Thursday, May 31, 2007

Biking to Work Won't End with Team Bike Challenge

Today may be the last day of the Team Bike Challenge and Bike to Work Month, but I won’t be taking off my helmet just yet.

Riding my bike as often as possible this month has taught me that practically every day can be Bike to Work Day. If I do a little planning and figure out my route before I set off for a meeting, biking becomes even easier. Just because the official monthlong event is over doesn’t mean I’ll stay in my car from now on.

The greatest benefit for me has been all the exercise I can fit into my daily routine. I used to only be able to exercise early in the morning, late at night, or occasionally during a lunch hour. When I biked to work, however, I turned many of my trips to meetings into workouts.

After looking back at the log I kept of my bike trips, I was surprised how many days I biked more than 5 miles. In total I biked nearly 100 miles during the month. I’m sure that many people competing in the Team Bike Challenge logged even more, and that just shows how much of a difference one person can make.

Together, we prevented hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic emissions from polluting our air and water. Let’s not forget the money saved on gasoline and car repairs. Not only did I avoid driving 100 miles, I also didn’t sit in my car at stop lights, creep along in traffic, or drive circles around parking lots while looking for parking spaces. All of these things add up, and riding a bike for just one day can save a lot more than I thought.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog about my bike trips and the work I do with the county. Although I may not keep this blog up to date after today, you can still keep track of my work by signing up for my e-mail newsletter. To be added to my list, please feel free to contact John Myers of my staff by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Surrounded by Redwoods in Sanborn County Park

This afternoon, I took a tour through the forested Sanborn County Park, located off Highway 9 west of Saratoga. After less than a half an hour’s drive from downtown San Jose, I stood on a pristine dirt trail with enormous redwood trees shooting above my head.

Sanborn County Park offers the only walk-in campground in the entire county park system. Other campgrounds allow visitors to drive directly to the campsite. At Sanborn, campers park their cars at the main park entrance and hike along the park’s extensive trail system for a quieter camping experience.

Even with Sanborn’s 19 miles of trails, some areas of the park are hard to reach without driving to a different park entrance. County Parks and Recreation Department Director Lisa Killough and several parks planners showed me where they will connect Sunnyvale Mountain in the southwest corner of the park to the Lake Ranch Reservoir to the east.

Completing this trail, purchasing land for new trails, and extending existing trails will nearly double the miles of pathways in the park. Hikers will be able to use 38 miles of trails, all within a half-hour drive from San Jose.

Many of these trails connect to trails in adjacent parks in San Mateo County and nearby state parks, adding even more opportunities for recreation. I hope you get a chance to experience Sanborn’s beautiful greenery.

New Crosswalk Adds Shortcut to School Route

One crosswalk can make a huge difference for students walking and biking to school.

Students traveling across Lawrence Expressway in west San Jose to get to Archbishop Mitty High School or Cupertino High School used to have to cross at either Stevens Creek Boulevard or Bollinger Road. Using either crossing could add 30 minutes or more to a student’s route to school.
I was proud to open a new crosswalk this morning for pedestrians and bicyclists at the intersection of Lawrence Expressway and Mitty Way. This allows students to travel through quieter side streets rather than heading down busy roads.
The crosswalk can also lead residents directly to the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail, rather than taking an indirect route far out of the way.

The crosswalk was a cooperative project between the county’s Roads and Airports Department and the City of Cupertino. But many of the advocates pushing to get the project completed were community bicyclist and pedestrian groups, including the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Thanks to a grant obtained by the county, bicyclists and pedestrians now have a faster and safer way to get across Lawrence Expressway.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Working Out During the Commute Hour

Sometimes, Jerri-Ann Meyer is so busy that the only way for her to exercise is to turn her workday commute into a workout.

Jerri-Ann, the captain of my Bike Challenge team, rides 20 miles every day from her home in Mountain View to her office in Menlo Park and back again.

To complete her commute, Jerri-Ann follows the Ellen Fletcher Bike Boulevard along Bryant Street in Palo Alto. The street is blocked off to only allow bicycles through in some places so that cars don’t drive the entire length of the route.

“It reduces auto traffic and makes it more friendly to bikes,” Jerri-Ann says.

A route such as this can help local commuters realize that riding a bike can be a pleasant experience and less stressful than driving a car.

“People think of the freeway experience in a car as a commute,” she says. “But on a bike, there are safe and comfortable routes that make it a good experience.”

The Bike Boulevard also helps turn biking into a social activity, she says.

“A lot of times, I will strike up conversations and talk to everyone about where they’re riding,” she says. “It’s like a little community.”

During the past six years that Jerri-Ann has been commuting, she has gotten more involved in promoting bicycling as an everyday mode of transportation.

As a member of Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s Board of Directors, she has worked to improve the safety of bicyclists on the road. On Bike to Work Day a couple weeks ago, she inflated tires, tuned-up bikes, and encouraged bicyclists at the downtown Mountain View Energizer Station.

For five years, Jerri-Ann has served on the City of Mountain View’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The committee recently released a new map of bike routes in Mountain View, and Jerri-Ann and her fellow committee members are currently working to update the city’s bicycle transportation plan.

Jerri-Ann has even taken her love of bicycling to the small screen. With other bicycle advocates from the Peninsula and South Bay, she appeared in a 30-minute television program titled “Try Bicycling!” to show how easy it is for local commuters to find quick, safe bike routes in their neighborhood.

“Silicon Valley is pretty flat and the distance from home to work is usually not far,” she says. “A lot of times, people can travel just as fast or faster than in a car.”

Jerri-Ann says one of the big rewards of biking to work is reducing stress.

“When I was sick in January, I had to drive, and it’s so stressful being in a car,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to get back on my bike, because it’s such a pleasant ride.”

Friday, May 25, 2007

Using the Bus for Bike Trips

I decided to take my bike on a Valley Transportation Authority bus today, the first time I have taken advantage of this transit option. I was surprised at how simple it was to use the bike rack. As a member of the VTA board, I thought I’d see how the bike racks work.

I can see the advantage of knowing how to use the VTA bike racks, especially when planning longer bike trips. VTA buses and light rail trains run throughout Santa Clara County, with numerous connections to other transit systems, such as Caltrain, SamTrans, and Santa Cruz Metro.

I had always thought that using the rack on the front of the bus would take a long time, irritating my fellow passengers. But I was able to get my bicycle on and off the rack in a matter of seconds.

An important thing to remember when using the bike rack is to make eye contact with the driver so he or she knows that you will be loading your bicycle. This way the driver is not surprised to find you in front of the bus if he or she is distracted with other passengers boarding.

The bike is held on the rack with a spring-loaded hook, which pins the front tire down. This keeps the bike perfectly steady during the ride.

Make sure to get off the bus using the front entrance, rather than the rear exit. My bus driver appreciated that I let him know that I would be retrieving my bike at the next stop so he didn’t pull away too early.

The rack has two slots for passengers’ bikes. If the rack is full, up to two bicyclists may bring their bikes on board if there is space.

VTA’s light rail trains also have bike racks to make commuting easier. These racks are inside the passenger cars, and a bicyclist lifts the bike into a vertical position to hang it from a hook.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Safety is Important at Any Age

Teaching a child how to ride a bike involves much more than taking off the training wheels.

Bicyclists follow the rules of the road just like cars, so when a child begins biking to school, taking a bike safety course is a good idea.

Residents can check out numerous classes offered by various organizations throughout the community. The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition has prepared more than 8,000 middle school students for daily rides in traffic by offering safety classes at schools in the community.

In addition to giving hands-on instruction on biking in traffic, the coalition’s qualified instructors also show how to properly fit a helmet, how to use hand signals to alert drivers about turns and stops, and how to avoid the most common types of bike crashes.

Instruction doesn’t end at middle school, though. The coalition also offers weekend classes for adults and teens, many of which are free thanks to funding from local governments and agencies. Residents can brush on their street skills, practice the techniques on the road, and learn maintenance skills in case of a bicycle breakdown.

These skills and laws are important not only to make every ride a safe ride, but also because bicyclists can face penalties for not obeying traffic laws and signs. Santa Clara County’s Traffic Safe Communities Network sponsors a “traffic school” for youths who violate laws while riding bikes, skateboards, scooters, or another vehicle other than a car. Rather than paying a fine for not wearing a helmet or not stopping at a stop sign, minors can take a class taught by local law enforcement officers.

Residents who have already taken advantage of these programs can help make sure people have access to them in the future. Many safety classes are funding through the California Kids Plate Program, which gives money to kids’ safety courses all over the state. By buying a personalized license plate for your car, you can help keep kids safe on the road, at school, and at home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bicycles Would Aid Transportation After a Disaster

A bicycle can make a big difference in coping with a natural disaster. In fact, a bike may be the only mode of transportation available if an event on the scale of Hurricane Katrina happens here.

Last year, I visited New Orleans with other local leaders to see firsthand some of the challenges of coping with an emergency. Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana city of nearly half a million people on August 29, 2007. The levees guarding against the flooding broke, and much of the city was submerged, leaving stranded thousands of residents who did not or could not follow the government’s evacuation order.

When I got back to San Jose after witnessing the progress New Orleans had made toward rebuilding, I started thinking about what would happen if we were faced with a similar disaster in Santa Clara County. If a mighty earthquake rocked our community, how would our residents get to the hospital? How would they evacuate the area? How could they check on loved ones on the other side of the county?

If the power is knocked out for an extended period of time, as it was in New Orleans, no one will be able to use credit or debit cards to purchase gasoline, and the gas pumps wouldn’t work without electricity anyway. Even if your car has a full tank of gas, the roads may be severely cracked or shattered, and sections of freeways could collapse, making it impossible to drive to a safer location.

This leaves the bicycle as the most reliable mode of transportation. A bicycle is narrower and much more maneuverable than a car, so it would be easier to guide down damaged roads.

Bicyclists wouldn’t have to worry about finding cash for gasoline or searching for working gas pumps. Flat bike tires are also easy to repair on the road.

I hope many of you will add a bicycle to your list of items for emergency preparedness. It never hurts to be ready.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keeping Up With the Team Bike Challenge No Matter What

My Team Bike Challenge teammate, Leslee Hamilton, found a way to hop on a bicycle even when she visited Washington, D.C., on a business trip this month.

While visiting the nation’s capital, Leslee rented a bike to explore the city’s sites.

“It’s a good alternative to taking a cab to get to the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial,” she says.

Leslee has been biking to work every day this month as a member of my team for the Team Bike Challenge. Leslee, myself and three other teammates have been biking as much as possible to show how easy it is to make the bicycle a primary mode of transportation.

For Leslee, however, biking to work is a much more serious endeavor. For about six years now, she has ridden the 3.5-mile roundtrip from her house near Cahill Park in San Jose to the Mineta Transportation Institute downtown. She parks her bike in her office on the fourth floor.

“The only downside is that I have to take the elevator,” she says. “Without the bike, I used to take the stairs.”

Although the ride from home to work is pretty much a straight shot for Leslee, she says she encounters a lot of traffic.

“That’s why I love to ride the Guadalupe River Park Trail,” she says. “I’ve never had a serious problem with cars, but I’d just as soon not share the road.”

As current president of the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Guadalupe River Park & Gardens, Leslee has worked to improve and extend the trail running through downtown San Jose. She and I both look forward to the day that the trail goes from Alviso to Almaden Valley without interruptions.

For people who don’t regularly bike to work, Leslee says all you need is a little inspiration.

“Six years ago, I saw someone from my neighborhood bike to work, and it took the same amount of time as driving,” she says. “At that moment, I knew I could ride my bike to work every day.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Celebrating Cambrian at the Camden Community Center

Cambrian residents and neighbors enjoyed food, folk music, Taiko drumming, and art at the second annual Celebrate Cambrian festival Saturday at the Camden Community Center in San Jose.

Dozens of organizations and city departments set up tables to show their support for the Cambrian community. Thanks to the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, children who stopped by my table could pick up Frisbee discs. I was happy to talk to so many parents interested in working with the city and the county to improve their neighborhood.
As part of the festivities, San Jose City Councilmember Judy Chirco and I unveiled statues created by local artists and students at San Jose State University. Judy worked with local groups and businesses to organize the celebration. She and I presented sculptures of school desks representing daydreamers and pranksters reminiscent of when some of the community center buildings were part of Camden High School.

Several other art pieces have been placed around the community center grounds. The installations reveal the community’s history through high school yearbook covers, vintage postcards, historic photos, memories of alumni, and a time capsule.

I hope many residents also made it to Boogie on the Bayou this weekend in Campbell. The annual event brings zydeco music, New Orleans-style food, and family fun to historic downtown Campbell.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Still Biking Strong After Bike to Work Day

As many as 100,000 people pedaled their way to work yesterday for 511’s 13th annual Bike to Work Day.

The South Bay kicked off the event with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s CEO/Celebrity Bike to Work Day Challenge, and I was happy to join fellow elected officials, media columnists, and local business leaders on a ride through downtown San Jose.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been promoting Bike to Work Day to show Bay Area residents alternatives to their daily commutes on local freeways. As Santa Clara County’s representative on the commission, I have worked to reduce commute times and find environmentally friendly ways to get to work. Be sure to check out the photos of the event to see who biked to work in your neighborhood.

Last night, I stopped by the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s “Bike Away From Work Bash” at Gordon Biersch in downtown San Jose. I had a chance to relax after a long day of biking with refreshments and a silent auction to support bicycling as an everyday means of transportation.
I am still going strong in the Team Bike Challenge, so even after yesterday’s events, I jumped on my bike this morning and headed to my office.

After biking to work today, I pinned a green ribbon onto my lapel to commemorate Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Supervisor Liz Kniss and I presented Lance Toma of the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center and Dena Dickinson, co-chair of the HIV Planning Council, with an official proclamation from the county to show our support for an important issue.

HIV/AIDS affects all communities, and we need to everything we can educate all our residents about the disease. The official awareness day is tomorrow, but we decided to hold an event at the County Government Center today and feature many organizations and performers that support the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rolling Down Santa Clara Street for Bike to Work Day

Dozens of business and community leaders took off on their bicycles from the San Jose Diridon Train Station today, rode down Santa Clara Street, and arrived at City Hall to celebrate Bike to Work Day 2007.
The 8 a.m. ride was a challenge to CEOs, media personalities, and elected officials to be role models for the annual event. At a press conference after the trip, I was pleased to join fellow elected officials in acknowledging everyone who left the car at home and hopped on a bike. Not only does this annual event prevent waves of environmentally unfriendly gases from pouring into our atmosphere, it also shows commuters the ease of biking to work.

As Santa Clara County’s representative on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, I was happy to see so many commuters finding ways to bike to work, whether they live near or far. The commission, which oversees transportation planning for the entire Bay Area, is always working to ease residents’ commutes. I’m glad that this morning’s Energizer Stations kept bicyclists going strong.

At the press conference, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he wants to increase the number of bike lanes throughout the city. Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group which issued the challenge to local leaders, highlighted local businesses such as Webcor Builders and Lockheed Martin for setting good examples for their employees by supporting Bike to Work Day. As promised, San Jose City Councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Pete Constant rode a tandem bicycle, and their colleague Pierluigi Oliverio rode his own bike alongside.

Even though the morning commute of Bike to Work Day is over, there are more events still to come. Tonight is the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s “Bike Away From Work Bash.” Coalition Executive Director Corinne Winter led the pack this morning, and I will join her at Gordon Biersch in downtown San Jose tonight for the bash. The event goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
My biking days are far from over. Not only will I continue to bike to work for the rest of this month for the Team Bike Challenge, I will do so as often as possible in the future. I hope all of you learned easy ways to work exercising into your daily schedule.

Thanks to John Storey for taking the photo of me talking with Sam, Chuck, and Pete.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Accept Your Bike to Work Day Challenge

I will be meeting with dozens of other local leaders tomorrow morning for the CEO/Celebrity Bike to Work Day Challenge. With my bicycle ready to roll and my helmet strapped on tight, I’ll join business executives and elected officials at 7:50 a.m. for a bike ride from the San Jose Diridon Train Station to San Jose City Hall.
Expected participants include San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed; Councilmembers Sam Liccardo, Pete Constant, and Pierluigi Oliverio (Sam and Pete reportedly will be riding together on a two-seater bike); Gary Richards, also known as the San Jose Mercury News Mr. Roadshow; and Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which is sponsoring the challenge.

During our ride, we will stop by the Bike to Work Day Energizer Station at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library. I hope to see some of you refueling with refreshments and picking up a Bike to Work Day 2007 tote bag.

Once we get to City Hall, local business and political leaders will host a press conference to tell why they think biking to work is important for our community.

After work tomorrow, I plan to stop by the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s “Bike Away from Work Bash” at Gordon Biersch in downtown San Jose. Bring some cash to participate in a silent auction featuring donations from local Bike to Work Day sponsors. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Inflate Your Tires for Bike to Work Day

If you opened up the San Jose Mercury News today, you might have seen an editorial I wrote with my colleague, Supervisor Liz Kniss.

As we continue with the budget process, I will stand by what we have written in the opinion piece. It’s time that the county used its “rainy day fund” to make sure that our residents get the services they need.

Before the budget workshops today, I rode my bike to a meeting with Santa Clara City Councilmember Pat Kolstad. I have been meeting with the members of the city councils in my district to discuss ways the county can work with the cities to better serve our residents. I was pleased to hear Councilmember Kolstad’s ideas.

As I rode back to the office, I passed by a gas station. Gas prices are hitting record highs, so Bike to Work Day on May 17 couldn’t come at a better time. Not only will Thursday’s event save gas during the commute hours, it will also help residents conserve gasoline throughout the day.

As I have found, people who bike to work tend to plan to complete their errands all in one trip when they get back to their cars in the evenings or on the weekends. People who drive to work tend to make several trips throughout the day to complete errands one at a time. Biking to work saves not only gas and the environment, but also time spent waiting in traffic and wear on our roadways and automobiles.

Don’t forget to stop by an Energizer Station on Thursday for refreshments, encouragement, and your free Bike to Work Day 2007 tote bag. If you need a break after work, the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition is hosting its annual “Bike Away From Work Bash” at Gordon Biersch in downtown San Jose. Enjoy food, beverages, and the crowning of the 2007 Bicycle Commuter of the Year.

I hope to see you all in the bike lanes Thursday.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Board of Supervisors Begins Three-Day Series of Budget Workshops

After biking to work today, I prepared myself for the county’s budget workshops.

Each year, the county executive recommends a balanced budget to the Board. The workshops are the Board’s opportunity to review the county executive’s recommendation in detail. This year, the county is facing a $238 million deficit, and we are now tasked with trying to save as many essential services as possible.

The workshops also allow the supervisors to voice their concerns, ask questions, and request additional information in anticipation of the budget hearings in June.

I have written an opinion piece that will appear in tomorrow’s San Jose Mercury News. In it, I propose that the county use money from its reserves – its “rainy day fun” – to offset some of the cuts proposed to the Mental Health, Public Health, and Alcohol and Drug Services departments.

In this way, I believe we can save the most essential services provided by these departments and not turn away residents in their time of need.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Healthy Lifestyle for Years to Come

As I biked home yesterday, I stopped at a traffic light next to a fellow bicyclist, who lives in west San Jose and works downtown. We chatted for a few minutes, and he told me how he bikes to work every morning.

At 60 years young, he said he was in the best shape of his life, which made me want to pedal my bike even faster so I could say the same when I am older.

Even though people’s schedules seem to be more packed than ever, finding the time to exercise is important. One important aspect of Bike to Work Day is to encourage people who don’t normally use their bicycles to make a simple lifestyle adjustment and transform the commute to work into a healthy workout.

Even if biking isn’t a favorite activity, there are other ways to exercise. One county employee said she walks to work one day every week. Her schedule makes it difficult for her to walk every day, but she finds one day every week that is flexible to allow exercise.

Many companies provide showers and lockers for their employees to encourage healthy lifestyles. I have used the shower at the County Government Center more times than I can count after going for jogs. When I biked to the Valley Transportation Authority’s headquarters, I was happy to find that they offer lockers and showers. These types of amenities make exercising during the workday a lot easier.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Vision of Integrated Trails throughout Santa Clara County

The Friends of the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens had a lot to celebrate last night at their annual Window on the River Park event. Executive Director Kathy Muller and hundreds of volunteers could all be proud to hold the event in the River Street Historic Park for the first time.

I have worked with the organization for 10 years now to extend trails throughout our entire valley, and I was pleased to announce that the Guadalupe River Park’s trails will connect to Alviso by November.

The trail will also extend south to connect to Almaden Lake and eventually to the Los Alamitos Trail, allowing anyone to hike, jog, or bike the trail from north San Jose to Almaden Valley.

The grand vision I have is an integrated trail network that connects together the Guadalupe River Trail, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Penitencia Creek Trail, the Coyote Creek Trail, the Willow Glen Spur and many others.

I also got a chance to catch up with Leslee Hamilton, president of the Friends’ board of directors and a member of my Team Bike Challenge team, the Rainbow Riders. Our team is eighth out of more than 40 teams competing in Santa Clara County. Leslee and I took a short walk along the Guadalupe River Trail to talk about how bicyclists can incorporate trails into their daily commutes.
Corinne Winter, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bikes Coalition, joined us and reminded us about the official Bike to Work Day festivities on May 17. Energizer stations with free beverages and giveaways will help bicyclists in the morning, and the Silicon Valley Bikes Coalition is throwing a Bike Away from Work Bash from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. that evening at Gordon Biersch in downtown San Jose. I hope to see many of you there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Finding Ways to Exercise Even When Biking Won't Work

I headed to Oakland this morning for a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. I am Santa Clara County’s representative on the commission, which disburses state and federal money for local transportation projects and oversees regional transportation planning for the Bay Area.

The issue of the day was how to divide up $419 million in regional transportation funding that the Bay Area will receive through Proposition 1B. The current proposal puts about 41 percent of the money into Urban Core Transit Improvements. These funds will be used to improve transportation in densely populated areas, including many parts of in Santa Clara County.

The next largest sum of money under the proposal will be to improve “Lifeline” transportation, which serves residents living in low-income areas who might have trouble accessing public transit. The proposal has also set aside money to improve smaller transit systems in the Bay Area and purchase zero-emission buses to aid in maintaining good air quality in the region.

Because I had to commute to Oakland for the commission meeting, I unfortunately had to leave the bike at home and carpool with a colleague.

However, I still found time to run during my usual lunchtime. I decided to start running from the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club. Managed by the City of Santa Clara, the club includes an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and connections to local trails, including the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail. Anyone looking for exercise is sure to find a workout there.

With budget workshops all next week, I am spending the rest of the afternoon meeting with community leaders and my staff to find ways to keep as many vital services as possible. Later tonight, I will be attending a meeting of the West Valley Sanitation District, followed by the Guadalupe River Park & GardensWindow on the River reception.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Serenity and Fresh Air in Grant County Park

Santa Clara County residents can roll over the east foothills and dip into a valley utterly untouched by the urban lifestyle of the Bay Area.

Joseph D. Grant County Park lies less than 10 miles from San Jose. Its rolling hills, ancient oak trees, and green wetlands are the rewards for driving about 30 minutes the winding road east from Silicon Valley.

After biking to morning meetings in Santa Clara, I hitched a ride with staff from the Santa Clara County Department of Parks and Recreation to Grant Park. I thought I had landed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains when I stepped into the quiet, serene atmosphere of the county’s largest park.

With nearly 10,000 acres of land and more than 50 miles of trails, visitors can walk for an entire day without retracing their steps. Grant Park also provides a great workout for mountain bikers with more than 23 miles of biking trails.

Local history buffs can learn about the Grant family at the restored family house next to the park office. The county purchased the Grant family property in 1975, and the park officially opened in 1978.

Since then, the park’s natural vegetation has slowly been restored. Park rangers and volunteers have been eradicating non-native plants and replacing them with the wetland vegetation that used to thrive in the area.

Park officials have built campgrounds, and many of the trails have been restored in recent years. Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Killough and Natural Resource Supervisor Don Rocha showed me the wet meadow that the department is in the process of rehabilitating.

With the park so close to the Bay Area, I hope many of our residents have seen the natural beauty resting only a few miles away. Grant Park holds many events throughout the year, and volunteers and park rangers are gearing up for the next stargazing party from 8:30 to 11 p.m. this Saturday. As beautiful as the park is during the day, it is a real sight to see at night.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Healthy Biking

The average person burns about 100 calories an hour sitting in the driver’s seat during a morning or evening commute. The average bicyclist, on the other hand, can burn more than 800 calories in an hourlong bike ride.

An important aspect of Bike to Work Month is the health benefit of daily exercise. Even though I have run about three-dozen marathons, I am still getting a workout from all the biking I’ve been doing.

Cycling is a cardio workout, which promotes heart and circulatory health. Riding a bicycle rather than driving can improve the circulation of blood, which can lower your blood pressure.

Cycling can also boost your metabolism and increase your muscle strength. Biking early in the morning can help you maintain a higher metabolism rate throughout the entire day.

As I continue to bike, I notice that it is easier to maintain my pace for the entire ride. This morning, I biked to a meeting with Santa Clara City Councilmember Joe Kornder. Joe and I discussed ways for the City of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County to work together on programs for our community.

I’ve even been biking on the weekends. On Sunday, I took a ride to the grocery store. For every trip that I can use my bike as an alternative to my car, I gain another opportunity to incorporate exercise into my busy schedule.

Friday, May 4, 2007

City Hall Promotes Biking through Safe Storage

Blue and gold streamers decorated the doorway of the San Jose City Hall Rotunda today in honor of San Jose State University’s 150th anniversary. As an alumnus and professor of SJSU, I was pleased to see so many people celebrate the university’s history.

I rode my bike the approximately 2 miles down Sixth Street from the County Government Center to City Hall, luckily avoiding the light rain we had earlier this morning.

City Hall promotes biking to work by offering a locking bike cage. Rather than leaving bicycles where they might be stolen or bringing them up the elevators to offices, city employees can receive the access code to the bike cage and store them in a covered environment.

I was glad to have a roof over my bike to shield it against the rain so I could have a dry ride back to the office.

When I got to City Hall, I was greeted by John Brazil, coordinator for the City of San Jose’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Program. As part of the city’s Department of Transportation, the program offers bicycle safety classes and coordinates installing new bike racks around the city.

To help plot bike routes for Bike to Work Day, the program offers a great map of bikeways. This map is in addition to maps of the city’s extensive trail network. I know from experience that these can help plan a beautiful off-road commute.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bike-Friendly Caltrain Speeds up Commute Along Peninsula

Driving to San Carlos for the Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting would have meant braving the freeways and finding parking. Today, however, I rode my bike to the San Jose Diridon train station and took Caltrain practically to the meeting room’s doorstep.

Maneuvering a bike in a train car may sound like a chore, but Caltrain seems prepared for a high volume of bicycling commuters. I could turn my bike around and tie it down with the provided bungee cords with no problem. This system allowed for a quick exit, as well.

When I got back to my office in San Jose, I was happy to see an e-mail from a Campbell resident who is also taking up the challenge to bike to work as many times as possible this month.

He wrote that because of my commitment to biking in May he was inspired to give it a go as a bicycling commuter. However, he expressed his concern that some of the roads in our community lacked proper bike lanes.

I would love to see more bike lanes on our streets, especially along the busier roadways with traffic traveling significantly faster than bicyclists. Not only would this encourage more residents to bike to work, but it would also make traveling by bicycle safer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Connecting to Meetings via Local Trails

Even though today began with gloomy weather, it cleared up just in time for me to take a 10-mile roundtrip bike ride to the Valley Transportation Authority’s headquarters for a lunch briefing on tomorrow’s Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting.

Biking to VTA’s headquarters in north San Jose from the County Government Center near downtown was a pleasant ride. Rather than riding through traffic, I followed the Guadalupe River Trail part of the way. The trail gave me a quieter, more relaxing ride, as well as beautiful scenery and puffy white and gray clouds to enjoy along the way.

I then took Airport Parkway to Brokaw and headed up First Street to VTA’s headquarters.

I arrived early enough to meet with Scott Haywood, VTA’s policy manager. In addition to being on Caltrain’s board, I am also a member of VTA’s governing board, and my meeting with Scott gave me a chance to chat about the latest bus and light rail fee reduction proposals.

At the lunch briefing, we discussed Caltrain’s $3.7 million deficit. The good news is that this estimate is lower than the original $5.6 million shortfall projected in February. We heard data and recommendations from Caltrain staff today, and tomorrow we hope to work together to begin brainstorming ways to reduce the deficit.

While on the San Jose City Council, I was the city’s representative on the Caltrain board. Now my appointment is because I serve on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and it is my seventh year on the board.

Even though I logged a lot of miles in the bike lanes and on the trails today, I haven’t had my fill of bicycling. Tomorrow I plan to take my bike on the train to the Caltrain board meeting in San Carlos.

Biking to Work Safely

As I got ready to bike home yesterday, I remembered that, like cars, bicycles need headlights when it gets dark. Luckily, I had already installed both a front light and rear light before my trip home.

During rides at night, you should have two lights to alert cars. One should be a steady white light attached to your handlebars and pointing directly ahead. Another should be a red blinking light attached to your back or the back of the seat to warn cars that might be approaching from behind.

Having the correct safety equipment is important on any bike ride, whether biking 3 miles or 30. Wearing a properly fitting bike helmet is the first step to ensure a safe ride. The helmet should fit your head snugly, without moving around too much when turning your head. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has a special page all about correctly fitting helmets.

Being easily visible to drivers is essential. By wearing bright colors and staying in bike lanes, you can make drivers aware that you are sharing the road with them.

These are just some of the tips I wanted to pass long during my two days of biking to work. The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, a local group that advocates for bicyclists in our community, offers classes not only about safety equipment, but also on biking in traffic. Classes are available for youth and adults.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Kicking off National Bike Month

I hit the bike lanes today to kick off National Bike Month. Bike to Work Day is May 17, and I am bicycling to work for the entire month of May as part of the Team Bike Challenge.

We named our team the Rainbow Riders. Members of each team ride their bikes as much as possible during the month, and teams score points for bicycling to work or school and on errands. Teams receive extra points for having a “Big Wheel,” a member of the team who is an elected official, business executive or member of the media. I am happy to help my teammates by being their “Big Wheel.”

I was surprised to find that biking to the County Government Center was just as easy as driving. My ride took about 15 minutes from my house, about the same amount of time it would take me to drive.

My bike locker is almost as close to my office as my parking space, so I made it to the Board of Supervisors meeting with time to spare, and I enjoy the exercise, too.