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Posts from the "Santa Clara County" Category

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Remembering Ellen Fletcher, Palo Alto’s Pioneer Bicycle Advocate

Cross-posted from Cyclelicious.

Ellen Fletcher. Photo: Richard Masoner

Holocaust survivor, PTA mom, city council member, and bike advocate Ellen Fletcher succumbed yesterday at age 83 to lung cancer at her Palo Alto home.

Ellen escaped Berlin as a Jewish child on the Kindertransport trains and spent her teen years as a refugee in World War II London, where she biked to her factory job.

She eventually ended up in Palo Alto, California, where she got her start in cycling advocacy as safety chair of the local PTA when she saw that the best way to protect school children from their greatest danger was by reducing auto traffic around schools. She revived the Santa Clara Valley Bicycle Association (which exists today as the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition) in the early 1970s. Ellen pioneered the first bike boulevard in the United States on Bryant Avenue (now named in her honor) while serving on the Palo Alto city council from 1977 to 1989.

Caltrain Bikes on Board Pioneer

If you like bikes on Caltrain, you can thank Ellen Fletcher. Beginning in 1977, she and Daryl Skrabac of San Francisco pushed Southern Pacific to try bikes on board. They finally agreed to a four month demonstration in 1982, when four bikes were allowed in the aisle of the cab car. Southern Pacific refused to continue the experiment. When the Peninsula Joint Powers Board took over the line in 1992, they agreed to make room for bikes, but needed money to make it happen. Cap Thomas of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition persuaded the city of San Francisco to contribute $40,000 to making space for 8 bikes in each cab car.

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SamTrans Poll Shows Strong Support for Tax Measures to Support Caltrain

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The Green Caltrain blog has some promising news today for moving Caltrain toward a stable funding solution. Adina Levin from Friends of Caltrain reports:

At its board meeting on Thursday, SamTrans announced the results of polling that it conducted in June. According to the poll, a ballot measure to support Caltrain and SamTrans would pass, barely, at the 66% threshold required in California. The transit agency is considering a ballot measure on the 2014 ballot to address the underlying financial problems.

The poll found stronger support for a 1/4 cent sales tax to support Caltrain and SamTrans than for a 1/8 cent sales tax to fund Caltrain alone. High priorities for voters include reducing traffic, providing stable funding for Caltrain, supporting transit for the elderly and disabled, and supporting infrastructure.

The poll also showed that Caltrain electrification is massively popular, with 79% of voters in favor.  The controversy over High Speed Rail in recent years has not blunted the overwhelming support for cleaner, faster, more frequent service.

Voters expressed greater support for the tax after the poll asked voters questions about their priorities and values transit service. This strongly suggests that a ballot measure would get better results if there was a campaign to encourage voters to consider the benefits of transit service. Transit supporters have between now and 2014 to raise awareness.

Caltrain relies on unstable funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and local transit agencies along the Peninsula. As we’ve reported, the Caltrain Board has declared numerous fiscal emergencies while taking little action to solve the problem in the long run. Although the agency managed to avert devastating service cuts in the last budget cycle, transit advocates have come together to push for long-term measures to ensure riders’ access to quality transit isn’t threatened every time the partner agencies reduce their share of the pot.

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San Jose Sets Out to Build the Bay Area’s Most Bike-Friendly Downtown

Bike commuters on San Fernando Street, which is slated to get the city's first green bike lanes. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious

San Jose — which wants its central district to become the urban center of Silicon Valley — hopes to build the Bay Area’s most bike-friendly downtown, where pedaling to work, school or the farmers market is “safe, convenient and commonplace” for people of all ages. The vision includes Long Beach-inspired bicycle-friendly business districts, where merchants would wholeheartedly embrace bike-riding shoppers and diners.

“Our ambition is to retrofit a city that has been built for cars into one that is built for people,” said Council Member Sam Liccardo, who represents downtown and commutes by bike to San Jose City Hall three days a week. “The vibrancy that we hope and expect it will bring to our streetscape will start to change perceptions of San Jose throughout the region.”

The city is also planning beyond downtown and wants to create a strong network of convenient crosstown bikeways linking the auto-oriented suburban ring to the transit-rich urban core.

“It’s sunny 300 days a year and we don’t have San Francisco hills,” said Colin Heyne, deputy director of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition. “Nature has given us this opportunity to become a great place to walk and bike.”

Though only 1.2 percent of San Jose residents commute by bike, according to the city’s tally, anecdotally the trend seems to be pointing toward higher rates. The popular San Jose Bike Party has helped to boost ridership, drawing many first time riders inspired by the impressive monthly display of bike culture. The city has set a 5 percent bike mode share goal by 2020, and 15 percent by 2040.

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Palo Alto, Choked By Famously Free Parking, May Consider Pricing the Curb

Smarter parking policies could lead to less congestion on streets such as University Avenue. The current volume of autos on University is 20,000 per day, according to the city. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclicious

For the first time in 15 years, Palo Alto’s outdated parking policies are being reviewed, and planners will consider recommending sustainable parking principles in the downtown core to better manage the supply. The affluent Silicon Valley city has not had a comprehensive examination of its parking strategies since 1997, when it installed four color-coded parking zones downtown. There is a two-hour limit in each zone but all curb parking is free.

“I think everything’s on the table right now. We don’t want to exclude anything at this particular state,” Jaime Rodriguez, the city’s chief transportation official, told Streetsblog.

The study will explore charging for on-street parking, installing SFPark-like meters and sensors and a number of transportation demand management (TDM) measures to discourage single-occupant vehicle trips. Advocates pushing for parking reform hope that Palo Alto will follow cities such as Redwood City or Boulder, Colorado, which have implemented innovative performance-based parking policies and benefit districts that helped spruce up their downtowns and boost business. Two other Peninsula cities — San Mateo and Burlingame — also charge for on-street parking in their downtown business districts.

Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh led the charge for a comprehensive parking study at the July 16 City Council meeting. A proposed residential parking permit program for the Professorville neighborhood was nixed in favor of the review. Some residents in Professorville and Downtown North have complained that downtown employees who take advantage of unpriced on-street parking on residential streets make it difficult for them to park near their homes.

Some influential merchants and residents are framing the problem as a downtown parking shortage. ”There has always been a parking deficit in the downtown,” Barbara Gross, board member of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, told the City Council. “Parking has a direct influence on the success of the business district and has overflow impacts on surrounding residential areas.”

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Sunnyvale Latest City to Consider Anti-Harassment Law for Bike Riders

A groundbreaking law adopted in Los Angeles almost one year ago that allows bicycle riders to take civil action against drivers who harass them continues to generate local and national interest, with Sunnyvale becoming the latest city to consider enacting protections.

“So many (drivers) seem to think it’s like basketball rules: no hit, no foul. If they don’t hit you, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” said Kevin Jackson, a longtime member of the Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC). “In their minds, it’s not something they feel they have to ever explain to a cop or anything.”

But under a proposed ordinance expected to be adopted by the Sunnyvale City Council on July 17, drivers who threaten or distract bike riders could be taken to court and would have to explain themselves to a judge. Fashioned after the Los Angeles law, it would make drivers liable for damages starting at $1,000.

“Sunnyvale wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality,” the ordinance states. “Riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists.”

Jackson said city staffers, including the police department, were initially opposed to studying the idea based on some misunderstandings. But they eventually agreed to look into it, produced a report that won praise from advocates, and recommended that an anti-harassment law be adopted. The ordinance’s initial reading passed the Sunnyvale City Council June 19 by a vote of 6-1, with Councilmember Jim Davis, an ex-police officer, opposed.

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