Of course we all know that line from Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" but it also describes the current state of cycling on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.
With the recent fatality on the Hillsdale Ave. overpass to US Hwy. 101 (as well as another fatality in October), we as a community of cyclists all share some of the anguish and pain. We all have our reasons for why we cycle: the health benefits, economics, the simplicity of it. But we also love to ride just because of the incredible friends we meet, or the circle of friends we surround ourselves with. With those friends we can share new tips, new places, favorite rides, as well as stories. We can also share our feelings and try to make sense of what we see happening in our community and our neighborhoods.
But as we enter a new year I also see this as the best of times. We are now living in a great time of change - positive change. Ask yourself if 10, five, or even two years ago you would have seen transportation engineers use the words "complete streets," road diets, bike cars (more than one), or even "multi-modal." Change is being made thanks to cyclists who make the time, take the energy to tell non-cyclists that we all share the road - cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, motorcyclists, and autos.
This is the best of times for cities as well. Cities such as San Jose see the tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate traditional neighborhood retail centers with vibrant street life. Historic areas such as Willow Glen, the Alameda and Japantown are now seen as places to cycle to and linger, not just as a thoroughfare or a parking lot.
Political leaders such as Carole Groom, the District 2 Supervisor for San Mateo, see the now obvious link between cycling and walking and public health. In conjunction with World Health Day she hopes to bring a Cyclovia-styled event to Peninsula cities along the El Camino Real. This event, which is now a part of many North America cities, allows families to use the streets for walking, cycling, skating, or any other activity as long as it's not driving. The San Mateo event is timed perfectly as a prelude to Bike to Work Day events in both Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
Speaking of the El Camino Real... From the Alameda in San Jose to Mission Street in Daly City, cities up and down the Peninsula are incorporating complete streets guidelines into their plans for a new El Camino Real, the Grand Boulevard. Reconfigured roadways that include wider sidewalks and new bikeways will give cyclists greater confidence along the grand north-south corridor. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is working with C/CAG (City/County Associated Governments) and Peninsula cities to keep cyclists' safety, access, and convenience in mind in creating a new El Camino Real.
So, although it is sad to close out this year with some grim news, I am optimistic that the word is getting out, that others are seeing the benefits that cycling provides - not to just one's health but to the health of our communities as well. It appears as though they are beginning to understand the language, the vocabulary, and including these in their plans for the future; now we must work with them to help turn those plans into action.
Have a happy and safe holiday season and thanks to all of you who devote your time to making cycling better and safer.