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Getting Inspired About Biking

Our guest speakers, Kurt Wallace Martin and Amy Harcourt, do not own a car and mostly get around by bike, on foot and via public transit. Once in awhile they use ZipCar. Their mission is to make it easy for others to do the same.

Did you know that 40% of the trips in suburbia are less than 2 miles, yet 90% of them are by car!  This statistic was shared by the guest speakers at our “Get Inspired About Biking” event on January 19.  Partners in the consulting firm Bikes Make Life Better shared some inspiring images and stories about a town, a university, and a company that are having success encouraging bicycling instead of driving solo.  We also learned about some very cool technologies that blend GPS, solar, bicycling, mobile phones and the internet to encourage biking.

City Center as Living Room

In the 1970s the town of Groningen, Holland decided to do something about sprawl and traffic congestion.  They developed a vision of a mostly car-free, compact city where the center would be like a “living room.”  It would be a space where citizens would gather and move about freely, enjoying the beautiful architecture and canals without car congestion.  They created a ring road around the city, moved most car parking outside the city center and made the roads bike-friendly and easy for public transit.  There are even certain roads that are one-way for cars but two-way for bikes. And the city installed massive amounts of bike parking.  Today 57% of all trips in town are made by bike.

Copyright 2008, A street in Groningen, a Dutch town of 180,000 inhabitants where 57% of trips are made by bike.

Bicycle-Friendly University

In 2011, Stanford University earned the first and (so far) only Platinum Level Bicycle Friendly University designation by the League of American Bicyclists.  Stanford has about 13,000 bicyclists on campus daily.  The university has a Commute Club and offers a wide range of options to get to and from campus, including carpool, vanpool, shuttle, ZipCar, bike paths and safety programs.  Now, more than half the commuters to campus choose an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.  Stanford invests in promoting bicycling, in part because it’s a relatively inexpensive way to avoid paying to upgrade public intersections near the campus – something the university is legally obligated to do if its commuters cause traffic congestion in the surrounding communities.

Facebook Likes Bicycles

Facebook’s new Menlo Park campus at the former “East Campus” location of Sun Microsystems currently houses about 2,000 employees and the company is expected to double its population within the next year.  Facebook has set a goal of getting half its employees to work by alternative means – shuttle, bus, rideshare, public transit and bicycle – with a target of 8% bike commuting.  To support this goal, they’ve installed showers and lockers in all buildings, bike racks and secure bike shelters near each building.  And to help employees get around the sizable new campus, Facebook has just added a fleet of 60 bikes.

Social/Mobile Technology Inspires Bicycling

Here in Silicon Valley, some of the hottest trends in consumer technology revolve around “social,” “local” and “mobile” – also known as SoLoMo!  Imagine using your smartphone or iPad to locate, reserve and unlock a GPS-enabled bike to borrow.  Social Bicycles has created this solution.  Because their bikes can be locked to any bike rack and unlocked simply by entering a code on a keypad, they do not require the expensive infrastructure investments that some bike-sharing solutions require (e.g. specialized kiosks).  The GPS and the locking mechanism are powered by battery that is charged by a dynamo that runs when the bike is pedaled.  And there is also a small 2-watt solar panel installed on the back of the bike that provides power in case the bike has not been ridden (i.e. charged) for a couple of days.  Check out this video to see how the system works.

Sobi Bike-Sharing System

Another interesting SoLoMo product for bicycling is Strava. This service tracks your rides, times and achievements and lets you share them with friends.  Once you download the mobile app and sign up for the service, you just grab your smartphone or Garmin GPS system, go for a ride and then sync with  It works anywhere in the world that you can get a GPS signal.

Strava Dashboard

What Inspires You?

In our community, we are blessed with a temperate climate, lots of sunshine and plenty of shopping and recreational opportunities in short biking distances from our homes.  I get inspired to ride my bike when the weather is fine, but I also get a kick out of securing a close-in premium parking space and having a relatively stress-free ride to my nearby destinations. And as a bonus, it just feels good!  What inspires you to ride your bike in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills?

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