Since I’m going well over a year between posts now, I should create a table of contents of sorts to help people navigate this website.
My views have evolved over the years and you’ll see this evolution if you scour the archives. Today, I’m driven by the fact that human-caused climate change driven largely by fossil carbon emissions will create hardship and tragedy for a large chunk of the human population. Secondary to this are other problems created by an obsessive emphasis on automotive transportation: deaths, maimings, and economic loss from crashes; and chronic health problems including asthma, obesity, and even dementia.
You’ll find discussion on land use in these pages because land-use decisions are often driven by and, in turn, encourage automotive dependence. You’ll also find discussion on walking and public transportation because the challenges often intersect those of people who ride bicycles. Equity plays a role because, historically in the United States, we’ve ignored the more vulnerable road user because too often that more vulnerable road user is the person of color on the wrong side of the tracks.
These days, you’ll mostly see me touching all of these issues and more on Twitter. If you want the deeper dives, I invite you to study the “Categories” button – you can find this in the left sidebar if you use a PC browser, or towards the bottom of this page on a smaller screened device.
Other popular resources available on this site include:
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. After community input, Caltrans agrees to safety improvements for Highway 17 drivers, so let’s grab this opportunity to improve the shoulder along California State Route 17 from Bear Creek Road to Alma Bridge Road along Lexington Reservoir.
Caltrans responds to petition for Highway 17 safety improvements
Caltrans is driven by data, but they also pay attention to online problem reports, especially when they see a spike in reports. I don’t know if it’s possible to game this system, but Caltrans District 4 (which covers the San Francisco Bay Area, including Santa Clara County aka the “South Bay”), responded very quickly after an effort organized on Facebook resulted in an inundation of problem reports regarding hazardous conditions on the infamous “Highway 17.
Highway 17 is the main thoroughfare between homes in coastal Santa Cruz and jobs in Silicon Valley. The highway is a winding, mountain road that rises from near sea level, up to 1800 feet, and back down to 100 feet above sea level where State Route 17 becomes I-880 at I-280. Challenging geography and budget constraints meant engineers compromised on design features when they constructed this road in the 1940s. Danger increases in wet weather.
After a decade of drought during an era of significant population and job growth, a series of atmospheric rivers slammed northern California this past winter, resulting in a dramatic increase in collisions on this highway.
Some Facebook group members organized an effort to plead with Caltrans to improve safety on Highway 17. They won’t get the significant engineering they wish for, but Caltrans did move quickly to begin smaller safety improvements, namely higher friction pavement and improved guardrails. This project covers State Route 17 from Summit Road north to Alma Bridge Road just north of Lexington Reservoir.
Rumble Strips and bicycles
Interestingly (for me), safety improvements like this come in a package, a bit like a combo meal from a fast food restaurant. The Highway 17 safety package will include shoulder rumble strips. Rumble strips are used where run-off-the-road crashes due to inattention are a problem. Those who routinely travel 17 understand inattention probably is not a problem on this road.
Nonetheless, Sergio Ruiz, who runs the Pedestrian a Bicycle Program for Caltrans D4 out of Oakland, reached out to cyclists who ride over the Santa Cruz Mountains due to the hazards of rumble strips for cyclists. Several of us pointed out that almost everybody avoids Highway 17 altogether by riding other mountain roads, so Caltrans can add rumble strips to their heart’s content.
As an aside, though, I mentioned the drainage grates and crappy condition of the shoulder forces us to move out into the auxiliary lane here.
Sergio picked up on this and said he would try to get shoulder improvements for cyclists added into this overall safety project.
Can we encourage Caltrans to leverage an existing project and add this small bit of shoulder to their much larger safety project? If you ride this short stretch of Highway 17 on your bicycle, drop a note to Caltrans PIO for Santa Clara County, Victor Gauthier (Victor.Gauthier@dot.ca.gov) and mention that you would like the shoulder improved here as part of an existing safety project, since Caltrans has to tear the pavement up anyway.
The motoring group also contacted the California Office of Traffic Safety, Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, the California Transportation Commission, the office of Senator Jim Beall, and various other decision makers. I’m told some of these people received upwards of 1,000 emails, which is enough to get anyone’s attention.
They’ll start from Pittsburg / Bay Point BART at 9 AM on Saturday and bike the 68 miles to the Sacramento Convention Center, with estimated 4 PM arrival. The last time NAHBS took place in Sacramento, I watched a guy on a beer-hauling bike arrive with this crew.
They’ll have regroups every 10 miles, and lunch regroups at Rio Vista Bridge and Steamboat Slough. I’m not sure if this is strictly a “no drop” ride, but if the group is large enough I expect it might split off into a fast group and a casual group. See the Facebook event page for rules, route map, and other details.
The transit option for the full distance is the Capitol Corridor train. Fare from San Jose to Sac is $39, but this train has all kinds of deals and promotions, especially on the weekends. Advance purchase may be required for these deals. It’s a mile from Sacramento Amtrak to the convention center.
I’m curious about anybody who plans to drive out on Friday afternoon and return on Sunday. The Tahoe region has epic snow this season, so I expect I-80 and every back road between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento will test the patience of many drivers.
Don Walker of NAHBS says ticket pre-sales have hit record numbers. The last time NAHBS was in Sacramento, the show was inundated with cycling enthusiasts flocking from all over Northern California and Nevada. If you show up on Saturday or Sunday, expect lines for ticket sales to wrap around the block, so buy your tickets now.
Update: We’ll meet 8:30 A.M. at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park parking lot, and bike roughly 20 miles to Paul’s Slide before turning around. Big Sur Taphouse near Pfeiffer Bridge is open for business and is a good place to stop for food and drink after the ride. Pace will likely be closer to 12 MPH rather than 15 MPH.
Highway 1 across a large chunk of the California Central Coast will remain closed over the summer after extensive damage from last winter’s storms, closing off the incredibly scenic Big Sur coastal route. Several people have already taken advantage of a walking path across Pfeiffer Gorge that opened to the public on July 1, allowing them to bike 20 miles down the coast on a mostly car-free coast highway. I plan to take this trip on Saturday, August 12, and you’re welcome to join me. Caltrans says Pfeiffer Bridge will open to traffic in September, so this is pretty close to your last opportunity to ride this without sharing the road with heavy tourist traffic.
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