Bike Palo Alto, a local bicycling event organized by volunteers, is back after a long pandemic hiatus. The two-hour fair will be held on Sunday, Oct. 1, from 1-3 p.m. at Fairmeadow Elementary School.
The last edition of the event was held back in 2019; the event drew in about 900 people.
This will be Bike Palo Alto’s 11th year since its inception in 2010.
According to Penny Ellson, community volunteer on the Bike Palo Alto team, it is “a grassroots event for people who’re just starting out bicycling, who may have reservations about bicycling and who may not know all the off-road trails and quieter streets that make bicycling in this town so much fun.”
It’s for people of all ages and abilities, who’re not already super skilled, experienced bicyclists. The event specifically targets families with children. To this end, some of the routes double up as school routes, others as work commutes. There’s one that’s geared towards nature lovers — this route will take people to the Bay Trail, where they can learn about the marshland ecosystem.
The objective is to introduce people — who mostly use their cars to get around the city — to local bicycle routes.
“If you’re driving around, you might not necessarily notice things like bike bridges. The average Palo Alto citizen doesn’t even know we have bicycle boulevards. If they know about them, they may not know where they are,” Ellson said.
Participants will be given free treats, mini tours and a chance to participate in activities along the way. The organizers will set up booths where participants can stop by and speak with “planners” about bicycling routes around Palo Alto.
The Gunn High School bike club is working to do mini bike tune-ups for people. At Stanford Research Park there will be free rechargeable bike lights — while supplies last — and reusable containers for people to make their own trail mixes.
To teach very young kids basic biking skills and etiquette before they go on the road, Nara Cammack, a Palo Alto high school student, will be conducting a "pop-up traffic safety garden," in the tradition of the kind they have in the Netherlands and England. It’s basically a safe open space where kids can learn and practice the fundamentals of riding.
This May, a three-day bicycling event called Bike to Wherever Days took place. According to Ellson, the upcoming event is “hugely different.”
The difference lies mostly in the target audience profile for the two events.
Bike to Wherever Days was “a program designed to encourage people who’re already bicycling on a regular basis to keep it up. Most of the people there were regional commuters, people riding to work and school, from as far away as San Jose.”
Typically, events like these get most of the registrations in the last three days.
“I have no idea what to expect,” Ellson admitted. She is sure about getting 300 participants at a minimum. “Beyond that, it could be anything.”
Ellson, who moved to Palo Alto around 27 years ago, from upstate New York, also serves as a member of the Palo Alto Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee, but at this event she’s not representing that position.