ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION – ACTIVE PLANNERS

February 20, 2013

ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION – ACTIVE PLANNERS
BART Director Robert Rayburn recently forwarded me a link to a study about how becoming an active transportation participant is both good for you (by increasing your health) and good for others (reducing your carbon emissions). The aim of the article is to show what various future scenarios might look like under a variety of policy actions (or inactions). For those of you who are interested, here is the link to the article synopsis: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300939
We can tell from our own (CCJPA) mode of access survey that there are about 20 percent more of you out there who would bicycle if something about bicycling was “better” than the current dominant travel mode (“better” meaning things like safer and/or more convenient). I think one of the points of the article is that making things “better” is both a personal, but in this context, but also a public policy choice, and that is where the “collective we” can make decisions about our future through our elected policy makers.
I remember Eugene Skoropowski, the former CCJPA Managing Director, would frequently say that without transportation options, people’s travel choices were largely condemned to the automobile. He was usually speaking in support of passenger train travel, but it is no stretch to extend that mindset to getting to and from the Capitol Corridor train. Public policy supporting a wider variety of travel mode options can begin to address the needs of those 20 percent who would be open to riding a bicycle to and/or from the train. And of course, those who do ride a bicycle to and/or from the train today, which is somewhere between 10 to 20 percent, would benefit from more facilities on the street and at the stations to help improve the bicycling conditions.
The good news is that public policy makers on the CCJPA Board will have the chance to address this issue in regards to the Capitol Corridor and make a difference with the adoption of the Capitol Corridor Bicycle Access Plan. I am writing this blog post the day before the vote and don’t expect too many surprises or, for that matter, a vote to delay the adoption of the Plan. More importantly, I want you to know that in implementing this Plan, our elected policy leaders will be choosing a positive future scenario for Capitol Corridor passengers.

VALENTINES DAY ON A BIKE FRIDAY?
We all need love and on February 14, 2013, I think my Bike Friday loaner bicycle fell in love as evidenced by the picture below:

That is right folks – two Bike Friday Tikit bicycles sitting side by side like peas in a pod – they just look so content stuffed away outside of the aisles, in the luggage compartment. The blue one belongs to a Capitol Corridor customer and the green/black one is the one I am getting to use. Definitely an exciting first day (or is that first date?) as I was finally able to take the Bike Friday Speeding Tikit for a spin courtesy of the folks at Bike Friday (bikefriday.com) who have lent me this folder for a couple of months. Here is how the Tikit looks in my office.
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The Tikit arrived a few days before and I spent some of my time at home putting it together from the box and suitcase in which it was shipped. It folds down very quickly and on this version (it has a special extend-rack), I am able to use my full sized panniers, the ones that carry my laptop and clothes. The handlebars make it a bit bigger in folded space than, for instance, the other customer’s blue Tikit, but those do come in handy with my exercise ride home from Davis to Sacramento. In fact, the ride home was just a tad slower because I stopped to take a few photos of the lender Tikit on the way.

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As you can see, a small wheeled folding bicycle with panniers on it. Ta – da! I wish I had a picture of my full sized bicycle with the same set up on it to show you (even a similar color scheme). They both play the same role except the Bike Friday Tikit folds up and away. I will review this bicycle more as I will be riding it almost exclusively in the coming months, but I from my vantage point now, I see a folding bicycle fitting the very same niche as my full sized bicycle. Check, check, check. I am ready to keep rolling.

HAPPY FOLDING NEW YEAR

February 4, 2013

HAPPY FOLDING NEW YEAR

A new year is upon us and yours truly will mark this as the year of the folding bicycle, among other things. In my last entry I talked about the success of the Oakland event with Bay Area Bicycles and the bicycle representatives of Tern and Brompton.  We also hosted an event in Sacramento later that week and things went pretty well given the rainy day weather on December 5th forced us to host the event inside the station building.  Similar to the Oakland event, we worked with homegrown local Sacramento bicycle store talent Steve Rex Cycles and Edible Pedal and hosted brand representatives from Brompton and Bike Friday to showcase their various folding bicycles.  It also happened to be my birthday, but if you have to work on your birthday and you enjoy bicycles like I do, then it doesn’t feel too much like working.  Plus, there were several Bike Friday bicycles present and I tried some “gearing” systems I have never tried before, most notably the Nuvinci transmission system and a belt drive system instead of a chain.

Thank you to those of you that took the time to fill out Capitol Corridor’s online survey about train access in December.  We gave away some great prizes and I’m happy to report that the Brompton folding bicycle went to an 18-year old UC Davis student who didn’t have a bicycle, the monthly and 10-ride passes were won by regular monthly riders, and the 2-person round-trip was won by an occasional traveler so we hope went to have some very happy travelers onboard this month.

Happy Brompton Winner and me
Happy Brompton Winner and me

If you weren’t the lucky winner of the Brompton folding bicycle, it’s time to go visit a local bicycle shop who will be happy to help you find the right folding bicycle for you.  If you’d like to support the local bicycle shops that participated in our events, you can visit their websites here: Bay Area Bikes, Rex Cycles and Edible Pedal.

All that survey data about your mode of access to/from stations, whether you use a car, use a bicycle, or walk, is GREAT STUFF for geeky planners like me.  We asked all sorts of questions that were tailor-made to your responses based on your mode of access to our stations and trains.  I suspect we have had a high response rate from those of you that ride a bicycle since our response rate about usual mode of access for bicycles was above 20% – super high!  The goal of this survey was to obtain an impression about what types of at-station bicycle solutions would work best for our passengers’ preferences and lifestyles. There were 957 survey responses and a whopping 41% of you responded that you ride a bicycle to/from the train station and about 14% of you said you’d ‘maybe’ ride a bicycle to/from the train station. That is a lot of existing and potential bicycle riding!

A part of the survey asked you to rate your preference of two at-station alternatives, and the general answer was “YES” for everything.  Based on your replies, it seems likely that we will work on implementing both a developed system of e-lockers across nearly all the stations and some sort of bicycle-sharing system such as the Brompton Dock (or an equivalent) at our most deserving stations.  Both of these options will be presented to a group of my local bicycle planning and advocacy peers who are deeply involved in bicycle facility planning, funding, development, etc., to give us some final feedback.  All this data will form the final version of Capitol Corridor’s upcoming Bicycle Access Plan that we solicited public comments on through January 15, 2013.

The “Plan”, as I am calling it, will include an enforcement element to help keep our trains safe and accessible for all passengers.  This means no bicycles stored in aisle-ways and making sure all bicycles stored outside the designated rack spaces AND out of the aisle-ways are secured to the train (with a bungee cord, for example). You may remember that we tried this before and it didn’t go very well- so why are we trying it again?  The long and short of it is that we did not have any cars available that were retrofitted with additional bicycle storage during our first attempt at enforcement.  We have been working hard with Caltrans to retrofit all of those cab cars with the ‘”four on the floor” bicycle racks.

Starting in the Spring of 2013, we will consistently have a car type (maybe one of these retrofitted cab cars, or possibly another type of bicycle-friendly car) on each train-set where we can store a big overflow of bicycles out of the way of passengers.  I will certainly be posting more information on this as we move forward, but we’re determined not to go on with business as usual, but to instead move forward with business that is better – and that means safely storing bicycles brought onboard the train.

I AM A NEW FOLDING BIKE USER

Since I’ve been advocating folding bicycles as a solution to on-train bicycle storage issues, I thought it only right that I take my own advice.  This past month I purchased my own folding bicycle – a Brompton M6R.  So far I’ve been able to store it on the overhead bin and between the triangle of space created by the table seats and it’s nice to know that I’m freeing up a space in the bicycle racks for my fellow bike-riding passengers.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this bicycle from me in the future, but for the moment I’m working on breaking in the Brooks saddle and getting lots of practice at folding and unfolding on a regular basis.

I guess my enthusiasm must be contagious as Bike Friday asked me to test out one of the models they showcased at the Sacramento event and give them my feedback.  The bicycle I will be testing out is a Bike Friday Tikit, specifically the Speeding Tikit, with the drop handlebars. This particular model is set-up much like the Bianchi road-commuter bicycle that I have been using to ride from Davis to Sacramento in an attempt to fit in some exercise on my way home from work. I am certainly looking forward to the opportunity to try out this model out as it seems to be similar, feature-wise, to my full-sized bike.  You can now count me as an official owner and user of a folding bicycle, and if you see me on the train, feel free to ask about my stow-away, two-wheeled companions.

WHAT IS UNFOLDING BEFORE AND AFTER THE HOLIDAY SEASON?

December 4, 2012

If your answer to the question above was “a bicycle”, we hope it was in part because CCJPA helped introduce you to folding bicycles at an event held November 28th, 2013 at Oakland’s Jack London Square station.  Capitol Corridor teamed up with Bay Area Bikes, who brought in representatives from Tern and Brompton  to showcase two excellent brands of folding bicycles,  let passengers and the community  test ride the bikes and get their folding bike questions answered by knowledgeable representatives.

In the New Year, perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in ‘adopting a folder’ and using it for your first or last mile associated with Capitol Corridor train travel. CCJPA and Caltrans are in the process of creating more on-train room for bicycles, but with the growing popularity of bicycles and train travel, we know it will be a challenge to keep pace with full-sized bicycle storage demand on the train. A folding bicycle is a great way to use the available luggage spaces (which are generally more open than the bicycle racks) and leave space available in the bicycle racks for full-sized bicycles. Of course folding bicycles also work great with bus and BART travel.
If you missed the November 28th event, the good news is that a similar event is planned for December 5th, 2012 in Sacramento. Rex Cycles  and Edible Pedal will be teaming up with CCJPA for an event at the Sacramento Valley station from 2-6 PM. Respectively, they will feature Brompton  and Bike Friday  folding bicycles at this event. Representatives from both manufacturers will be on hand to answer your questions and let you ride-test the various folding bicycles.

We hope to see many of you at the Sacramento event. It might be your first step in welcoming a folding bicycle into your lifestyle!

HOW ‘BOUT THEM FOLDING BICYCLES? BETTER YET, HOW ‘BOUT THOSE GAS PRICES?

October 19, 2012

HOW ‘BOUT THEM FOLDING BICYCLES? BETTER YET, HOW ‘BOUT THOSE GAS PRICES?

So, what’s the connection between folding bicycles and gasoline prices?

I can’t give you a clear explanation, but I promise you will know, I mean really know, by experience, if you get a hold of a folding bicycle and use it to get to and from your favorite the Capitol Corridor stations. Switching to a folding bike may give the following benefits:

  1. Feeling healthier happier you’re  to saving the gas in your car’s tank for another more gasoline-worthy journey;
  2. Having disposable income due to gasoline savings (and perhaps fewer parking charges);
  3. Joy you get from being ultra-mobile and all touchy-feely/eco-green because you’re blending a folded bicycle ride with your Capitol Corridor train journey; and
  4. Knowing your folded bicycle will provide more room on the train for others who maybe can’t get a hold of a folding bicycle but still want to reduce their gasoline usage by bicycling to/from their respective stations.

I wish I could walk the talk and claim that I’m part of this wonderful folding bicycle culture but that is not the reality…yet. I continue to use one of two full-sized bicycles, depending on my travel needs for the day but assure you that I am in heavy shopping mode for a folding bicycle.  I’m busy searching for a folding bicycle that will meet my needs (but I can’t say which one it is since this is a non-company endorsing blog). I have been dreaming of owning a folding bicycle for several years now and been considering several makes and models but as an avid bike user I have many factors to consider.  My search is narrowing and I think I have settled on one that I hope to purchase soon.

Yes – if you already have a bike, a folding bicycle can set you back a bit BUT, the holiday season is upon us and you can add it on the top spot of your wish list and blame it on CCJPA. Use my list of benefits mentioned above! Should you be successful, and your elves need stocking stuffer suggestions, it might be nice to get some of the clothing that colder riding might require: gloves, rain-gear, woolen cap . . .

To make your folding bike search easier (or to bolster the holiday gift request methodology), the CCJPA is planning several folding bicycle demonstrations in the coming months where local bicycle dealers that sell folding bicycles will be on hand at stations for you to try one or more models of folding bicycles yourself. Who knows, they might even offer some discounts along with the demonstration. We are still working out the details on that but we will keep you posted. Or keep an eye out for demos at a station in the near future. You might discover a folding bicycle that hits a nice price/feature point and you can be on your way toward confirming those folding bike benefits I mentioned above.

HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?

Based on recommendations from our peer group who reviewed a draft of the CCJPA Bicycle Access Plan, we are going to be conducting a “mode of access” survey which we hope YOU and YOUR TRAIN FRIENDS will fill out.  We need your input! This will be an online survey so that we be efficient and use your time most effectively. We will ask our riders about your transportation mode of access to the train and from the train to your destination. There will be other questions which will help us best categorize some solutions we are considering with a special focus on potential at-station bicycle facilities and the results will be compiled just in time to help influence the Bicycle Access Plan and other measures we are considering with other modes of travel other than bicycles. If the gratification of filling out another survey, online no less, were not enough, we are offering survey incentives to you and your best train friends with prize drawings that will include as a grand prize a high-quality folding bicycle. Other prizes involve free Capitol Corridor travel. You read about it here first but you will be getting more details on that through the other channels of communication CCJPA utilizes, including our staff walking the aisles of the train to promote the survey.

For one last thought, I will leave you with a potential marketing quote I’d love to use, which we got from one of the bicycle planners in Oakland. It touches on many of the things we have been saying about bicycles on the trains in the past and emphasized heavily per the above folding bicycle discussion: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em.”

Great Bicycle Minds of the “Mega-Region”

September 24, 2012

After a week break before Labor Day (spent in the fine late summer Seattle weather) I returned to host a peer workshop of all—well, most of—the  great bicycle minds in Northern California (admittedly, some could not make the workshop). “Great bicycle minds” is my term for the people that administer the funding for, plan, implement and advocate for the bicycling infrastructure in Northern California.  A good many of them came on September 6, 2012, to give the team here at CCJPA feedback on the draft Bicycle Access Plan

In this draft plan, which CCJPA will release for public comment after our November Board of Directors meeting, we described our prior and ongoing efforts to improve bicycle access and capacity on the train. What was most notable was the feedback we received on the “at-station” improvements described in the plan. For the on-train improvements, which include operational measures, we basically have done or are doing just about all we can do and the group understood that;  however, there were other educational measures suggested that were new to our ears. One that we want to investigate further is developing a bicycle ambassador program. In concept, a bicycle ambassador would be an educational voice on the train who can help those with bicycles safely stow and secure their bicycles. There were also suggestions to put signage on the train cars about where bicycles can and shouldn’t be stored. These both seem like worthwhile ideas to pursue but they would all need to fit within a larger effort…an effort further described next.

The Quest to Improve Bicycle Storage at Stations

For the “at-station” improvements the CCJPA explained our interest in supporting communities that are trying to pursue bicycle sharing and we discussed the rollout of secure bicycle storage and the folding bicycle “rental” membership program (a la the Brompton Dock). As I was preparing the materials for the meeting, I recalled an effort that was given attention in 2008-09 by the two regional metropolitan planning agencies in our territory [Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)] which involved looking at Northern California as an emerging mega-region. I dropped a mention of that concept with related to the “at-station” projects and that saw broad receptivity. So what does that mean? The electronic access control behind the storage systems (Bikelink cards) in place at many BART stations is quickly becoming the Bay Area standard. The bicycle share program sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco and along select communities on the San Francisco Peninsula, is about to enter a pilot phase. I’m excited as this program has the potential to spread throughout the Bay Area into the communities Capitol Corridor serves…and so, both of those developments sort of set a standard for the Bay Area.  Since the Capitol Corridor connects with the Sacramento region, which is just entertaining these notions, wouldn’t it be nice to have things be consistent, ubiquitous, and cohesive all along the Capitol Corridor route? I can hear the Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t it be nice…” song modified with lyrics about using one card for bicycle locker access or a common membership program for bicycle sharing…

Seriously though, with public sector procurement, funding making things nice like that can be a challenge; however, the CCJPA can be a resource to support that concept with the funding we do have for secure bicycle storage. We will do our best to ensure compatibility across our service territory.

As you can guess, the egalitarian concepts of bicycle sharing are some ways off but the more immediate solution that relates directly to the Capitol Corridor needs is the folding bicycle “rental” program. Via Skype, Michael Foster of Brompton Dock discussed their program to the group. This was a very new concept to many of the attendees and out of the interest in that emerging option, there were concrete suggestions to gather a better understanding of how a membership-based folding bicycle “rental” program might work for CCJPA. As such, and along with other general suggestions that came out of the meeting, the CCJPA will plan to conduct an online survey looking at overall mode of access to and from the Capitol Corridor service.

CCJPA’s “Further Effort Bucket”

Now finally, back to the further effort concept…the survey described above, the ambassador program, signage, incentivizing the use of folding bicycles, cab-car retrofits for more bicycle storage, and enforcement, are all being poured into the “further effort bucket.” We will be taking a revised draft of the Bicycle Access Plan to the CCJPA Board for their review and comments in November 2012 and schedule final adoption in February 2013. In between that time, there will be much more work on these further efforts to wrap them into the final Bicycle Access Plan.

 Training for Two Bike FAVs

On a more personal note I will be taking place in two century rides, the Tahoe Sierra Century (first time doing that) and one of my annual favorite rides, Levi’s Gran Fondo on successive weekends. Training for and doing these rides remind me why bicycling is a crucial quality of life and health issue and it also gives me plenty of time to think about the challenge of improving bicycle access with the Capitol Corridor. Whether you are a Lance Armstrong fan or not, it can’t be denied, the awareness brought to bicycling and the health issues his organization crusades for are, in some way, responsible for why the “I think I will ride a bicycle today” light has turned on for so many people. Quite clearly, the long time and new bicyclists are being drawn to the Capitol Corridor in ways we were not prepared to accommodate. I would like to thank the “great bicycle minds” who are cheering CCJPA on our own century ride as we try to meet and eventually expand the bicycle services associated with Capitol Corridor.