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5th Annual Silicon Valley Bike Summit

On Wednesday, August 26, Green Guy and I attended the 5th Annual Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto for a day of presentations and conversations about the state of bicycling in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, what new roadway and technology improvements are planned to improve bicycle safety, and how we can encourage more people in our community to safely bicycle for transportation, fun, and health.

Getting There - Caltrain
After a short bike ride to the Caltrain station, we boarded the bike car along with fellow active transportation advocates Richard Masoner (Cyclelicious) and Jaime Fearer (California Walks), both of whom spoke at the summit later that day. As with a number of other bicycle advocates who have an online presence, I had only ever communicated with Richard by Twitter, and it was great to meet him in person. His blog is a really great resource for all things bike in this area, and he's also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jaime Fearer, who I hadn't met online or in person before, spoke at the conference about a new Vision Zero toolkit that she helped create in partnership with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). Vision Zero is a multi-national project with a goal of having zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries, and it has been adopted as policy by numerous cities in the U.S., including New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and even San Jose. It began in Sweden, and it's been effective enough to convince these cities to get on board. Learn more about the Vision Zero toolkit and how Silicon Valley is approaching this project here. You can find Jaime on Twitter at @bogrosemary.

Getting There - Bike Train
After discussing local bike news, complimenting each others' bike fashion accessories, and sharing about what each of us do, we hopped off the train at California Avenue to join 15 or so other people on bikes who were headed to the Bike Summit. This bike train, or bike pool, took us down the Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard in Palo Alto, reportedly the first bicycle boulevard that was built in the nation. Along the stretch that we took (between California Avenue and E Meadow Drive), we crossed a bikes-only bridge and various spots where only bike traffic could pass.

By sectioning the boulevard off with this bike-only infrastructure, it reduces the speed of car traffic and diverts most cars elsewhere since they can't pass along the entire street in one straight line. Most of the cars we interacted with weren't behind or in front of us, but at the cross streets. I noticed a number of intersections in which the boulevard had right of way and the cross streets had stop signs. It felt really awesome to be on a boulevard designed with the bicycle in mind, given that nearly every other road I ride on in my life is designed primarily for motor vehicle traffic. And of course, it's always fun to bike with others!

Meeting Friends & Fellow Advocates 
Upon arriving at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center where the Summit was held, I was introduced to Chris Lepe of TransForm, whom I had seen before at a similar event two years ago when his organization hosted and he emceed. I learned that Chris is also a UCSC alum and that he works with a lot of interns at local colleges and universities, including De Anza College in Cupertino. He's also an alum of De Anza, as is Green Guy. So the three of us had points of connection all around in that conversation! I found out that one of the students he works with is transferring to UCSC, and I hope to meet this person and encourage them to get involved with sustainable transportation initiatives at UCSC. We need more students taking sustainable transportation leadership roles to make bicycling and walking fun and feasible for new students and the entire campus community (thought I know our hilly topography will always pose a fun challenge!).

After locking up in one of the many bike racks in the car parking structure, we ventured up into the architecturally pleasing and interestingly multi-use Community Center. We saw some Santa Cruz friends like Tawn Kennedy (Director of Green Ways to School and one of the founders/leaders of Santa Cruz Bike Party), Amelia Conlen (Director of Bike Santa Cruz County), Claire Fliesler (Transportation Planner for the City of Santa Cruz), and Piet Canin (Vice President of Transportation at Ecology Action). Each of these cool people support vital bicycle and walking programs in the Santa Cruz community, and I am so glad that I know them. I have learned a lot from each of them and the programs that they support over the years, and they inspire me!

So why would Santa Cruz people be at a Silicon Valley summit? Even though Santa Cruz is on the other side of "the hill," many people travel the Highway 17 for work, recreation, and other reasons, so the transportation and bicycle advocacy work on either side is certainly connected. Cities on both sides of the Santa Cruz mountains also have strong bicycling communities, and there are always emerging best practices and new information about bicycling (and other active transportation methods) to share with each other. As one of those commuters whose life is split along the divide of the Santa Cruz Mountains in many ways, it was exciting to see so many Santa Cruz people represented at a summit of primarily folks from the valley side of the hill. I also saw and met people from the East Bay area, making the summit in some ways a gathering together of San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area folks, although the content focused on Silicon Valley cities.

In addition to our Santa Cruz friends, Green Guy also said hi to fellow De Anza alum Kristal Caidoy who now serves on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission for the City of Milpitas, as well as on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee for VTA (Valley Transit Authority). Green Guy and Kristal had both been involved with student government at De Anza, supporting sustainable transportation initiatives such as the Eco Pass, which is funded through a student fee measure to provide "free" access to VTA buses and light rail in Santa Clara County. UC Santa Cruz has a similar model, providing students with "free" unlimited bus rides on all Santa Cruz County Metro buses (except Highway 17) that are paid for by each student in the form of a small fee each quarter. Essentially, students have voted to tax themselves in order to gain access to sustainable transportation. It's an interesting model that is also used to support a multitude of sustainability projects, student jobs, and programs at UCSC through a number of fee measures. Numerous bicycle projects at UCSC have been funded through the Carbon Fund, for example.

Throughout the day, we also met some new people who are doing awesome work in their community, such as Carlos Velazquez, Outreach Manager for SVBC, who was tweeting throughout the summit. We retweeted and favorited each others' tweets throughout the day. We also sat next to and spoke with Yoriko Kishimoto, bicyclist and former mayor of Palo Alto who currently serves as Vice President of the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. I also saw but didn't have a chance to say hi (in person) to Janet Lafleur, another inspiring bicycle advocate who has a blog called Lady Fleur and a Twitter account that's worth following. She demonstrates how to dress professionally, wear dresses and heels, and avoid helmet hair while bicycling, so if you find yourself claiming that you can't bike commute because of fashion, sweat, and your hairdo, please read her blog! We also tweeted a couple times throughout the summit.

Twitter - Capturing the Essence
I keep bringing up Twitter because on Wednesday, my Twitter account saw more activity than it has in months. I had my laptop out throughout every presentation, capturing essential ideas, quotes, and photos to share with those who were following along online or also tweeting at the summit. Even though I'm smartphone free, I was still able to engage with photos and tweets throughout the day.

For those who aren't on Twitter, here are all of the tweets I posted, with some additional information in parentheses. I've also added headings to indicate when a change in panel/presentation took place. If you're on Twitter, I'd love to read your response to any of these!

9:56 AM - Joined a #biketrain from Caltrain to the @bikesv Bike Summit this AM! Stay tuned for tweets from the summit. #bikes

Welcome address

10:04 AM - "I drove here and it reinforced why I ride to work. I think the car is done." -- Dr. David Gregg #svbikesummit

(Dr. David Gregg of Stanford Health Care gave the welcome address at the summit.)

Opening plenary, moderated by Shiloh Ballard, President and Executive Director of SVBC

10:18 AM - @GoCaltrain and @GoSamTrans collectively take 400 million car miles off the road and daily serve 100,000 riders! #svbikesummit

10:21 AM - "In the biking community I wouldn't characterize anybody as average." - Jim Hartnett @GoCaltrain @GoSamTrans #svbikesummit

(Jim Hartnett is General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of San Mateo County Transit District.)

10:37 AM - In Japan, the culture is that people are willing to walk more than 1 mile to public transit. - paraphrase of Jim Hartnett #svbikesummit

10:38 AM - "We are the national leader for bikes on trains." - Jim Hartnett @GoCaltrain @GoSamTrans #svbikesummit

10:41 AM - @NuriaFernandez8 says @VTA buses will all have 3 front racks & new bus rapid transit will also have space inside for 3 bikes! #svbikesummit

(Nuria Fernandez is General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.)

10:53 AM - "The streets that we all pay for should be available to us;" not just car drivers but bicycle riders, too. - @NuriaFernandez8 #svbikesummit

By the Numbers: Bicycling fatalities and injuries across both counties presented by San Mateo County Health System and Santa Clara County Public Health Department

11:13 AM - @GetHealthySMC - AfricanAmericans make up 32% of all bike & ped deaths in San Mateo County but represent only 3% of population #svbikesummit 

11:16 AM - @GetHealthySMC - 39% of all injuries & fatalities in San Mateo County are within 1/4 mile of a school. Yikes! #svbikesummit

11:19 AM - Ooh, new reading material for my bus commute: the new @HealthySCC Bicycle Transportation & Safety in Santa Clara County report #svbikesummit

11:24 AM - 14% of males & 4% of females ride bikes in Santa Clara County. Ladies, we are the 4% (& hopefully growing)! @HealthySCC #svbikesummit

11:25 AM - Salmon-ing is no good, friends. 94% of collisions in which bikes are at fault are due to wrong-way riding. Go with the flow! #svbikesummit

(Salmon-ing is when you ride your bike the wrong direction in the bike lane. The word derives from how salmon swim upstream. It's dangerous and illegal in most places!)

11:36 AM - What do people in your community value? Tap into that for better bike encouragement & edu opportunities. @GetHealthySMC #svbikesummit

11:44 AM - @GetHealthySMC "I'd call that a collision, not an accident." - Jessica Osborne. Yes! #svbikesummit

SVBC debuts Vision Zero Toolkit presented by Colin Heyne and Emma Schlaes of SVBC and Jaime Fearer of California Walks

11:56 AM - As a new resident of San Jose, I didn't realize we have a #VisionZero plan. Good to know! #svbikesummit

12:02 PM - @CaliforniaWalks & @bikesv stress the necessity of Engagement & #Equity along with the traditional 5 Es of #VisionZero #svbikesummit

(The traditional 5 Es are Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement. Read the new toolkit here.)

12:05 PM - 50% of fatal traffic crashes occur on just 3% of San Jose streets @CaliforniaWalks @bikesv #svbikesummit

12:14 PM - "Safety in numbers is not just perception, it's proven." - Emma Shlaes, @bikesv #VisionZero #svbikesummit

12:22 PM - Need longer term data on Willow Glen road diet. Look for Council agendas in Sept & show up to advocate for it! #svbikesummit #VisionZero

(I'm sure I'll be writing on here about the Willow Glen Road Diet issue soon enough!)

12:26 PM - What about "Road Awesome" instead of "Road Diet"? Language is important. Nobody likes diets, and they often fail... #svbikesummit

12:27 - "If you need to wave a flag to cross a street, your street is not safe enough." - Jaime Fearer of @CaliforniaWalks #svbikesummit #VisionZero

Silicon Valley Solutions: Tech's role in bicycling safety, moderated by Jessica Weare of Microsoft, and presented by Lauren Ledbetter of VTA, Andrew Casteel of Team Bike Challenge, Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious, and Frank Hebbert of the Motivate bike share company

1:30 PM - Excited to hear about tech's role in bike safety with @JessicaWeare, Lauren Ledbetter, @cyclelicious, @AndrewCasteel & @fkh. #svbikesummit

1:31 PM - "Biking has to work for everyone if it's going to work. We have to think about inclusivity." - @JessicaWeare of @MicrosoftSV #svbikesummit

1:44 PM - "Children probably don't log their bike data to Strava." Neither do many others, so we need other data methods - @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

1:52 PM - @VTA may 1 day have real-time data on bike rack capacity for those who bike to the bus. @SantaCruzMETRO can you do this too? #svbikesummit

(This would be so helpful for those of us who rely on public transit to get places with our bikes because then we'd know if the bike rack will accommodate us or not for that trip.)

2:00 PM - Public bike counters make ppl feel part of something larger. "I was counted, I matter!" @AndrewCasteel #svbikesummit

2:04 PM - Bike challenges & smartphone games motivates ppl to bike more & that data can be used to improve safety #svbikesummit

2:05 PM - "Bicycling is for the normal everyday person. It's for everyone and everybody." - Richard Masoner @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

2:06 PM - What about low income, retired people, people not comfy with tech & people with kids? How can they benefit from bike share? #svbikesummit

2:07 PM - ... and what about people with disabilities? How can they benefit from bike share? #svbikesummit

2:09 PM - @motivate_co @fkh says bikeshare could 1 day include trikes for kids and he claims you don't need a smartphone for bike share #svbikesummit

2:12 PM - @motivate_co @fkh Are more accessible bikes (for people with disabilities, people with kids) part of bikeshare's actual plans for future?

2:18 PM - & I say "claim" re: smartphone b/c it can be challenging to find the next station if you're a visitor using bikeshare @motivate_co @fkh

2:24 PM - In an ideal world, you don't need a map b/c the bike infrastructure & wayfinding is clear enough. - Lauren Ledbetter of @VTA #svbikesummit

2:26 PM - Lauren Ledbetter & @cyclelicious say  is really cool & we should all try it (it is in BETA) #svbikesummit @VTA

2:27 PM - If we all show up to city council meetings & advocate for bicycling projects, they will vote for what we want. - @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

Small Group Discussion
Following the tech panel, there was a chance for small group discussion around the 5 Es of Vision Zero. It was refreshing to have a chance to speak in a group, and I wish there had been more structured small group engagement time throughout the day. The Vision Zero E questions had some specific problems for us to try and solve, but at least for my group (Engagement), the wording of the question wasn't clear enough to elicit a really specific discussion. Ultimately, the brainstorm we created was very broad and mostly reflected best practices that are well known, as Rachel Jabonson of Bike East Bay remarked to me after the discussion. Perhaps focusing on trouble areas or asking the audience to help identify major challenges and then engaging our minds in solving those challenges would be a more fruitful approach. I would be curious to see how SVBC uses the ideas gathered, if at all.

There was also a happy hour afterward that generated some interesting discussion Perhaps in a future post, I can share some of the more interesting ideas that emerged from those discussions.

Want More?
If you want more about the Summit right now, though, please visit my Twitter page at to see more tweets, including responses to my tweets and tweets that I re-tweeted. For a full sense of the Bike Summit as captured on Twitter, check out or scroll through the search below:

I plan on writing smaller, more specific posts about the Summit in the coming week, so if this was information overload, stay tuned for a more nuanced discussion of some of the themes that emerged.

Questions? Thoughts? As always, please post in the comments!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal


  1. The late great bicycle advocate ELLEN FLETCHER was with you in spirit on Wednesday. Ellen designed the Bryant Street Bicycle Blvd when she was on the Palo Alto City Council. Ellen also had the original idea and successfully negotiated for taking bikes on CalTrain. Neither of these bicycle infrastructure plans were easy to implement politically! When Ellen passed away, she was living 100 yards from the theatre where the summit took place. And Ellen's memorial, attended by hundreds of cyclists, was in the theatre where you spent your day.

    1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this! Ellen sounds like an incredibly wonderful person, and we as a community are so lucky that her work lives on in so many ways.


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