I passed by and discovered this bike shop called Bay Area Bikes at 2424 Webster St. when I was going to a car rental nearby. It is ironically situated in an area (Auto Row in Oakland) that is filled with car dealerships. Stick it to them, Bay Area Bikes! When I walked in and spoke with Clay who owns the place with his wife, Glenda, I knew this shop was for me. They are great people who believe in making the community livable through biking, and they carry quality bikes because they don’t believe in “race to the bottom prices”. They have bikes and accessories that I really like and they appear to carry bikes for everyday folks, in addition to performance bikes.
Here is a review from a friend, Kristen, that I think says it all about Clay and his bike shop. One day on the ferry to work, I told her about Bay Area Bikes, and she said, “That’s where I got my bike!” She said that at first, she went to at least 4 to 5 shops all over Oakland and everyone ignored her completely. I have always felt that bike shops intimidate women, particularly women that are buying a bike for the first time, and Kristen is in this category. Most shops carry mostly performance bikes, the employees are usually men, and the way the bike shop looks exudes masculinity. But this particular shop is different from the norm.
These words were taken from our conversation: “When I got to Bay Area Bikes, I was immediately greeted and treated with respect. I had no idea what I needed or wanted, other than a good-for-commuting bike that wouldn’t hurt my back. They suggested a Tern folding bike, demonstrated to me, and let me try out the bike, but I still wasn’t sure if it would hurt my back. They then recommended me to go rent one for a day at their Bay Area Bike Rentals in Jack London Square, but then a friend let me borrow one for a whole week. So I tried it and and went back to Bay Area Bikes.” She got everything from them, from a bike helmet and lock to a commute bag and her dear Tern Link D7i folding bike. She says that through the whole process “everyone was friendly and helpful, and to this day every time I go in for a service (or yet another accessory) they are just as nice and easy to work with, and they never talk down to me.” A great recommendation from a new devoted customer!
There are four locations of Bay Area Bikes now. One is in Pittsburg and the other three are in Oakland. One is a bike rental in JLS as I mentioned earlier; the second is in Uptown and carries commuter and performance bikes. The newest shop just opened about a month ago at 2509 Broadway and 25th Street, which sits in between an Ethiopian restaurant and Smythe’s Accordion Center (yes…that folksy instrument, accordion!). It’s a nice and niche bike shop.
Why do I like this shop particularly? They are the only Brompton authorized dealership in town and secondly, they fill a niche that most bike shops don’t. Furthermore, they sell great quality bikes: Tern and Brompton folding bikes, Swiss-made Stromer e-bikes, Oakland-based Xtracycle and Yuba cargo bikes, and nice accessories to go with the bikes. The target here is for everyday cycling with utility in mind. And any woman stepping into this shop is not going to shy away. They carry stylish bags and an equal number of bikes for females and males, which reflects the almost equal gender split of ridership in Oakland.
Finally, when you talk to Clay, you will certainly feel like you bought the right bike because he only carries bikes that he believes in. Moreover, he has immense knowledge of his bikes and is happy to share his knowledge with you. He knows every little detail about the bikes he carries and can make an informed opinion for you if you like. Oh, his wife Glenda is super patient and I am glad for once there’s a woman working in a bike shop.
If you have a love for Bromptons like I do, this is the place to go to!
This year is Bike To Work Day’s 20th Anniversary. Bike To Work Day (BTWD) strategy is to encourage bicycling as a non-polluting and healthy commute option. These are pretty much my two reasons why I bike. To make it easy and encourage newbies, there are dozens of Energizer Stations (some with free bike repairs) located everywhere. These stations are locally sponsored and have free stuffs from bagels to chocolate chip cookies to coffee (and bananas). What’s great about these stations is that each station is sponsored by a different venue and you can chat with the employees that volunteer for that day.
I am a bike ambassador for my workplace and so to celebrate this year’s BTWD, I wanted to lead a ride to work. It was just a lot of fun being part of it and seeing more people come out to ride. I would put this as the most important day for any bike advocate. Here is my recap…
So in the evening, my ferry/bike commuters all went to the Bike Happy Hour Party in Old Town. It was hosted by Bike East Bay coalition.
I really enjoyed this year’s BTWD. Next year, I am planning to take the whole day off from work and visit every Energizer Stations. Sounds like a good plan?
For all those who are new to bike commuting on May 8th, I hope it’s a beginning of many more bike commuting days for you.
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!
The weather was at 75 deg F (24 deg C) with a slight breeze. Perfect weather for any activity especially riding a bicycle around Lake Merritt.
Happy Easter everyone!
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.
It’s been 3 months now since I’ve started biking around Oakland as a resident, commuter, and recreationist. As my wheels have wandered into different parts of the city, I have often found myself saying, “This place really has the potential to be a wonderful bike city.” It is not just a matter of wishfully dreaming about it being a paradise for people on bikes, although that is certainly part of it too. It is more about seeing that there are a lot of inherent characteristics about Oakland that make it pretty ideal for biking, if the city can ever fully embrace it as a means of transportation and the infrastructure that it would require. (Like practically all American cities, the transportation budget allocates very little to biking.)
Oakland is a fairly dense city for the United States, registering at about 7,000 residents per square mile (2,705/sq. km) and growing. Although there are many neighborhoods which are quite suburban in character, there are significant parts of Oakland that are actually quite urban such as neighborhoods like Grand Lake, Adams Point, and Chinatown which have triple the density. Moreover, the city’s dense neighborhoods are mostly clustered together. Density is good for biking because it makes the travel distances between destinations much shorter.
One of the things that makes Oakland a special place is that the shops here tend to be mom and pop, which means small and local. There are some chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks, but they don’t have many big box stores. So that means that most of the shops tend to have a smaller footprint. These small shops tend to have limited parking because they usually do not have their own parking lots or garages and street parking is not always plentiful. Bikes complement these small shops nicely since 10-15 bikes can fit in one car parking space. The shops are human scale and that attracts people on foot or bicycle. Their signs are also smaller which makes them more visible by foot and bike as well.
The top biking cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam have ironing board flat topography which is very conducive for biking. But Oakland isn’t too different in this regard. Although there are the Oakland Hills, large parts of Oakland are nice and flat. A visual estimate using Google Maps shows that at least 60% of Oakland is flat and the hills are tucked to the side. A side effect of this is that you see people on bikes coming and going in every direction. Although you will rarely see a whole bunch of cyclists stopped together at a traffic light, you will see one or two turn up here and there in all directions. This is due in part to that all the bicyclists do not need to funnel into a few preferred routes to avoid hills. For example, in San Francisco, there are many areas that are empty of bicyclists and yet when you go to The Wiggle during rush hour, you will see a whole bunch of them going by like a herd of wild gazelles. That is because The Wiggle is really the only east-west route to avoid SF’s infamously steep hills. (There are still some hills on the route, but the slopes are much easier to climb.) But in the flat parts of Oakland, you can bike for miles without meeting a hill. Combined with less traffic congestion, cyclists even regularly take routes without bike lanes on them. So, there is greater freedom to roam.
In addition to flat topography, Oakland has a lot of street space. Most streets in the urban areas are really wide and the width of many of them are not justified by the amount of car traffic that actually uses them. This underutilization is an opportunity for bike facility planners because there is enough space to put in cycle tracks without removing car lanes and/or the need to remove parking spaces. That means that, at least in theory, there will be less fighting between different interest groups over the scarce and valuable resource of space. Even if a few parking spaces have to be removed, not as many people are going to throw a fit about it because Oakland is not as space-constrained of a city yet. So in theory, it should be easier to implement bike infrastructure. But space will not always be this available. As the city grows and traffic increases, the opportunity to easily implement bike lanes with little opposition will disappear. It is better to incorporate bike infrastructure now rather than later when it will become more difficult to do just about anything in a crowded city.
Oakland is one of the few American cities which has a decent regional public transit system. The subway-like Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has 8 stations within Oakland and connects to San Francisco (which also has 8 BART stations) and a large part of the Bay Area. Thousands of Oakland residents use the BART every day to get to SF for work or play. In fact, it is quicker to get into downtown SF from certain BART stations in Oakland, than from the western neighborhoods of SF to downtown using SF’s own metro transit system. However, not all people live within walking distance of a BART station. The solution is to take a bike to the nearest station. They are actually bike-able from most places in Oakland. Plus, the BART now allows bikes on board all the time and when you get to your stop on the other end, you can use your bike to cover the last mile to your final destination. With the sleek new BART cars (designed by BMW) coming in a couple of years, they will have better on-board bike racks in which you won’t need to stand next to your bike to keep it from falling over.
Weather-wise, in Oakland it’s almost perfect for biking. The climate is mild all year round and on average there are 261 sunny days per year. The average low is about 45 deg F (7 deg C) and average high is about 74 deg F (23 deg C). It rarely goes above 80 degrees which is great for cyclists because we don’t want to get all sweaty. It doesn’t get that windy so you won’t get that strong headwind you sometimes have to face when riding. The fog which engulfs SF for much of the year dissipates by the time it reaches Oakland and the humidity level is pretty comfortable too.
In addition to the great biking weather, riding around the better parts of Oakland can be a very visually enjoyable and stimulating experience. The built environment around Oakland is aesthetically charming and pretty, has lots of old growth trees, a variety of neighborhoods, a variety of architectural styles, and many unique gems. There are many churches with great architecture, some of which are old like the neo-gothic First Presbyterian Church on Broadway or new like the glassy Cathedral of Christ by Lake Merritt. There are elegant old landmark theaters in the Art Deco style such as Fox, Paramount, and Grand Lake which bring you back to the Jazz Age. Then there is the beautiful Lake Merritt known as “The Jewel of Oakland”, a natural estuary lake placed in the middle of an urban setting for everyone to enjoy. You can see Oakland’s well-known and lauded diversity of people (people of every color and background) when they gather at the lake, strolling, biking, jogging, and boating. Also, the fact that Oakland has the most artists per capita in the US, besides Greenwich Village in NYC, gives Oakland a very visible artistic flair. There are art galleries and murals everywhere with a great concentration of them in downtown and the waterfront. It is great to roll by on your bike and take in these interesting and sometimes unexpected sights.
Now, I’d like to point out the elephant in the room that is always there when speaking of Oakland. Yes, as many of you have heard, Oakland does have a lot of poor residents and yes, it does have a problem with crime. Much like SF, Oakland is also a city of contrasts. So even though there are wealthy neighborhoods like Rockridge, Piedmont (which is technically its own city contained within the city of Oakland) and the Oakland Hills, there are lots of poor neighborhoods with a depressing and disturbing amount of blight. Even though Oakland has a lot of assets, culturally and physically, that other cities dream about, it also has an alarming amount of crime.
We all know that Oakland has long been comprised of low-income residents. The estimated household income for Oakland in 2011 was just a little bit over $50K and currently, the unemployment rate is at 11%. During the recession, Oakland was hit hard and the already financially strained city had to suffer through massive foreclosures. This took a toll on the city’s funds and they had to dramatically cut services. While the city has been forced to find ways to cut costs, these problems only make it more important for the city to look into investing in bicycle infrastructure. Bike infrastructure costs only a fraction of what costs for both car-oriented and mass transit infrastructure.
As well as saving money for the city, it also saves money for its residents at an individual level since more people will have the option to commute by bicycle since they will feel more safe and comfortable to do so when bike lanes are put in. More people will not have to own a car or can use their cars less frequently, saving them money. A study in Copenhagen showed that riding a bike for a mile provided an economic net gain of $0.42 while driving produced a net loss of $0.20. If there was any city that needed bike infrastructure the most it would be one that is economically strained, such as Oakland.
The other problem Oakland has is its crime rate. Although its robbery rate has dropped 26% and the homicide rate has gone down by 30% at the end of 2013, its crime figures still remain embaressingly high. Having real bike infrastructure would make Oakland a better city for its residents and a worse place for criminals. If more people are encouraged to bike, there would be more eyes on the streets. Having more eyes deters crime and is something even the famous urbanist Jane Jacobs has written about. More riding of bikes also means less parked cars which provide barriers needed for discreet drug dealing or other hidden criminal activities. A real example of this can be seen in SF, where they recently banned parking on the worst block in the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood. Crime dropped immediately.
It is the poverty and crime which has held Oakland back from taking its rightful seat as a world-class city (they’ve got the 5th busiest port in the country and their own international airport for crying out loud). That and the fact that San Francisco, its neighbor across the bay, has stolen a lot of the attention away. But because of San Francisco’s recent stunning economic growth, Oakland is also changing. Even Chip Johnson from the SF Chronicle admits there is something special happening right now in Oakland.
Right now, Oakland has about 100 miles of bike lanes, but none are protected or buffered from cars. A lot of them are comprised of these silly painted bike sharrows that I think should be completely eliminated. And some bike lanes just disappear right under your pedals. But even with its lack of real bicycle infrastructure, this city still observes a commute modal share for bicycles of 3% in 2012, an increase of 40% since 2010. What’s also interesting about these stats is that the gender split between male and female riders is about 50:50. That’s rare unless you’re in one of those bike-friendly European cities.
Oakland is a city with a lot going for it and if it can fix its problem with poverty and get its crime under control it will become another amazing city that people everywhere will want to visit. Oakland also has a lot going for it bike-wise and if it can truly embrace biking by financially supporting bike improvements in a significant way, it could become one the best bike cities in the US. It would not just be great because it would have cycle tracks and such but also because it is an incredibly rewarding and pleasant urban city to ride your bike in. The biking in turn would make Oakland an even more desirable city. It would be wonderful.
One of the things we love about blogging here at I Love Biking SF & Oak is being able to connect with the bike community about issues that are important to bicyclists everywhere. Every once in a while, we get a message in our inbox that really stands out to us. Recently, we received an email by a gentleman named Doug Bowman who knew Susan Watson. He kindly sent us a lovely photo of her from back when he was close to her in the 70s and wrote some beautiful words about her. We have shared them below. Thank you Doug for giving us all this special glimpse into another part of Susan Watson.
“I had the privilege and honor to be very close to Dr. Watson for a number of years beginning soon after she arrived at NIH in the mid 1970s as a post-doc fellow. I had not heard from her since last Nov, and was stunned a couple of days ago to learn of her death. I do not recall ever being as stunned as I am by this. I want those who knew her only recently and were moved by her untimely death to see her as I saw her all those years ago. I have attached a photo I took of her in those early years after she arrived in the US. She was the most penetrating personality I have ever known, intense, deep, having endured much, having overcome much, and having accomplished much by force of her own will and intellect, yet, like so many long time “performers” she had an easiness about it all. Some of the comments seeking to characterize her are so very accurate. You are welcome to post this photo on your memorial to her.”
I went back to the location of Susan’s collision (Market and 5th St. in Oakland) to investigate and I saw that a ghost bike was placed there for her. Below are the photos I took of it.
Going there again along with info from recent news reports, I got more insight into how the collision happened and will be writing my thoughts about it in an upcoming post.
Here are some news articles with more info:
Posted on December 18, 2013:
In my last post, I talked about how nice the ferry ride is. Part of what makes the ride nice is that you get to ride with other bicycle commuters. We all commute from different parts of Oakland but join at the ferry terminal. We all know when it is time to get off the ferry by seeing others put on their helmets and gloves. That is when you know that the ferry is about to land at the pier. Then, we would line up to get off the ferry after all the non-bike passengers exit first. That’s our routine every day. Bike helmets on, then gloves, turn on our bike lights, and wait in line patiently.
There was this one lady in her
50s (62 y.o.) whose bike was decked out with lights – MonkeyLectric lights on the wheels, lights on her backpack, and both front and rear bike lights. We all recognized her by the Stegosaurus-like spikes that decorated her helmet and she liked to wear a red jacket. She was always smiling and chatting with everyone of us. Her name was Susan Watson. She’s a scientist that worked at a small biotech in South San Francisco. That is the little info I know about her. Well, today she wasn’t on the ferry. I had read the horrible news this morning and had a thought it might have been her, but I wasn’t certain. The mystery of this lasted until this evening when we waited to get off the ferry- this gentleman told me and the rest of us that Susan just got into a bicycle collision with a truck driver. It’s heartbreaking. She had all the lights and safety measures correct and was even riding in the bike lane on Market St. The truck driver still didn’t see her and killed her. What else can bicyclists do to stay safe?! It’s up to the city and the drivers out there to look out for us!
Ride safe out there.
I will update if I find more info about her.
Rest in Peace, Susan… We will miss you.