Publication Date: Friday, April 27, 2001
Bike to Work Week seeks to increase bike commuting
Bike to Work Week seeks to increase bike commuting
(April 27, 2001)
By Justin Scheck
Bike to Work Week is coming up May 12-16. To raise awareness for the event, which aims to get commuters out of their cars and onto bikes, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will hold a bike tour at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, April 30, starting in front of City Hall.
John Brazil, chair of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the VTA Bicycle Advisory Commission, has asked Mountain View City Council members to take the tour to help publicize Bike Week; so far, Council members Rosemary Stasek and Matt Pear have committed.
Brazil said Mountain View has made headway in recent years toward improving bike access in the city. However, he said that safety concerns and the familiar comfort of the family SUV have kept business people and schoolchildren alike from using their bikes to commute.
Brazil said his long-term goal is to get the city to formulate a comprehensive bicycle plan, something Palo Alto and Cupertino have recently done.
"We're hoping to get Mountain View to do that. Right now (the city council) is kind of middle-of-the-road. They're not bad, but they're not great... But I'm sure the council does not want to be seen as middle-of-the-road on this issue," said Brazil.
"If the Mountain View City Council did what Cupertino or Palo Alto have done, and say 'we're kicking up $30- or $40-grand to hire a consultant to come up with a bike plan... that would be ideally what we want to see," he said.
Brazil also pointed out that safety concerns create a vicious cycle: when fewer people use bikes, they increase the volume of cars on the road, thereby making it less safe for bicyclists.
Brazil said that according to a 2000 study, about 2.3 percent of Santa Clara County commuters take their bikes to work. 1990 census data indicated that 2 percent of Mountain View commuters bike to work.
But Brazil said the number has gone up. "My guess is about 2.5 percent," he said. "More progressive cities like Palo Alto gave about 5 or 6 percent bike commuters," he added.
Gladwyn D'Souza, a director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said Mountain View has been successful in providing bicycle routes from the San Antonio and downtown transit hubs to the office campuses in the North Bayshore area, with the Stevens Creek Trail and bike lanes on major roads providing easy access.
D'Souza and Brazil both said that reducing the volume and speed of traffic is important in encouraging commuters to use bicycles. D'Souza said Mountain View's traffic-calming devices on side streets, as well as the layout of Castro Street, have made the city more bicycle-friendly.
But D'Souza said Mountain View does have "gaps" in certain areas. He said El Camino is a particularly difficult thoroughfare for bicyclists to navigate. Brazil said the planned 85-101 interchange could also create problems for riders.
And both D'Souza and Brazil said that although bike lanes and safety improvements may pave the way for people to ride bikes, getting them to do so is a separate issue.
"There's not at all enough (bicycle commuting)," said Pear. "I've been a proponent of that for a long time, but there has to be a major cultural shift" to increase the number of people riding bikes to work.
"We need much better publicity," said Stasek, herself a former bicycle commuter. She said that aside from bike lanes on roadways, Mountain View's Stevens Creek and Permanente Creek trails provide safe routes through the city. "But a lot of people don't even know about the Permanente trail," she said.
Pear said that while the trails provide good bicycle routes, bike commuting will increase substantially only if more people become comfortable riding on city streets.
"The real question is 'how safe do you feel riding a bike on city streets?'" said Pear. He added that while the city has implemented numerous infrastructure improvements to make biking easier, he has heard mixed reports of how easy it really is to bike on Mountain View's congested roads.
"From the bicyclist's perspective, I know there may be more we can be doing. Freeway interchange ramps, like on Rengstorff, can be really hairy," Stasek said. But, she continued, "I don't think there's going to be a perfect world where bikes and cars can coexist perfectly."
Stasek said that the money spent by the city on bike-friendly trails, and by local companies on showers, bike lockers, and other amenities to facilitate bike commuting, will pay off only if the public is better informed of the available resources.
In an effort to increase government officials' awareness of the need for bike-friendly facilities, D'Souza will be taking a number of local, state, and national lawmakers on the VTA light rail in San Jose May 14 to show them what is good and bad for bicyclists on Silicon Valley roadways.
D'Souza said volunteers from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will provide free bike valet service at area-wide events, including the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival in September, to encourage people to get into the habit of riding bikes on a regular basis rather than driving.