As a lot of us did when we were kids decades ago, we all biked and that experience became one of our fondest memories. As kids, my best friend and I would ride our bikes everywhere. We biked to our school on the weekends to play marbles, to buy sweets from the corner store, and rode just about everywhere in our neighborhood. This was all very safe to do because cars were few and drivers were considerate of people on the streets.
Now, we have pretty much lost that and children roaming streets on bikes are non-existent. But in these Dutch cities that I have visited so far, I felt these kids are empowered and independent. I see them having their own bikes decorated to their personal likings. I see them leading in front of their parents. I see them riding with their friends to school together. After they are done, I see them locking up their bikes. I have never seen so many kids out and about. These are scenes that I remembered growing up with.
What’s incredible about these Dutch cities, is that these all happen inside city centers. When you think of city centers, you think of traffic congestions and crowds. But when you close the city centers to automobiles or when majority of the population rides, this actually widens up the space and creates a safe place for all children alike. What these city centers offer to kids too, is that everything is there to foster their curiosity and to learn what’s out there in an adult world.
I am curious as to know whether Dutch children are most happy children due to biking and safer streets. Even without studies, I anticipate so.
We have lived in and visited both coasts of the US and have a pretty good understanding of both sides. But we never quite understood Middle America, aside from what the media shows us. So, we decided to go visit Denver, Colorado. (No, not because of marijuana legalization there.) It’s not too far of a trip to take from the Bay Area, and I heard it’s not a bad city to bike in. Denver is referred to as “the mile-high city” or 5280 which is the number of feet it sits above sea level, and it’s located next to the Rocky mountains, which are the highest mountains in the United States.
This time, we planned to travel light which meant that Nellie brought only a single backpack and I brought only my messenger bag. We left our Bromptons at home because we thought the bike-share program that they have in Denver would suffice and be more convenient. The closest bike-share station would be only a block away from our hotel, so why not. As a bonus, our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in the city, on 15th St.
As a matter of fact, the bike-share stations are nicely distributed across downtown Denver. There are 700 bike-shares in 83 stations, twice as many as in San Francisco. It’s called Denver B Cycle, and sourced from the same company as most other bike shares in the US, Alta Bikeshare. Although their mobile app didn’t work, we could locate another station without even looking for one. It’s that ubiquitous. There was this brand-new redeveloped neighborhood called Prospect which was not completely done, and a bike share station was already in place. I was impressed.
The bike shares are always located on the sidewalks and not in the street, which I think is an ideal setup. The sidewalks there are generally very wide, up to 20 ft/6 m wide. By locating the stations on the sidewalks, you don’t feel the pressure to hurry because you are in a safe zone. Also, it’s nice to undock or dock your bike off the street, unlike how it is in SF. Bike shares invite newbies, so having them on the sidewalks makes them more welcoming.
However, I still don’t like using bike shares when I would like to mindlessly wander throughout the city exploring. The 30-minute grace period was always on my mind because I didn’t want to accrue penalties. Also, docking/undocking is a huge hassle when you have to do it every 30 minutes. My opinion is that bike-shares are good if you know where you are going and only need it for going short distances. It would not be good for recreational our touristic cycling and for going long distances.
Our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in town on 15th St. It was nicely done with crossbikes and protected barriers, but the intersection was not protected. Also, what I don’t get is why the cycle track was on the left-hand side. I heard that another cycle track is coming to a nearby street on Broadway, a north-to-south commercial corridor which should make a better network of bike paths.
Another commercial corridor in downtown that is bike-friendly is the popular shopping area, the 16th Street Mall, which is closed off to cars. There are hundreds of shops and street vendors located on this long stretch. The identical tiles on both the street and sidewalks give it a very pedestrian-friendly feel to it. No need for bike signage.
Denver has a bike modal share of 2.9% in 2012 (20% jump from 2011), most of which I see riding on the extensive Cherry Creek bike trail. The Cherry Creek trail stretches 11.2 mi/ 18 km from Cherry Creek Reservoir in the south and through downtown in the north. It serves for both recreation and transportation. It’s a must if you do visit Denver and go for a bike ride. Some of the best scenery within the city is along this riverside bike trail. The water running next to it is surprisingly clean!
What I like about Denver is it’s numerous parks, and the majority of them you can really bike within them for quite a distance with flat topography. City Park is my favorite and has a zoo and the Museum of Science and Nature. It’s located not too distant from downtown. Another park I recommend is Washington Park in the Pearl St. neighborhood. It’s voted as the most favorite park in Denver by the locals.
I still think Denver has some ways to go in terms of bike infrastructure and reducing their use of cars. But I admire how much they are embracing the ideas of New Urbanism and I feel like they are doing the bike thing better and faster than many other American cities. For example, their 15th St. cycle-track was completed this year and now, the city is proposing another cycle-track on Broadway St. In addition, I really like their ubiquitous bike-shares, but it’s just not ideal for visitors to use them to explore the city because of the time limits. Visitors and recreational riders should rent a bicycle instead. Their Cherry Creek bike path is great fun to bike on and quite scenic, but then, it doesn’t go in every direction to really serve bike commuters. However, I do think that overall, the city government gets it and it’s just a matter of time.
A couple of more things I want to mention for anyone who is going to visit Denver and bike around. You may need some time to adapt to the higher elevation. At higher elevations, oxygen is less concentrated and so your body will have to adjust and breath shorter but more frequent breaths. At first, you might feel worn out faster when exerting yourself. However, the air is just fine for Denverites who are known to be very active outdoors. So once you adjust, you should be fine. Also, one of the fun things you can do in Denver, if you are of drinking age, is to ride your bike around to all the different local breweries and do some free tastings. Denver has great local beer! Many can be easily reached by bike.
While Rotterdam just completed its amazing Green Connection project and Copenhagen is almost done with its admirable Bicycle Snake, South San Francisco just got its first buffered bike lanes. Yes, it’s pretty lame when you are comparing it to those inspirational projects, but it’s a great feat for such a place where it’s a ghost town after 6pm. So, kudos to South City!
For those of you that don’t know South San Francisco, it’s actually a neighboring city south of San Francisco (not part of SF) and it’s known as the Industrial City. It’s the birthplace of biotechnology and it’s basically an office park where freight trucks, delivery trucks and cars are all you see. The city is mostly comprised of very wide streets with speed limits upwards of 40 mph/64 kmh, and barely any pedestrians strolling on narrow sidewalks.
So, it’s surprising to see a road diet of a street of 4 car lanes into 2 car lanes on Forbes Blvd. The road diet starts at the cross street of DNA Way and ends at Allerton Ave. And to top it off, the city added buffered bike lanes- the first of its kind in South San Francisco. Pretty cool, eh?!
I have never ridden on such a smooth paved street in the States for as long I can remember. I know this is not going to last though because after awhile, the condition will deteriorate and as you know, we have a lack of infrastructure maintenance. For now, I feel more safe because I don’t have to look down on the road for cracked pavement or potholes. I can have my full attention on the road ahead. And as a matter of fact, you will find yourself riding faster. Also, the buffer zone makes me feel safe as well.
However, it’s too bad that the speed limit is still posted at 35 mph/56 kmh. Does it make any sense on a 2 car lane street? You have a road diet, with wide medians to calm traffic, and new crosswalk signals installed; and still the speed limit is at 35 mph/56 kmh? At least, install a protected barrier on the buffered area of the bike lanes.
Moreover, when you reach the intersection, you have to share the space with autos.
Lastly, the buffered bike path should be extended all the way to the Caltrain station (see blue arrow in bottom image). It’s a logical next step. This will provide a safe passage for the last mile commuters. I truly hope the city is working on it.
Hello fellow bicyclists,
Last time, I wrote a post about bike lanes being blocked by all sorts of things from delivery trucks to piles of dirt. I had never seen a vehicle parked outside a bike lane, but there was this UPS delivery truck that to my surprise did something out of the ordinary-park on the outside of the bike lane. I wanted to thank the driver but he/she wasn’t there. But this time, I saw another UPS truck parked outside the bike lane and was able to catch the driver. I asked the driver, “Is it the company’s policy to not block bike lanes? It’s the second time I’ve seen this.” She shook her head, no. Then I asked, “Did you purposely park there to leave the bike lane open?” To my surprise, she said that she just didn’t want to block any cars that wanted to park or leave. Anyhow, I still wanted to let her know that it’s a good thing she didn’t block the bike lane because it can be dangerous for cyclists to have to weave out into traffic when bike lanes are blocked. She said, “No wonder! There was this female cyclist earlier waving to me to say thank you but I didn’t understand.” I hope that the UPS driver, knowing what she knows now, will do the same thing everywhere when she’s behind the wheel.
Yep, we bicyclists still get no respect!
Be safe and cycle well!
I am so tired of vehicles blocking bike lanes when you already feel like you are a target for every driver.
What’s the point of bike lanes when cars and trucks are double parking? It’s so easy for a driver to pull over into the bike lane and stop there and act as if he or she is doing nothing wrong. There’s so much disrespect for us people on bikes. I used to bark at drivers but now I don’t even try.
Already, there are few bike lanes in the city of Oakland, and yet many times drivers take away those bike lanes by parking on them. Blocking bike lanes particularly on high speed streets forces bicyclists to swerve out into car lanes which is very dangerous, and I don’t even think drivers can even think of this hazard to people on bikes.
What’s worse is when you see a car that is a government vehicle! One time, I saw two police cars parking on bike lanes in San Francisco (no, their patrol lights weren’t even on). If city officials don’t set good examples, why would private citizens do the same?
But today for the first time I couldn’t believe my eyes. After passing a FedEx truck parked in the typical fashion blocking a bike lane, ahead of it was a UPS truck parked on the outside of the bike lane, not on it. At first I thought UPS was driving away, but that wasn’t the case. You can see its emergency yellow lights flashing. I was hoping to find out who he/she was and to say “Thank you!” but the driver wasn’t around. I would like to think he/she is a bicyclist himself/herself or is it the policy of UPS to not park on bike lanes? I will look for them next time.
Happy bicycling and hope to see you at Bike to Work Day, May 8th!
I never did like bike sharrows on wide streets that have more than two lanes in any city. I have seen them a lot where the roads have no space for bike lanes. Then not too long ago, I started seeing green-backed bike sharrows, called super sharrows which can be spotted on the Wiggle and Market Street in San Francisco. Now they have taken it up another notch with these carpets of green super sharrows in Long Beach, Salt Lake City, and recently in Oakland. It just reminds me of vehicular cycling (where you ride your bike like a motorist) which has failed miserably to get more people to bike. I hope this doesn’t become a norm.
The first time I drove my car in a car lane that had a green sharrow bike path painted on it, although there were no cyclists there, I felt like I was running over all the cyclists that had ridden there before, in a spiritual sense. – Nellie, Scion IQ driver and bicyclist
A carpet of green sharrow bikeway was put down on 40th Street in September of last year to give bicyclists a safe passage to the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland from Emeryville in the west or Oakland’s Piedmont Ave. in the east. It was said that this was a compromise between having a protected bike lane or doing nothing. Yep, bicyclists always get the bad end of the stick. (I guess they can at least claim they are rolling out the
red green carpet for us bicyclists.)
We went to Long Beach in 2012 to check out their bike infrastructure and we experienced this type of bikeway. We didn’t like it at first. I thought it was stupid because again, bicyclists have to share a lane with drivers and it seemed like having green paint there was supposed to trick cyclists into thinking they have the lane. After some analysis, I understand now why they did this. The auto traffic through there moved slow at around 8-15 mph (12.9-24 kmh) which is bike speed, with many traffic lights on 2nd St. and it’s on a commercial corridor. In this situation, this type of bikeway may work better than a conventional bike lane because you are away from car door zone. You won’t have to swerve out of the bike lane because of idling cars blocking it, and you can avoid right hooks at intersections.
However, I think that the one on Oakland’s 40th St. is a bad idea. I did not feel safe at all going through there because motorists were going as fast as 40 mph (64.4 kmh). You can hear the roaring engine noise from trucks coming from behind, and cars passing you to change into your lane at 3 times your speed and merge into your right of way at any time. I felt vulnerable. Maybe during commute times things may be different (I was there on a late Sunday afternoon and very few cyclists were on it). Still, I can never trust distracted or angry drivers and I see plenty of them on the streets at all hours.
Also, if adding a protected bike lane was going to be so expensive (again, the green sharrow lanes that are there now are a compromise between protected bike lanes and none at all), I don’t understand why street parking couldn’t have been removed to create a buffered bike lane instead, which is cheaper and easier to do. Since this is a residential area with homes that have garages and it is not a commercial area with shops, they do not need the parking. Also, adding a buffered bike lane wouldn’t impede traffic flow.
Fortunately, according to this EastBayExpress.com article, this will not be the final design for that street and this is a pilot study. I hope it will not be permanent.