biking | 511 Contra Costa - Part 2

Year in Review: 2012


Image credit: David Yu

511CC’s 2012 Year in Review

From the Caldecott Tunnel breakthrough to Bay Area transit agencies celebrating milestones for service, 2012 was a great year for biking, transit and transportation. Here are some of this year’s top stories.

Top Tweets

Some of our most popular tweets (number of link clicks) in 2012 linked to these articles:

BART pedestrian origin outliers
Image credit: Eric Fischer

2012 highlights

Here are some transportation highlights from the year.
511 Freeway Aid


  • LAVTA retrofits 30 Wheels buses to make boarding with strollers easier

Union Pacific from near Pinole, CA facing west

Image credit: Steve C.






Image credit: torbakhopper



Image credit: Karl Nielsen/Metropolitan Transportation Commission



Image credit:  Bay Area Rapid Transit archives


Amtrak's Capitol Corridor

Opening of Municipal Railway, San Francisco

Image credit: SFMTA / John Henry Mentz

For more interesting articles and tips on biking, transit, and transportation in the Bay Area don’t miss our Twitter feed and our blog.

Spectacular Floating Bicycle Roundabout

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

Portland Cycling

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!
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.

Academia Bike Studies Gain Momentum

Typical scene in Malmö, Sweden – where bicycling makes up about 30% of all trips. Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock
As an ever-growing sign that the bicycle is having a revival in mainstream transportation, comes the latest trend of bicycle-related studies gaining popularity in academia. With cities striving to become more bicycle friendly and with forecasts of  as many as 25% of all trips by the year 2030, it makes sense to study the bicycle as an utilitarian mode of transportation, as it is in other countries.
Over 100 bicycle related academic studies have been published thus far in 2012, including fascinating studies such as, The Health Impacts of Mandatory Helmet Laws– which found that mandatory helmet laws do little to improve safety of cyclists and may have unintended, negative consequences by discouraging cycling. Other interesting, bike related studies have looked at the health benefits of mass street closures (like San Francisco’s ‘Sunday Streets’) relative to their financial cost and the mathematical optimization of bicycle infrastructure. Some universities are collaborating with cities to study innovative bicycle infrastructure while other universities are offering  cycling as a minor area of studies.
Read more about the explosive growth of bicycle related studies over at Pacific Standard.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: More BART Stats

Digital map-maker Eric Fischer is at it again! 511CC previously highlighted a fascinating, Twitter data driven map Fischer had created that clearly showed the majority of people tweeting about BART are riding BART. This time we would like to share more compelling and intriguing data Fischer has put into digestible map format. All images below are from Eric Fischer’s Flickr page.
Pedestrian Mode Share on the way to East Bay BART Stations
Pedestrian mode share on the way to East Bay BART stations

  • The blue lines represent where almost all people on their way to BART are walking. Yellow lines show where almost all BART passengers are on bikes, on transit, or in cars.

Number of People Who Walk Various Distances from BART
Number of people who walk various distances from BART
How BART Riders get to the Station, By Distance
How BART riders get to the station, by distance
BART Pedestrian Origin Outliers
BART pedestrian origin outliers

  • Dot size is the number of people who walk to BART from there, divided by the overall likelihood of walking that far. The larger gray dots are just so you can see the smaller dots they overlap with

See more interesting transportation maps and pictures on Eric Fischer’s flickr page. And if you’re interested learning more about Fischer’s data maps, check out this interview with him in the SF Gate.

Building Community, Opportunity and Fixing Bikes in East Oakland

The Bike Oven
The exterior of Bike Oven, a volunteer-run bicycle repair collective in Northeast Los Angeles. Photo credit:Mike Wally
In the Bay Area, when discussing the role of the bicycle in daily life it is easy to get fixated on the environmental and health benefits this humble machine brings to the urban environment.  However, as the bicycle cooperative ColectíVelo shows us in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland, there are other facets and benefits of bicycling which are perhaps too often overlooked. ColectíVelo, like many other bicycle cooperatives, offers an environment where one can repair bicycles, get guidance in bike repair, and even build a bicycle for free or in exchange for volunteering.
However, there are a few things that set ColectíVelo apart from your typical bike-coop. As mentioned in an East Bay Express profile of ColectíVelo:

The idea for the shop was conceived five years ago, when a public health nurse and her social worker colleagues saw a need for affordable, efficient transportation among the day laborers they served in Fruitvale. [The founders] dreamed of a bike shop for them, and for the other low-income residents of the neighborhood.

These days when the image of a cyclist as someone who is hip, well-off and perhaps even a little smug is circulating, it may worth noting that many people cycle out of necessity. Bicycle cooperatives don’t just serve the hobbyist, they can be valuable resources to people with little money or who have no other means of transportation, as emphasized by ColectíVelo’s main organizer, Morgan Kanninen in the East Bay Express’ recent coverage:

The shop’s eschewing of money is very purposeful: She [Kanninen] pointed out that even sliding-scale systems can contribute to a feeling of inequality among participants. For some, asking to pay at the lower end of a sliding scale can create a “sense of alienation or shame that just does not need to be involved in this bike shop,” she said. “I think it would only hurt the growth of community here, and the real sharing and learning from each other.”

ColectíVelo values the sense of community the collective fosters over monetary profit. It strives to be a welcoming place to people and caters to the local community, being one of few fully bilingual bike cooperatives– the shop provides bike repair training in Spanish and English, and all signage is bilingual. English and Spanish speakers happily work on bikes, side by side and are often able to help each other despite not speaking the same language.
ColectíVelo brings to light the unique opportunity to help build relationships and unify a neighborhood in a safe environment through exchanging knowledge and time, something many other communities could benefit from. Also, as this bike cooperative further illustrates, the bicycle is more than a trendy mode of transportation– it is perhaps the most accessible tool available to all people, of all ages, abilities and incomes – and thanks to ColectíVelo and similar bike repair operations, the bicycle is made that much more accessible.
(Read more about the bike-cooperative in the East Bay Express’ coverage or check out ColectíVelo’s website for more information)

New Commuter Incentive Program

a perfectly squared vision of the embarcadero
Market Street, San Francisco. Photo credit: torbakhopper

Head’s up!
511CC has a new commuter incentive program page! Learn how you can partake in the Drive Less Commuter Incentive Program and get a cash reward for switching from commuting in a single-occupant motor vehicle to carpooling, transit, bicycling or walking.
Driving less really can help reduce environmental impacts and relieve traffic congestion for all, even if you only ditch the car once a week for your work commute. So if you need an incentive to join the growing number of people saying good-bye to gridlock and leaving the car at home when commuting, be sure to check out the commuter incentive program.
And who knows, it might permanently change your commuting habits once you realize the many things you can get done – like catching up on reading, get exercise, or check email – when not driving. You might even decide to ditch the car for shorter trips too!

Turning 30 Car Parking Spaces Into 300+ Bike Parking Spaces

Bike Corral at Delfina Pizzeria
Eight bicycles fill this bicycle corral using space which would otherwise accommodate one motor vehicle. Photo credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
San Francisco is undoubtedly setting the bar high for fellow Bay Area cities looking to become more bike friendly, spearheading innovative infrastructure treatment like painting bike lanes green and creating protected bike lanes. However, the city has also been moving ahead with a more subtle change to embrace cycling– since San Francisco started implementing it’s Bike Plan in mid-2010 the city has converted 30 curbside car parking spaces into over 300 bike parking spaces!
336 bike parking spaces to be precise, according to SF Streetsblog who originally covered this impressive milestone. In a city as densely packed as San Francisco, this move  maximizes efficiency of existing space and provides more parking near local businesses. As bicycling continues to grow in the Bay Area, perhaps more cities will turn to on-street bike parking as an inexpensive and effective solution to meet parking demand.

The United Bike Lanes of America!

So you’ve mapped out a bike route for your work commute, but what about making one for bicycling across the country? If you’ve ever considered taking a bicycling road trip to travel state to state you needn’t worry–  GOOD and Gregory Hubacek, in partnership with CLIF Bar have already got you covered!

That’s right, they’ve mapped out a national network of bicycle routes (pictured left) and as The Gaurdian reports, the map includes urban and rural routes in addition to additional details like the total number of bike lanes in major cities.
Behold, the United Bike Lanes of America! Image credit: GOOD
Head over to The Gaurdian for additional coverage and the GOOD infographic to see a full sized map of bicycling routes and start planning your cross country bike trip!

Have You Checked Out Bikescore?

Utrecht, The Netherlands at Rush Hour
Bicycle rush hour in Utrecht. Photo credit: Greg Raisman
Walk Score is the well-known “go to” site to check how walkable neighborhoods are. Given the ever growing popularity of bicycling in cities it may come as no surprise that the makers of Walk Score recently started Bike Score, which functioning similar to its sister site, rates how bikeable neighborhoods are.
Atlantic Cities covered the launch back in May, and the site remains in beta form, though Bike Score is well worth checking out if you haven’t yet! The Bay Area’s own San Francisco topped the list, ranked as the 3rd most bikeable city from the 10 listed.
Can More Bay Area Cities Make The List?

As the site continues to develop, the public can request cities to be added  and ranked. Do you think any other strong cycling Bay Area cities should be added to site?

Peer to Peer Bike Share Hits the Bay

Public bikesharing programs are sweeping cities coast to coast as part of the growing revival of bicycling for transportation in the U.S. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, cities like San Francisco are pushing for these kind of popular programs and there is even talk of a Bay Area wide bikeshare program to make the service more accessible and seamless to the public for their daily needs, whether it be to get to a meeting, a doctor’s appointment, the bank or cafe’.
DC Capital Bikeshare
A DC Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington Virginia. Photo credit: James D. Schwartz
Bikeshare is also a great service for those that might just need a bike for a short period like visitors and tourists. Oftentimes when we travel great distances we do so by plane or train which means we arrive at our destinations without a ready way to get around the city we’re visiting. Bikeshare provides a cheap, accessible way to get around.
So what if you’re curious to get a taste of a bikeshare experience but can’t wait for a city sanctioned program to get off the ground here in the Bay? Well, lucky you– the New York City based website Spinlister that helps coordinate peer to peer bikesharing just arrived in the Bay Area!
Maybe you have a bike, or several bikes that you’d be willing to loan for a day, or week? Much like peer to peer carsharing, Spinlister offers an opportunity for you to make money off your spare or seldom used bike(s) when you don’t need or use it.
Sounds like a win-win doesn’t it? If you feel like you could benefit from a peer to peer bike share, check out Spinlister or read more about Spinlister in this recent a 7×7 SF article.

A Bike Friendly Bay Area

The League of American Bicyclists recently announced their annual ranking of the top 50 bicycle friendly cities in America and the Bay Area has four bike friendly cities that made the list!
Children enjoying bicycling to school in San Francisco. Photo credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
The Bay Area cities that made the League’s top 50, with recent bicycling ‘Claims to Fame’, are…
Oakland, ranked 40th

Eighteen miles of new bike infrastructure in 2011 included downtown bike lanes connecting to the burgeoning Uptown area, and 40 more miles are planned in 2012

San Jose, ranked 29th

Projects for 2012 include a 6-mile Guadalupe River Trail extension, an inaugural bike boulevard, and membership in a five-city regional bike-share initiative

Sacramento, ranked 25th

The 30-mile American River Bike Trail, signature bike racks bearing the city seal that designate bike-friendly businesses, and free urban-cycling-skills classes.

San Francisco, ranked 8th

The [city’s bicycle infrastructure] innovations led to a 71 percent increase in bike trips over the past five years and moved the city closer to its goal of a 20 percent cycling mode share by 2020.

The Bay Area was the most well represented region in the rankings and cities throughout the Bay are continually working to make bicycling safer and more pleasant. Visit the League of American Bicyclists website to check out the full list of the top 50 bike friendly cities.
Note: Smaller cities like Berkeley and Davis are bike friendly but were not included because they didn’t meet the ranking’s minimum population requirement.

BART's New Bicycle Plan Open For Comments!

Do you ride your bike to catch the BART as part of your commute? Are there improvements that BART could make at stations to better accommodate and encourage bicycling?
If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these you may want to take a look at BART’s new draft bicycle plan. Currently approximately 4% of passengers arrive at BART by bicycle, and BART would like to see that figure jump to 8% by the year 2022– a significant portion when considering bicycling makes up about 1% of travel nationally and currently hovers around 3.5% of trips in bicycle friendly San Francisco.
Day 266/365 - Get out of your car!
BART Bicycle Parking. Photo Credit: Victoria Shephard
BART’s current bicycle plan draft marks an update from an earlier plan adopted in 2002 with the stated purpose twofold:

To outline the specific strategies needed to persuade ever greater numbers of passengers to bike to and park at BART stations.


To create a Bicycle Investment Tool that BART staff and other transit agencies can use to select the improvements that will result in the largest increases in bicycle access trips.

To ensure BART’s bicycle plan be the best it can be, the agency will require input from those that currently bike to BART or would like to do so– you! Be sure to download the draft bicycle plan and to learn more about bikes and BART. If you have comments and suggestions related to the draft Bike Plan, they can be sent to by May 27th, 2012.

Are You Ready to Bike to Work? (BTWD 2012)

Yes, it’s that time of year….

All Along The Bike Path
photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg

…Thursday, May 10th, is Bike to Work Day!
If you’ve been contemplating bicycling to work but felt unsure about the idea, rest assured you will not be cycling alone if you decide to participate in Bike to Work Day. You will likely encounter more cyclists along your commute on Bike to Work Day than any other day of the year! Bike to Work Day is the perfect day to pick up cycling – even if only for the occasion– and give it a try with thousands of other Bay Area residents.
Not only can you take comfort in safety in numbers, but you can take advantage of one of 200 “energizer stations” scattered throughout the Bay for the day. What is an energizer station? Simply put, a station providing free beverages, snacks, goodies and encouragement to bicyclists on this special day.
To see if there’s an energizer station anyone along your commute, check out the Bay Area Energizer Station map– from Pittsburg, to San Pablo, to El Cerrito, and San Ramon, Contra Costa County is well represented!
Of course, before you hop on your bike for the big day, it’ll be useful to review some basic road rules and safety procedures:

  • Bicycles have the same responsibilities and rights as motorists, so obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic flow; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going. Most cities do not allow cycling on sidewalks although some exceptions do apply and some exceptions are made for youth.
  • Be Predictable. Make your intentions clear to motorists and trail users. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Signal turns, and check behind you before turning or changing lanes. This is true for cycling on trails as well. The EBRPD asks that you ring or call out when approaching pedestrians.
  • Be visible. Ride where drivers can see you. Use a front white light, red rear light and reflectors for night cycling or when visibility is poor. Make eye contact with drivers so you know they see you.
  • Plan ahead. Anticipate what drivers, pedestrians, and other bicyclists will do next. Watch for turning vehicles and ride outside the door zone of parked cars. Look out for debris, potholes, and utility covers. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
Santa Monica Door Lane / Bike Lane
Be sure to ride far away enough from parked cars to avoid having to maneuver around drivers swinging their car doors open. photo credit: Gary Kavanagh

  • Equipment Check. Tires should be very firm, check that brakes are working, chain runs smoothly, and quick release wheel levers are closed. Carry repair and emergency supplies appropriate for your ride.

And if you’re cycling on the Iron Horse or Canal Trail, review the Iron Horse and Canal Trail Tips from the East Bay Regional Parks District:

  • Speed. Bicycles shall not be ridden at an unsafe speed, or greater than the posted speed limit. Be aware of how you are perceived by other trail users.
  • Bells are required on bicycles on Park District trails.
  • Bicycles always yield to pedestrians. Before passing, SLOW DOWN, ring bell and establish verbal contact. Give plenty of space when passing and be sure to look ahead while passing to avoid on-coming collisions.
  •  On blind turns, SLOW DOWN, call out, ring bell and ride single file.
(Note: Here’s a map of the Iron Horse Trail)
Once you know the rules, Bike to Work Day is ultimately about fun: be sure to get out there, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and embrace the experience of taking two wheels. And if you’re lucky, every day can be bike to work day – after all, it’s getting easier with solid-green bike lanes spreading across the Bay! Need added inspiration

Happy Cycling!

photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg

Long Distance Cycling With Kids

One of the great things about bicycling is that it is an activity that people of all ages can partake in– adults, teens, seniors, and even the kids! While it may seem daunting to cycle with a child or two, it is possible. Here are some tips for cycling long distances with kids!
Finding a Kid-Friendly Route: Whether the child is cycling on their own, or sitting passenger on your bike, it is critical to have a child friendly route. Children are unpredictable, often they don’t have ability to keep balance as well as an adult and they may not be as aware of surroundings. For these reasons it should be advised to pick bike paths. Kid friendly route also means avoiding massive hills and thankfully 511 Contra Costa has an excellent bike route mapping tool that helps you find flat routes.
Bike Path
Photo credit: Toby Sterling
Anticipate Making Stops:A child may drop something, need a sip of water, a snack, or simply get tired. Riding with a kid shouldn’t be a rushed activity, this makes the trip less safe, and less fun.
Teach Proper Hand-Signals and Etiquette: If your child will be cycling on their own bike, be sure they know basic bicycling safety skills like looking both ways at intersections and signaling. Hand-signaling is important for bicycle commuting and the importance extends to travel with children. It makes your movement more predictable, creating a safer and more pleasant environment for all. If you are uncertain of what to teach your child, check out the DMV rules that apply to bicyclists.
Among Giants
Photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg
Find Resources: Read about experiences of other bicycling families, some popular blogs about life bicycling with kids include: Mama Fiets, Family Ride, Car Free With Kids, and Girls and Bicycles. Looking at the experience of others can simultaneously inform and inspire you to go on bicycling adventures with children.
Go For a Ride and Have Fun: One can only prepare so much but there is no substitute for actually going for a ride. Be confident in the child’s ability to cycle a particular distance if they will be on their own bike before taking the plunge, but most of all–  make it fun!
Flying Pigeon LA CicLAvia feeder ride
Photo credit: Umberto Brayj

How biking regularly changed one man's life

Here’s the story of how biking regularly changed one Antioch man’s life. We hope it inspires you to reconsider your commute, participate in Bike to Work Day 2012, or nominate a bike commuter of the year.

I was a bike rider in the 70s and then the 80s, but by 2006, like so many, I got a new job, married, a house and a collection of stress and a lack of time. I got… huge. And I didn’t ride anywhere.
My wife had started riding her bike to her job five miles away. One day as a lark I rode in with her, she on her old, heavy mountain bike with huge tires, me on my 80s Cannondale racing bike. I couldn’t come close to keeping up — and she wasn’t even trying to go fast.
I knew something had to change. With her encouragement I started riding to work at Los Medanos College where I teach. At first my plan was to ride when the weather was nice. I liked it.  As the weather got colder I just put on more clothes. I realized that if I could ski in twenty-degree weather then riding a bike in East Contra Costa’s mild winter was no big deal.
Then it rained.

But I was so used to riding I didn’t want to give it up. It turns out that with a rain jacket I just didn’t get very wet in eight miles. Even though I bought rain pants and shoe covers, it turned out I only need them once or twice a year.
Cycling has become my default commute mode. It’s not a decision I make every morning, it’s just how I get to work. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much longer than driving, and I can roll right into the campus instead of searching for car parking. On the very rare days I need to bring in something so huge I can’t carry it on my bike and need to use a car, I’m thrown off and usually forget something.

Over the years my bike has changed some. I took off the heavy treaded tires and put on puncture resistant smooth tires, which roll a lot easier. I acquired a rack and panniers to carry papers, clothes and my lunch, plus a bike light and rear blinkie for my evening commutes. My bike is nothing special, but it now has over 10,000 commute miles on it.
My students and colleagues all know I ride. They check if I’m on campus by seeing if my bike is in my office. Often, on a cold or wet day, I’m asked “Did you ride today?” When I answer “Yes” I think they’re happy that there’s something constant in this world.
I admit my bike love spills over into the job. Yesterday I had a student ask me about getting a bike for commuting. I have students and faculty tell me about their cycling achievements and plans. In my graphic design class I have students design “Bike to Work Day” posters to promote the event, and remind the LMC community that we’ll have an energizer station on campus that day.

My bike commute has helped me discover what it’s like to be a kid again, riding to school, in touch with the light, the aroma and the weather of the day. It’s helped me lose a lot of weight. It’s helped me get in shape. All this commuting has morphed to include weekend rides and vacations. My wife and I rode our bikes in Oregon, Washington, Canada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming last summer. We saw Yellowstone in a way we’d never have been able to from a car.
My life has changed for the better, just because I started riding my bike to work.

Nominate a Contra Costa Bike Commuter of the Year by April 23, 2012 –>

Bike to Work on Thursday, May 10, 2012 –>

Photo credits: Jeremy Brooks, Hepburn Creative, Vijay Gunda

Embrace Car-free Adventures with OffMetro

Road trip season is upon us, a time to visit natural and cultural sites, near and far. Load up the car and hit the road, right? But what if you are looking for a little more adventure, or to harken back to a simpler time? Sometimes there is no experience quite like taking a bus, train, or bicycle to reach that getaway, or to see those sights. The recently launched offMetro San Francisco offers just that– how to take a road trip-like vacation “with and without a car!”
There are plenty of suggestions and advice for various kinds of trips, and OffMetroSF  helps you plan trips in a variety of ways– by mode of transportation, by destination, by purpose, by duration, and more. Some interesting trips that offMetroSF suggest, and give a taste of what the site has to offer are:
Take Amtrak to Yosemite
Best Bike Getaways Near San Francisco
Five Things to Do in Alameda
You can always plan your own trips, but take a moment and check out offMetroSF. You might be surprised by how many things there are to do around the Bay, and inspired by how easily getaways can be planned without a car!

It's Legal to Ride Your Bike on the Freeway?

As cities throughout the Bay Area work towards becoming more bicycle friendly, there is sometimes confusion from motorists and cyclists alike as to where one should cycle.  Motorists and cyclists may think one should cycle on the sidewalk or only cycle on streets with bike lanes.
Bicycles allowed use of full lane sign
Photo credit: Richard Drdul
The fact is though, as a general rule it is legal to cycle on any street, regardless of the presence of bicycle-specific infrastructure unless signage otherwise prohibits so.
This rule also extends to the 4,000 miles of freeways in California. According to an article, “Riding Your Bike on the Freeway in California: It’s Not as Illegal as You Might Think – As Here, on the 101 in Marin County”  Caltrans provides an answer to the frequently asked question “Can I ride my bicycle on the freeway?

“Of the more than 4,000 miles of freeways in California, about 1,000 miles are open to bicyclists. These open sections are usually in rural areas where there is no alternate route[….]”

So,  the short answer is ‘yes’, but most freeway entrances have signs that specifically prohibit bicyclists. And if you find a portion of freeway which it is legal to ride your bike, be extra cautious and don’t expect the ride quality to be as comfortable as that promised 20 mile bicycle superhighway planned in Sweden!
Read more about the legality of bicycling on freeways  here.

Upcoming Bay Area and California Cycling Events in 2012

Update: We have an updated bike events section with current events for 2013 and beyond. View 2013 Bike Events
Have you been waiting for the warmer weather to bring out your bike? Or do you want to start riding, but not sure how, or where?
We’ve listed both regular and one-time upcoming bicycling events around the Bay Area for 2012 for all biker types. Bike at the San Francisco Zoo, play Bicycle Bingo, bike to the Danville Farmer’s Market, bike through Wine Country and more. Check out our extensive list below, and if we forgot something please leave a comment with the event name, link, and dates(s) and we’ll check it out.
Happy cycling!
Halloween Critical Mass in San Francisco
Photo credit: Steve Rhodes
Delta Pedalers Bicycle Club | Every Sunday morning and Monday evening

  • Every SUNDAY MORNING (9am) – Starbucks at Balfour Rd. and Fairview Ave. in Brentwood.
  • Every MONDAY EVENING (7pm) – Starbucks at Sand Creek Rd. and Hwy 4 Bypass in Brentwood.

Bicycle Bingo | Every Thursday
Actual Cafe in Oakland (6334 San Pablo Ave.) hosts a weekly game of Bicycle Bingo with proceeds going to various local charities. What is Bicycle Bingo? Think bingo but with someone riding a stationary bicycle, rather than operating a hand crank, spinning the cage with the bingo balls.
Diablo Hills Group Road Ride | Every Saturday
Meet at 9:30 at Mike’s Bikes Walnut Creek location (1615 North California Blvd) for a two hour social ride. Route varies depending on group but include Mt Diablo, Canyon/Pinhurst or flat and rolling roads into Dublin and back and speeds are between 14mph and 17mph.
Sunday Berkeley Road Ride | Every Sunday (rain cancels)
Starting at 10am at the Mike’s Bikes in Berkeley (2161 University Ave), this ride is intended to be enjoyed, so it’s an easy-going pace and no rider is left behind. An excellent ride to consider for beginning road cyclists. The route takes cyclists into the Berkeley hills, bringing water bottle is recommended.
East Bay Bike Party | Second Friday of every month
Welcoming all ages and abilities, this is as much a monthly ride as it is a celebration, meandering throughout the East Bay on bike. The rides change in route and theme each month, but it is easy to stay updated with this information.
Critical Mass | Every month, varies by city
Hosted each month in cities throughout the world, there are a handful of Critical Mass rides in the Bay. Bay Area Critical Mass rides include  San FranciscoBerkeley, and San Jose.
Bike at the San Francisco Zoo | February to October in 2012
The San Francisco Zoo has BikeAbouts scheduled on a monthly basis February through October and on special occasions like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, where riders finish the bike ride with a continental breakfast. Fee: Per peddler – $18 for SFZS Members; $23 Non-Members. For more information, call (415) 753-8135 or email

Sunday Streets | At least once a month from March to October in 2012
Not bicycle specific, but this event closes down miles of streets throughout neighborhoods in San Francisco to cars and temporarily turns over the streets to non motorized traffic. Fun for the whole family and those looking to get back on two wheels.
Mountain Bike
Photo credit: Carlos Smith

2012 Bay Area Biking and Cycling Events
Fremont Freewheelers | April 2012
The Freemont Freewheelers Bicycle Club has a variety of cycling events throughout April 2012. Check this PDF schedule for details.
Delta Pedalers Danville Farmer’s Market Ride | April 7, 2012
Join Randy for a ride from Heather Farms down the Canal and Iron Horse Trails for a stop at the Danville Farmer’s Market and back for lunch near Heather Farms.
Sea Otter Classic | April 19-22, 2012
A four day event with an expo, races for professional and amateur cyclists, festivities for all ages and more! The Sea Otter Classic is held at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area (1025 Monterey Salinas Hwy 68, Salinas).
Cycle for Sight | April 21, 2012
Choose from three scenic courses between 15 and 50 miles that meander through the hills and vineyards of Napa. The ride starts and finishes at Justin Siena High School, 4026 Maher Street – Napa, CA 94558, where you can enjoy wine tasting, beer tasting and local cuisine at the Cycle for Sight Wine and Music Festival will take place. Proceeds will go to two local organizations, Enchanted Hills Camp For The Blind & Visually Impaired and The California Veterans “Pathway Home Project.”
40th Annual Primavera Century | April 22, 2012
100 mile, 100k, 70k and 25 mile routes through beautiful scenery including the Calaveras Reservoir, Palomares Canyon, Coyote Hills Regional Park, and the Altamont Pass Wind Farm. Enjoy homemade goodies at every stop and a hot meal and massage at the end.
Delta Pedalers Fuddruckers Ride | April 28, 2012
Join Randy for a scenic loop of the Iron Horse, Contra Costa Canal, and Ygnacio Trails, with lunch at Fuddruckers following the ride.
Bike To Work Day | May 10, 2012
This is perhaps the bicycling event of the year, and best of all? It’s free. Bike to work, and stop by an energizer station along the way for goodies and moral support. This is an especially great day to try biking to work if you’ve never done so before.
Levee Bike Tour | May 12, 2012
Want to “learn about the Salt Pond Restoration Project and see Silicon Valley from a new angle”? This free ride allows one to ride a relatively flat, though unpaved, route surrounded by nature. The ride is recommended for ages 14 and up.
Ride For A Reason | May 12, 2012
A century ride from Oakland to Sacramento, with a cause– to bring more funding to Public Schools. The event ends with participating in the Rally For Education at the steps of the State Capitol (1416 10th St., Sacramento). Shorter distances of 65 and 45 miles can be picked up in Suisun train station and Vacaville, respectively.
Amgen Tour of California | May 13-20, 2012
Stages one through three will travel through the Bay Area: stage one starts in Santa Rosa; stage two from San Francisco to Santa Cruz County; stage three from San Jose to Livermore.
America By Bicycle Cross Country Challenge | June 1-July 24, 2012
Ever wanted to explore the United States, cost to coast, by bicycle? This is your chance to fulfill that goal. In this event cyclists will cover an average of 75 miles a day and enjoy 5 days of non-cycling along the way. While the event will take 52 days, for those unable to commit to so many days, the ride is also offered in six sections.
Night & Day Challenge | June 2-3, 2012
A foot, bike, or duathlon race allowing participants to explore San Francisco like never before, visiting sixty point-valued checkpoints placed throughout the city consisting of landmarks, parks, and even some obscure places in any order for 3, 7, or 16 hours. Participants receive maps upon registration where they choose their own route.
Sequoia Century Bicycle Ride | June 3, 2012
The Western Wheels Bicycle Club presents the Sequoia Century, the club’s big annual event, with rides ranging from 20 miles to 200km in Palo Alto.
Alt. | June 16, 2012
Alt. is more than a bike ride. It’s not just bikers tackling Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo in one day, using public transportation between the peaks. It’s a unique opportunity to get out, get moving, and get involved.
Best Of The Bay | June 16, 2012
Best of the Bay is said to offer “the finest cycling roads through the East Bay hills strung together into one epic ride” with ride distances ranging from 83 to 125 miles, depending on how great of a challenge one is looking to take on. Starting lines vary by route.
Delta Pedalers Camping Trip | June 21-24, 2012
The annual Delta Pedalers camping trip is scheduled for June 21, 22, 23, leaving on the 24th. The camp site is at Sandy Beach County Park along the Sacramento River, just outside Rio Vista.
Giro Bello Classic | July 7, 2012
This event allows cyclists to choose from three routes – a century, metric century, or fun route – as they cycle through Sonoma County, offering beautiful sights and proceeds going towards the Rotary’s Polio Plus eradication program and local charitable projects.
Healdsburg Harvest Century Ride  | July 21, 2012
Try out what is considered among the “greatest rides on Earth”,  a pleasant–though moderately–challenging tour through the Sonoma Wine Country. Distances start at 23 miles and go upward to 60 miles. Ticket price includes scenic rest stops, gorgeous scenery and an after-party lunch.
California Coast Classic | September 9-16, 2012
A frequently contemplated bicycle trip is one from “The Bay to LA”, if you are one of many who think about taking on this challenge the California Coast Classic lets you pedal from San Francisco to Los Angeles on this eight day, 525-mile ride (two day, 150 mile ride from Buellton to Los Angeles also an option). The event is held to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation.
Multiple Sclerosis Waves to Run Ride | September 22-23, 2012
The National MS Society holds this two day ride in which cyclists travel from UCSF Mission Bay Campus in San Francisco to Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park. There are various routes offered, and a post-ride celebration takes place at the finish line.
Napa TrekSeptember 29, 2012
A charity ride to raise money to develop treatments and a cure for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Levi’s GranFondo | September 29, 2012
A Santa Rosa charity ride to benefit various charities throughout Sonoma County, including at-risk youth organization and LIVESTRONG. This is the fourth year of the event and there are three routes for rides can choose from.
Golden Wheel Awards | TBA
Giving credit to community supporters and city officials who make streets safer for cycling in San Francisco, this event is presented by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

For even more Bay Area biking events, check out

How to Handle Rainy Bicycle Travel

When it rains we are often advised to stay dry. However, with rainy days ahead this is not necessarily a reason to stow away the bicycle if it is your main mode of transportation. While rain complicates bicycle travel, with a little preparation you can take to two wheels and stay dry, and safe. Here are some tips to make bicycling in the rain more pleasant:
Ride with fenders: Perhaps the most important piece of gear to have fitted onto your bicycle when cycling in the rain. Why? Well if you have ever plowed through a puddle or cycled on wet pavement you may know that doing so without fenders is an almost guaranteed way to find yourself with splash marks on yourself. Fenders can be fitted onto almost any kind of bicycle and are a simple, cheap purchase at most local bike shops. Many fenders are also easy to attach and remove and need not be permanently fixed onto your bicycle.
green bike, front wheel
Photo credit: postbear eater of worlds
Wear a rain jacket or cape: A typical, light-weight rain jacket can do a good job of keeping you dry on your bike ride. A rain cape or poncho can be a little more effective than a rain jacket and protect your legs from the rain as well.
biking in the rain
Photo credit: Calinago
Wear rain pants: In addition to a good rain jacket or rain cape, for extra measure a pair of rain pants can be worn over your pants for the day to stay dry.
Does my helmet, poofy jacket, and rain pants over my jeans make me look like a dork?
Photo credit: Ruth Lozano
Wear rain legs: Similar to rain pants, rain legs are a little more minimal and offer protection from the elements where it is needed most, the upper legs. These may be ideal for less harsh, but still wet conditions.
Photo credit: Vik Banerjee
Light up: Lights are always a good idea for cycling in the rain to be more visible, but not all lights are created equally. While many bike lights are waterproof or water resistant, make sure to check to see if your lights are– consult the box they came in, online, or your local bike shop.
bike light
Photo credit: Markus Schöpke
Helmet cover: If wearing a helmet, you may wonder how to keep your head dry with all those vent holes on the top of your helmet. The vent holes are designed to keep your head cool under dry conditions, and that’s a great feature, but you don’t want your head getting wet when traveling in the rain. A waterproof helmet cover fixes this problem in a snap, covering the vent holes and keeping the head dry.
Dot, Beth, and Greg test ride a Bakfiets
Photo credit: Greg Raisman
Don’t forget a seat cover: Once you arrive at your destination you don’t want your seat to get wet. If you have to park your bike and leave it exposed to the rain you can keep your seat dry by putting on a seat cover. While seat covers are made specifically for the purpose of being fitted onto a bicycle seat, a simple plastic bag (without tears!) can work fine as well. And when the seat cover is not in use it can be tucked underneath your seat.
seat cover
Photo credit: Matthew Ireland
With these items you should be ready to ride, but  if you need inspiration for soldiering on through the rain, have a look at this video of bicycle rush hour in the rain from The Netherlands

Video credit: Mark Wagenbuur

A List of Don’ts for Women on Bicycles Circa 1895

The following list of 41 don’ts for female cyclists was published in 1895 in the newspaper New York World by an author of unknown gender. Special thanks to for compiling the list!

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t wear a man’s cap.
  • Don’t wear tight garters.
  • Don’t forget your toolbag
  • Don’t attempt a “century” [a 100-mile ride]
  • Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
  • Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
  • Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
  • Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
  • Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
  • Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
  • Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
  • Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t without a needle, thread and thimble.
  • Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
  • Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  • Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
  • Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
  • Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  • Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
  • Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.

My, how far we’ve come!

Getting a Children's Bicycle

With so many gentle and safe trails, biking in Contra Costa County can truly be a family affair. But a safe and properly fitted bike for your child is an important first step. If you plan to buy online, this is particularly important. A good bike shop should be able to help you with this in person. The folks at Ibike offer this sizing guide:

Approximate Age Child’s Inseam Wheel diameter
2-4 years 14-17 inches; 35-42 cm 12 inches
4-6 years 16-20 inches; 40-50 cm 14 inches
5-8 years 18-22 inches; 45-55 cm 16 inches
6-9 years 20-24 inches; 50-60 cm 18 inches
7-10 years 22-25 inches; 55-63 cm 20 inches
9+ years 24-28 inches; 60-72 cm 24 inches

What should you look for in a kids’ bike?

  • Kids are smaller than adults, so consider a frame that is light and easy to maneuver.
  • Look for large hand brakes that are easy to grab.
  • Aluminum rims (as opposed to allow or steel) are strong and weather-resistant, which will preserve braking power.
  • We recommend frame sizes above, but make sure the wheels are the right size to allow the child to stand astride the bike with their feet flat on the ground for balance.
  • Most importantly get a properly fitted helmet! A good bike shop should be able to help you with sizing.

And finally, where to shop?
Some people prefer the selection of large retailers. REI, Sports Basement and Target, for example, have a wide variety of options and are in Contra Costa County. Locally owned bike shops also have a great experience and knowledge. Used bikes are also a great option. Local bike shops carry several different bike manufacturers, including many that make children’s bikes.

This Week's Headlines in Transportation and Transit: Nov. 26 – Dec. 2, 2011

Caldecott Tunnel workers see light, BART is one step closer to San Jose, local bike shops you should check out. Read our weekly news & events roundup for Contra Costa County, East Bay & Bay Area for transit, biking and transportation.