Archive for the 'Davis Bicycles! Column' Category

Excellent bike path still under the radar after 10 years


Biking toward South Davis, along the former course of Putah Creek just before the path crosses under I-80.

Ten years ago this week, the City of Davis dedicated the Putah Creek Bicycle Undercrossing, connecting South Davis to downtown and the UC Davis campus. The $4.5 million project took four years to construct. In 2000 the longest segment was opened from W. Chiles Road near Research Park Drive, crossing under W. Chiles and six lanes of I-80. A ceremony on April 2, 2003 marked the opening of the tunnel under the Union Pacific railroad tracks behind Davis Commons at the east end of the UC Davis Arboretum.

The smooth concrete path stretching 0.4 mile is impressive as bike facilities go: It crosses under both I-80 and the railroad, passing through unspoiled open countryside so close to downtown Davis and the freeway-oriented businesses — but separated from them just enough to create a tranquil respite from urban life. It circumvents the busy intersections along Cowell and Richards, especially the freeway overpass with zooming cars and trucks merging across a disappearing bike lane at the entry and exit ramps to I-80. And it avoids long waits at stoplights.

I expect that many readers either don’t know about this bike path, or have learned of it the hard way — perhaps after biking the more treacherous Richards freeway overpass and then hearing a rumor of an alternate bike route.

A bicyclist heads toward I-80 on Cowell Blvd. at Research Park Drive. The flash on my camera makes visible this mostly hidden sign pointing to the bike path to bypass the freeway overpass just ahead.

A bicyclist heads toward I-80 on Cowell Blvd. at Research Park Drive. The camera flash reveals the barely visible sign pointing to the bike path that allows one to bypass the freeway overpass just ahead.

This path is hidden from the view of car and bus travelers because it doesn’t directly connect to Cowell, Richards, First, E, or F Streets. Take Research Park Drive heading west in South Davis, or the bike path along the UC Davis Arboretum heading east near downtown. Maps and bigger, more descriptive signs showing the way would be helpful!

It is also part of the Davis Bike Loop. Green pavement markers were added in 2007 and have raised awareness of this and other bike paths around the city, but these markers are of limited usefulness in terms of guiding unfamiliar bicyclists to specific destinations.bike_path_map

Besides the map provided here and others specifically for bicycling (e.g. Google Bicycling), this excellent bike path is not even shown on many maps. The Davis Downtown Business Association and UC Davis have installed large maps on public placards at key locations. None of these show the path.

In my view this omission is particularly egregious on the UC Davis map. The path serves as an ideal connector between the main campus and outlying campus units along Research Park Drive such as the Center for Neuroscience. Also missing from the campus map is a similar freeway crossing for bikes south of the Russell/113 interchange on the west side of the campus.

Why are bike paths barely shown or missing from these maps? Bike paths are more subtle and minute in detail for map makers to draw, compared to the street grid. Perhaps the view still persists that the paths are recreational rather than true transportation facilities.

I am not suggesting that bike paths on maps should be drawn as wide as the streets. But the campus map in particular needs to better highlight bicycling routes for bypassing busy streets and intersections via bridges and underpasses, to encourage this healthier form of transportation. Some exaggeration of the physical prominence of these paths would serve a valuable purpose.

Improvements are on the way! Construction is set to begin this summer on the Arboretum Gateway Garden, which will greatly improve the connection from the bike path to Davis Commons and downtown at First and D Streets. Also, the city plans to install wayfinding signs, probably in 2014-15, to guide bicyclists to destinations via bikeways, similar to those in cities such as Berkeley and Portland.

Why I bicycle but my neighbors don’t

By Susan Handy

Davis is one of the few places in the United States where bicycling is a substantial mode of transportation. According to the latest American Community Survey, more than 15 percent of Davis workers usually commute to work by bicycle. Surveys we have conducted at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis have produced even more impressive numbers:

  • 53 percent of Davis residents bicycle at least one per week;
  • 46 percent of UCD faculty and 40 percent of staff who live in Davis commute to campus by bicycle;
  • More than one-third of Davis High School students usually bicycle to school; and
  • 18 pecent of youth soccer players bicycle to their games.

Compare this to less than 1 percent of daily trips by bicycle in the U.S. as a whole.

The fact that so many people in Davis bicycle is of great interest to other communities that hope to emulate Davis’ success. But even more interesting to me is the fact that so many more don’t: Nearly half of adults had not bicycled in the previous week, more than half of students arrived at the high school by car, more than three-quarters of soccer players were driven to their games. So what explains why some Davis residents bicycle but others don’t?

For adults, the answer has much to do with individual attitudes. In our studies, we found that comfort with bicycling was one of the most important factors explaining who bicycles regularly and who doesn’t. Another important factor was agreement with the statement “I like riding a bike”: those who strongly agreed with this statement were far more likely to bicycle regularly even than those who just agreed. Residents who bicycled regularly also were those for whom a bicycling-oriented community was an important factor in deciding where to live.

In other words, Davis has so much bicycling in part because it attracts residents who like to bicycle.

For children, attitudes matter, too, but as much the attitudes of parents as of the children themselves. Distance from home to the soccer field was an important factor in whether families bicycled to their games, as was the ability of the child to bicycle. But equally important was whether the parent regularly bicycled. In other words, some families are simply more bicycling-oriented than others.

We saw this same effect in our high school study: distance to school was important, but students with parents who were willing to chauffeur them places and whose parents did not encourage bicycling were far less likely to bicycle to school.

Having a driver’s license and access to a car — a condition over which parents have a significant influence — also reduced bicycling. The student’s attitudes mattered as well — liking to bicycle and confidence in bicycling — but much less so than parental encouragement.

In all these studies, women bicycle less than men, and differences in attitudes largely explain why. Women express greater concern for safety, both fear of being in a collision and fear of being attacked. They report feeling less comfortable bicycling and like bicycling less than men.

In our UCD survey, less than 60 percent of women said that they are “very confident” riding a bicycle, compared to more than 80 percent of men. At the high school, girls liked bicycling less and felt less confident bicycling.

A consistent message thus emerges from our studies: While good infrastructure is a necessary condition for getting many people bicycling, it is not a sufficient condition for getting most people bicycling. To get more people bicycling, the city also needs programs that will change attitudes.

For example, training programs for children and adults can help to increase confidence in bicycling ability, while community events may help to increase enjoyment of bicycling. Such activities encourage more residents to take advantage of the opportunity to bicycle that our good infrastructure provides.

Personally, I find it both frustrating and disappointing that bicycling in Davis is not more pervasive than it is. I didn’t move to Davis for the bicycling, but I naturally embraced it as my primary travel mode once I got here. Now I can’t imagine going back to a car-dependent lifestyle, and I wonder about my neighbors who choose to drive even when bicycling is so attractive an alternative.

But, of course, not everyone sees it that way, and that is exactly what we are trying to understand in our next study: Where do attitudes toward bicycling come from and why do some people enjoy bicycling so much more than others? We’ll see.

— Susan Handy is a professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis and directs the Sustainable Transportation Center. Her research focuses on strategies for reducing automobile dependence.  This column is based on an article that appeared in Access.

What is the Woodland Bike Campaign?

During the five years that I worked as a classroom presenter in Yolo County, I noticed a long lines of cars in front of schools dropping off students in the morning and picking up students in the afternoon.  The bike racks were almost empty.

The topic of suicide prevention is so important that the state of California made it a part of required curriculum for all seventh- and 10th-graders. I loved my job as a classroom presenter on this sensitive topic that many teachers shy away from.

When my job terminated, I was a little depressed. What do you do with yourself at the age of 55? I thought about all the wonderful people I had met, teachers and administrators who genuinely care and work hard for their students and parents. I thought about all the wonderful relationships that had been built in the classroom, with school counselors and nurses, and I thought, “What can I do to help?”
About eight months ago, an idea was hatched. It was small at first and just kept growing. The positive response from school principals, community leaders, service clubs and administrators has been astounding. At its heart is the desire to share the joy of cycling with all the wonderful people that I’ve met in Woodland.
Bike riding brings  joy, freedom, independence and a sense of responsibility and pride, something you don’t get when someone else is driving you around. It occurred to me, after those years in the classroom of telling teens about the grim realities of life, that I could have a more positive impact by encouraging them to do something fun.

The Woodland Bike Campaign’s No. 1 objective is to get more people on bikes. Right now, fewer than 1 percent of teens ride their bikes to school. In fact, probably fewer than 1 percent of the population of Woodland rides bikes as a form of transportation.

It won’t take long for you to realize why your drive to anywhere in the morning or at 2 p.m. is so darn frustrating. Parents are shuttling their kids everywhere, to sports, to shop, to visit friends. How much time would you have if we were not taxiing our kids everywhere? How much money and CO2 would we save? What would you do with extra time and money you’d save?

I hope you’ll consider being a part of the solution, for far more reasons than can be counted in this column. People ride bikes because they care about the environment, to save money and because it’s healthy — lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and stress.

You say your bike’s not working, or you don’t have a bike? The Woodland Bike Campaign is sponsoring its next free bike clinic in August at the County Fair Mall. Here, you will find helpful bike technicianss who are willing and able to do an overall safety review of your bike, fix some flats, show you how to pump up your tires, grease your chain and check your brakes. Come and learn how to get a bike and helmet if you can’t afford one.

With this campaign, you have the opportunity to get out there and be the change you wish to see in Woodland. Since you’ll have a little more time and money left over from not driving, please stop by Common Grounds at 729 Main St. and buy a $2 raffle ticket for the deluxe Electra Sugar Skulls Cruiser. Proceeds from the raffle support the free bike clinic and campaign.
For more information about the campaign and answers to your bike-related questions, email Maria Contreras at


Why we participate in the May is Bike Month Challenge at North Davis Elementary by Kristen Muir

By Kristen Muir

1.  For the mother who has a limited income and has left an old bike in the garage for too long and won’t use it since it is so beat-up, who comes to the Davis Bicycles! Bike Rodeo with her bike, learns how to grease her chain and works with the mechanics on site to bring new life into her bike, who then rides her bike with her children after driving her car for so many years.

2.  For the kindergarten student who has been riding with training wheels and was too scared to work on taking them off, until May is Bike Month comes along and gives her the reason to do just that. After seeing all the kids on the blacktop, riding through a variety of bike courses, she goes home with her mom and asks her to take off the training wheels, spends several hours over the next few days and is now riding her two-wheel bike!

3.  For the third-grader who announced, “I don’t know how to ride my bike.” When given the challenge by me, and her classmates, to use this month to learn, goes straight home and works with her parents on learning to ride her bike. Who talks with me and works with her parents to estimate how many “miles” she is riding when she is practicing over and over again. And who, by the end of the month proudly announces, “I can ride my bike!”

4.  For the students who get excited about the UCD Cycling Team members coming to our blacktop to participate in a Criterium-like “race.” Who stay and listen to those same cyclists as they talk about bike safety, the importance of following the street signs and wearing helmets.

5.  To hear students tell me that their parents are letting them ride to school with a group of friends for the first time, now that they see that they can ride safely. To hear parents tell me that their children are asking to ride their bikes to school instead of being driven.

6.   To see the amazement on students’ (and parents’) faces when we create a cool drink with a bike blender.

7.  When several students share their unicycling abilities and teachers and staff share their unique bikes (quad cycle, tandem, recumbent bike, etc.).

8.  So that Peter Wagner can come talk with students about his innovative bicycles, to discuss how he began creating his unique bikes as a sixth-grader. To see that glimmer in a few students’ eyes when they think to themselves, “I could do that!”

9.  To empower our students to make a difference in their daily life.

10. To meet a new family from Roseville who came to Bike Loopalooza to ride our Davis 12-mile bike loop, to see the elementary schools and homes in the area as they look at moving here.

For the children of Davis, the bicycle may be their first taste of freedom. They can go where and when they want without the help of their parents. What a great blessing to bequeath our children.

May is Bike Month, which is a great time to get more students on bicycles. But why stop at students? May is Bike Month is a great time for adults to reaquaint themselves with the beauty of biking. There are many activities to do: log your miles and help Davis reach a million bicycle miles, and go on the Tour de Cluck and the Bike Loopalooza, to name just some of the highlights.

And don’t forget, Wednesday, May 9, is Bike to School Day.

— Kristen Muir runs a PTA-funded physical fitness program at North Davis Elementary School and coordinates the school’s May is Bike Month activities.


‘Being the change’ to ride our bikes more

Although I do a lot of bicycling for exercise and recreation, staying motivated to keep doing it is still a challenge for me. Many of us have aspirations to start riding, to ride our bikes more frequently and farther, or to ride up hills. Social rides and challenges offered by the Davis Bike Club and other groups are a great way to motivate oneself.

After moving from San Francisco to Davis several years ago, I missed the many hills and interesting sights. So I was less inspired to ride and missed getting as much exercise biking compared to before.

Then I joined the Davis Bike Club and signed up for its “March Madness.” To participate, you choose a challenging mileage goal for the month of March and pay a registration fee. You are on the honor system as you ride to your goal. Any miles you ride your bike count: around town, to work, to school or long excursions. Proceeds go to school bike safety efforts.

After I started participating in this challenge, I was riding more than ever. From there, I proceeded to fulfill lifelong ambitions to ride the Big Sur coast and the 200-mile Davis Double Century.

Currently, I am helping to organize and lead a series of hill climbing rides with DBC. We started with a modest amount of hill climbing, and are working our way up step by step to mountain-size ascents.

At the same time, another informal group is training for the “Cinderella Classic,” a 65-mile womens’ ride a few weeks from now. This informal group is organized by my friend Susan Ashdown, who embodies what this essay is about: inspiring and motivating less experienced bicyclists.

Like me, Susan doesn’t claim to be the expert with all the answers about training for longer rides. “I am what you call a spark,” she says. “If I don’t know the answer I will try to find it and get back to you.”

She became the organizer “… because I always wanted to provide a connection point for women to cycle together, to provide a supportive place. I had gathered a few good folks to help them begin cycling further than the grocery store.”

Susan’s training group often has multiple rides a week. Since they started training in January, their long weekend rides have increased by five miles each week, with gradually more hill climbing. Participants include a large age spread, and a few men.

A recent training ride for the Cinderella Classic enjoyed a stop at Danny's Donuts in Old Sacramento.

In addition to March Madness, the Davis Bike Club offers its members two yearlong challenges: riding a century (100-mile ride) or a metric century (100 km, or 62 miles), once a month. A hill climbing challenge is planned for April. More information on these and Susan’s group rides are at

Susan, who plans to organize more training rides throughout the year, sums things up better that I can:

“It comes down to people wanting to do these things: cycling, or raising funds for others. They just need the connection point and spark. I guess that is what I provide.

“I feel, and I know others do as well, that cycling is a way they can contribute to others in need and ‘be the change.’ Often not only being the change for others in need, but also in their own life by making the donation or by cycling in a fundraising event, creating a ‘hero’ effect.

“Because that is what people are when they step out of their own world and step up to say ‘yes, I will be the change’ for you.”

— Russell Reagan produces the online newsletter of the Davis Bicycles! advocacy group.

The Busycle: Part 2

By Paul Guttenberg

The desperate call from the airport was a last-minute plea for help. Broken-down at the side of the road, the Busycle sat in a parking lot in the East Bay. The support vehicle was out of commission. A storm was coming. It was getting dark. Most likely, locusts would gather next.

There is nothing quite like a disaster in the making to attract the weak of mind. Calls were made, a rental trailer obtained, and yours truly was off to the East Bay in an attempt to rescue the Busycle. Helping hands were promised and all equipment needed would be waiting.

Arriving at the yard, it turned out that the proprietor now demanded compensation for storing the Busycle, or he would sell it. The bill, not surprisingly, was outrageous. All those high hopes were to end with the Busycle held hostage and threatened with an ignominious final journey to the scrap heap.

Many calls ensued, a variety of cycling enthusiasts, human-powered artists and other assorted ne’er-do-wells lent their voices. Soon, a local television station became interested. Busycle held hostage, film at 11. The corporate district office for the franchisee holding the Busycle did not welcome this prospect. They would provide a trailer, but the Busycle had to be gone that afternoon.

Alone in the pouring rain, this reporter rushed to the storage yard, equipped with an underpowered truck, a come-along and a complete lack of judgment. Hooking up the auto transport trailer in the rain was enjoyable enough, crawling underneath to attach wiring and ensuring all the chains were in place. Then it was off to load the Busycle, alone.

It was analogous to watching your crazy uncle at the family picnic starting the barbecue. First he piles on a huge mountain of charcoal until it is spilling off the sides of the barbecue. Then he grabs a 5-gallon can of gasoline and begins emptying it as a starter.

He puts the can down, pulls out a paper matchbook, and starts reaching into the coals. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop yourself from watching. You also do not want get anywhere close to the impending conflagration.

That’s what it was like in the yard. Alone in a thunderstorm, armed with a come-along and a wooden block, I was attempting to raise a 1,500-pound human-powered behemoth onto a flatbed trailer behind a small truck. Everyone watched and no one came forward.

Luckily, intimate knowledge of a few magical phrases that cannot be repeated in a family-oriented publication such as this provided just the edge needed to get the job done. After some time, the Busycle was on Interstate 80 headed toward Davis.

The uncontrollable fishtailing didn’t begin in earnest until 45 mph, so it wasn’t really a problem until the downhill runs. Climbing a hill, school buses would roar past, young faces pressed to the windows in awe. Descending, large semis would put on their emergency flashers and remain hundreds of yards behind as we gracefully remained within two lanes or so, mostly.

Shaken, stirred and pulverized, we finally reached Davis and, with the help of friends, offloaded the Busycle. There is no telling how long it will remain in our community, but when it leaves it will be pulled by another.

Until it leaves our community, it needs care and attention. At this point, it is still parked outside, exposed to the elements. While all the parts are recycled and relatively hardy, the winter rains still take their toll. A local business owner has been kind enough to allow me to store it in his parking area, but something covered would be much more suitable. I remain hopeful that I will discover a spot to help preserve this unique treasure out of the elements.

The ongoing mechanical needs are something I deal with as my schedule allows, and so far I have been able to keep it in running order. Volunteers are always appreciated to assist with upkeep. I hope it will be preserved and cared for sufficiently to allow the Davis community to enjoy it this coming Picnic Day.

Please feel free to contact me at if you care to help.



Don’t Call It Cheating by Diane Swann

Diane Swann raves about the electric bike she and her husband bought in 2008, on which they have logged more than 11,000 miles. The Swanns use the e-bike for errands, commuting and recreation. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

In 2008, my husband, John, and I bought an electric bicycle, a BionX-equipped pedal-assist bike. Before I go further, let me disclose that we are now e-bike dealers. After riding it, we thought, “This is something people should know about!”

An e-bike is to our transportation what a cell phone is to most people’s communication system.  Together we have logged more than 11,000 miles on this bike alone.

We use our e-bike for errands, commuting and recreation. Thanks to our e-bike, we are consistently logging more bicycle miles each month than automobile miles. Our auto insurance company recently sent us a check for reduced mileage.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the social implications of riding the e-bike. Instead of constantly bringing up the rear when riding with others, my bike catapulted me to the front of the group.  I can now chat with people who previously would have blown by me.  I have no fear of getting dropped or slowing people down. Instead of “Wait for me!”; it’s “Go ahead; I’ll catch up.”

Continue reading ‘Don’t Call It Cheating by Diane Swann’

New Year’s Bicycle Resolutions

By Matt Biers-Ariel and Mont Hubbard

This week we asked for people to send in their bicycling New Year’s resolutions. So here they are. The first one is a resolution that we hope many of you strive for because whether you are an 8-year-old who is riding to school for the first time or the octogenarian who has ridden two-dozen Foxy’s Fall Centuries, Davis Bicycles! wants your story in The Enterprise.

Here’s to a safe and awesome year of biking!

I resolve to write a Davis Bicycles! column. — Leo Rainer

As a household, log more bicycle miles every month than car miles. — John Swann

I resolve to explore Yolo County more by bike. — Christal Waters

I resolve to ride my bike more for errands (offsetting car use), in addition to recreation. — Steve Macaulay

In 2012, I resolve to wear my bicycle helmet while commuting. — Mike Hill Continue reading ‘New Year’s Bicycle Resolutions’

No-Falls Method for Learning How to Ride a Bicycle

By Bill Chancellor and Mike Hacker

Below is a description of a method used by Bill Chancellor of Davis and Mike Hacker of Los Altos to teach uninitiated learners to ride a bicycle.

Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage that’s etched into most of our childhood memories. Unfortunately, these memories often include skinned knees, run-ins with unforgiving trees, and an out-of-shape parent running alongside nearing cardiac arrest.

However, there’s a technique for teaching bicycle-riding skills to first-time learners that can make for more pleasant memories — the no-falls method.

This method is based on the principle that a bicycle is kept upright mostly by the rider continually steering to keep the wheel-ground-contact-line always under the rider. It’s the consummate balancing act, requiring forward motion and steering adjustments by the rider in response to bicycle tilt. Continue reading ‘No-Falls Method for Learning How to Ride a Bicycle’

Officer Neves’ Tips for Bicyclists

By John Neves

My job with the Davis Police Department is to patrol the downtown area on a bicycle. The city of Davis has put a great deal of effort into making our city bicycle-friendly.

With so many bikes, we have our share of collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles. Many such collisions result in significant injuries suffered by the bicyclists. In many cases, the bicyclist contributed to the accident by not riding defensively and by breaking traffic laws. Cyclists are subject to the California Vehicle Codes the same as automobile drivers.

The following suggestions are ideas to help keep you safe and avoid traffic tickets. Continue reading ‘Officer Neves’ Tips for Bicyclists’