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How to Ride a Bicycle . . .

. . . and how to make the streets safe!

First off, a couple years back, someone very close to me wanted to learn to ride a bicycle. I took her to a free workshop in Brooklyn where two dozen people learned how to ride a bicycle in a few hours. The process was surprisingly simple: you take the pedals off and learn to scoot around, then how to turn and brake. Once you are comfortable balancing on the bike, the pedals go back on and you learn the tricky part: how to shift your weight and pedal, with full confidence that you can manage everything else once you get the thing going. What took me weeks to learn as a kid is something adults can now pick up in a few hours.

A few times now I have recounted this inspiring story, and I have found that REI covers the technique in good detail. So, if you know someone who wants to master the two-wheeler, now you know a good way to do it!

On a not-unrelated note, I just enjoyed this article about European street design, where instead of designing every street for cars but also allowing pedestrians on the side, they design some residential streets for pedestrians, but also allow cars to crawl through slowly. Instead of designing for “speed” they design to make driving “tortuous” . . . cars are damned convenient and you’ll drive when it makes sense, but when you’re in a neighborhood it is good if you slow the heck down and pay attention to your environment. So, the Dutch will do things that sound absurd in America, like putting playground equipment in the roadway.

The thing is, if you are slowly driving through an obstacle course, you’re going to be a lot more careful, and if you do end up hitting something, you’re going to do less damage at 10 MPH than you would at 30 MPH. As someone whose commute is now primarily via bicycle, that kind of thinking makes me very happy.

Ah yes, speaking of my bicycle commute, the Deputy Director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition suggested I attend the next meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting of the City of Santa Clara, after I shared with him this email I recently drafted to the Mayor of Santa Clara:

Subject: Tasman Drive Hostile to Bicyclists

To whom it may concern:

I am an employee of Cisco Systems on Tasman Dr in San Jose. I commute to work via Scott Boulevard, the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, and finally via Tasman Drive into San Jose. The commute is mostly very pleasant, except for the section of Tasman Dr in Santa Clara.

For my own safety, I take the full right-most lane when bicycling on this road. I do this because there is no bicycle lane and because it is very scary to be passed by vehicles speeding above 40 MPH, and because the sight visibility is limited on the overpasses. I want to ensure that vehicles can see me and pass safely.

In each of the past two days I have been harassed by drivers on this roadway. Yesterday afternoon a woman was honking at me, and this morning a man pulled up next to me and yelled obscenities at me from his SUV. Tasman Dr is scary enough without the obscenities, and it makes Santa Clara feel like a more hostile and threatening place.

Please consider the following suggestions:
- Install a bicycle lane on Tasman Dr, at least between the San Tomas Aquino Creek trail and the bicycle lane in San Jose.
- Consider lowering the speed limit, to make the roadway feel more hospitable to mixed use.
- Short of these suggestions, post signs advising that bicycles may make full use of the lane.

The section of Tasman Dr near Great America Parkway has been very pleasant due to the speed restrictions and signage that accompanies stadium construction. In constructing the stadium you have inadvertently demonstrated what a pleasant and progressive bicycling experience Tasman Drive can be.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
-danny

For now, I have cooked up a less-threatening alternate route. I am skeptical that I can get Tasman Dr changed around, but the Bicycle Coalition guy was very encouraging and I look forward to providing some advice in civil planning! If in the next few years Tasman Dr becomes a nice way to bike I will be very happy about that.

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