Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The California Bike Road

The above is a quote from Frank Barron, my psychology professor who said it in class over 25 years ago and it’s stuck in my head since. One of the reasons it’s stayed with me all this time is, quite simply, it’s right. There’s really almost no downside to bicycling, and its swift adoption as an alternative to cars would combat not just pollution, global warming and dependence on foreign oil, but obesity and diabetes as well.

The downside to bicycles is of course their relative lack of speed and cargo capacity, and that they require physical effort. Not to mention the chance of getting instantly killed or permanently disfigured by a car. As it is, the biggest drawbacks to bicycling are that it takes place right next to automobiles, and if we want people to start using bikes to any meaningful extent, we have to separate them from automobiles. One of the best things we could do as a society right now would be to start building bike roads between all our major cities. Not lanes, not paths. Roads. Roads built specifically for bicycles, and designed to take fullest advantage of prevailing winds, terrain and gravity. Imagine if we built wind tunnels for bicycles alongside urban freeways, or gondolas up to mountaintops with perfectly graded downhills running along the ranges and foothills. Imagine if those gondolas, or simple tow ropes, were powered by windmills. Imagine the things we could do if we put our minds to it.

Since the election I’ve found myself with a lot of free time, much of which I’ve spent biking between San Francisco and Los Angeles, trying to find the quickest and overall safest route. This is what I’ve come up with:

Following the 101 inland instead of the coast cuts out a lot of traffic and unnecessary climbs and takes fullest advantage of the prevailing winds through the Salinas and Santa Maria Valleys, which are considerable. Although not quite as scenic as the coast it’s a hell of a lot quicker, less strenuous and less dangerous, and if we ever do build a bike road between SF and LA, I can just about promise it’ll follow this route. (which I’ll detail in later posts) Though most of it takes place on quiet country roads, there are a few hellish sections where you have to go on the freeway, and those are the parts I’d like to fix up first. My goal is that one day parents will be able to take their children on this ride in relative safety, without having to deal with cars.

I’m not sure how I’m going to pull this off just yet, but I figure the best way to start is to get other people thinking about it too, so you can expect to see more signs like this appearing here in California.


Hecate said...

Great quote!!!!!!!!!!

DittoWatch.com said...

love it!

do you ever read David Byrne's blog?

he's big on bicycling.

svdrone said...

I think you're dreaming... but I guess we need dreamers too.

It seems so obvious about bicycling addressing both the nations energy needs AND healthy-living needs, but so few people seem to make the connection. Bicyclists, to most people, are just an annoyance.

A more detailed map of the SF to LA route would be nice to see. Maybe an annotated Google map?

Unknown said...

For similar dreams, see also http://bikeroute.com and http://nationalbicyclegreenway.com

Duncan Watson said...


Dreaming is good. It is amazing what one can attain when you work at it step by step. One of the reasons why I don't like some cycling blogs is their anti-cycling facility attitude due to the "difficulty of getting the US to do it properly". So they prefer to attack it.

Great blog and I added you to my reader as well. Keep up the good work.

Unknown said...

From San Jose to Paso Robles I prefer McKean and Uvas, connecting to Highway 25 at the southern end of Gilroy. Highway 25 past Pinnacles is gorgeous. Upon reaching King City, Jolan Road takes you into the "lake country" and finally into Paso Robles. From there I generally top over 46, connecting the the extension of Santa Rosa Creek and down onto Highway 1. Upon reaching Ventura, however, you've entered the Freeway Hell of Los Angeles. Good write-up thou. Thanks

used engines said...

Very cool. As I said in other posts, I'm an engines man and love a nice speedster, but my other great pleasure is my beach cruiser (a pedel bike made for cruising the beach). I can connect with my bicycle falling into the utopia category. It doesn't have the roar of an engine, but it's peaceful, and slows down life to let in the REAL stuff.

Ellen Catalina, LCSW said...

I think the obvious thing to do is just make a bike road next to all the existing train tracks. I was thinking this when I was taking the train down to Santa Clara from SF. If there were a simple path next to the tracks it would make things so easy!