It’s the heart of the summer, and the perfect time of year to try commuting by bike on Caltrain from Downtown Gilroy. I haven’t ridden my bike and used public transit since I was in college. The french press coffee is ready and I fill up a Jakroo Cycling water bottle. As the garage door opens, I can get an instant feel for the weather. After checking the air in my tires I enter onto 3rdSt and begin the 1.6-mile bike ride to the Gilroy Transit Center in Downtown Gilroy. You can smell the fresh garlic being processed this time of year in Gilroy.
Today I am heading north for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalitions (SVBC) 9th Annual Bike Summit in Mountain View, CA. Each year I am able to build contacts and project ideas to bring back to Gilroy. I meet fellow Commissioner Patrick Flautt at the train who’s riding his scooter. As a designated Tree City USA, the roads to the downtown train station are pleasant and provide shade for my 10-minute ride. I pull out my smartphone and open the Caltrain app. Within a few clicks I have my $21 day pass to Mountain View. I’m first to board the 7:06am train, since Caltrain has a bikes board first policy. As I enter the bike car, I place my bike against the bar and secure it with a bungee cord. You need to make sure that the yellow bike tag around my seat post shows my destination. There’s a tradition amongst bike riders that you don’t place your bike in front of someone that is not riding as far as you. It all works out. You can sit on the same level as you bike or go up top for a bird’s eye view of the ride. We choose of course to be like kids and sit up top. I put my glasses on, sit back with my coffee in hand, and we talk almost the entire 1 hr. and 20 min. ride. I didn’t forget to glance at the Waze app, which shows that if I were in a car on HWY 101 it would take me 1 hr. 17 min. If I were driving I wouldn’t get to relax like this and I’m saving money with zero gas and maintenance on my car.
We arrive to volunteers waiting to take our bikes at the free bike valet thanks to SVBC! Over the course of the day we discussed many topics including new mobility, Oakland’s equity-centered bike plan, bike related improvements at Caltrain, and I attended a breakout session on how to get things done. The day ended with watching fellow Gilroy citizen Ed Solis receive a Person of the Year Award. It was for the work he’s done into coordinating the Viva Calle Open Streets event in San Jose, CA.
We pick up our bikes and head back to Downtown Mountain View. There’s time to stop for happy hour food and drinks. Our train leaves at 5:57pm for an arrival in Downtown Gilroy at 7:17pm. Before we board we pick up some beers to go because we are about to enjoy the happy hour on the bike car train home. Yes, alcohol and food are permitted on Caltrain. This group of riders would entertain us the entire ride home.
So what’s preventing you from commuting using public transit? Gilroy’s Train Station has 30 bicycle lockers and 13 bike racks. Many employers reimburse travel expenses and have a network set up for you to ride share to work from Caltrain or VTA. At the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission (#GilroyBPAC) we are constantly working on education & encouragement to get you out of your cars. County Measure B funding for education & encouragement has just been released. At our June meeting we learned that the funding agreement with VTA (who oversees Measure B funds) needs to be signed by City Staff in order to receive reimbursements for E&E activities. Fiscal years 18/19/20/21 have been approved by the VTA Board and are available for Gilroy. We are getting $35,648/year and that gives us $142,592 available today to spend on education & encouragement. Look for more updates at our meetings inside the Gilroy City Council Chambers every 4thTuesday at 6pm or find us online.