bicycle | 511 Contra Costa - Part 2

Partial Insight Into Why The Dutch Cycle

American transportation planners are fixated on getting more people on bikes, and it’s easy to see why. Bicycles offer a number of benefits, so much so that we have a “bike benefits” tag on this blog.

Eureka bike ramp
The Ohlone Greenway offers a speedy and safe connection for bikes between Richmond and Berkeley. Photo credit: TJ Gehling

With the immense popularity of blogs such as Bicycle Dutch and A View From The Cycle Path, which demonstrate what everyday bicycling is like in The Netherlands (where 25% of all trips are by bicycle), there has been a strong focus in recent years on learning from the best, and bringing lessons stateside.
Large credit rightfully goes to the magnificent and safe  bicycle infrastructure present in The Netherlands. However, related to the infrastructure, Dutch cyclists can often also take more direct routes to their destinations as well.
As a result, not only is bicycling safe and pleasant in The Netherlands, it is also fast. In fact, the Dutch Cyclists’ Union recently found that bicycling is about the fastest mode of transportation for distances up to 5km (3 miles). In The Netherlands, the bicycle is competitive in time with cars, which makes it an appealing option given the many other benefits (economic, health, etc…) bikes offer as a mode of travel. The Dutch Cyclists’ Union notes:

People using a bike to travel distances of up to 7.5 km, arrive on average faster than people travelling by a bus, tram, or subway as the main mode of transport. Distances up to 5 km travelled by car take on average 9 minutes, while travellers taking the bus, tram, or subway spend 23 minutes traversing this short distance.

Incredible, and given that most trips in America are under 5 miles, could the same be true in the Bay Area? Have you found bicycling to be a fast way of getting around for small trips here and there? Perhaps the relatively new Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) has helped you make trips during your lunch break that wouldn’t otherwise be possible?
Our commuter survey found that bike commutes average 7.5 miles in distance though we don’t have numbers on commute time. However, consider this, maybe the bicycle is faster – even for longer trips – when you take into account the full cost of driving.
Let us know, share your bicycling experience in the comments! Also, visit the Dutch Cyclists’ Union for a cool graph showing average time spent on travel by mode and distance length.

Bay Area Bike-Share– Helping Us Get Around (2013)

Bay Area Bike Share launch in San Jose CA
Will the streets of the Bay Area soon be full with a sea of bike-share commuters cycling that last mile from BART to the workplace? Only time will tell. Photo credit: Richard Masoner
The Bay Area is not new to transportation innovations. Last year, we celebrated four successful decades of the visionary commuter rail known as BART, which stills sees climbing ridership  and continues be seen as a model of sustainable transportation for the rest of the nation. Coincidentally, last year also marked the 75th anniversary of another incredible Bay Area infrastructural transportation monument, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Today, the Bay Area is leading the way in California again*, albeit with a subtler and humbler infrastructural feature, but one that nonetheless has the potential to hugely impact the way we move– Bay Area Bike Share. Bay Area Bike Share just launched Thursday, August 29th, so the system is merely in its infancy, but similar systems have been around Europe for a while in cities such as Paris and London, and  New York City was recently graced with its own iconic bike share earlier this year. Stateside, bike-share programs so far has proven to be surprisingly successful, especially in New York and D.C. Here in the Bay Area, bike share seems to have great potential to compliment our existing excellent regional public transport system, which is perhaps why Bay Area Bike Share is initially launching in Downtown San Francisco and along the Caltrain corridor in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.
Here’s how the system works:

  1. Get a Bay Area Bike Share Membership (or pay for a single day use, but longer membership quickly pay off).
  2. Use Annual Member key or enter your Ride Code (provided to 24-Hour and 3-Day Members) to unlock a bicycle from any station.
  3. RIDE – Run errands, ride to and/or from your BART station, commute to work,  or just go for a spin and use it as a gym membership of sorts!
  4. Return the bike to the nearest station.
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4. Remember, any trip under 30 minutes is free– and yes you can simply dock a bike and check out a new one for another 30 minutes of charge-free cycling.

Bike-share bikes are NOT intended for long trips and the pricing system reflects this. For example, using a Bay Area Bike Share bike for an hour and a half before returning it to a station, will cost you $12 in addition to your membership fee. Any trip under 30 minutes, however, is completely free after membership fee is paid.
So what are bike share bikes good for? Going to meetings or grabbing a bite to eat on your lunch break; cycling from a BART station to your office (at the moment, most downtown San Francisco BART stations have bike share stations nearby); replacing bus trips under three miles with a bike ride; avoiding having to bring your own bike on BART; the infamous last-mile… The possibilities are many, and as long as your journey takes less than 30 minutes (keep in mind, at a “no sweat” pace, one can easily cover at least three miles on a bicycle), using a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle is free. Because of this structuring, getting an annual membership is particularly enticing as it can save you money, especially if you use it to replace short bus trips and cab rides when getting around congested parts of San Francisco.
So what do you think– are you ready to take a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle for a spin?
For additional information, check out Bay Area Bike Share’s Frequently Asked Questions or Contact page. And if you are on social media, feel free to check out Bay Area Bike Share on TwitterFacebook, Tumblr or Instagram.
*While Bay Area Bike Share is not the first bike share system to launch in California, it is by far the largest and is also distinguished in that it is regional and not confined to a single city, integrating the system well with our existing public transportation network and commuter routes.

Transit and Vanpool Commuter Benefits to be Reduced in 2014

Fireworks in Pinole, CA in Contra Costa CountyTransit riders and vanpoolers who take advantage of pre-tax commuter benefits with their employer will find that their maximum monthly limit decrease to $130 starting January 1, 2014 from $245 in 2013.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (HR 8) restored the pre-tax transit and vanpool commuter benefits to be on par with the qualified parking benefit temporarily for the 2013 calendar year. That parity ends December 31, 2013.
At this time, the 2014 monthly limits for qualified monthly transportation benefits are:

  • up to $130 per employee per month for public transportation and vanpool
  • up to $250 per employee per month for qualified parking, or
  • up to $380 per employee per month for both public transportation and qualified parking

Qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements will remain unchanged at $20 per month in the new year.
Congress will have to pass legislation to make any changes to the 2014 transit and vanpool limits.
See the IRS Bulletin regarding the new monthly limits.
For more information about Transportation Fringe Benefits, visit the Internal Revenue Code Section 132 (F), as amended by TEA-21, Title IX, Section 910.

New Commuting Trend: Bike Trains

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Bike commuting– much safer and pleasant when there’s company. Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock

Los Angeles has been making headlines in recent years because of the region’s willingness to invest in alternatives to the automobile, particularly in bringing back an efficient and convenient train system. However, it now appears that another form of commuter train has been built… bike trains!

What are bike trains? The founders of LA Bike Trains, the organization spearheading the concept, put together this concise explanation:

We provide a rolling party along select routes run by Conductors – experienced urban cyclists – to harness the safety of riding in a group while kicking it up a notch by making the ride a fun social experience.  And it’s totally free!
All you need to do is submit your email, cell phone number and the route that you’re interested in. If you don’t see a route that works for you – suggest one and if you’re interested in leading a Bike Train as a Conductor – let us know.

In essence, the bike train concept brings you together with those people you see bicycling during your bike commute, the ones you see and think to yourself , “Wouldn’t it be cool if we ride together as a group? It would be safer and more fun to ride with other people!”
At the moment, Los Angeles has ten different bike train routes scattered across the region, all of which have their own “conductor” leading particular routes with specific departure times. LA Bike Trains even offers commuter surveys to gather input to figure out what routes throughout the county are in high demand.
The hopes of the LA Bike Trains founders are that by offering a more comfortable experience, bicycling can be made more accessible by those intimidated by the thought of cycling to work, and so far, the concept has received positive feedback.
For more information on LA Bike Trains, visit their websitecheck them out on twitter (and the hashtag #LABikeTrain) or see their facebook page.

Have You Tried the Bay Bridge's Bike/Pedestrian Path?

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(Two people enjoying the toll-free, bicycle-pedestrian path along the new Bay Bridge span.  Photo credit: Sharon Hahn Darlin)
The bicycle and pedestrian path along the new East Bay span of the Bay Bridge has proved incredibly popular, even though one still can’t completely reach San Francisco by bicycle or foot. People just really like recreating outdoors, enjoying breath-taking views in one of the most beautiful parts of California– who knew?
Have yet to go for a walk or ride? Enjoy a virtual tour of ascending and descending the bicycle-pedestrian path by bike, courtesy of KQED SCIENCE:

(Ascending. Video credit: KQED SCIENCE)

(Descending. Video credit: KQED SCIENCE)
Once completed all the way to San Francisco, popularity of the bicycle-pedestrian path will surely soar, for both commuting and recreational purposes. However, until then, the completed East Bay span still provides some unique and fantastic views worth seeing. If you’d like to check out the new path, be sure to get details about how to access the path (helpful map included) and its winter hours from the bridge’s website.

BitLock: World's Coolest Bike Lock?

What if someone told you there were a way to safely lock your bike with a not a key, but a smartphone app? And that this same app enables you to seamlessly borrow a friend’s bike, effectively allowing users to create their own bike-share network? And that the app alerts you if your bike has been stolen?
That’s the amazing and genius concept behind BitLock, a kickstarter idea that has just reached its crowd-sourced funding goal. The below one and a half minute video manages to easily explain how it works while capturing the incredible uses and benefits the device has the potential to offer the world.

(The world’s coolest bike lock? Could very well be! Video credit: Terry Knight)
For additional details about BitLock, visit its Kickstarter page.

Bikes: Good For Your Health, The Environment…and The Economy?

Cycling scene on York Blvd
Good for business? A former parking space for a single car now easily accommodates 10 times as many bicycles.
Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock
Here at 511 Contra Costa we tag posts that directly or indirectly feature the benefits of bicycling with our “bike benefits” tag. Of the many benefits we’ve covered, one is increasingly being spotlighted by city officials and advocates alike– the economic benefits of bicycling and bicycle infrastructure. It is perhaps little surprise that the League of American Bicyclists put together a graphic outlining the studies conducted across the nation that have demonstrated bicycling  provides economic benefits.
LAB Map
From coast to coast, bikes mean business! Image via: Co.Exist
Among the studies highlighted in the graphic is one from the Bay Area in San Francisco, which showed 66% of merchants along Valencia Street reporting improved business following the implementation of bike lanes on the street. Intuitively, this finding makes a lot of sense because bike lanes typically lead to an increase in the number of people cycling on the street, and over 300 parked bicycles can fit  in the same amount of space it takes to accommodate 30 parked cars. With space for automobile parking being a concern among retailers, it seems  more efficient and economically sound to have as many customers arrive by bicycle rather than car as possible (And not to mention that by bicycling people save money on gas and parking and therefore have more money to spend at local businesses).
Since the League of American Bicyclists put together this graphic, and the accompanying report on the economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, additional studies continue to echo these findings. In New York, a study conducted by the Department of Transportation found businesses on 9th Avenue in Manhattan reporting almost a 50% increase in sales after a protected bike lane was installed on the street. Even in Los Angeles, one case-study found that the re-configuring of one commercial street to include bike lanes did not hurt businesses despite fear among merchants that it would.
As more studies emerge be sure to keep an eye on our “bike buck$” tag for more posts on the economic benefits of bicycling.

Caltrans, Amtrak Announce New Bike Reservation Policy to Improve Customer Service and Enhance Safety (2013)

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Bike aboard Amtrak. Photo credit: ubrayj02
Looking to take a nice train and bike trip along the coast this summer?
The Source published this news release from Caltrans, which funds some passenger rail service in California, regarding the new bike reservation policy (with our emphasis added) :

Caltrans, Amtrak Announce New Bike Reservation Policy to Improve Customer Service and Enhance Safety
SACRAMENTO – Amtrak California passengers traveling with bicycles can reserve onboard bike rack space free of charge beginning June 1, 2013 when booking travel on Pacific Surfliner trains.
“We heard our customers and we responded,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Caltrans eliminated the $5 bike reservation fee to make it as easy as possible to bring your bike along when riding the Pacific Surfliner trains.”
Previously, without a bike reservation system in place, when bike racks became full, passengers had no choice but to store bikes next to luggage storage areas or walkways.  At times, if bike traffic became too heavy, bike passengers would not be allowed to board at all.
With bike reservations, planning travel is made easier by enabling bike-toting passengers to choose an alternate train should their first choice be fully booked. It’s truly a win-win,” said Caltrans Division of Rail Chief Bill Bronte.
While there is no cost to reserve a bike slot, reservations will be required for each travel segment and must accompany a valid Amtrak ticket. Bike reservations can be made one of several ways: Online when booking tickets at AmtrakCalifornia.com (click “Add Bike to Trip” after selecting the departure and class of service); at Quik-Trak kiosks (visit the Amtrak California Station Directory for kiosk locations); from station ticket agents; or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
Amtrak Multi-Ride Ticket holders (10-trip or Monthly Pass) can only obtain bike reservations through station ticket agents or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL. Amtrak has issued refunds to passengers who booked and paid for bike reservations in advance.
Most trains can accommodate six bikes. Passengers should reserve space as early as possible, as bike space is limited and may not be available on all trains or departures.  All bike passengers are responsible for securing their own bicycles in provided bike racks.
About Amtrak California:  Under the Amtrak California banner, Caltrans funds three of the five busiest intercity passenger rail routes in the Amtrak system: the Pacific Surfliner(r) corridor (ranked second), the Capitol Corridor(r) (ranked third), and the San Joaquin(r) corridor (ranked fifth). Caltrans manages both the Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin corridors. The Capitol Corridor, although funded by Caltrans, is managed by the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority. Visit us at www.amtrakcalifornia.com; join us on Facebook at Facebook.com/AmtrakCalifornia or follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/Amtrak_CA.

Note: Folding bicycles may be brought aboard certain passenger cars as carry-on baggage. Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains.
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks.

San Francisco Bike Share Is On The Way! (2013)

Melbourne Bike Share - first day
A bike-share dock in Melbourne, Australia. Photo credit: Gavin Anderson
This past month you may have heard about New York City’s historic bike-share launch. New York’s bike-share program continues to incite enthusiasm and excitement, not just for the locals using the system, but for other cities interested in similar bike-share schemes. Here in California one can’t help but to wonder– when will the bike-friendly Bay Area get to enjoy bike-sharing? After all, the Southern Californian city of Anaheim already has bike-sharing (though currently on a very small scale).  Well, worry not, bike-sharing could be coming to San Francisco and the Bay Area as early as this summer! The Huffington Post reports:

San Francisco is already one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but it’s about to get even more pedal power when the city’s bike sharing program rolls out this August.
Run by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, in conjunction with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other local government groups, the $7 million bike sharing program will be a one- to two-year pilot effort to determine how effective bike sharing is as a method of reducing private automobile traffic and the pollution that comes with it.

The SF bike sharing pilot will be studied for its effectiveness in shifting people out of their cars.  It is easy to imagine bike-share being helpful as a means to compliment BART trips and generally help foster multi-modal travel  and the replacement for single-occupant vehicle commute trips.  The system will start with 700 bikes and 70 bike-share stations but if successful, the pilo could expand to as many as 10,000 bikes throughout the Bay Area (which would make it tied for the largest bike-share system in America).
To get an idea of how bike-share generally operates in North America, check out this video produced for D.C.’s Capital Bike-Share program

Video credit: NACTOfilms

For more details about the Bay Area’s approaching bike-share program, head over to SF.Streetsblog.

It's About Better Cities

From one beautiful bridge to another...
Photo credit: vision63
In just about every major American metropolitan region, and especially here in the Bay Area, streets are congested – and contested – spaces.  Increasingly cities are reallocating mixed-traffic lanes to accommodate bicycling, and while this makes it safer for the cyclists, it can affect the traffic flow by reducing the number of lanes available for motorists, transit, and goods movement. Encouraging more cycling through the creation of dedicated bicycle infrastructure may be a wise investment in the long-term, but the short-term pains it causes some commuters has given rise to the use of phrases such as “anti-car” and “war on drivers.”
More anti- #bikela signs at Colorado bike lane town hall. #fig4all
Do people on bikes cause or relieve congestion? Oftentimes changing streets to accommodate bicycling is as being a “bikes vs cars” issue. Photo credit: ubrayj02
In contemplating the growing tension over bike lane implementation in North American cities, city planner Bret Toderian contends that we should not lose sight of the greater societal aspiration behind changing our existing transportation system– to improve our cities. In an article on the Huffington Post, Toderian describes this approach to recent bike lane debates:

We need a more sophisticated discussion about how we get around in cities, and it starts with this — it’s not about loving your bike. It’s about loving what biking does for cities. If more cars make cities worse, the opposite is true for bikes. Expanding urban biking is about making better, fiscally smarter, healthier, more flexible and resilient cities. Bikes are hardly a silver bullet, but they can be a big part of better city-making.

Toderian proceeds to provide compelling arguments to support this position. He notes that encouraging cycling makes sense in cities because bicycles are more space efficient:

Most pragmatically, city-builders understand that bikes make cities work better because they take a lot less space. Even if cars were clean in emissions, the biggest challenge with car-dependency is a space problem. There isn’t enough room on the roads and parking lots of cities, to have everyone drive. They just don’t fit, and our failed efforts to make them fit, cost a staggering amount.

Perhaps surprisingly, Toderian also argues that having more people cycle in a city actually makes driving easier, not more difficult:

Even if they [cities] prioritize driving, global city-builders recognize the best thing those who feel they need to drive could hope for, is for OTHER people to be able to walk, bike and ride transit. Multi-modal cities make it easier for EVERYONE to get around – including, counter-intuitively, drivers.

When viewed through this lens it does become apparent that existing traffic congestion cannot be solved by only accommodating one mode of transportation and that bicycles are just one tool in the tool box of ways to make cities more pleasant and inhabitable– it isn’t about bikes versus cars. Check out Toderian’s full Huffington Post article.

More Incredible Dutch Innovations in Cycling

When a quarter of all trips within the entire country are done by bicycle it’s difficult to imagine much could be done to make cycling more attractive in the Netherlands. Then the municipality of Eindhoven unveiled it’s spectacular aerial roundabout for bikes that lets cyclists fly over motorized traffic.
More recently the city of Groningen – where almost 60% of all trips are by bicycle – yet another innovation has come about to make cycling even more attractive and convenient. It’s just a test at the moment, but the city is installing sensors at certain intersections that will change to give cyclists on bike paths green lights faster if it is snowing or raining. In a country infamous for its rain, cyclists may find themselves getting priority quite often! Also, by getting shorter wait times during inclement weather, cyclists are probably less likely to run red lights– thus this test is likely to improve safety as well.
Another attempt to make cycling more pleasant in times of harsh weather has been the idea to heat bike paths when it’s snowing. The purpose of this  is to reduce the need to salt and clear popular bike routes of snow as well as reduce the risk of people slipping and getting injured if a bike path is slick from being partially frozen.
Will The Bay Area Ever Be That Bike Friendly?
It may seem like cycling conditions could never be as good here as they are in The Netherlands, but keep in mind the Dutch haven’t always been bike friendly, they oriented their cities towards the automobile for a while too. Also, currently city officials from major San Jose and San Francisco are actually getting help from Dutch planners to make cycling more appealing. San Francisco in particular has seen great leaps in the levels of cycling in just the past five years despite its hilly topography. San Francisco has also pioneered the concept of the “green wave,” which synchronizes traffic lights to the speed of the bicycle rather than the automobile, on popular bike corridors to make cycling effortless. With Bay Area cities leading in bike commute rates nationally, it seems like we may well be on our way to someday see the levels of cycling that exist in The Netherlands; perhaps we should view this as a sign of encouragement to maximize the potential for cycling to be a viable form of transportation and help address our climate and traffic problems.

Is It A Bike Day? Check Your Bicycle Barometer!

Have you ever been unsure whether you should bike or take public transit to work? You’re not alone! Richard Pope of London recently blogged about his most recent invention, the bicycle barometer, which tells him if he’s better off cycling, or taking the Tube to work. Richard Pope describes it like this:

“The bicycle barometer takes data about the weather, the status of the tube lines I use to get to work, and whether my local station is open or shut.
It then reduces all that data down to a single value and displays it on a dial with a bike sign at one end and a tube sign at the other.
For example, if it is raining a bit the dial will move a bit towards the tube sign, but if the tube is suffering delays, it will move a bit back in the other direction.
Different data points get different weightings. E.g. snow is more important than a bit of drizzle; the tube station being shut trumps everything.”

Here’s a short video of the bicycle barometer in action:

How Do You Lock Up?

Cycling scene on York Blvd

(Five bicycles locked to bike racks, one bike rack locked to a sign post. Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock)

Whether you’re going to your favorite restaurant for lunch or to the local grocery store to pick up a few items, bicycling is a great way to get there– especially as the days are getting longer  it’s a perfect time to take advantage of the gorgeous weather to hop on a bike. Of course, once you get to your destination it’s always a good idea to lock your bike properly to a designated bike rack if possible. Even if you’ll “just be a minute,” remember, it takes less time than that to steal an unlocked bike.
So, to help keep you and your bike together, here’s a round-up of helpful bike locking tips and types of locks to consider.
Tips of Locking
Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation Bicycle Blog has a handy three part series about why you should lock your bike, where to lock your bike and how to properly lock your bike. Here’s an excerpt from the series:

Try to park in a location where your bike can be seen.  A good rule of thumb is: are other bikes parked there? Bike thieves don’t want to be seen, so park in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic.  The more people around your bike, the better.  If you’re parking at night, try to park in a location that provides good, safe lighting.  If you can’t find anywhere you’re comfortable with, you can always ask store owners if you can bring in your bike.  The worst thing they can say is “no”, and piece of mind is worth the trouble of asking.

The LADOT even offers this concise list of bike parking tips.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has additional details about proper locking technique to ensure your bike doesn’t get stolen.
locking: relaxed

 (The “Sheldon Brown” Lock Technique, note the lock is around the rear wheel inside the rear ‘triangle’ of the frame. Photo credit:Kaptain Amerika)

The ‘Sheldon Brown (RIP)‘ Lock Technique: By locking your back wheel inside the rear triangle, you protect your wheel and the frame. It’s nearly impossible to cut the rim of a wheel. Just make sure your lock is around the rim and through the triangle. Hint: Front wheels are less expensive than back wheels – back wheels have gears and cost about twice as much, so if you can only protect one wheel, make it the back one!

Types of Locks

ulock

(The common u-lock and it’s qualities– click for more details. Screen grab via: REI)

 Also useful to know are the different kinds of locks to consider for your bike. REI offers simple descriptions and pictures of different kinds of locks and their respective qualities.
 Additional Notes

  • If there is no bike rack available at your destination, find a sturdy post or object to lock your bike to. If locking to a post, be sure it is tall enough so that a thief can’t simply lift the bike up over the top of the post and walk away with your bike. Also, ask at your destination if they can provide safe bike parking– sometimes business owners aren’t aware of the need and demand for safe, convenient bike parking.
  • Never lock your bike with just the front or rear wheel. Whether you have quick release or not, wheels are relatively easy to remove so if you just lock your bike to either front or rear wheel someone could detach the frame from the locked wheel and walk away with your bike frame.
  • Related to the above bullet– if you can only lock one portion of your bike, lock your frame. Typically a bike is safe as long as the frame is securely locked. While this leaves your wheels vulnerable there is a smaller market for stolen wheels than for stolen frames.
  • Do NOT buy a chain and lock from a hardware store to use as a bike lock. Rarely are chains and locks from hardware stores good for securely parking a bike. Also avoid purchasing bike locks from major retail department stores if possible, the quality of their locks are always inferior to locks available at bike shops.
  • A bike lock, no matter how expensive, is still cheaper than buying a new bike. If a bike lock costing $50 or more keeps your bike safe for a life time it’s a worthy investment.
  • Don’t forget to check out 511 Contra Costa’s public bike locker map of Contra Costa County
  • Find out if your city has a “request a bike rack program.” San Francisco and Oakland  both websites with easy instructions that let the public request bike racks where desired. Your city may have one too, especially if your city has an approved bike plan that calls for additional bike parking– try contacting your local officials and find out how you can get convenient and secure bike parking where you need it.
  • Lastly, if you want to see comical demonstrations of good and bad locking jobs, check out this video “Hal Ruzal Grades Your Bike Locking”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTA3JsZWiec

Kids Who Walk or Bike to School Have Greater Concentration

Safe Walking with Bikes to School
A family participating in National Bike to School Day. Photo credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
As if there weren’t enough economic, social, environmental, safety, or physical health benefits of walking and cycling, one new study is showing yet another reason to embrace active transportation, especially among children– better concentration ability.
The Atlantic Cities summarized the findings of this new study, which comes to us from Denmark – perhaps no surprise since the country is home to Copenhagen, one of the great cycling cities in the world:

The survey looked at nearly 20,000 Danish kids between the ages of 5 and 19. It found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school.

Niels Egelund, co-author of the study, notes that among the findings was that “the exercise one uses to transport oneself to school is reflected in the level of concentration one has circa four hours later,” which is much longer than most people would expect. In fact, the physical exercise children had walking or cycling to school was shown to have a greater impact than eating breakfast or lunch– imagine that!
To read more about the findings of this study, head over to The Atlantic Cities

511CC's Newest Resource – Bike Event Page!

East Bay Bike Party WoS
East Bay Bike Part, one of many events listed at the new Cycling Event Page. Photo credit: RACINGMIX

Here at 511 Contra Costa one of the most viewed blog posts last year was “Upcoming Bay Area and California Cycling in 2012“.

cycling event page
Click the screenshot to link to the Cycling Event Page

Responding to the popularity of this post, there is now a dedicated Cycling Event Page that you’ll be able to regularly refer to when looking for a organized bicycling event.
The page is still growing but there’s already a number of recurring and annual Bay Area bike events listed such as: East Bay Bike Party, Waves to and Wine ride and the California Coast Classic.
Social, sporty, or philanthropic; regardless of your motivation, chances are you’ll find a bicycling event that suits your fancy.
So don’t wait, go ahead and check out the new resource or add it to your bookmarks!
Happy Cycling!

Bay Area Leads In Bike Commuting (2013)

bike arc on display
Creative bike parking in Palo Alto, where about 10% of commutes are by bike. Photo credit: Adam Fagen
Bicycling accounts for roughly 0.5% of commuting on the national level, but if you feel like you see more bikes on your commute around here it could be because California, and more specifically the Bay Area, leads the nation in bicycle commuting as demonstrated by the latest Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Perhaps as no surprise, Davis is the top bicycling city, where 16% of commutes are by bicycle, followed by Palo Alto where bicycles make up 10% of commutes. Boulder, Colorado claims the number three spot with a 9.6% bicycle commute mode-share but the Bay Area is back at number four with Berkeley, where approximately 8.8% of commutes are done by bicycle.
Other Bay Area cities with significant bicycle commute mode-shares include Mountain View, San Francisco and Oakland, with 6.1%, 3.4%, 3% commute mode-shares, respectively.
Having the Bay Area lead in bicycle commuting is great news, and not just for the environment or cyclists. When more people cycle or take public transit everyone benefits in traffic as Good Magazine conveyed last year in a clever 1 minute video, illustrating that even  a small modal shift away from driving can vastly reduce unwanted congestion.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and Bikes, and Buses)

Whether for work, vacation, picking up or dropping off a friend – a trip to the airport is nearly as common as as trip to the market. But what is the best way to get there? Undoubtedly the simplest choice for some trips to the airport may be to drive but there’s a whole menu of transport options to choose from and consider. Let’s look at other options for getting to two of the Bay Area’s major international airports– SFO and Oakland International
Air BART
AirBART. Photo  credit: Tzuhsun Hsu
SFO and Oakland International are both serviced by BART. BART can be a viable alternative to driving and serves a wide number of Bay Area residents. Rather than driving to the airport and hassling with parking ride BART. This way you are relieved of the duty of driving; definitely an option for the no nonsense traveler. If you are traveling from Contra Costa County to SFO, BART is definitely the way to go.  If you are traveling from Contra Costa County to the Oakland International Airport, BART plus the AirBART bus from  Oakland Coliseum BART Station is your alternative. Remember to carry $3 in cash or a $3 BART pass to pay for the AirBART connector from BART to the Oakland International Airport.
There’s also the option of taking the bus. While you would still be on the same roadways as cars, buses can use the HOV lane during peak hours M-F and traveling by bus also relieves you from the duty of driving, and parking. There are a number of bus options but AC Transit is likely the best bus option from West Contra Costa to the Oakland International.
Denver International Airport Bicycle Route
Bike friendly design as seen in Denver International Airport. Photo credit: Richard Masoner
And for you daredevil bicycle travelers, there are bike access options nowadays to the airports. SFO can be reached locally by designated bike routes and offers of bike parking – even valet bike parking! Oakland International has class 1 bike path and class 2 bike lanes that link Oakland International Airport terminals with the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.
There seems to be an ongoing, collective conversation about ways of traveling to and from the airport these days. Here in the Bay Area, Oakland North recently tested four different modes – bus, bike, BART, and car – against each other in a “race to Oakland International“. An article (with video included of each traveler), it’s well worth a read that highlights not only the convenience and route choice of different modes, but also the time and cost involved. Meanwhile in Canada, James Schwartz of The Urban Country shared his personal account of traveling to and from Toronto Inernational by bike.
It’s not unusual to think “I’m heading to the airport” and instinctively decide to drive, catch a ride with a friend, or go by taxi, but  these are not the only options at your disposal. At times, you may find it convenient or cost-effective to reach the airport by a different mode, or mixing modes– like catching a taxi to BART or biking to a bus stop and taking your bike on AC Transit to reach the airport. Interested in trying a new mode to reach the airport? Check out directions getting to and from SFO and Oakland International by all modes.

A Copenhagen Bicycle Culture Infographic

Want to learn some statistics about bicycling in Copenhagen in a flash? Look no further than the “Copenhagen Cycle Infographic“– created by  graphic designer Emma Sivell and first shared on the blog Copenhagenize. The clever infographic includes factoids like: 18% of the Danish population cycle daily; 40% of children cycle to school in Denmark; and that there are just as many bicycles as there are people in greater Copenhagen– 1.7 million!
Bicycles
Photo credit: zoonabar
The infographic is full of impressive numbers about the state of bicycling in Copenhagen. However, maybe it’s no surprise  the Danish – and in particular Copenhageners – cycle so much. Cycling Weekly recently took a look at some measures found in Denmark that encourage and help residents get around by bike,  measures include: the creation of new bike paths that follow so-called “desire lines” (routes people take that that currently don’t have bike paths), and synchronizing traffic lights to accommodate the speed of cyclists. Copenhagen’s Director of Transportation, Niels Tørsløv, puts it succinctly:

 “It’s the same principle that was applied to the highways system in the 60s, only now it’s being applied to cycling.”

What a concept!

It's Better By Bike!

Child cargo
Happy family! Photo Credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
“It’s better by bike!”, that seems to be the mantra these days when getting around the Bay Area and here are three articles that prove it!
First up, the Bay Citizen reports on a growing number of families that are passing on the car and transit and instead hopping on bikes:

“Fed up with cars, traffic, parking and Muni, some parents are using their bicycles as minivans, hauling their children around the hilly streets. They use an array of devices for their rides: child seats attached to the frame, two-wheeled enclosed trailers, extended bikes with room for passengers on the back, trail-a-bikes that let kids ride along behind and ‘bathtub’ bikes. “

Featured in the article is an inspiring video of a mother that shares her experience as she took the plunge and decided to try dropping off her two kids by bike– only to find out it has put her in the best shape of her life and made her able to connect with her kids better than ever. Check out the video below

Video credit: CIRvideos
Next, SF Gate suggests leaving the car and instead taking bikes to Angel Island:

“Leave the car in the driveway. Instead of a “Sunday Drive,” call this the “Sunday Ride” and take off on your bike. From across the Bay Area, many paths – and trains, BART and ferries – lead to San Francisco and Angel Island. From home, start this trip with a ride to your local transit agency. Board with your bike and head to San Francisco, and from there, ride to Pier 41 for the ferry to Angel Island State Park.”

The article gives directions for getting there by bike from all regions of the Bay Area– Marin, East Bay, Peninsula and SF. (Just be sure to plan your trip on a day when the weather is nice!)
Lastly, again via SF Gate, is an article that reports on the new bikeway connections that are helping San Francisco residents reach parks by bike:

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New bi-directional bicycle path on Cargo Way. Photo credit:
Roy Crisman

” Three neighborhoods in southeast San Francisco – Bayview, Hunters Point and the Dogpatch – have been bursting with new bike lanes in the past six months, opening up great new rides for anyone looking to explore more of the city on two wheels.
Among the two biggest improvements linking these neighborhoods are the buffered bike lanes – those with a large painted buffer along eastern Cesar Chavez Street and the bikeway on Cargo Way protected by fencing.
The lanes allow riders to explore some of the best waterfront parks and viewing areas in the city. And, because most tourists congregate along the north end of the city’s waterfront, riders might have these spots all to themselves.
Explore the lanes individually, or link them together for a longer waterfront ride. ”
Getting to school, parks, or a day vacation seem like trips primed for bicycling– do you know any other trips that are great for two wheels?

Spectacular Floating Bicycle Roundabout

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Floating bicycle roundabout under construction. Photo credit: Jeroen van Lieshout
25% of all trips in the Netherlands are bike, making bicycling a part of everyday life; it’s a trivial activity that the Dutch don’t think twice about. However, the bicycling nation’s latest piece of innovative infrastructure might even amaze a local Dutchman. The municipality of  Eindhoven recently constructed a captivating bicycle roundabout to provide safe, convenient passage by bike… and it just so happens to float above motorized traffic!
Mark Wagenbuur, the influential and award winning video-maker and blogger behind Bicycle Dutch recently documented this incredible piece of infrastructure known as “Hovenring”.
He writes of the infrastructure:

The bright white 70 meters (230Ft) tall bridge pylon can be seen from far away. Attached to the top are 24 cables that suspend a large bicycle roundabout, 72 meters (236Ft) in diameter, that seems to float over a large new junction for motorized traffic…The exceptional piece of bicycle infrastructure was built to stand out. It is to be the iconic new landmark that signals ‘you are entering Eindhoven’. At night the slender bike ring is lit from below to further enhance that floating effect.

Of course, which such a distinctive design, the project didn’t come easily, Wagenbuur notes:

Building such a unique ‘circular bridge’ was more difficult than expected. During construction, early 2012, the cables vibrated much more than they were supposed to in the Dutch winds. Experts recalculated the design specifications and with some modifications and counter weights the cables became much more stable. People questioned why it was necessary to have cyclists go up so high. They feared the gradient of the entrance ramps would be too steep. But the city explained on it’s website that cyclists have to go up less than it seems, because the junction was constructed below surface level. The gradients are different on all sides, but range from just 1.86% to 3.09%.

Naturally, the impressive infrastructure was celebrated once completed

Video credit: Mark Wagenbuur
And once the festivities settled and the roundabout opened for regular use, this video shows how it looks on a daily basis

Video credit: Mark Wagenbuur
Pretty cool, right? Locally, Berkeley’s impressive I-80 bicycle and pedestrian bridge (pictured below) is probably the Bay Area’s crowning piece of infrastructure that comes closest to rivaling such an iconic and innovative investment in bicycling
Yellow Bike Rider
Berkeley’s impressive bicycle bridge. Photo credit: Jeffrey-Anthony
Elsewhere in Dutch bicycle news, A View From the Cycle Path shares that the city of Groningen has introduced a red carpet for pedestrians to keep sidewalks cleared of the masses of parked bikes;  a “problem”, if you can call it that. Check out the video below to see what this red carpet looks like in practice

Video credit: David Hembrow

Patrolling the Downtown Beat on Bicycles

Bicycle Police
A pair of bike officers. Photo credit: Director Digital Strategies
Everyone knows bicycling is good for the environment and for one’s health, this is no secret. Even the economic benefits of bicycling are touted these days. However, one benefit of embracing bicycling that is increasingly studied and observed is the positive social impact.
In an interview with OpenFile, police officers revealed that patrolling by bicycle often has advantages over patrolling by car, especially in downtown areas. A Toronto, Canda police officer,  Sargent Ferris, shared benefits she has observed while on the force as a part of the bike squad:

[Sergeant Ferris] loves the job because of the interaction with the community. She says bike officers see things you’d miss in a car, and get to know people along their routes in a way they never would behind a steering wheel. Plus, it’s way easier to bust pot smokers: you can smell them from a mile away, and can get really close to them before they even notice you.

Regional Police Constable of Halifax, Canada, Brian Palmeter also commented on the social benefits of being a bicycling officer:

“Members of the public feel inherently more comfortable around bicycle police officers than those in cars. They want to know how much they bike in a day, how hard it is to get in shape, and many other questions an average cyclist might think to ask a peer.”

Palmeter continued to say:

“If I am pulled up on the side of the road in a cruiser with my window down, people are hesitant to talk to you…you want people to talk to you.”

During the the interview Palmeter also noted:

“About five to eight years ago, our downtown core was really an issue. There were places people just wouldn’t go. The chief decided to bring back beat officers and bike officers, and… almost overnight that community has gone 180 degrees. We’re victims of our own success downtown because now we’re always looking for new things to do.”

While nobody anticipated the huge, positive impact bicycling officers would have on downtown Halifax, Palmeter is now convinced that bike squads are capable of doing anything a car crew can do. He shared,

“I’m convinced you could effectively police the downtown core with 75 per cent bikes.”

Sounds like more bicycling police officers can only be a good thing. It is perhaps good news then that Contra Costa County’s own Concord recently received a grant to pay for a downtown bike squad!

Portland Cycling

Moody
Look at Portland’s impressive, dedicated bicycle infrastructure. Photo credit: Greg Raisman
USA Today recently took an in-depth look at the state of bicycling in Portland, Oregon in an article titled “In Portland, Ore., Bikes Rule the Road“. Many points made in the article were eye-opening and worth highlighting.
The article begins:

America spent 50 years and billions of dollars after World War II redesigning itself so that cars could move people across this vast country more quickly.
Now, with many cities in gridlock, one-third of the population obese and climate change forcing innovators to look beyond the internal combustion engine, cities are beginning to rethink that push toward the automobile.
Perhaps no place has thought about it more than Portland, rated America’s most bike-friendly city this year by Bicycling magazine

 
a few bikes
Portland bike traffic. Photo credit: Dave Feucht
Nationally 13% of children walk or cycle to school, according to the National Household Travel Survey whereas in Portland 31% of children walk or cycle to school!
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Children cycling in Portland. Photo credit: Greg Raisman
The article also notes that Portland is constantly being visited by transportation officials from around the nation (and world) to learn how to increase bicycle mode-share:

Indeed, groups arrive almost weekly to pedal the streets and hear from city staff how Portland has accomplished what no other major U.S. city has: getting people out of their cars and onto the bike paths coursing through this hilly metropolis. (This summer alone, groups from Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C., Holland, Japan and South Korea made the trek.)

While Portland continues to expand bicycling with each year, it should be understood that Portland isn’t steering towards a bike-only environment. As Jennifer Dill, director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium at Portland State University comments in the article:

In many cities you have no choice — you have to drive to work. Here, you have a choice. What we’ve found is that given an array of choices — driving, taking the bus, biking or walking — a lot of people will choose other options than driving

However, becoming a bike friendly city takes time. World renowned bicycle researcher at Rutgers University, John Pucher notes, “You don’t all of a sudden put in 500 miles of bike lanes.”
It took Portland 20 years to get where it is now, and while a lot of bicycle infrastructure has been built during that time, Portland’s bike network was surprisingly cheap to build. How cheap? Try the cost of a single mile of urban four-lane freeway– roughly $60 million.
Read the full story (and view the attached video) over at USA Today.

Basics of Bike Maintenance

Bike in garage
Time to tune it up, and get rolling! Photo credit: florriebassingbourn
As the bicycle continues to gain popularity in cities around the Bay Area with each passing week, more people are undoubtedly dusting off those old 10-speeds that have just been sitting in the garage for the past decade. It doesn’t take much, so if you’re looking to hop on the bike train, it might be a good time to make sure your bike is up to speed and in shape for riding. Here are a few things that can easily be checked and maintained to keep your bike in operable shape:

  • Tires: Perhaps the most instinctive thing we all check on our bikes before rolling; just squeeze the tires and if necessary, inflate the tires until they’re firm, right? Not quite…. somewhere along the sidewall of your tire there’ll be a recommended PSI that the tire should be inflated to, inflate to that number, and no higher (or risk popping your inner tube!) If your tires are several years old, it is probably a good idea to replace the tires and inner tubes altogether.
  • Chain: If you haven’t been riding for a while, your bike’s chain may need a little lubrication to run smoothly and efficiently. Making sure your chain is well lubricated is something to inspect on a monthly basis and performed as needed (which may be indicated by the chain making sounds, clunking while pedaling or if you’re having trouble shifting gears).
  • Brakes: Naturally, it’s helpful to have functioning brakes when cycling. Before getting on your bike, especially if it’s years old and hasn’t been used, apply the brakes to make sure they work adequately for your needs. While maintaining brakes is not as straightforward as lubing a chain or inflating a tire, it is easy to detect if something’s astray with your stopping ability. If your brakes are not as responsive as you’d like there could be a number of issues, ranging from oxidization of the brake cables to adjusting the space between the brake pads and the bike wheel’s rims. Thankfully, bike shops often diagnose problems for free and if a minor fix is needed, bike shops or bike cooperatives, may even offer to help you for free. If you want to try your hands at getting the job done yourself, there are helpful videos such as the one below that are easy to follow and clear with instructions


There are of course, many other parts of a bicycle that need maintenance, but these are some of the “usual suspects” that keep a bike from properly running and are relatively easy to fix. Hopefully these tips can keep the wheels rolling on your faithful, if old and slightly rusted, steed!

Good and Better News From Google Maps!

google maps new favicon
Image credit: Prashanth dotcompals
In the realm of Google Maps, there’s good news for transit users, and better news for bike users.
First, the good news comes in an article by Jeremy Owens of the San Jose Mercury News titled “Google Maps mobile app’s transit offerings work great for novices, but hard-core Bay Area riders will want more”. Owens shares his experience with Google’s new transit app, finding some good in it:

Google has added transit lines from hundreds of cities to Google Maps as of August, and its Bay Area offerings are extensive, including small services such as the Menlo Park Midday Shuttle. The biggest addition is schedules for all of the lines it offers, making finding departure times simple and transfers between agencies more predictable.

Unfortunately, Owens sees one crucial flaw:

“I put it to the test to see if it could replace the mishmash of agency-specific transit apps I use on a daily basis to maneuver around the Bay Area. The verdict: No, because of one big flaw – the lack of real-time departures.”

Now, for the better news– Google Maps has impressively published 530,000km (that’s 329,327 miles) of bicycle infrastructure in Europe and Australia. Until recently, Google Maps did not have any bicycle specific directions or show bicycle routes and paths in Europe or Australia, which is perhaps surprising as Europe is home to countries with some of the highest bicycle mode-share in the world and Australia is seeing more and more bicycle infrastructure with each year!
Cycling directions and turn-by-turn navigations are now available in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

See all those green lines and dashes? They’re all bicycle paths, lanes, and routes– no wonder 50% of all trips in Amsterdam are by bike! Image via Google Maps

And in more of the”better” news, Google Maps has now added voice-guided navigation for bicycle directions [for Andriod phone users]! That’s right, cyclists can now mount their Android phones to their handlebars and receive turn-by-turn directions and navigation, as well as voice-guided directions.

Google appears to be allocating resources to accommodating multiple modes of transportation with their maps and directions. It seems to reinforce and reflect our reality– more and more people are taking to two wheels and transit, and that is great news!