achieve.

Snyder said he’s optimistic that the November elections could result in a legislature that is more partial to bicycle funding. Let’s hope so.

NOTE: Clarifications, corrections, comments, additions are welcome.

Bicycle summit brings together 220 policy makers to talk shop

August 12, 2016

SVBC and its sponsors hosted a bike summit in Mountain View.

SVBC and its sponsors hosted a bike summit in Mountain View.

At the sixth annual Silicon Valley Bike Summit hosted by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) on Thursday, Aug. 11, dozens of government transportation leaders turned out, and that’s a sign of good things to come.

SVBC Executive Director Shiloh Ballard opened the meeting by acknowledging those city council members and other important government officials attending.

Before I report on the day’s activities, in the coming weeks, let’s look at where Bay Area cycling advocacy has been in the past 30 years.

In the 1980s, bicycle advocacy was in its infancy. Few public officials gave much credence to bike transportation as a viable alternative to cars. That’s one reason why the late Ellen Fletcher, three-term Palo Alto city council member, became such a celebrity among cyclists. She was an elected official who rode a bike and worked tirelessly to bring cycling to the table on equal footing with the automobile.

Back then the focus was on winning access to expressways, allowing bikes on Caltrain and building more bike lanes.

I don’t know all the details of how SVBC got started, but its original all-volunteer membership maintained a newsletter, Spinning Crank, for two decades starting around 1986. SVBC has seen slow but steady growth, now at some 2,200 paid members.

The SVBC evolved into a non-profit with a paid staff and volunteers, working on a tight budget. It’s more tied in than ever to local governments, trying to improve all aspects of bicycling. The bike summit is one of its many advocacy gatherings held throughout the year.

Bike commute stagnation
You’d think that the bicycle lobby would be a force to deal with today, judging by all the recreational cyclists on the road. However, when it comes to bike commuting, there’s stagnation (I’m seeing a recent uptick). So long as that’s the status quo, local governments, even those that want to do the right thing and provide bicycle facilities, have a hard time justifying the increased funding or taking away lanes from cars.

That’s where SVBC’s efforts are focused. After this meeting I’m beginning to see a sea change in the way bikes are accommodated on the road. It’s no longer the “effective cycling” mantra where bikes mix freely with cars. It’s more like “separate but equal” road sharing with protected bike lanes.

That leads to the never-ending debate over why more people don’t bike commute. Is it the result of our streets being too dangerous? That’s the most popular answer and I think it’s true. If we build bicycle-safe streets, will they come? Of course.

The good news for cycling is that our freeways are jammed with cars. Google employees in attendance told horror stories about the drive to the Google campus at Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road in Mountain View. Cars stack up on Hwy 101 daily. Clearly, commuters are looking for alternatives.

What’s encouraging from the day’s proceedings is that government is beginning to act, designing roads with bikes in mind and making accommodations even when it’s politically unpopular. Investing $1 million in a Davis, California, bicycle-safe intersection tells me that people are getting serious about making our streets safer for cyclists.

Down the road, I see bicycle commuting rising to as high as 30 percent. It will never overtake the car, especially once the autonomous vehicle comes along, but our streets will be far safer for cycling thanks to this technology and the efforts of the SVBC.

That’s all for now. Summit topics I’ll cover include: California state investments, protected bike lanes, local city projects, Vision Zero progress.

On an uplifting note, 90 attendees out of 220 rode bikes to the summit held on the Microsoft Mountain View campus.

Dave Snyder, Calbike director, addresses the bike summit.

Dave Snyder, Calbike director, addresses the bike summit.

Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek in peril

July 27, 2016

Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek is on notice for removal.

Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek is on notice for removal.

Intel employees who ride (or walk) to work on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail were none too happy to learn that Freedom Bridge, which provides a convenient connection between campus and creek path, is slated for removal.

I don’t blame them. The wooden bridge supported by steel beams isn’t much to look at, but it eliminates the hassle of riding down to busy Mission College Boulevard and then backtracking on Juliette Lane through the main campus. It saves several minutes for northbound riders, where most people live, and avoids traffic.

Here’s what Barbara Keegan, District 2 director for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, told a concerned bridge user, and she gives the bridge history:

Barbara Keegan

Barbara Keegan

“This pedestrian bridge was originally permitted for temporary access to facilitate the construction of the Intel campus, at a time when Intel owned property on both sides of San Tomas Creek. The opposite side of the creek was never developed, and Intel is selling the property to another entity. The modifications made to the levee to accommodate the temporary construction bridge and the access points to the levee do not meet established criteria for permanent public trail connections.

“Bridges in general pose an ongoing maintenance issue for us and can exacerbate flooding. However, when there is a strong public interest being served, the District does occasionally approve bridges. For this bridge to remain, a couple things would need to happen. The bridge and access ramps do not meet established criteria for construction on a levee, so there would be a need for some modifications on Intel’s campus and the property on the west side of the creek. The bridge and access locations need to serve the greater public, which would likely mean making changes to Intel’s campus and perhaps the property on the west side of the creek, to have a dedicated pedestrian/bike path that would promote full public access. Concurrence by the city would also be necessary, as public trails are operated under agreements with local municipalities, in this case the city of Santa Clara.

“Plans for the removal of the bridge and restoration of the levee were received in late June and are being reviewed at this time. In the meanwhile, staff is reconnecting with Intel representatives to see if a solution that provides access while meeting our criteria is feasible.” [Note: Anyone can use the bridge.]

While the loss of the bridge isn’t the end of the world for cyclists and the noon-walk crowd, I’m reminded of the expression “death by a thousand cuts.”

Intel, one of the world’s most innovative electronics companies, needs to work with the city of Santa Clara and the water district to keep Freedom Bridge, or am I to believe that all this talk about fixing our traffic problems is nothing more than lip service?

Newspaper article gives balanced report on mountain biking

July 16, 2016

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.

I read the San Jose Mercury News daily and I was pleased to see today’s article about mountain bikes because it gave a balanced view of the pastime some 40 years after it got its start in the Bay Area.

The headline “Bay Area lays out welcome mat to once-shunned mountain bikers,” pretty much sums up the article. We’re told that some parks are making accommodations for mountain bikes, especially new riders who want to learn more in a safe environment.

The sentiment expressed in the article mirrors what I’ve been noticing over the years. I’ve followed the mountain bike boom since the early 1980s when Tom Ritchey started building top-of-the-line frames out of his garage. The sport, if you can call it that, was born out of a desire to ride bikes off-road.

That’s a wonderful attitude to have because riding a bike off-road allows you to see miles and miles of open terrain, far more compared to hiking. It can also be mixed with road riding, giving a healthy individual the ability to ride from home in Santa Clara Valley into the mountains and back in a matter of hours.

The only downside is that off-road cycling has a kinship to off-road motorcycling. All that’s missing from today’s mountain bikes is the motor. They have suspension, beefy brakes, strong frames, wide, sturdy tires. Great for speeding down hills.

That was the rub in the beginning and it’s still the rub today, only most of the young Turks who rode like Yahoos back then have aged and saw the error of their ways, or just chalked it up to youth.

Nothing wrong with that. Young people like to have a little excitement and the mountain bike is a better option than a lot of other risky outdoor activities.

While I believe things will improve for mountain bikes, we still need to remember that the bike is the “car” on the trails. That means yielding to other trail users and slowing down to a crawl to pass.

With the mountain bike comes responsibility, no different from driving a car. I always keep that in mind while I’m riding trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

PodRide a look at the future

July 13, 2016

It’s so darn cute. For that reason alone, PodRide should be a popular choice for the day when we rely more on human-powered hybrid transportation.

Once Upon a Ride…available now

June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Ride... a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Once Upon a Ride… a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Thirty-six years in the making, Once Upon a Ride… offers the reader the most complete complete account of Jobst Rides ever. Even if you own the other three magazines, Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, High Sierra and Mount Hamilton by Bike, there’s something new here.

Over the years I’ve posted past ride reports, based on my personal journal, on Magcloud, WordPress blog and a personal website. All of those articles, including 60 new ones about rides with Jobst Brandt and/or his friends, are included here.

It’s a lot: 100,000 words, 169 photos, with almost all photos matched to the report. Now you don’t have to search all over the place for Jobst Ride stories, most of which are no longer posted.

All for the price of an inner tube, $5.99, PDF.

You can view it on your computer, laptop or tablet. Smartphones not recommended. The file download is 33 Mb, so give it some time to download. A nice feature is searchability. It’s also 12-point type — easy on the eyes.

If you want a keepsake, buy a print copy for $45.80, not including shipping. It’s printed in the U.S. using HP high-speed printers, a nice touch since Jobst helped develop HP printer technology at HP Labs.

Available on

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.