Free Public Bicycles and Bicycle Share Programs

I have suggested on various posts that the City provide residents with free inexpensive bicycles that they could pick up and leave conveniently at designated kiosks throughout town.  I thought I’d elaborate on this idea.  However this will not be feasible until the City first makes most of our heavily trafficked streets SAFE to bicycle.

The idea is for the city to purchase 5,000-10,000 inexpensive 1 to 3 speed bicycles painted an unattractive color and marked property of Cupertino so that no one would be tempted to steal such unattractive bicycles.  These bicycles would be scattered throughout the city at transit stops, shopping locations, major intersections, centralized residential area, and other areas frequented by people with special smart bicycle kiosks that could keep track of available bicycles at that location.  If a kiosk is not frequently used it could easily be moved to another location.  Residents could recommend good locations for these kiosks from a website or smart phone application.

These bicycles could also be taken home and kept over night to be used the next day.  The bicycles would be unisex and be of one size for adults with quick adjustable seats.  They would primarily be used for errands such as shopping or going to work but could be used by tourist by paying a fee and getting a temporary key card at the kiosk for $20 for each 24 hr.  Bicycles would contain a basket for shopping goods or a briefcase.

People using them would registered with the city and sign an agreement and disclaimer, pay an annual registration fee of maybe $100 and will be issued a special key card that unlocks the bike from the bicycle kiosk similar to bicycle share explained below.  Their credit card would be on file and charged a daily fee of $20 if a bicycle is not returned to a bicycle kiosk within 24 hr.  The cost of this program might come from a Transportation Impact Fee by new developments in the city as will as annual Transportation Fees for all business employing more than 20 employees based upon the number of employees.

One would simply ride the bike to a destination, park it at a bicycle kiosk, do a chore such as shopping or going to work, then look at their smart phone application for the location of the nearest available bike, pick it up and return home to keep overnight.  Alternatively a person could ride the bike to their destination, park it at any bicycle rack and lock it up, locking device to be provided by the rider, do their errand and pick the bike up again for their return trip.  People wanting to take public transportation can simply ride a bike to the bus stop, park the bike in the designated bicycle kiosk and hop on the bus, very fast and convenient.

Bicycles could be provided with a small metal flag on back that could be raised if the bike needs repair from a flat or other mechanical failure or simply indicate the problem on their smart phone application.  Or the kiosk might have a means of flagging bicycles needing repair.  Parts from retired bikes could be used to repair broken down bikes.  There would be full-time and part-time employees who would collect bicycles needing service and repair them or simply do simple repairs right on the spot.

Alternatively there are bike sharing programs such as Bay Area Bicycle Share for a nominal rental fee and are usually free for the first 30 min. of use.  See short YouTube videos below for how this works.


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My Motives for Establishing this Blog

Some might get the wrong impressions that I want to improve our bicycle lanes to suit my purpose.  After all aren’t I a frequent biker who simply wants our streets to be safer and easier to bike so I can more easily get around town?  First let me start by saying that I am a very casual cyclist.  On average I bicycle 1-3 times a week for about 30 min. each time primarily for exercise.  Yes I’d love to bicycle around town a lot more but the amount of time and effort I am putting into popularizing biking simple is not worth the effort to simply make biking more available for myself.  I spend more time writing on this blog than riding my bike.  I have far more altruistic motives for my passion to make this city far more bikable.  I am a senor who is losing the ability to use my legs and maintain balance.  I casually cycle for exercise and to use muscles in my legs not used for walking which I do far more of than biking.  So my biking days are limited.  I know that most of the things I am asking for I will likely never enjoy.  I only hope I will be able to witness many of them happen.  But I see a city that is becoming increasingly congested with car traffic which is making our street more crowded, less walkable and bikable, and far less drivable as the city grows and traffic congestion becomes increasingly more routine.  This is especially problematic around our schools and is becoming worst elsewhere.  This is a huge problem needing solutions.

I believe that bicycles are part of that traffic congestion solution.  If this city could make our streets far more safe and attractive to bicycle we could possibly get 20% of the population to bicycle locally much of the time thus getting cars off the streets.  This city is designed for urban sprawl where many streets form intricate mazes and dead ends.  Once lost in such mazes without GPS or a map it is difficult to find one’s way out.  Many of the houses in these mazes are some distance from the nearest major arterial road where public transportation is possible.  It is very difficult to convince people to give up their cars and almost impossible to design a public transportation system or shuttle bus system that will feasibly serve most of this city’s residents.

Bicycles are a partial and practical solution.  If there were frequent bus services along major arterial roads and adequate bicycle parking at bus stops residents could bike the 1/4 to 1 mile distance from their homes to a bus stop.  If buses had sufficient bicycle racks residents could optionally take their bike with them on the bus.  This will optimize public transportation allowing more frequent service with far fewer bus routes and give residents the option to use their bicycles to get out of these urban mazes to public transportation.  No need for expensive shuttles.  It is all about efficiency and frequency of public transportation service.  The city could even provide free bicycles everywhere.

This is only one of many solutions bicycles can economically and practically provide if only our streets were made more safe for people of all ages to bike.  I am advocating bicycles as part of the traffic solution because I believe it can be done quickly and with little investment in money relative to all other alternatives.  There are also many benefits for people to bicycle far more instead of driving everywhere.  Reserve driving for very long commutes where alternatives are not available.  I am by nature a problem solver and see cars and traffic as unsustainable means of transportation for fast growing communities like Cupertino.  I foresee traffic becoming a major problem as our city grows and could ultimately strangle the life out of our city and make it far less habitable.  I have a long term stake in this community having first moved here in the mid 1970s.  I have absolutely no ulterior motives.  I talk the talk and walk the walk.

I simply want Cupertino to become the most Sustainable and Vibrant Community to live in and to improve our overall quality of life.  Car traffic is simply counterproductive to these ends but bicycles are sustainable from many aspects ranging from economic, environmental, traffic congestion, and exercise and health.  This blog contains many specifics why bicycles are so beneficial to our sustainable existence into the future.  But it requires a cultural shift from a car-centricity to a sustainable way of thinking and living. That is what I and this blog are all about.

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The Case for Safer Bicycle Lanes

Protected Bicycle Lane Feel Safe for All Ages to Bicycle

I’ve been trying to build a case that making our streets safer from car traffic will bring out many more people to bike our streets.  It seems intuitive to me but when talking to seasoned cyclists who use their bikes as their primary mode of transportation some think our streets quite safe.  They are fit and have learned how to navigate the busy streets skillfully and safely.  So I guess the test of that presumption is to ask if the major streets throughout town would be safe enough for their young children, wives, senior parents, or grandparents to bicycle routinely, assuming they were able to cycle and were not also seasoned cyclists.  My objective is to draw many more casual cyclists, especially women, but also people of all ages to bicycle our streets as a means of shopping, dining, going to school, or simply enjoying the joys and exercise of bicycling.  I consider myself a casual senior cyclist who bikes 2-3 days a week for less than an hour each day.  I’d like to do much more.

Only about 1% of commuting residents use their bicycles on a daily basis.  That leave 99% of the population that hardly bikes at all.  So there are plenty of opportunities for a lot of perspective cyclists.  If we could get 20% of our small population to cycle daily for local commutes we would become the bicycle capital of the U.S.  What great press that would be for our city putting it on the international map as a biking destination and a model for other cities to follow.  Articles would be written about us.  Since we have a population of 60,000, 20% would be 12,000 cyclists resulting in significantly fewer cars and consequently less traffic congestion and safer streets.  It is like a positive feedback loop of increasing bicycle safety which in turn encourages more people to bicycle.  Bicycles are very Efficient and solve so many problems created by cars.  Is this possible?  Yes but it would take some doing to draw that many people out to bicycle.  However it is my contention from personal experience that SAFETY is the Number One factor hindering people from cycling today.  There are studied that prove this point:

These are only a few article related to safer bicycle lanes resulting in higher bicycle ridership.  So this isn’t just intuitive, it is supported by results.  It is true that bicycle fatalities are overrated.  There are between 700-800 bicycle fatalities in the U.S. per year most from collisions with cars.  But if people do not FEEL safe riding their bikes they won’t.  I feel unsafe riding most of our major streets which inhibits me from riding more extensively or frequently in Cupertino even when I am aware of the statistics.  Statistics are not going to make me feel any safer riding my bike and neither will they for the 99% of other residents not using their bikes daily.

In order to make biking far more popular the city is going to have to make our streets FEEL SAFE, not simply feel more safe.  This is not an issue of educating the public of the facts but providing the public with SAFE FEELING bicycle lanes and paths.  Unless and until this is done people will not put their lives at risk, whether these fears are founded or not.  I feel that for any community to consider it a Bicycle Friendly City it must at the very least have streets that feel safe to bike.  It isn’t expensive relative to building roads and in many cases only takes some paint to place bicycle lanes between parked cars and sidewalk curbs.  But it will cost.  It needs to be part of a city’s budgetary priority.

Class IV protected bicycle lanes have already been covered by an early post so I won’t elaborate on them.  But they will go a long ways towards making streets feel safer to bike by placing barriers or distance between car traffic and bicycles.  Bicycle trail away from traffic are also a safe-haven for biking.  Far more needs to be developed in Cupertino.  So if Cupertino is to ever want biking to become far more popular it will have to address the SAFE BIKE LANE issue and the sooner it does it the faster traffic congestion will be removed from such places as around our schools.  I would expect biking to gradually increase to 10% when safety concerns are properly addressed.  Increasing bicycle popularity to 20% will require other enticing features also described on other posts on this blog.

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Integrated Solution to Solving Growth and Traffic Congestion Problems

I recently watch the TED YouTube “A future beyond traffic gridlock” by Bill Ford of Ford Motor Co.  It has relevance to Growth and increased Traffic in our city.  I didn’t quit like Fords example of cars on intelligent networks because it lacked innovation in the use of other forms of transportation, but I’d expect that of a top auto executive.  More cars, autonomous cars, and networked or not, are that much more space occupying our roads.  One must look at even more long-term integrated mobility solutions that occupy far less space, reduce or eliminates the use of energy and production of greenhouse gases, and greatly reduce or eliminate traffic congestion.

The solution must also work for urban sprawl areas like Cupertino since transit buses cannot feasibly serve every neighborhood conveniently.  Streets are frequently mazes very time consuming for buses to navigate and not economically feasible to one or two people at a time.  Even Uber cars and autonomous cars will eventually add to traffic as their numbers increase.  Cars simply take up too much road and parking space on our limited roads and parking areas.  Parking lots are often as large as the places they serve.  It will take a combination of solutions to solve each situation such as how to accommodate the handicap and elderly or school children or adults commuting to work or shopping.

An integrated long-term solution must involve Smart Growth city designs adapted to urban sprawl, transit infrastructure, smaller motorized light weight vehicles, bicycles, other devices, and walking in a smart coordinated interconnected network something akin to that described by Bill Ford.  How can we make our city less dependent upon cars in the short run and totally independent of cars in the long-term to our growing communities to make growth more sustainable and take mobility to the next evolutionary step?

Technology will play a role but it is not a magic bullet.  It is simply a tool, though an important one, that will make whatever combinations of solutions exist work together more seamlessly.  Mechanical and human mobility elements will still play an essential role.  I have been promoting Bicycles on the blog because they are the most underutilized solution to mobility and in my opinion are on an equal footing to public transportation solutions but orders of magnitude less expensive and faster to implement.  As I have said before they are The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man.  And they can be a Joy to ride.  They are very useful for getting people living in urban sprawl homes to public transit stops, work, and shopping.

But in the short run they are not the total solution.  Bicycles alone are no more a magic bullet than technology.  Efficient transit systems will play an important role as will small electric mobility vehicles for picking up seniors and the handicap from their homes to transit stops or other destinations.  But technology will be the glue that networks with these mobility elements and manages them most efficiently so no one has to wait long for transportation.

The goal of an efficient mobility system is to get people from one destination to the other with the least waste of time, energy, and pollution safely.  There should be sound measurable metrics for measuring the progress of such a system so that improvements can be monitored and optimized.  This is another area where technology will play a key role.

As transportation alternatives become more popular excess roadways and parking areas can be converted into housing and business place.  Another key element is laying out the city so it can be a more effective place for mobility elements such as walking, biking and public transportation to operate.  This means clustering business and housing units closer together so less energy and resources are need for commuting.  High density mixed use developments will be needed to enable people to walk or bike to as many destinations as possible since these are zero energy, zero pollution mobility elements.  The ideal situation is to live within walking distance of all of ones essential destinations.  This is a Smart Growth Is Sustainable Growth strategy.  So sound city planning taking all of this into consideration is essential.

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The Case for Bicycles vs. Minibuses and Uber Cars

Designing a workable transportation system as an alternative to driving everywhere in town is a bit of a daunting challenge here in Cupertino.  Its urban sprawl creates public transportation design nightmares because of the complex mazes of small interconnecting streets leading randomly in every direction designed for cars and privacy.  The vast majority of residential homes are located in these tangled webs of streets and dead ends impossible for public transit to feasibly service.  This makes it very difficult to design an effective commuter system to serve Cupertino residents since most live somewhere within these mazes some distance from possible transit stops along major streets.

One proposal is to have many small minibuses that citizens can call or use applications to pick them up to take them to these transit stops or nearby destinations.  But who is going to finance and run such a fleet?  It isn’t going to be as cheap as larger transit buses on routine routes.  Others propose Uber-like services to do this.  But this is costly and is not optimal for reducing vehicular traffic or pollution since these services utilize energy-consuming vehicles and are part of the traffic stream, not much different from residents driving themselves unless people largely Uberpool.

But these two ideas are only extensions of driving a car and do not break the cultural mold of motorized vehicular transportation.  We need more out of the box ideas that directly solve this urbanized boxed-in culture we have locked ourselves into.  Our city was designed for an urban population of 20,000 who drove cars, not a city of 60,000 and growing with increasing traffic congestion.  How do we get ourselves out of this motorized rut with some practical and growth sustainable ideas for transportation?  Cars simply take up too much space to drive and park and use too much energy and result in many accident fatalities.

The challenge is how to design a transportation system that is relatively inexpensive, does not require much space, and is green yet solves the most challenging part of this puzzle, getting resident from their homes to public transportation.  I have actually proposed a solution in parts of other posts.  Promoting more bicycle riding is one of the objectives of this blog and poses such a solution.  It is relatively inexpensive, quite doable in our geography where the weather is outstanding compared to most other places where biking is popular such as in parts of Europe and such places as Portland Oregon.  Most of the city is fairly flat except at its western extremes.  So there is no reason why people could not bike to a transit stop, park their bike in a bicycle locker or bicycle rack and take a bus or even place their bike on a bike rack that buses carry, then go to their destinations.  No need to contact a minibus or Uber car and pay money.  Simply hop on your bike then hop on a bus.

Another option is for the city to provide inexpensive free bicycles like eBay and Apple does for their employees.  Residents can take a bike home with them, ride it to a bus stop, park the bike and not have to worry about it being stolen, take the bus, then on the return trip pick up another bike at the bus stop and ride it home.  Buying a lot of bikes (10,000) would be cheaper than buying a fleet of minibuses and there would be little ongoing expenses.  Bicycles can also be ridden directly to nearby (5 mi.) destinations.  Bicycles after all take up far less space to ride and park and cost virtually nothing to maintain and ride and cost little in infrastructure maintenance.  They are the greenest form of transportation consuming zero energy and producing zero emissions.  There is really nothing novel about bicycles being a major form of transportation.  Denmark,  Norway, and Sweden have been doing this for decades.  Portland Oregon and Davis is doing it today.  So why couldn’t we?  We must get out of the rut of thinking that the only way to get anywhere is by car, minibus, or public transit.

But the best thing about biking is its health benefits.  Bike riding exercises ones muscles, heart, and lungs.  It burns calories that are responsible for putting on weight.  It also controls cholesterol which is used during exercise and makes you feel more fit and healthier.  It is a good way to relieve stress from a day at work by getting more blood to your brain.  It is low impact so better for your knees than jogging and gets you further.  You can actually get a natural high from biking if you push yourself and you can go somewhere doing it absolutely free, unlike paying to going to the gym and biking to nowhere.  Of course our streets must first be made to feel safe for all ages to bike before such things can happen.

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Things that Discourage Me from Biking in Cupertino

This website promotes more biking in Cupertino to help solve its traffic and pollution problems by creating a more growth sustainable and green community.  It cannot solve all such problems but it can play a valuable role to mitigate them.  And a case can be made that bicycles may ultimately replace cars in the distant future as traffic and pollution are the primary consequences of our current growth.  Cars simply take up too much space on roads and parking when space is at such a premium for habitation and produce climate changing gases.  That is what this blog is largely about.

In order to make bicycles more mainstream as a method of commuting we must overcome the reasons for it not being very popular today.  According to 2010 census data bicycles account for 0.9% of all modes of commuting in Cupertino so there are plenty of opportunity for growth in its popularity.  After all bicycles are The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man.  So why do so few people commute by bicycle and what motivates those who do to do so?

The latter question is probably more easy to answer.  Those who use their bicycles as the primary means of transportation are typically very fit individuals largely doing it for its health and fitness benefits.  Secondarily they do it because it is a lot more economical than driving.  And to a lessor degree they do it for environmental (reduce greenhouse gases) reasons.  As a form of exercise one can get quite high on it which encourages one to do more of it.  I used to bike part way to a carpool going to work when much younger when gas was around $0.75 per gallon and know the feeling.

So the broader question is what is stopping most of those driving from biking.  There will always be 25-35% of people who never learned to ride a bike.  So that leaves 65-75% who know how to bike but don’t.  Riding a bike is also quite easy to learn and it can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.  Since I am most familiar with myself I’ll list my reluctance to bike more than I do which are likely similar to others:

  1. UNSAFE – after retiring I took up low impact biking to improve my health.  But our streets have far more threatening traffic now than when I was young which is the first and primary reason I restrict my biking to a smaller area around my neighborhood.  The fear of being hit by a car is probable 90% of the reason why I am reluctant to ride my bicycle more extensively.  If Cupertino had bike lanes that I fell safe riding that physically separated me from traffic I would probably cycle daily throughout Cupertino which is physically a relatively small city by Bay Area standards.  It is less than 10 miles across, something a casual cyclist can do in a little over an hour and a strong cyclist can do in half that time depending on signal lights and traffic.  So for me Safety is the single greatest factor that inhibits me from bicycling more frequently and extensively and I believe also why biking is not more popular.  So streets must FIRST BE MADE TO FEEL SAFE before more people will try cycling.  Survival is an overriding instinct.

  2. Unappealing – the second reason for my reluctance to bike is the noise and distractions of cars whizzing by on our streets.  I really enjoy riding bicycle trails away from traffic such as the Stevens Creek Trail in Cupertino.  But it is far too short and leads to nowhere of great interest except on special occasions.  Four cities along Stevens Creek are collaborating to see if they can join segments of this trail into a single continuous trail though all four cities which would go all the way to the Bay Shore in Mountain View.  This would be so fantastic!  Mountain View has done an excellent job of developing this trail through their city leaving it as natural as possible with an asphalt trail for bikes and pedestrians unlike in Cupertino where it is over developed with a wide concrete trail.  I’d also like the Southern Pacific trail along the railroad tracks made into a bikeable bicycle trail.  You can bike it now in the dry season but there are sections where you must ride feet from the tracks on loose gravel next to culverts and the utility road is badly rutted.  This trail can run all the way from the city of Saratoga’s Joe’s Trail through Cupertino to near the Lehigh Cement Plant.  It provides several shortcuts through parts of town such as between Rainbow Dr. and McClellan Rd. providing a safe route for students to bike and walk from Rainbow Dr. to the tri-school area and a nice route for people to bike or walk from near Rainbow Dr. to the Post Office on Stevens Creek Blvd. if culverts could be bridged and the trail paved or properly maintained as a walkable/bikable trail with safe crosswalks across interesting streets.  But as it stand right now it is dangerous to cross streets intersected by the trail and the trail is badly rutted and unridable after a rain.

  3. Inconvenience – the third reason for not biking more is inconvenience.  Navigating some of our urban sprawl mazes of streets to try to bypass more dangerous heavily trafficked streets to get around and dodging cars in shopping centers parking lots is not very inviting.  Designing parking lots at shopping centers and places of interest to stop would be convenient.  Currently bicyclists and pedestrians must keep a sharp eye out for cars backing out of parking spaces.  Having more paths between parking rows would be nicer for both those walking to their cars and biking to shop and draw more bikers who don’t take up so much parking space.  Shopping areas need to make themselves far more bicycle/pedestrian friendly with areas where bicycles can ride without worrying about running into cars.  In cities such as New York Time Square they close off traffic to cars on certain days to encourage people to walk and bike.  Local businesses thought this would discourage shoppers and would become a big flop but it grew to be such a big success drawing in even more shoppers and diners that they now do it on a regular basis.  It would be nice if Cupertino could do something similar by closing off certain streets to traffic on certain days or even encourage certain shopping centers to prohibit parking on certain days with flee/farmers markets in the parking lots.  Shortcuts around town to popular locations that cars are prohibited from taking will encourage more to bike instead of drive.  The Bicycle Pedestrian Commission is opening up some blocked paths to bicycles.  If the major roads can be made safe for casual bikers these shortcuts might become more popular for biking.  I can bicycle from Stelling Rd. through Jollyman Park on the sidewalk to take a short cut to De Anza Blvd.  But I am not sure if biking on the sidewalk in the park is legal and from Jollyman Park to De Anza Blvd. requires a bit of navigation since there are no signs pointing out directions and the streets go in many different directions.  But it is a more convenient and safer shortcut.  Having a lot more secure bicycle parking racks scattered throughout town would also make parking bicycles more secure and worry free and convenient.

These are only a few examples.  I feel that if the city added many features such as these more than 20% of our residents would eventually start to bicycle around town instead of drive.  Biking with the entire family is a fantastic experience as long as it can be done safely.

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Those Invasive Dashed Bicycle Lanes Before Intersections

[See my Comment at the bottom]

Every time I ride my bicycle around Cupertino I encounter these dashed bicycle lane markings starting about 50 feet before every intersections where bicycle lanes exist permitting cars to share the bicycle lanes I often feel offended a casual cyclist.  It clearly says to car drivers that they are allowed to share what little space we cyclist have on the road.  If I were to ride my bicycle in the car lane cars would beep their horn at me.  The greatest insult is when dashed bicycle lanes occur at intersections where there is not enough room for a car making a right turn to legally form an extra turn lane this signaling to them that it is okey to intrude into the bicycle lane even though there is no advantage to them in doing so.  So such dashed lanes before all intersections where painted bicycle lanes exist are often pointless, unnecessary, and can be dangerous to cyclists.

Cyclists already have issues with motorist who cut them off while making right turns, the infamous ‘Right Hook’, which account for a large number of accident between motorists and cyclists.  Ethan Wong, a young teenager cycling to school late last year was killed by a large truck preparing to make such a right turn.  Roads in our city clearly signal to drivers that cars own the roads while bicycles are an simply an afterthought.  Such dashed bicycle lanes prior to all intersections including neighborhood roads along busy school routes such as on Bubb Road and McClellan Rd., in the area where the fatal accident happened last year, still exist.  The only improvement the city has made since the tragedy are green bicycle lanes where the green pain is broken up before each intersection and elsewhere still indicating that cars can occupy the same space as bicycles even when there is no room to legally form a separate turn lane.  Granted one notable improvement the city made is the buffer double white lines separated by about 2 ft. along some of our streets making cyclists such as me feel safer.  But even these disappear 50 ft. before intersections signifying that cars still own the road space that should belong the bicycles.

I feel that since cars and bicycles share the same roads that such dash bicycle lanes be reserved for the busiest street intersections where there is room to legally form a separate car turn lane.  Less busy streets should also have solid bicycle lanes before intersections even if wide enough to form a turn lane because forming a separate lane serves no purpose other than endangering cyclists.

It is my personal opinion that bicycles should have their own bicycle lanes during right turns that cars cannot intrude.  Cars can easily making wider right turns so why not make streets safer for bicycles?  There is no reason they should be permitted to intrude on bicycle space unless there is no room for both to exist separately.  This would vastly reduce Right Hooks and save lives and limbs. Until the city makes it clear that cyclist have equal rights to our roads and stops sending subtle signals to vehicle drivers that they own the road cars will continue to own the roads simply because they are larger and overwhelmingly more intimidating than bicycles.  Bicycles were riding on streets long before cars (see Reference links at bottom).

Most certainly many seasoned cyclist ride towards the middle of car lanes at intersections to make themselves more visible to cars.  But I as a casual cyclist need a curb to stand on at signal lights and must stay to the extreme right in the blind spot for many motorist so I am exposed to cars moving into my bicycle lane making a right turn and not seeing me.  As a casual cyclist this can be very scary and intimidating.  For other potentail casual cyclist this can be a show stopper discouraging them from riding our streets.  We need to encourage more cycling in Cupertino.  So such needless bicycle markings should be eliminated and such practice stopped.

Dashed bicycle lanes before intersections should be used sparingly and with purpose.  Placing them arbitrarily at every intersection where bicycle lanes are painted is pointless and potentially dangerous.  Please city of Cupertino, consider stopping this practice.  Send the message to motorists that bicycles have more rights to their bicycle lanes than do cars. Have mercy on we casual and less experienced cyclists.  I am a senior and less able to navigate our roads as do many advanced and seasoned cyclists.  Our streets MUST be made safe for me as well.

References:

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Liability Kills Innovation and Solutions

We in Cupertino live in the heart of Innovation, Silicon Valley.  Apple has its headquarters and largest R&D facility here.  Yet when you ask the city to implement biking safety enhancements which are not mainstream in California they say they can’t because of potential liability issues.  This kind of attitude stifles any kind of creativity or even the adoption of tried and true ideas developed in Europe and implemented elsewhere but not yet popular here.

Not all cities have this kind of overcautious attitude.  San Francisco realized the importance of bicycle safety, especially since the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has urged the city to make bicycles more equal to car in safety on their streets.  They have been implementing safer bicycle lanes there for the last few years.  Davis California has been at it even longer and it probably the leader in bicycle safety in California.  Class IV protected bicycle lanes and protected intersections have been implemented on many of their busier streets.  Portland Organ is the capital of the bicycle movement in America and has been very aggressive at implementing safe bicycle lanes and taking many hints from European designs.  New York is starting to design their street towards bicycle safety and use in recent years and has made Time Square bicycle friendly and periodically closes off streets for use by pedestrians and bicycles only.  There are many other examples around the country where cities are trying new ideas to make bicycling more safe and popular.

But Cupertino continues to play it safe from liability.  So it never can be a leader in anything.  It only cautiously follows others who have the common sense and safety priority to lead the way.  When the streets could be made much safer for cyclists and pedestrians the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission plays it safe and does not try its best to make our streets safer until someone they think reputable does it first so fearful is it about liability.  In the mean time the city leaves pedestrian-ways and bicycle routs less safe than they could be had they taken the initiative, thus risking the lives of its citizens and users.

A case in point is McClellan Road which has been known as an unsafe road for decades.  Accidents between bicycles and cars happen every years or so around the three Schools located withing blocks of one another on Bubb Rd. and McClellan Rd.  Last year Ethan Wong was struck and killed by a large truck while bicycling to school on that road.  Had a Class IV protected bicycle lane, physically separating cyclists from cars and designed by the Dutch and Europeans and used for decades because of their proven safety track record, been installed there Ethan would more than likely be alive today.  No blame has ever been assigned to this accident illustrating how murky are the laws and road designs there allowing the bicycle and truck to occupy the same space and collide.  In spite of the accident the City still has not placed such protected bicycle lanes there because of perceived liability concerns even though Class IV bicycle lane have been used in such cities as Davis for some time and have been part of State Law since last year.

So perceived liability concerns for Class IV bicycle lanes are no longer relevant.  However the city wants them to be even more non-existent.  In the mean time student cyclists remain exposed to unnecessary safety risks and hazardous road conditions that lead to this tragic loss of life.  The problem remains unresolved even though a proven solutions that the city has been aware of exists.  To the city’s credit they have painted the bicycle lane green and prohibited large trucks from driving on McClellan Rd. during school traffic hours but student are still exposed to car traffic.

The city needs progressive programs to make our street far safer for both bicycle riders and pedestrians if it ever wants more bicyclists and pedestrians to use our streets.  Not addressing these safety issues with new bold and proven safety measures because of liability concerns kills good ideas and innovations from happening and also can kill and maim residents at any instant as was just illustrated.

For ever fatality there are likely hundreds of injury accidents between vehicles and bicycles, some serious and some not.  But every such accident is a potential fatality and must be treated as such regarding implementing safety measures.  We must not let the fear of liability cloud our judgement on saving lives and protecting the health and welfare of our children and citizens riding and walking our streets.  We must encourage citizens, not discourage them, to bike and walk our streets safely with innovative and proven safety ideas to solve some of our traffic issues and improve the health and well being of our citizens.  It is only right.

 

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Building a Quaint Bicycle Friendly Community

Building up a Bicycle Community requires the following Bicycle Strategy: Safety, Appeal, [and] Convenience to be developed and implemented.  But from a logistical perspective these Strategies can be done in a combination of series and/or parallel actions.  But bicycle Safety should be implemented first as explained later.  These three elements are key to providing a biking environment and experience that will draw out the most from the general population.  If bicycling can be made a far more attractive alternative to commuting than driving more people will choose to bicycle rather than drive.  Taking another prospective if driving a car can be made more inconvenient than riding a bike people will choose to bicycle rather than drive.  Both of these consideration can go into making a small community such as Cupertino, where the weather is good almost all year round, a biking community.

The Joys of Bike Riding must be experienced to be appreciated and the Benefits of Biking are numerous from health to environmental and economic.  It is a shame that so few take advantage of this low cost, low impact means of transportation.  At present only 0.9% of adult commuters bicycle according to the 2010 Census for our city.  But this is slowly increasing.  This is a drop in the proverbial bucket.  Far more citizens and children need to take advantage of The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man.  Perhaps biking is not for everyone but there are many who would bicycle given that it can be made Safer, more Appealing, and far more Convenient.  So there are ways to encouraging more to bicycle.

SAFETY is the the most fundamental consideration on which bicycle popularity must be based.  Make our streets FEEL SAFE and more people will start cycling.  There are studies and articles related to this:

So  it makes sense to make our streets SAFE to draw out those potential cyclists who are reluctant to bicycle because they perceive our streets dangerous with cars.  Experienced cyclists who bike 20 miles a day everywhere are the hardest to convince of this because they feel the streets already safe.  But their long experience has made them street wise, something the vast majority of the public is not accustomed to.  All people who do not cycle regularly have as their utmost concern Safety.  But there will be those who still need further incentives to cycle.

The greatest fear casual or green cyclist have is being hit by a car.  To alleviate such fears as many Class IV protected bicycle lanes as possible should be built on heavily trafficked streets.  Davis California is 1st City in U.S. to Install Dutch Designed Protected Bicycle Intersection and has been using and promoting Class IV for years.  Protected bicycle lanes were developed in Europe decades ago.  Once streets are made SAFE for Bicycles there will likely be a fairly rapid increase in bicycle ridership of 10 times or more than now ride our streets.

In order to attract even greater bicycle ridership biking must be made more Appealing.  Appealing bicycle trails can be made along the Union Pacific Railroad Trail for Bicycling and Walking or the proposed 4 City Stevens Creek Trail away from traffic or along Class IV bicycle lanes with drinking fountains, trees for shad, tasteful landscaping, plenty of covered rest stop, and places to shop and eat.  These and other amenities can create an environment where people can spend an entire day simply bicycling around.

Biking must also be made Convenient with bicycle shortcut throughout town, plenty of bicycle parking (bike stands and storage), bridges and tunnels to get around traffic and other obstacles, streets that on certain days are closed off to traffic so only pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy safety and quiet and shop freely along the streets without worrying about traffic or crossing the street.  Eateries can set up tables with umbrellas along these streets for people to eat and snack like in quaint European towns.  Grocery stores and other shops can set up stands along the street to sell their food or goods making for a pleasant and convenient shopping experience.  Shopping centers can also prohibit cars in their parking lots on certain weekend days allowing only pedestrians and cyclist access to the parking lots with farmers markets on the unoccupied parking areas for the convenience of bicyclists and strolling shoppers.  Closing off streets around schools during school commute hours and coordinate between schools to start classes at the same time so only biking and walking are permitted will make going to school easier.  For instance Close Off Bubb And McClellan during Peak School Traffic.  That will put an end to traffic congestion around schools and make them infinitely safer to bicycle and walk to.

One only needs to use their ingenuity to make biking more Attractive and more Convenient.  But it is possible so it is worthwhile considering.  Pilot programs could be developed to study these possibilities.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Cupertino took on the character closer to a quaint small leisurely and more quiet town?  Isn’t that what most people long for?  It is possible if the City has the Vision and Political Will.

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Future Cupertino Traffic Projections (Including General Plan Data)

The following is an update of the post Future Cupertino Traffic Projections.  This analysis focuses upon the number of Cars in the city and projections of car numbers to 2015 (present time) and 2023 (8 years when the current General Plan (GP) is fully implemented).  Two scenarios are presented 1) Full implementation of the GP [worst-case scenario] and 2) Half the implementation of the GP [conservative case].

The Math:

You can skip this section and go directly to The Analysis and Conclusions below if you don’t want to go through the Math.  The 1990, 2000, and 2010 Car data at the very bottom Table of this article is directly extracted from the census data since the data for Cars was first started in 1990.  Please bear with me for some of this analysis because I wanted those with a math background to understand how the extrapolated data was derived.

The data was plotted using Excel between 1990 through 2010 below for Residential Cars and the Other Cars from out of town as well as the Total Cars which is the sum of Residential Cars + Other Cars.  The graphs are fairly close to straight lines with Rate of Residential cars growth for 1990-2000 was 500 cars/year and for 2000-2010 was 463 cars/year.  Rate of Other cars growth for 1990-2000 was 250 cars/year and for 2000-2010 was 232 cars/year.  This means that the rate of grow of cars for both Residential growth and Other growth is increasing at a steady rate.  To extrapolate into the future the Rate of Residential cars and Rate of Other not associated with the GP was averaged from 1990-2010 (20 years) to 481 and 241 respectively (see Table at bottom).

The number of Residential Housing Units (HU) allocated by the GP is 1,600.  If we assume each HU has 2 cars then the total number of cars is 2X1,600 = 3,200.  The GP allocates 3,500,000 sq.ft. to Office Space.  If we estimated that each office worker will needs around 200 sq.ft. of overall office space then there will be (3,500,000 sq.ft.)/(200 sq.ft/employee) = 17,500 employees.  I round this down to 17,000 employees for simplicity.  I assumed that each employee would be driving a car from out of town, thus the number of cars they drive equals the number of employees.  I then added 8000 cars as an estimate by Apple of the number of cars driven by 13,000 Apple employees.  Thus the total number of cars by 2023, the length of the GPA period equals 17,000+8,000 = 25,000 cars.  This may be a little low because I am not including other construction underway today not part of the current GP.  I added the Apple cars to the GP cars to simplify the explanation but the numbers all add up in the end.  To extrapolate the total number of cars I simple used the averaged Rate of Residential and Rate of Other to calculate the normal Residential Cars and Other Cars in to 2023 then added the number of HU cars to the historic Residential Cars and added the number of GP cars to the historic Other Cars from 2015 to 2023 (steeper part of curves).  This give the worst-case scenario.

To give the best case scenario I cut the number GP Other Cars in half and added these number to the historic predictions.  The Table and Car Growth graph below present this data.

The Analysis and Conclusions:

The most telling of this analysis is the differing rates of increase in Car growth.  This is measured by the Slop of the curves at different times.  From 1990 to 2010 a period of 20 years the growth rate of both Residential Cars and Other Cars from out of town was constant.  The Rate of Residential growth over 20 years averaged 481 cars per year and the Rate of Other cars from out of town averaged 241 cars per year.  It is assumed this rate of growth continued up to 2015 since there is no data.  Then between 2015 to 2023 or 8 years of GP related growth it took a sharp turn upward to (47,46040,410)cars/8 years = 881.25 cars/year for Rate of Residential due to the HU allocations and skyrocketed to (47,63020,205)cars/8 years = 3428.125 cars/year for Rate of Other cars from out of town due to the huge jump in 3.5 million sq. ft. Office Space allocations.  The table below displays the data more clearly.


1990-2015 cars/yr.
2015-2023 cars/yr.
Increase In Rate
½ 2015-2023 cars/yr.
Rate of Residential 481 881 83%
Rate of Other 241 3,428 1,322%  1,714

It is very clear that there is a dramatic 1,322% increase or more than a 14 fold increase in the Rate of Other cars from employees due to the huge amount of allocated Office Space in the GP.  Even reducing the Rate of Other cars by half is still more than a 7 fold increase over the earlier normal growth rate.  Note that the number of Other Cars (from out of town) intersect the Residential Car curve at the end of 2023.  This means that the number of residential cars equals the number of cars from people not living in Cupertino.

The Total Cars is the graph of the total of the Residential Car and the Other Cars curve.  In 2015 the total number of cars was 60,615 but only 8 years later the total number of cars will increase to 95,089 and increase of 34,474 cars, more than half the total number of cars that exist today.  It can clearly be seen the unprecedented explosion of car growth due to the GP Office Space.  Even reducing the growth of Other Cars and HU by half (conservative case) results in a total of 80,739 cars or an increase of 20,124 car is still hugely significant.  Such growth in the rate of cars is UNSUSTAINABLE.

We should expect major traffic congestion withing the next 3-5 years if something dramatic is not done.  This will impact the quality of life for residents, schools, visitors, and employees working in Cupertino.  Expect very long commute times within our city especially during the heaviest of traffic.  To put thing into perspective 8 years of upcoming 8 year growth is equivalent to 8X14= 112 years of normal 1990-2010 growth (worst case).  The conservative scenario is 8X7 = 56 years of normal growth in 8 years.

Cupertino Car Growth

TableCupertino Car Growth Data

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Davis California is 1st City in U.S. to Install Dutch Designed Protected Bicycle Intersection

Northern European cities have been committed for 3 decades to reducing the number of cars on their street by replacing them with bicycles due to the high cost of gasoline.  They have spent much time in devising innovative solutions to making bicycling safe, convenient, and attractive.  Bicycle infrastructure is quite cheap to build and last for decades before being upgraded with new innovations.  50% of Copenhagen residents ride bicycle to work and shop.  It is not uncommon to find citizens who don’t own a car.  There are efficient transit systems to take people further but they have few buses due because they use bicycles to get around locally.  So you never have to drive.  The Dutch Protected Junction Intersection is one of their best innovation.  I have posted this and many other designs at Best Practices in Bicycle Lane Designs.

The key feature of the Dutch Junction design is the four quarter moon white curved curbs at each corner of the interaction (see figure above) that prevents a car from hitting the cyclist while making a right turn.  The green defines the bicycle lanes and the white stripes the pedestrian crosswalks.  This curb protrudes far enough out into the intersection with a large radius curve so that cars making a right can have a clear view of pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection.  The sidewalks also follows the inner curvature of the junction curbs to allow bicycles to easily follow the bicycle lane.  These Dutch Junctions are commonly located at busy intersections and frequently have signal lights or stop signs.

The photo above is one such Dutch Junction intersection with signal lights in Davis.  You can see the quarter moon curb to the right of the cyclist that defines the corner of the intersection and protects cyclists from impact by cars making right turns.

The photo above is another view of the same intersection showing vehicle making a right turn.  Note that the intersection curves gradually allowing vehicles making a right turn enough time to see bicycles and pedestrians crossing the street.  Also note that the pedestrian crossings are handicapped accessible and provide a clear view for motorists making right turns to see wheel chairs.

This design clearly gives roads equally SAFE access to bicycles, pedestrians, and the handicapped where they are most vulnerable to car accidents.  The right turn is the most dangerous location for cyclists to be struck by cars due to the lack of visibility and physical barriers.

The following link is an interesting discussion on: Four U.S. cities are racing to open the country’s first protected intersection.  Vox Transportation has an interesting article about this: Study: protected bike lanes really do increase biking.  They have a couple of other good articles: Fewer than 4% of Americans walk or bike to work. Here’s how to change that and This California city just built the country’s first protected intersection for bikes.

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Do You Know what That New Painted Bicycle Sharrow Symbols on the Roads Mean?

Do you know what this new symbol painted on Rainbow Dr. between Stelling Rd. and Bubb Rd. means? I asked my wife and she guessed that it meant for cars to watch out for bicycle riding to the right next to the curb.  This segment of street is too narrow for a painted bike lane yet is designated by the city of Cupertion to be a formal bicycle route.

This sharrow symbol with a bicycle symbol underneath mean that bicycles share the same road space (center of the road) as bicycles.  If a car come up behind a bicycle they must follow at a safe distance behind the bicycle.  In other word bicycles sharrow (share) the same road space as cars.  I think my wife is not alone in not knowing what this symbol means.  I’m willing to bet that at least 80% of drivers in our city do not know for sure what the symbol means.  The problem is that many people may have many interpretations of what this symbol means.  This ambiguity could cause a more dangerous condition than in the past.

The city needs to make it clear what driving symbols mean to remove any ambiguity in interpretations.

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The Reason Bicycles Have No Powerful Advocates

I’ve said in some of my blog posts how energy-efficient, low-cost, non-polluting, very safe, and mechanically simple bicycles fundamentally are.  Bicycles are the most Efficient means of Transportation devised by man.  They are the panacea for local and intermediate commuting.  This is a great advantage to society in solving so many of our social, economic, and environmental problems but it presents a major problem for our economic-industrial systems.  In our society where jobs and large and complex corporations and governments thrive bicycle infrastructure is simply far too simple, low-cost, too safe, and too energy and resource efficient.

This country isn’t about simplicity, efficiency, low-cost, public safety, and all the other good things you hear about.   It is about corporate profits and keeping jobs.  Complexity, high overhead, waste, and inefficiency are key towards these ends.  They are at the core that keep this country running and stimulates economic growth with jobs and circulating money.  Bicycles are simply too simple and low cost.  You buy one for a few hundred dollars and it last forever.  I still have a 10 speed Motorbacon that I bought in 1973 that works perfectly.  You may have to change a tire every couple of years but that is easily done yourself.  No fuel needed and most other maintenance are easily done by yourself at almost no costs.  No insurance payments or license and registration costs.  Bicycle infrastructure such as bicycle paths are equally simple costing a tiny fraction that of cars.  Bicycle infrastructure is often complicated and expensive just to get around roads and freeways designed exclusively for cars as well as physically protect bicycles from cars.

Serious accidents between bikes and between bicycles and pedestrians are extremely rare because of the limited speeds and weight of bicycles.  Thus medical costs are low and non-life threatening.  Bikes cannot catch fire or be smashed to pieced in a non-car collision.  Many European countries where bicycles are more common than cars do not have helmet laws.  They are needed here because of deadly collisions by cars.  Due to the lack of serious accidents lawsuits would be trivial and insurance not needed for liability.

Bicyclists also need no drivers license test for proficiency and knowing the driving laws, etc.  Bicycles need no crash test standards or large Department of Transportation, and fewer laws and critical law enforcement because they do not cause major accidents or pose a serious danger to the public.

Bicycles require less than 1% of the entire infrastructure of cars reducing the use of hospital due to the reduction of car accidents; need a much smaller industry with a fraction of the people used in car manufacturing to manufacture bicycles; and would reduce the demand for oil and the industries involved in the acquisition and manufacture of oil.  Law enforcement can be reduce due to the reduction in serious accidents and the need to ticket people as much due to fewer consequences of infractions and consequently fewer laws.  Government agencies needed to regulate and assure the safety standards of cars can be eliminated since bicycle safety is usually not life-threatening or pose a serious threat to the destruction of property.  Bicycles are light weight and do not damage or significantly ware out roads thus require far less road maintenance.  Fewer insurance companies and lawyers are needed due to the lack of serious accidents to body and property.  The list for far fewer services and jobs goes on and on.

So many government agencies and private enterprises thrive on our dependence upon cars.  Trillions of dollars are spent annually on all things related to cars.  Transportation cost is the second highest expense people have other than their house.  If cars were significantly reduced in our cities and replaced by bicycles we would all save huge amounts of money and save tens of thousands of lives annually but at the cost of jobs and industries related to cars.  So even though governments and industries give token support for making bicycles more popular none will be Strong Advocates for far more bikes on our roads to significantly reduce the number of cars and associated lower cost of living, traffic congestion, pollution, and more safer commutes.

Our economic structure encourages profitable industries to thrive and less profitable ones to struggle.  So we will continue to consume oil and produce greenhouse gases, buy large cars with high maintenance, continue killing 33,000 people and paying high insurance premiums annually, construct expensive freeways and street needing constant maintenance and upgrades, put up with traffic congestion and wasted time and energy on the road, and all the other things related to cars.

Regardless of what anyone says about simple being better, in the case of cars complicated, wasteful, unsafe, and expensive are what keep industries thriving and governments big, all in the name of jobs and profits.  So what are the incentives for Powerful Advocates in large industries and big government to replace more cars with bicycles?  It will have to happen some other way.

There is something seriously wrong about this picture!

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Letter to City: Future Growth and Traffic in Cupertino

Letter from me to Cupertino Planning Department 8/9/2015 (with minor corrections):

Dear Planners of our City,

I do not think our City Government has a firm grasp of the future traffic issues in Cupertino based upon the GPA.  Let me summaries the Problem as I see it and pose possible Solutions.  These solutions are only partial solutions as I think the problem far more severe than these solutions alone can mitigate.  I am at a loss as to how to accommodate all this growth with current infrastructures or even considering minor modifications including these suggestions though these solutions are sustainable with a reasonable amount of growth.

THE PROBLEMS:-

The GPA allocates 3,500,000 sq.ft. of office space and 1,400 housing units as part of the Land Use.  If we assume each employee will occupy 200 sq.ft. and each housing unit will have two drivers then 17,500 new jobs will be created and roughly that number of cars added by employees since they will mostly be from out of town and 2,800 residential cars will be added to our streets.  Add to that an estimate of 8,000 additional cars from the new Apple 2 13,000 employee Campus 2 and other ongoing new business  growth such as Main Street, an estimated 28,000 more cars will be added to our streets within the next 8 years of the GP.

By my best guess based upon census data and Future Cupertino Traffic Projections the rate of cars on our street has been close to a straight line growth rate of 722 cars/year.  So in 8 years there should be 5,776 additional cars.  This contrasts to 28,000 car that I estimate based on current businesses and the new GPA allocation of 3.5 million sq.ft.  This is a 4.85 fold increase over the historic growth of motor vehicles in our city.  Census data indicates we have about 60,000 motor vehicles on our streets today.  So in 8 years we will have an increase gf 47% more cars on our street.  This is an explosion of cars we will have to deal with.  This is equivalent to almost 40 years of traditional census growth crammed into 8 years.

Our streets are starting to show signs that the current infrastructures of streets, freeways and freeway exits are having difficulty handling today’s traffic during peak hours.  Streets around many of our schools have been having traffic congestion for years.  The addition of 47% more cars on our streets in 8 years needs to be somehow mitigated or we are facing gridlock on many streets which is bad for residents, employees trying to go to drive, and people trying to shop at our new shopping establishments.

But there are other implications.  Parking is going to become increasingly problematic.  For example Sand Hill is planing 2,000,000 sq..ft. of office space and 800 housing units in Vallco adding 10,000+1,600=11,600 more cars competing with Apple’s 8,000 cars on the same freeway exit (HWY 280) and streets (Wolf Rd. and Stevens Creek).  But Vallco employees will also be competing with shoppers at Vallco for parking spaces as well as traffic.  This is the kiss of death for Vallco competing with other nearby shopping centers in San Jose.  The same can be said for any new shopping development with a lot of shops offices such as Main Street.  So any revitalization of shopping in Cupertino in order to support the explosion of office space and residential housing and consequently cars on our roads and parking spaces is unrealistic.

This explosion of commercial growth is simply unsustainable with current infrastructure.  Providing wider freeway exits will have limited benefits when the streets the leading to it are gridlocked with cars.  How can we make our street wider to handle the influx of cars without taking out sidewalks, bicycle lanes, or medians?  Drivers will try to take alternate routes causing congestion at those exist and along other arteries including Stevens Creek Blvd.  There must be other practical options offered commuters for getting to work and around town other than driving.

THE SOLUTIONS:-

Public transportation options are extremely limited to commuters and residents in Cupertino.  It has been very difficult to get people other than students to take public transportation in our city.  Perhaps it is a sign of affluence.  Cars are so much more CONVENIENT and gas prices too low.  We are alto the epitome of urban sprawl making it difficult to run buses conveniently close to residential homes making public transportation that much more inconvenient.  There must be some kind of INCENTIVE to make people take public transportation.  Would it be possible to make public transportation FREE for anyone taking public transportation within our city?  Could we pay VTA like all DeAnza student do through their student body fee but in our case through a minor tax to offices that do not directly serve the general public (residents) based upon office space square footage?  Shops would automatically be exempt because they directly serve the general public.  It would be fair since they contribute to most of the additional traffic.  This makes things very CONVENIENT as well because people simply need to get onto the bus within Cupertino’s city limit without having to worry hassle about fares.  People always like FREE and CONVENIENCE.  This provides INCENTIVE for people to take buses wherever they are to get around town.  As more people use public transit VTA will expand and improve services over time further reducing traffic.  This will make commuting for workers half as expensive if that take a bus since their trip back home is paid for.

Bicycles are another option local resident as well as people in offices can use.  The problem is the current bicycle infrastructure is UNSAFE to ride.  Bicycle lane must be made to FEEL SAFE if it is the intent that significant numbers of residents, employees, and school aged children will ride their bikes instead of drive their cars.  I know that the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission is working on putting in Class 4 protected bike lanes in some major streets some time in the future.  What I am asking is to make the this a Citywide priority in solving the traffic problem to be urgently funded and executed.  Again it is important to INCENTIVIZE people to ride bicycles instead of drive their cars.  Making street SAFE for people of all ages will help make this a far more ATTRACTIVE alternative to driving.  Many people have bicycles that are sitting in their garages that they occasionally use.  And those that don’t can buy one for a couple of hundred dollars that last forever.  So all the City has to do is make our city very SAFE to ride bikes, and people and even employees will start to ride their bikes.  You can also make as a Community Benefit for new business that they buy fleets of cheap bicycles to give to the city.  The city can provide these bikes FREE for use by the community and businesses.  They can be painted pink or some other outlandish color with places all over the city for them to be parked and used by others.

Bicycle trails away from traffic could be much more extensive such as on the center of HWY 85 to help reduce highway traffic by presenting people with another alternative or the Stevens Creek Trail if extended from Cupertino to Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Mountain View or the Southern Pacific Trail along the railroad tracks.  Presently Cupertino has two short segments of bicycle trails away from traffic.  We need far more so citizens can enjoy long rides with their bicycles.  Once people learn the joys of riding their bikes they will want to do it more.  Bicycles are simply The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man

If the city is to grow according to this GP traffic must first be mitigated or chaos will ensue with traffic gridlock everywhere.  Otherwise the office space allocation needs to be greatly modified in consideration to the current state of road infrastructure to keep step with growth.

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Future Cupertino Traffic Projections

[Note: this article has a followup that include data from the latest General Plan numbers for anticipated growth.]

Here are some census data from 1990 to 2010 of adults 18 years and older:

1990: 31,533;    2000: 37,083;     2010: 42,227

When the data is plotted in Excel it was close to being a straight line with a population growth rate of 534.7 per year.  I used this population growth rate to calculate the population in 2015, 2040 (25 years from now), 2065 (50 years from now), and 2090 (75 years from now).  I then assumed that 90% of the Adult Population own cars to calculate Residential Cars.  Then I assumed that the number of Other Cars from out of town people coming to shop and work was half the number of Residential Cars.  From that the Total Cars was calculated from the sum of Residential Cars and Other Cars.  See Table below:

Table

Year Adult
Population
Residential
Cars
Other
Cars
Total
Cars
% of 2015
Cars
1990 31,533 28,380 14,190 42,570
2000 37,083 33,375 16,687 50,062
2010 42,227 38,004 19,002 57,006
2015(Now) 44,901 40,410 20,205 60,616
2040(+25yr) 58,268 52,441 26,221 78,662 30%
2065(+50yr) 71,636 64,472 32,236 96,708 60%
2090(+75yr) 85,003 76,503 38,251 114,754 89%

The assumption that the number of cars from outside of our city is based upon such things as the new Apple Campus which will employ an estimated 13,000 employees will likely bring in an estimated 8,000 more cars into our city in the next 3 years, the new Main Street project and other commercial construction likely to bring in most of its employees from out of town, the proposed revitalized Valco Shopping Center, and the new Cupertino General Plan projecting significant commercial growth in the next 8 years.

From the Table the % of 2015 Cars will increase by 30% in 25 years.  It will increase by 60% in 50 year from 2015 and 89% in 75 years from 2015.  This is a 1.19% increase in cars per year.  Simply put our roads will need to support progressively more cars.  Much of this traffic will be in the morning when people are going to work or in the late afternoon and evening when people are returning home from work.  Traffic will be a nightmare.  This is not sustainable unless fewer people drive cars in the future.  But there are no signs of that in Cupertino.  Only students and low wage worker are taking public transportation and almost no one walks or rides their bikes.

It is clear that something needs to be done soon to either deal with the increase in cars in terms of road and parking lot infrastructure or to reduce the number of cars on the road.  The city needs to have a strategy to deal with this or residents will be greatly inconveniences in the future.  That is the purpose of this blog, to propose a Vision that reduces cars and car traffic as population increases.

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A Recent Post I made to Nextdoor About Bicycles and Cars

The following was a comment I posted on Nextdoor (you must be a member and log in) regarding the city wasting money on signs for bicycle going the wrong direction and the new green bike lanes.

I am a 71 year old senior who still loves to ride my bike on our dangerous streets.  As it turns out our bicycles are supposed to have the same rights as cars to ride on our public streets.  But careless drivers have almost struck me a few times.  We really have the legal right but not practically because of safety.  In a collision between a car and bicycle no mater whose fault it is the bicycle without exception comes out the loosing end.  So people are hesitant to exercise their right to ride their bikes our unsafe streets.  I’ve been lucky so far because there are a lot of crazy drivers out there.  Sure there may be crazy bikers but crazy drivers can do infinitely more damage than crazy bikers.  We need safer Class 4 protected bicycle lanes to physically separate crazy bikers from crazy drivers thus making bicycles far safer to ride like cars are due to a ton of two of steel protection.  My protection consists of an inexpensive helmet to protect my head, a little better than nothing.  We cyclist need the most help we can get from being killed or worst by cars. There are too many drivers who totally ignore bicycle riders on shared streets obeying the law.

Our streets are DANGEROUS for bikes as they exist today.  Even green paint is not going to protect me against a car whose driver is not paying attention to my legal presence.  For every $100 the city spends on streets for cars less than one cent is spent on making the roads equally safe for bicycles to ride.  Yet our roads are intended for bicycles as well as cars.  This is disproportionate to the rights of bicycle riders with equal rights to the shared roads.

If you want the city to stop wasting money make them haul the $60-70 million Civic Center remake project or the $55 million Stevens Creek Corridor project.  I’ve done all I can including speaking at city council meetings, writing public comments and posting on Nextdoor.  These $110 million projects are truly unnecessary and a waste of really big money.  We need far more investments on bicycle lanes to make them safe for all ages to safely ride in order to reduce traffic around schools and around town due to the 17,000 extra jobs and traffic coming to Cupertino due to the New General Plan.

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The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man

Efficiency of vehicles is measured by the amount of energy (work) that will propel the vehicle over a certain distend in a given time.  It is also the amount of materials, energy, and labor resource needed to make and maintain it.

There is simply nothing that matches a bicycle in the distance and speed it can achieve using so little energy, the energy of a person peddling it.  And it does this without producing any pollution or greenhouse gases other than that expelled by the cyclist.  The human body is an amazing piece of machinery with muscles that can produce an enormous amount of energy using so few calories to move skeletal bones.  No electric or internal combustion engine has such high efficiency.  Human power is the only thing that powers a bicycle.  The bicycle is simplicity itself.  Granted there are some bikes with complex gears but nothing compared to the mechanics of any other vesicle man can make.

It has the speed of some of the fastest land animals and far more range.  A fit cyclist can ride a bike 100-150 miles a day and perhaps a champion cyclist can do over 200 miles.  An average person can cycle 10 miles in one hour.  If there were no signal lights, traffic, and the street was flat one could cycle along Stevens Creek Blvd. from one end of town at Lawrence Expressway to Foothill Expressway and back in one hour going at a moderate 10 mph.

One cannot beat the economic benefits of bicycles.  Even the most expensive bicycle would cost as much as the cheapest car.  Its maintenance would mainly be to occasionally replace worn out tires and lubricate the chain and sprockets once a year and change brake pads, all very simple and inexpensive jobs that do not require a mechanic or computers.  Every few years the spokes may need some adjustments.  No need for fuel or oil changes.  Cars cost hundreds of time more to buy and maintain and require some source of fuel or external energy to run.

How about other non-operating expenses such as insurance, licenses, registration fees, smog checks, etc.?  None of these are required of bicycles.  One might insure the most expensive bicycles but this is optional and rarely done.  Due to the lower price of bikes things such as sale tax are much lower and there are no other taxes associated with bikes unlike the excise tax for car tires.

How about the efficiency of carrying loads?  Granted a car can carrier larger and heavier loads than a bicycle but in terms of efficiency of energy and weight of vehicle to weight of load bicycles win hands down.  I own a shopping cart which attaches to the rear of the bike so it can be pulled behind it with a load rating of 50 lbs.  My bike weight about 35-40 lbs.  It can be quickly detached from my bike and the pull bar folded down revealing a handle that I can pull by hand like a basket cart.  There are all kinds of clever carts and trailers that can carry large appliances on a tricycle.  You’d be amazed at what bike like vehicles are capable of in terms of carrying large and heavy loads.

Even walking takes more energy to do than riding a bike because we must also use energy to carry our weight while walking.  And one can ride a bike much further and in far less time than by walking or running without breaking a sweat.

As for comfort this is not an efficiency factor but in spite of the fact that cars have bikes beat hands down there are bikes like the Elf which can carry up to 3 people and are enclosed for the most part for bad weather areas.  There are also electric assist bikes that have a motor which eases peddling such as up hills and for long stretches of road for those like me who are not very strong.  The Elf is electrical assist.  I own an electrical assist folding bike the easily fits in the trunk of my wife’s car for trips.

So if one is looking for a low cost, low maintenance, no energy, no pollution, high efficiency mode of transportation it is likely sitting in your garage gathering dust.  It is fun to ride and a great source of moderate to high level exercise.  See the world in true 270 degree 3-D with true surround sounds of nature.  Dust off your bikes and try it out.  But watch out for those highly inefficient, heavy, and dangerous cars.

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Senate transportation bill includes landmark provision for safer streets

The following was copied from and article from SmartGrowth:

Senators Schatz, Heller, Franken, and Udall champion provision to address national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities

The Senate voted on its final six-year transportation reauthorization bill today, and included in the bill was a landmark provision to make streets across the country safer for everyone who uses them. The Safe Streets amendment would require states and metropolitan planning organizations to plan and design for the safety needs of all users—regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation—in all federally-funded projects.

“America is facing an epidemic of pedestrian deaths,” said Stefanie Seskin, Deputy Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “This bill will make a Complete Streets approach routine in federal projects. That means streets will be safer for Americans of all ages and abilities, no matter how they travel.”

“The increase in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Nevada and across the nation is concerning, which is why I teamed with Senator Schatz on this important provision,” said Senator Dean Heller. “Passage of the Highway bill, and subsequently the Safer Streets Amendment, will spur innovative transportation planning throughout the nation that aims to improve bike and pedestrian safety.”

“By planning and building roads and communities with more sidewalks, bike paths, bus lanes, and public transit stops, we encourage more transportation options and create safer neighborhoods for families,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “This provision asks states and community planners to consider the needs of all users – whether it’s a mother walking with her child in a stroller, a student biking to school, or a senior taking the bus to get to the store.”

“Eleven years ago, a diverse group of organizations formed the National Complete Streets Coalition to make streets safer for everyone who uses them,” said Roger Millar, Coalition Director. “Seeing our approach included in national legislation is a milestone for the movement.”

In April, Representatives Matsui and Joyce introduced the Safe Streets Act in the House of Representatives, which we hope will be included in the House’s version of a long-term transportation bill.

“Everyone in Washington agrees that we need to make a long-term investment in infrastructure,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “The Senate has done a commendable job making safer streets a priority in their version of the bill—now it’s up to the House to reach a similar outcome. America’s communities and economy are depending on them.”

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Safe Streets Act of 2015 – HR2071

Requires each state to have in effect within two years a law, or each state department of transportation and metropolitan planning organization (MPO) an explicit policy statement, that requires all federally-funded transportation projects, with certain exceptions, to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users in accordance with certain complete streets principles.

Safe Streets Act of 2015 Requires each state to have in effect within two years a law, or each state department of transportation and metropolitan planning organization (MPO) an explicit policy statement, that requires all federally-funded transportation projects, with certain exceptions, to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users in accordance with certain complete streets principles. Defines “complete streets principles” as federal, state, local, or regional level transportation laws, policies, or principles which ensure that the safety and convenience of all users of a transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, children, older individuals, motorists, freight vehicles, and individuals with disabilities, are accommodated in all phases of project planning and development. Allows such law or policy to make project-specific exemptions from such principles only if:

  1. affected roadways prohibit specified users by law from using them, the cost of a compliance project would be excessively disproportionate to the need, or the population, employment densities, traffic volumes, or level of transit service around a roadway is so low that the expected roadway users will not include pedestrians, public transportation, freight vehicles, or bicyclists; and
  2. all such exemptions are properly approved. Requires the Secretary of Transportation to establish a method for evaluating compliance by state departments of transportation and MPOs with complete streets principles.

Requires the Access Board to issue final standards for accessibility of new construction and alterations of pedestrian facilities for public rights-of-way. Requires the Secretary to conduct research regarding complete streets to:

  1. assist states, MPOs, and local jurisdictions in developing and implementing complete streets-compliant plans, projects, procedures, policies, and training programs; and
  2. establish benchmarks for, and provide technical guidance on, implementing complete streets policies and principles.

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Smart Growth Is Sustainable Growth

Smart Growth as defined by Wikipediais an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.”  Also see: Smart Growth and the Role of Bicycles

The basic philosophy behind Smart Growth is that communities should be designed to minimize people’s dependence upon cars and champion the sustainable expansion of infrastructures to mitigate its impact on the surrounding natural environment.

Cupertino has historically been modeled after urban sprawl, the antitheses of Smart Growth.  So residents drive their cars just about everywhere.  There is little infrastructure for safely riding ones bicycle.  Walking to shop is made difficult for lack of a nearby centralized downtown shopping area.  There is little public transportation due to the lack of demand and difficulty of effectively serving urban sprawl.

Cupertino is surrounded by mountains and neighboring cities so there is little to no room for expansion.  Our city can grow upwards by placing more people in taller buildings but this will simply add to car traffic on the streets below.  Public transportation is largely nonexistent.  Bicycle lanes are unsafe so only the most ardent cyclists bike around town.  Shopping it too spread out to walk.  Thus traffic will becoming increasingly saturated with car along key arterial roads and freeways during commute hours.  Something must be done to stem the influx of cars on our streets as the city grows.  But how?

Most importantly city government must acknowledge that car traffic congestion, noise, and pollution are the primary consequences of growth and believe that Smart Growth is the correct path forward in long-term solutions.  If growth is inevitable solutions must be devised to reduce traffic along with increasing growth using Smart Growth strategies.  The following are some important elements.  There are more such as mixed uses development but the following are of most immediate importance.

Affordable High Density Housing
Smart Growth suggests that new high density housing units be located along major corridors where residents can take mass transit, conveniently walk, or safely bike to work and do shopping nearby.  The key point about housing is that residents live near where they work and shop with convenient commuting options.  The problem is that most employees will likely not earn enough to live in our expensive city.  So we are possibly talking about low-cost affordable high density housing units.  This is a complex issue which is too lengthy to discussion here.

Centralized Shopping & Offices
The city need a centralized downtown shopping and office area that is very walkable to shopping, dining, and work with off-street parking structures in strategically located areas adjacent to shopping.  There must also be safe and easy access and parking for bicycles.  High density housing should be located near by making it easy to walk or bike to.

Public Transportation
Public transportation certainly is a major part of the a Smart Growth solution to carry residents to work, shopping, appointments, etc. so they don’t have to drive.  How can the city incentivize citizens to use public transportation?  Perhaps by making it Free for anyone boarding public transit in Cupertino by paying VTA (Valley Transit Authority) a certain amount each month or year for estimated fares.  Developers can pay the city a “Community Benefit” fee to help pay for it.  The city can even consider this a budgeted infrastructure expense like road maintenance.  As residents realize the benefits of a “Free” public transportation system more will use it.  As more use it VTA will be more willing to improve and expand service.

Safe Bicycle Lanes
But due to urban sprawl it will not be possible to run public transportation to all neighborhoods.  Here is where bicycles can plan an invaluable role.  Bicycles can be ridden from home to nearby work, shopping and public transportation.  But bicycle lanes are currently not safe from cyclists being struck by cars.  Bicycle lanes must be made safe enough that people of all ages and skill levels Feel safe riding.  Safe bike lanes is key to attracting increasingly more people to bicycle around town.  Perhaps some of the money suggested for public transportation could be used to make bicycle lanes safe to ride.  The city can afford to put in safe bike lanes and there is plenty of funds available from other government agencies.  Once the safety issue is addressed bicycle will become far more popular and enthusiastically supported by more citizens resulting in many other enhancements and conveniences for bicycles.

Political Will!
There are other Smart Growth strategies mentioned throughout this blog.  People must shift their emphases from cars, which accentuates growth problems, to other modes of mobility and Smart Growth processes that mitigate the consequences of growth.  It can be done if only the city had the political will, vision and wisdom to do it.

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