Archive for the ‘News’ Category

China’s engine of prosperity forsakes the bicycle

February 12, 2013

Cyclists in Beijing (photo taken last week) still manage to find their way among cars. More electric bikes are sold in China than anywhere else. But donkey carts are banned. Photo courtesy of Kim Farrell.

Cyclists in Beijing (photo taken last week) still manage to find their way among cars. More electric bikes are sold in China than anywhere else. But donkey carts are banned. Photo courtesy of Kim Farrell.


In the mid-1980s when bike shop owner Bud Hoffacker visited China he said he was nearly run over by bikes. Thousands of bikes, tens of thousands, millions. More bikes than you could imagine plied the streets of Beijing and other mega-cities in this ancient civilization that has weathered more than its share of change.

Today Beijing is choked with cars. Traffic jams can last for days! Smog is so bad in some cities you need a compass to navigate. Bikes have been banned from many streets to make way for cars.

But that may be changing. China is at a tipping point in its rush to embrace all things modern. The Atlantic takes an intriguing look at what’s happening in China as it relates to bikes. The news isn’t all bad. Millions still ride bikes to work and to run errands. Even with all the car traffic, bikes are way more prevalent in their streets than ours. I’ve been criss-crossing Silicon Valley for decades and I rarely see other bikes in any numbers.

Bike share programs are catching on in China. They have enough potential users that bike sharing makes sense. Bike sharing has been tried here with some success in cities already big on bikes, but has failed elsewhere. It’s going to take more than a toe in the water to bring Americans into the fold.

In China there are glimmers of hope as youth see the bike as chic, cool, the in thing to do. I see it among some youth here, especially with the fixy crowd. It may be that economics plays a bigger role in the years ahead as easy dollars fade away in our uncertain future. Whatever the outcome, more people riding bikes will be good for our world, good for the heart, good for the spirit. And for that reason I remain hopeful.

Official update on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail extension

January 28, 2013

I received this note from the city of Santa Clara today. Work on the trail is well underway.

“Thank you for your inquiry regarding the San Tomas Aquino Creek Spur Trail Project. This Project will be an extension to the existing San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail, adding approximately 2,000 feet of trail southerly from Cabrillo Avenue to El Camino Real along the westerly side of San Tomas Expressway.

“The Project includes construction of the trail (10 ft to 12 ft wide), 10-foot-high sound wall, concrete barrier between the trail and the expressway, landscaping, and modification to the traffic signal at San Tomas Expressway and Cabrillo Avenue intersection.”

Reach 4 of San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail moving ahead?

January 13, 2013
This could be Reach 4 work on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail at Cabrillo Avenue.

This could be Reach 4 work on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail at Cabrillo Avenue.

UPDATE 1-20-2013: Trees are falling left and right as work progresses. Reach 4 from Monroe is officially closed and sealed off.

I couldn’t help but notice there’s something happening at San Tomas Expressway and Cabrillo Avenue in Santa Clara. Could it be Reach 4 of San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail moving ahead?

I’ve looked all over the City of Santa Clara website and elsewhere but found nothing. I wish our city governments would be a little more transparent about what’s happening. I only found a single entry for the Santa Clara Bicycle Committee from June 2012. It says:

Spur Trail Update
“PWD/CE Rajeev updated members about the current status and schedule for planned San Tomas Aquino Creek Spur Trail along the west side of San Tomas Expressway from Cabrillo Avenue to El
Camino Real.” The plan, by the way, is to extend a “bike lane” to Pruneridge Avenue, which is where the city of Santa Clara ends and San Jose begins.

Based on that notation, it would be reasonable to assume that this is what’s happening. However, I wonder exactly what they’re going to do? Will expanding the expressway require removing dozens of trees? Not that I’d be opposed to that, in some respects. Those trees drop tons of debris, enough that I’ve had to request street sweeping by the County of Santa Clara.

I’d really like to see the plan for this stretch of expressway. The last thing we want is something that on the surface is supposed to increase bike traffic but in practice dissuades bike traffic. San Tomas and El Camino is a busy intersection at rush hour and a cyclist has to mix with cars turning right onto El Camino. But even worse would be a walled path all the way to El Camino and the ensuing need to stop for traffic turning right. The loss of lane space would consign cyclists to the walled path.

We have that situation at the San Tomas Aquino bike trail and Cabrillo, and I consider it an accident in the making for bikes as cars exit right onto Cabrillo. Bikes give up the right-of-way here.

If the plan is to widen the shoulder and put up some bike lane signs, that’s fine. Do you know exactly what the “bike lane” will look like? Let me know or provide a link.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail will be closed during construction hours near Cabrillo until May 13.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail will be closed during construction hours near Cabrillo until May 13.

Share the Road signs sow confusion

January 6, 2013

Share the Road signs can be found on Hwy 9.

Share the Road signs can be found on Hwy 9.


In 2012 the state of California authorized a new sign to replace the one that apparently causes considerable confusion for motorists — Share the Road. I see them everywhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Their intent is to allow cyclists to take up the lane or at least ride to the left of the solid white line. A notion held by many motorists, including some law enforcement, is that cyclists should ride to the RIGHT of the white line. Nothing could be more wrong. Nowhere does it say that in the vehicle code.

One time I was riding with a friend in the town of Sonora on a two-lane road and we were accosted by an off-duty cop for “taking up the lane.”

We were just riding left of a vertical drop with no guard rail. Riding to the right of the white line would have led to certain death. Nevertheless, the cop stopped us and read the riot act. Fortunately a younger on-duty officer arrived and diffused the situation.

The new sign reads “Bikes May Use Full Lane.” Now that removes all ambiguity. The first place to replace the Share the Road signs with the new ones is on steep descents. I can’t imagine a situation where I would take up a full lane on a climb.

Martin Delson writes about the sign situation on the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition website.

P.S. Still no chanterelles. We live in a world out of whack. This is mushroom weather, but chanterelles are finicky fungi. They have their reasons for hiding.

A Mudhole No More

October 2, 2012

For many years this stretch of the Guadalupe River path, at the San Jose airport economy parking area (formerly rental), turned into a mudhole when it rained. No more. The path has been paved from the airport all the way to Montague Expressway. However, the path is closed because some concrete needs to be poured at the intersection. I guess these “green zones” are a way to indicate motorbikes are not allowed.

100 Years and Still Pushing Gears

September 29, 2012

Stevens Creek Trail is accessible from Sunnyvale now that the Hwy 85 overpass is complete. It’s a nice design and came in at a reasonable $4.2 million.


Where do I begin? So much is happening in the cycling world. Let’s start with the centenarian who set a record on the bike, 100 km in 4h 17m 27s. Robert Marchand rode around the velodrome at Lyon, France. This guy also put the hammer down on his hour-ride record in Switzerland. When today’s cycling greats turn 100 they’ll be shattering records left and right.

Hwy 85 bike overpass

Finally. Hwy 85 has its bike overpass so now you can link up to the recreation trails at Shoreline Park coming from Sunnyvale. Thanks goes to Charlie Gibson, who managed the Mountain View parks and recreation department for decades. I remember checking out the area in the early 1980s. One idea was to have the path go under the freeway, but that proved impractical, so now we have the overpass, which has a nice long ramp for easy access and climbing.

Note that this gorgeous overpass cost $4.2 million. The Taj Mahal overpass at 280 cost $14 million, but it sure is pretty at night.

Road-rage driver cited

Two cyclists riding east of Boulder, Colorado, recorded an outraged motorist laying on the horn for five minutes as he drove behind them! What a jerk. Police tracked down the driver (you could clearly see the license plate) and cited him for a raft of infractions. That’s quick thinking by the riders to catch it all on video.

Guadalupe River path paving
Patience. In just a month or so the newly paved Guadalupe River path between Hwy 880 and Montague Expressway will open. There’s pavement in place most of the way, but road crews still need to do some touch-up. You can find the details on the Guadalupe River path construction update page. The most awful stretch of trail near the new airport economy parking area will no longer be a mud hole during winter rains.

Critical Mass 20-year ride goes off peacefully
Has it been 20 years? San Francisco’s Critical Mass “protest” ride held Friday nights monthly rolled off to a peaceful start with thousands of riders turning out, some coming from remote corners of the world just to enjoy the experience of blocking traffic (did I say that?). I’ve never done the ride and I have no plans to do so, but I support any activity that makes people think about the alternatives to the car for getting around, ESPECIALLY in San Francisco.

Rather than hating cyclists, drivers should embrace them, because that’s one less car they have to contend with.

Green bike lanes
San Jose has plans for green bike lanes, but I haven’t seen them yet. I don’t think they’ve been painted, although you can check out Cyclelicious to see how they’d look. Will they be effective? You bet. After a green lane was installed on Washington D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue, bicycling increased 200 percent and 90 percent of users said they felt safer.

Best cycling cities: Boulder, Davis, Portland
The League of American Bicyclists ranked these three cities as tops in cycling amenities, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know why. They got the platinum ranking. Our fair state of California ranked 12th, moving up from 20th in 2011.

Around the Bay, other notable cities include Palo Alto, San Francisco, Stanford (gold); Santa Cruz (silver); San Jose, Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Oakland (bronze).

The Guys on the Bikes

September 26, 2012

Bicycle Outfitter hosted an evening with RAAM competitors Jonathan Boyer, Michael Secrest, and Chris Kostman. They showed their 1985 duel as recorded by the Wide World of Sports.


Bicycle Outfitter arranged for a rare reunion of Race Across America (RAAM) competitors from the 1980s on Tuesday night and those who attended left with a new appreciation for the world’s most difficult bike race.

Chris Kostman was 18 when he served as a referee assigned to keep an eye on Jonathan “Jacques” Boyer at the 1985 RAAM. He went on to complete the RAAM and helped officiate for a dozen or so years. He had the pleasure of introducing Boyer, 1985 winner, and 1985 second-place finisher Michael Secrest. Boyer was making a rare visit home to Monterey from Rwanda where he spends most of his time coaching bike racers. Secrest lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kostman showed Wide World of Sports excerpts from the 1985 race when Boyer and Secrest battled it out most of the way. I had never seen ABC’s coverage with announcer Jim Lampley. I got tired just watching the riders suffer through the endless hours of riding without sleep. It takes a special dedication to do this race. Secrest finished RAAM five times, won in 1987, and went on to do a solo cross-country ride in 1990 in 7 days 23 hours, a record that still stands. Boyer rode RAAM in 2006 in a category that required 4 hours sleep per day.

These guys aren’t young in years, but they look like they could go out and complete RAAM tomorrow. I rode with Boyer and other hard-core racers on a super-hot day back in 2003 through the Santa Cruz Mountains and I don’t think Boyer broke a sweat.

Boyer has made a decent living from his professional racing career, as the first American to compete in the Tour de France. He didn’t do RAAM to make money. Quite the opposite. Secrest spent his last dime racing RAAM and going after 24-hour track records. He’s a purist athlete to the core, emphasizing on more than one occasion that he never did drugs, other than the allowed asthma medication.

Wide World of Sports stopped following the race after 1986 and since then it has continued in obscurity. Wikipedia has good coverage of the event. If you’re interested in entering, just go to the RAAM website. Average cost – $20,000.

On my next 100-mile ride I’ll think about this memorable evening and tell myself 100 miles is a walk in the park compared to RAAM.

A Cinelli Frame with Stories to Tell

September 19, 2012

Ray Keener holds his frame, built by Cinelli and ridden by Jobst Brandt back in the 1970s. Behind him is his Peter Johnson frame, built in 1980.

While visiting Ray Keener in Boulder, Colorado, I had a chance to see Jobst Brandt’s last Cinelli, the one ridden before he switched to Tom Ritchey and Peter Johnson frames.

Ray is lovingly restoring the Cinelli with a new paint job and no doubt some good components. While Cinelli made excellent frames, they had one design limitation (in hindsight) — lugs. That meant the tube diameter had to be one-inch or one-and-an-eighth for the down tube. Ray says the bike has a lot of flex, although it never seemed to affect Jobst.

By contrast, also shown in the photo, is a frame built for Ray by the Bay Area’s Peter Johnson in 1980. It’s fillet brazed, has no lugs, and that meant Peter could build bikes with larger diameter tubes.

Fillet brazing offered a big advantage when Tom Ritchey started building mountain bike frames starting in 1979. He used larger diameter tubes for more durable bikes.

Jobst started riding Cinelli frames sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s. He purchased his first one from Spence Wolf, owner of Cupertino Bike Shop, which Spence ran out of his house. Jobst showed me the receipt and I think the entire bike cost something like $157.

Ray still rides Peter’s bike day in and day out after all these years.

Jobst Brandt rides his Cinelli (circa 1977) in a field of poppies just off Mines Road after the long descent. Photo by Peter Johnson.

Bike Lanes or Oil Refineries: What’ll it be?

August 12, 2012

Hedding Street just beyond First heading west. A bike lane on Hedding would be a good thing.


I for one am a big supporter of San Jose’s city government and the actions it’s taking to plan the city’s future. Bicycles are front and center in the transportation plan, which you can read about in the San Jose Bike Plan 2020 – all 20 megabytes.

One small step to a sustainable transportation future calls for bike lanes crisscrossing the city. By sustainable, I mean fewer oil refineries and I think we can all agree we don’t want one of those in our back yard! A little white paint for a bike lane doesn’t sound so bad.

Bike lanes are nothing more than white stripes on the side of the road. However, they can include parking restrictions and that’s the sticking point with a few residents on Hedding Street where a bike lane is planned.

Some 20 street parking spaces in a four-block stretch could be eliminated as the street is reconfigured from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane.

I rode Hedding today going southwest from First Street, not to check it out, but because it’s a route I often take when returning from a ride to the Mt. Hamilton summit. Hedding is a wide boulevard with not much traffic and that’s why I like it. I wrote about crossing Santa Clara Valley east to west in a previous column. Today I prefer Hedding (right on First Street) over Taylor.

As far as I’m concerned the residents can keep their street parking, but let’s stripe the bike lanes. This street should have had bike lanes long ago. As for going from four lanes to three, I’ve seen it done on a short stretch of Pruneridge Avenue and I have no complaints both as a motorist and a cyclist.

As I read the Mercury News editorial column and the Hedding Street hullabaloo, it’s pretty clear that the bicycle remains the whipping boy of transportation. It’s nothing new. Even when bicycles became the king of the road around 1895, we had to fight for our rights.

Whether or not people will take up cycling on safer roads remains to be seen. Sadly, many people stigmatize cycling as degrading, especially for getting around town or commuting. Cycling is the most efficient means of transportation. It’s good for your health and it’s good for planet Earth. Everyone may not agree, but what’ll it be: more bike lanes or more oil refineries?

Ride bike.

Mabury Road approaching King Road in San Jose. Nice street design. Everyone is happy.

Curiosity Robot Arm Built by Litespeed

August 6, 2012

Curiosity Mars rover arms were built by Litespeed (NASA photo).


Remember Litespeed? They started building titanium bikes about a million years ago. They also made the robotic arm of the Curiosity Mars rover, which made a successful landing on the red planet last night.

ABC News showed workers in the Tennessee factory during their prime time news segment Monday night. Out of this world.


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