As Bike to Work Day Booms, Some San Mateo County Cities Lead the Way

Commuting to work on Gateway Boulevard in South San Francisco. Photo: Andrew Boone

Among the record-breaking 9,000 bike commuters celebrating Bike to Work Day in San Mateo County on Thursday, County Supervisor Dave Pine led a convoy from downtown Redwood City to the Oracle energizer station, crossing Highway 101 using the Ralston Avenue bike-pedestrian bridge in Belmont.

Dave Pine and Diane Howard - Bike To Work Day 2013

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Redwood City Council candidate Diane Howard at the Oracle energizer station. Photo: Andrew Boone

“We really have to look at bicycling as a viable and important part of the transportation network and not just a recreational pursuit,” Pine said. “The county needs to take more of a leadership role to publicize bike routes and get cities to work together to construct practical bicycle infrastructure so that people can get to work more easily.”

Bike to Work Day is booming throughout San Mateo County, with ridership increasing 33 percent since last year, and more than doubling since 2011, according to the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance.

Commuters were greeted with 37 energizer stations along popular bike commuting routes, where volunteers from the PTCRA and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition helped them fuel up with coffee and snacks. Nearly 1,000 cyclists enjoyed an outdoor breakfast at Oracle’s energizer station at the company’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, which lies along the Bay Trail, a route favored by many bike commuters for its long sections of off-street bicycle and pedestrian paths and beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

Each year, more Silicon Valley employers — from tech giants like Genentech, Facebook, and Google, to other major businesses like Kaiser Permanente (which partnered with Whole Foods) and Food Service Providers — are holding their own events to encourage participation in Bike to Work Day as a way to promote employee health and reduce traffic congestion.

“Bike to Work Day provides an opportunity for people who are considering biking to work to try it along with thousands of others, while being cheered on at the energizer stations along the way,” said PTCRA Executive Director John Ford. “Once people try cycling to work, many of them make it part of their regular commute.”

While improvements to make bicycling in San Mateo County safer and more convenient have been hampered by a lack of bureaucratic coordination between cities, a few are starting to take the lead. The city of San Mateo is currently planning safer crossings over and under Highway 101: a bike-ped bridge at Hillsdale Boulevard, and a bike-ped path along the 16th Avenue canal under the freeway.

Buffered bike lanes on Veterans Boulevard in Redwood City. Photo: Andrew Boone

The city is also working to install 50 new bike racks throughout its downtown, including four bike corrals, each of which will replace a single car parking spot with eight bike parking spots. At its three local Caltrain stations, the city also plans to install new electronic bike lockers, which, compared to the key-operated lockers they’ll replace, can store five to seven times as many bicycles and be rented by the hour (rather than by the day). Those lockers will “reduce demand for car parking at Caltrain stations and reduce demand for bringing bicycles on-board, freeing up space on the trains for other bike commuters,” said Ken Chin, project manager for the San Mateo Public Works Department.

Redwood City, which installed buffered bike lanes on Veterans Boulevard in November 2011, plans to add bike lanes this year to Whipple Road and Maple Sreet, and shared lane markings (“sharrows”) on several other streets that aren’t wide enough to accommodate both parked cars and bike lanes. Longer-term plans include buffered bike lanes on Middlefield Road and a bike-ped path under Highway 101 to connect Main Street with the Bay Trail.

Daly City council member Mike Guingona. Photo: bikewithmike.org

Daly City, meanwhile, is planning to install three miles of bike lanes this year using funds from the regional One Bay Area Grant program.

Mike Guingona, a Daly City council member and former mayor who regularly bikes to his job as an attorney in San Francisco, is organizing community bike rides using his new “Bike With Mike” Facebook page. He’s also taken on the challenge to bike all 117 miles of Daly City’s streets.

“I’m dong this to get in better shape,” said Guingona, “to see if the money we’re spending on these bike lanes is well spent, and to hear what residents want to say about the health of our community.”