Pleasanton uses microwave technology to protect cyclists


By Robert Jordan, Contra Costa Times

PLEASANTON — When it comes to protecting its pedal-pwered residents with technology, Pleasanton has outpaced even its more recognized bicycle-friendly counterparts, Berkeley and Davis.

Pleasanton is the only city in the nation using a new radar-type device to make street crossings safer for bikers.  The city began testing the “Intersector” — a microwave motion and presence sensor — for that use in January 2010 at one of its 104 signales intersections.  The device monitors the intersection and can differentiate between vehicles and bicyclists crossing the road and either extends or triggers the light if a cyclist is detected.

“I would like to think we are bicycle-friendly,” said Joshua Pack, Pleasanton’s senior transportation engineer.  “We are not actively yelling and screaming that we are doing it, but behind the scenes we are.”

The results fro the test run, at Foothill Road and Stoneridge Drive, went so well that the city installed the device at six other intersections and has plans to add four more.

Since it began using the Intersector, the city has received calls from at least 20 other jurisdictions, from some in the Bay Area to as far away as Memphis, Tenn., that want to know how the experiment is going.

“It’s nice to feel acknowledged and recognized,” said Jim Ott, a Pleasanton resident and cyclist.  “Before (the light) didn’t give as much time, so you had to cycle harder to make it.  You also didn’t want to get caught in the middle.  And, if the light didn’t trigger, you were a sitting duck for folks to bump into.”

State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, authored AB1581 three years ago.  It called for improved safety and compliance rules for cyclists at traffic lights, requiring new traffic signals or replacing existing ones with devices able to detect motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Cyclists in Pleasanton said the new technology makes it safer because they are not tempted to run red lights or forced to cross traffic lanes to push the crosswalk button.

Before purchasing the Intersectors — produced by MS Sedco and costing between $4,000 to $5,000 each — Pleasanton used video detection and sensors embedded in the street to try to detect cyclists.  The city still used those methods at all intersections, with the Intersector complementing what is already in place.

Video detection has its drawbacks, with fog and wind affecting its performance and success rate.  And the street0embedded sensors can be problematic if cyclists are not directly on the sensors or if their bikes are not made of metal.

It is possible for cyclists to coexist with traffic,” said Ursula Goldstein, a cyclist and Pleasanton resident since 1982.  “We need to get into the mindset that bicycles are vehicles, and they obey the rules of the road.”

In an effort to become more bike-friendly, Pleasanton has narrowed streets to add bike lanes, adopted a bicycle and pedestrian master plan and is up for Bicycle Friendly Community recognition by the League of American Bicyclists.  Oakland was the only city to ear the honor last year, according to the League of American Bicyclist website.

“Pleasanton is doing some great things,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.  “It is getting more bike-friendly all the time.”

Cyclist Culture: Pedaling Attitude

“Bicycle culture” with BikeSnobNYC, a Portland biking maven, and Bicycling Magazine.

Here’s the link.  Listen to the discussion aired yesterday on On Point from WBUR in Boston.

The comments following the article are interesting reading in themselves.  Then click the links to the guests’ sites for some apres-interview reactions.

America is car country, but bicycles and bicyclists are making their play for the roads.

There’s been a big surge in bicycle commuting. Maybe it’s you or your workmate rolling freshly-exercised into the office.

And then there’s the weekend distance rider and the off-to-the-market rider.

All the tribes: the roadie, the mountain biker, the messenger. And all the attitudes: the righteous cyclist, the lone wolf, the captains of contraption.

We’re talking this hour with New York’s famous “Bike Snob” blogger and a biking maven from Portland, Oregon.


Loren Mooney is editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine. Their May issue ranks America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.

Eben Weiss blogs at He’s a racer, daily commuter, and former bike messenger. His new book is “Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling.”

Heidi Swift is a freelance writer. She writes the “Everyday Cyclist” column for The Oregonian. She blogs



New Yorkers are learning to love bike lanes . . .

Support for bike lanes is up a few pedal strokes as 59 percent of New York City voters say bike lanes are good because they are greener and healthier while 35 percent say they are bad because they increase traffic.

That compares to 56 – 39 percent support in a May 12 Quinnipiac University poll.

Support for bike lanes is over 60 percent in Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx and    55 – 39 percent in Queens.  Staten Islanders say 53 – 38 percent bike lanes are bad.

“Warmer weather brings out more cyclists and more support for bike lanes – except on Staten Island,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

From July 19 – 25, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,234 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.  Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

Bike and Roll NYC Featured in Frugalnomics

For a fresh new perspective on New York City that won’t break your piggy bank, check out Bike and Roll New York City’s bike rentals on Governor’s Island. As featured in Frugalnomics, Bike and Roll NYC’s Free Fridays program provides NYC residents and tourists a great way to see the city, get some exercise, and feel the ocean breezes without spending a lot of that precious commodity, your hard earned dollars.

On Free Friday, you can rent a bike from Bike and Roll NYC’s Governor’s Island location for one hour at no charge. Keep the bike for an hour longer for just $15; for half a day, it’s just $20; and, if you arrive early enough in the morning, you can rent a bike for the whole day for just $25.

Riding where there are no cars . . . in NYC

Stopping by the Intrepid Museum while riding along the traffic-free Hudson River Greenway

Biking in New York City may strike the uninitiated as a battle involving taxicabs, delivery trucks, and lots of pedestrians.  Let me fill you in on a little secret:  it’s not.

New York City offers incredible bike rides along famous waterways to some of the most gorgeous parks imaginable.  Cars?  No, these are traffic-free greenways.  Pedestrians?  No, they have their own designated walkways.

You can ride traffic-free along the Hudson River on the Hudson River Greenway from the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park all the way to the northern end at Inwood Park.  Along the way you’ll see Governors Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty; you’ll ride past piers with giant cruise ships and boat marinas filled with yachts; you’ll see tennis courts, picnic areas, basketball courts, and playgrounds; rest on a lawn, under a gazebo, by a sculpture garden; you’ll cruise by an aircraft carrier and a submarine;  you’ll even pass through cool, green woods and cruise by a little beach.  You’ll ride under the majestic George Washington Bridge.

On the other side of Manhattan, you can ride down the East River Esplanade, under the Williamsburg Bridge and south to the Manhattan Bridge where you cross over into Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Brooklyn Bridge Park is a green gem that extends from the Manhattan Bridge past the Brooklyn Bridge with a bike path that stretches all the way along the Brooklyn side of New York Harbor to Sunset Park.  DUMBO (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge) is one of New York’s newest neighborhoods and is full of art galleries and restaurants and fascinating renovations of old industrial buildings.  Many streets are still cobble-stoned.

When you’re done exploring the park and its surroundings, it’s easy to cross back to Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge.  I always think that the view from the Bridge heading west back to the city is amazing.  The skyscrapers loom up as you approach.  Very dramatic.  And, again, on the Manhattan side, there’s a bikepath that takes you south along the East River and links you up again with the Hudson River Greenway.

And we haven’t even talked about biking Central Park.  Most of its roads are closed to traffic throughout the day.  That’s another story.

Exploring New York City by bike and without cars?  It’s easy.  Bike and Roll NYC’s 11 locations let you pick up a bike wherever you want to start – in Battery Park, at Pier 84, or at West Harlem Piers on the Hudson River Greenway, in East River Park on the esplanade, or start out in Brooklyn at Bike and Roll NYC’s location in Brooklyn Bridge Park, just to name a few.

When we do blog about the joys of exploring Central Park by bike, we’ll mention our two locations there.



A Walk on the Lonely Side


“It’s a nice little slog to get up there,” Richard Melnick said. “Just like why people climb mountains.”

With that, he went up the concrete stairs, leading the way to something most New Yorkers think of as a horizontal landmark, not a vertical one: the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Of course, that was not the name on his lips — aficionados like Mr. Melnick still call it the Triborough Bridge. More about that later.

Yes, you can walk the R.F.K., one of the legacies of Robert Moses, who gave New York a labyrinth of bridges and parkways. Monday was the 75th anniversary of the day the first car paid the first toll, collected after a ceremony that was attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a motorcade that featured 14 cars and 35 police motorcycles.

Some accounts said that the first ordinary person who actually made it to the tollbooths was a boy on a bicycle. Nowadays, signs are posted saying bike riders are prohibited, and advising: “Walk bicycles across bridge.”

made his way across. All were pedaling, or braking, hard. The Queens stretch of the bridge that he covered on foot includes a quarter-mile or so that he said was “one of the toughest inclines anywhere.”

Mr. Melnick is, among other things, a licensed tour guide. He is also on the board of the Greater Astoria Historical Society and he was trailed by organization’s executive director, Robert S. Singleton (“ ‘Bob’ on this side of the East River,” he said). Mr. Singleton was busy over the weekend helping to open a photography exhibit at the society’s Quinn Gallery on Broadway in Long Island City — he said he had walked the Triborough only once before, in the 1980s.

Mr. Melnick said he had walked the bridge “maybe 50 or 60 times, and I’m still enthralled by it; the view is that great.”

Others have been similarly mesmerized over the years — the architect Lewis Mumford said the bridge had “one of the most dazzling urban views in the world.” But somehow the Triborough never acquired a personality. New Yorkers are charmed by the Brooklyn Bridge or intrigued by the Verrazano-Narrows. But for generations, the Triborough has been little more than the first leg in a getaway, to the airport or to Long Island.

“I had friends come in from Wisconsin,” Mr. Melnick said. “They wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I said, ‘That’s too touristy.’ ”

Walking across the R.F.K. is not as easy as walking across those other bridges. “It just doesn’t lend itself to walking,” Mr. Singleton said. Walking from Queens to, say, Manhattan means leaving one bridge where the walkway ends on Wards Island and finding the way to another walkway — and another span — leading to Manhattan.

Mr. Melnick said that means the R.F.K. is less than popular with walkers and pedal-pushers. “I ride my bicycle to and from work — I’m a night doorman in the city,” he said. “I passed 88 people on the Queensboro Bridge” one morning last week. “Friday morning, I went from Manhattan to Randalls Island. Then I took the main span to Astoria. I saw one person the whole time.”

The walkway puts pedestrians close to traffic and, Mr. Melnick said, danger. There is a shoulder-high barrier, a concrete wall. “Once, when I was a better runner, I was up here and I heard ‘tink, tink, tink,’ ” he said. “There was a bouncing hubcap rolling along the wall to my left. It was going 60 miles an hour.”

Monday’s walk took a little less than two hours. Forty-seven minutes into it, somewhere between the two giant towers of the suspension span from Queens, the matter of the name came up. In 2008, Gov. David A. Paterson renamed what had been the Triborough Bridge in honor of Robert F. Kennedy, who was a United States Senator from New York from 1965 until his assassination in 1968.

Mr. Melnick was diplomatic. “We’re not all in agreement with the renaming,” he said.

Then he described a brush with greatness. It happened a few months after the Triborough became the R.F.K., when he went to a Jets-49ers game on the West Coast.

In the airport in California, he saw Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and introduced himself.

“I did not have the guts to object,” he said. “I chickened out. He could have yelled out ‘Security,’ and I’m tackled in an airport and my personal friends would have seen me arrested.”

“But I do have it on my personal list: I shook his hand.”

3rd Annual Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride on July 30, 2011

On Saturday, July 30th, join Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), Transportation Alternatives (TA) Brooklyn Volunteer Committee, National Park Service, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and Regional Plan Association (RPA) for the 3rd Annual Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride, a 40 mile ride along Brooklyn’s entire waterfront and Jamaica Bay that highlights the potential of a completed Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway combined with a completed Jamaica Bay Greenway.

Following the ride you can go to the beach or make your way back independently via the A train, a Rockaway ferry to Wall Street Pier 11 from Riis Landing (at 3:00PM or 5:00PM) or by riding back on Flatbush Avenue, the most direct route to northern Brooklyn.

Register today!

Want to participate in the Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride but don’t have a bike? Rent one from Bike and Roll New York City. Our nearest rental location is our Brooklyn Bridge Park location at the end of old Fulton Street and very close to the start of the ride. Please call 212.260.0400 to make sure the right size bike is waiting for you on the day of the ride.

Bike the River Valley: A Nice Day of Cycling along the Hudson


Looking to get out of the city on your bike? Check out the Bike the River Valley touring event. Here’s the “skinny” and the rest of the details are below:

Date: Sunday, July 17, 2011

Location: Highland, NY

Type of Event: Touring

Routes for beginners and experts (40 miles, 70 miles, 100 miles)

Optional transportation available from New York City

The best rest stops, superb support, marked routes, free hot showers at the finish line, free post-ride meal, free massage, all ages welcome and kids ride free!

This is a lovely ride with great scenery, fun people, wonderful volunteers, and lots of food. Almost 1,500 people are expected to register and participate, and the support for this event is huge.

Everyone starts at the Highland start/finish line. From there, the ride heads east over the Hudson, then turns north to visit FDR’s home, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and the Mills Mansion.

At this point, the routes split:

  • The 40-mile rider ends at Bard College.  From there the race sponsors will transport your bike and you back to the start/finish line.  (Why not have you do a loop?  Because there’s just not that much difference on the way home AND because you would miss Bard College, which is lovely.)
  • After the 70s and 100s visit Bard college, they split.  The 70s head straight over the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge and then back to the start/finish line in Highland by riding along the west side of the Hudson.
  • The 100-mile riders head north to the beautiful towns of Tivoli and Germantown, before heading over the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge and joining up with the 70-mile riders.  The 70s and the 100s ride back along the west side of the Hudson to the start/finish line.

The details are too many to post here so we’re going to refer you over to the event site for much more additional reading, photos, and registration information.

Don’t have a bike but want to participate in this event? Bike and Roll New York City can absolutely help. Call us at 212.260.0400 for information about the types of bikes we offer that would be suitable for this event.

Hop On, Hop Off Bike Rentals Roll Into City Parks

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, second from left, joins Bike and Roll executives on some Bike and Roll bicycles. (Photo credit DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht)

by Leslie Albrecht,

UPPER WEST SIDE — Just in time for the summer cycling season, bike rental outfit Bike and Roll unveiled a new “hop on, hop off” service in which riders will be able to return rented bikes at any of the company’s locations around the city.

Bike and Roll has a contract with the Parks Department to rent bikes at 11 locations, including the Tavern on the Green parking lot in Central Park, Riverside Park South and West Harlem Piers Park.

Starting Tuesday, the company will allow riders to “hop on” their bikes at one location, and “hop off” of them at any other Bike and Roll locations throughout the city, including Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Governor’s Island. The company had previously required that riders return their bikes to the same place they were rented.

“It allows every person to personalize Manhattan and see it the way they want to see it,” Bike and Roll NYC president Chris Wogas said at the announcement event on Tuesday at Tavern on the Green.

Bike and Roll’s rental prices range from $12 an hour for a beach cruiser to $69 for a day for a Trek racing bike.

Aside from renting bikes, Bike and Roll runs community programs, including free riding lessons for kids and a good neighbor initiative that fixes flat tires for any cyclist who stops at a Bike and Roll location.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe encouraged the public to jump on a bike this summer, saying that the city is becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with new bike lanes and six miles of bike paths in Central Park.

Plans to add even more cycling to Central Park by letting cyclists to share crosstown paths with pedestrians this summer have drawn praise from bike riders, and criticism from an Upper East Side community board.


The City and Bike: Rubber Meets Road

by Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2011
It is now summer 2011 and have you noticed a change? New York City isn’t freaking out so hard about bicycling.

Spring was a little shrill and embarrassing. There were crazed media furies about bike lanes, non-stop reports of police crackdowns, hyperbolic worries that the city was transforming into an effete Euro village. If we didn’t defend our streets, the cyclists would overtake Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan would open a leg-shaving station in Union Square.

One day you’d walk down to the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty sausaged into tight shorts, sipping a Stumptown espresso and thumbing through Velonews.
But then a funny thing occurred. It got warmer, more people started riding, and the mania was eclipsed by reality.

That’s the beauty of a bike, a simple machine with two wheels and zero ideology. When you can turn a pedal and feel safe, it’s fun and makes sense.

And anyone can ride. There have been cheesy distortions of cycling as a trendy, elite activity—to link bike paths to ongoing gentrification, and claim the city is catering to a hipster fringe.
You want to see what a fraud that argument is? Get on a bike and ride. For every Spandexed obsessive tucked on a $3,000 carbon fiber frame you’ll see 100 people of every imaginable background just trying to get to work, do their job, have fun with their kids, safely spin from A to B.

Bikes are New York fringe? Email your friends. Ask how many of them own bikes. Then ask how many of them own cars. If more of them say they own cars, look out the window. You live in Connecticut.
This is not to say there aren’t problems. Safety is still a priority. Many places in the city continue to need pathways and better solutions. A ride through midtown still feels like Car-mageddon. The West Side Bike path on a weekend is a free-for-all. The Brooklyn Bridge is tourist madness—always take the saner Manhattan, if you can.

And cyclists can’t be exempt from criticism. A bike rider in New York City has a responsibility to be not just an advocate but an ambassador. There’s nothing worse than a haughty biker who thinks the rules don’t apply to him or her.

Actually there is something worse: a haughty biker without a helmet blowing a whistle, yelling out of the corner of his or her mouth for people to get out of the way. Slow down, lunatic.
But New York’s cycling momentum looks unstoppable. The city is finally closing in on a bike sharing program, in which people will be able to rent bikes for a small fee at a kiosk and return it at another kiosk at their destination. This is long overdue. It’s a little embarrassing New York doesn’t already have it. Washington, D.C. beat us.

Think bike sharing has nothing for you? You know the traffic nightmare of getting across town at 4:30 p.m.? Can’t get a cab; subway doesn’t go there; it’s too far to walk. Imagine paying a couple bucks to hop on a bike, and pedal safely through the gridlock to get there in five minutes.

Naturally, there are cries that bike sharing will cause chaos, that ghastly kiosks will clutter the sidewalks, that it’s another example of urban planning gone amok.

Right, of course! Paris installed bike sharing a few years ago, and now look at it. It’s completely ruined; nobody goes to Paris anymore.

The revival of urban cycling in this country follows a fairly predictable pattern: nervousness and ridicule, followed by the realization that the truth never matches the fear-mongering. The supposed choice between bikes and everyone else is a bogus choice. More bikes in a city doesn’t merely benefit riders; it reduces congestion, saves money, improves quality of life, elevates the experience. No one returns from a city and says, “Oh, it was great—except for all the biking.”

The biggest mischaracterization about the infamous New York Cycling War is that there’s a war at all.
Look all around you. The bikes have won, and it’s not a terrible thing.