Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Riding Caltrain by Bike from Gilroy

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. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Do Not Block The Bike Lanes

It’s a warm spring morning, and I take a sip of my locally roasted Gilroy Fifth St Coffee on my front porch.  I am looking up and down the street to see who else is joining us on the bike train.   My wife Katie, daughter Avery and I fill the air in our tires and hopped on our bikes because it’s the final citywide Walk & Roll Wednesday of the year.  You can smell the fresh flowers that are starting to bloom in the neighbor’s yards and the sun is just starting to warm our backs as we travel up 3rdSt to our first stop along the train route. We find ourselves in a teachable moment with our group when trashcans block our bike lane.  

It happens to be the day before trash day pickup.  Most everyone knows that the trashcans/carts belong against the curbside right?  Well, we find a few houses along our route where they are being placed in the bike lane for pick up.  Some think that it’s helping the garbage truck drivers and some just don’t have an open curbside.  I completely understand every reason why.  My goal here is to let you know who the users are of the bike lanes, and that we rely on them being clear at all times.  

The Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission received an email from a GUSD School Teacher who uses Church St to commute to work.  She experienced the same obstructions in the bike lane, but on a larger scale.  Her entire route along Church St was like riding on an obstacle course.  Weaving in and out of the traffic lane and bike lane, all while avoiding trashcans.  We discussed the topic at our February 2019 meeting.  Besides the existing California Vehicle Code that states bike lanes CAN NOT be blocked, we decided as a group with public input that we would create a campaign based on education and encouragement.  

First step was to establish a relationship with Recology.  We need them as a partner in the campaign for messaging to their customers.  The League of American Bicyclists recently recognized the City of Gilroy as a Bicycle Friendly Community. One of the goals set by our Commission is education and outreach to the public. Whether it’s commuting, recreation, or Safe Routes To School we have many users that rely on our network of bicycle lanes. We believe that it has been a long time since our residents have been educated about the users of the bike lanes and how we can accomplish trash pick up safely and efficiently for everyone.  After a few emails with their General Manager, they agreed to add “Do Not Block Bike Lanes “on their existing flyers to customers.   They also agreed to add a flyer to their bill inserts that was mutually created by the Gilroy BPAC and Recology, as long as it was printed on City of Gilroy letterhead.  The City of Gilroy has already begun helping by including our flyer artwork in a City Express email campaign, and we have begun social media posts as well.  

We will begin doing direct campaign on two streets that were identified from public comment.  These streets are Church St and Eigleberry from 1st-10thnear the Downtown District.  That will include leaving a flyer at the property that places their trashcans in the bike lanes.  It has been mentioned that creating a sticker with the artwork would be useful to pass out when we are doing our outreach in the public as well.  The sticker artwork is great for all languages spoken, because of the visual graphics included.  

While doing research on this campaign I wasn’t able to find many campaigns out there that dealt with this issue.  If you ever need help in forming a similar campaign, please reach out to us. #GilroyBPAC