Not the City of Good Cycling…Yet.
San Carlos is a great place to live if you’re a avid bicyclist, or even a casual recreational rider. That’s because we’re just a short jaunt from some of the most spectacular series cycling loops in all of Northern California. The roads that meander through the hills of Woodside, Portola Valley, Emerald Hills, and San Mateo are some of the most scenic roads in the entire Bay Area, and offer challenges to cyclists of all levels. Whether you’re out for an easy 10-mile spin, or you want to ride your bike all the way to the Pacific Ocean, there are numerous, spectacular ways to do just that.
And while people from all over the Bay Area must shlep their bikes on the backs of their cars to enjoy our scenic roads, San Carlos residents are lucky in that they can simply roll right out of their garages and into pedal into cycling paradise. It has literally become one of many positive decision factors when home buyers choose to make San Carlos their new home. You only need to see the exodus of lycra-clad residents spinning toward the hills each weekend morning to understand this.
Just Don’t Ride Downtown.
But for a town that’s literally in ground-zero for road cyclists, San Carlos is not a friendly place to ride your bike. Have you ever tried riding a bike downtown to treat yourself to an ice cream at Cowabunga Creamery, a gluten-free scone at Zest Bakery, or pick up a few last-minute items at Bianchini’s Market? Just driving downtown is difficult enough, but navigating a bike down Laurel Street is a white-knuckle experience. And once you get there, what do you do with your bike?
There are a number of areas where San Carlos doesn’t get a passing grade in embracing two-wheeled travelers:
- Dedicated Bike Lanes. With the exception of the striping on both Alameda de Las Pulgas and Brittan Avenue, there are virutally no dedicated bike lanes in the city. Granted, we’re cursed with narrow side streets, and most residents still park the majority of their cars on the streets (instead of in the driveway or in their garage), so there’s not much room to work with. But much more can be done to create a separation between cars and bikes on our roads. Those “sharrows” that were painted on Cedar and various other streets aren’t enough.
- Bike Lockers. If you’re brave enough to pedal to the downtown shopping district, what do you do with your bike when you get there? There are very few bike racks, and no bike “lockers” that I’m aware of. San Carlos still enjoys a relatively low crime rate, but there’s no way I’m leaving my bike unlocked in front of a store.
- Promotion. Much of getting the mind-set of residents to embrace the idea of leaving their cars at home comes from City Hall itself. Making San Carlos more bike friendly needs to be a clear and consistent message from our city leaders. It needs to be encouraged to the point that it becomes part of the city’s fiber. Just think of the town of Davis — it’s synonymous with college… and bicycling.
Lots of Upside.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, there are many positive outcomes to making San Carlos a bike-centric city. I know that many parents would absolutely love to have their kids pedal to school each day, but they won’t do so because it’s simply not safe. Think of how much congestion could be alleviated in the neighborhoods around our schools if more kids pedaled to school instead of being dropped off every day?
What’s in it for downtown? Cycling makes the trek downtown just as enjoyable for the journey as it is for the destination — in other words, if it’s fun and safe to get there, then more people will likely make the trip. And that only bodes well for shop owners.
I applaud the “green” mindset of our current City Council. The current push to eliminate plastic bags and styrofoam containers is just one example that shows that the state of our environment is a priority for them. I hope that as the city becomes more financially stable, they put that same priority (and funds) into making San Carlos “The City of Good Cycling”.
That would be a good thing for everyone.
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