On Sunday, a bicycle fest, for the average resident | October 5, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2012

On Sunday, a bicycle fest, for the average resident

In final Mayor's Challenge, Yiaway Yeh hopes people will get to know neighbors by hopping on their bikes

by Jocelyn Dong

There's been pingpong, bocce ball, yoga and tennis. And now, the latest event to spur Palo Altans to meet their neighbors: bike riding.

Earlier this year, Mayor Yiaway Yeh launched a series of recreational events as a way to bring neighbors together. Called the Mayor's Challenge, it aimed to give residents new and old a venue for spending time together and getting to know each other.

Yeh's final installment of the Challenge will take place Sunday afternoon, Oct. 7, with Bike Palo Alto.

"Biking is a really tried-and-true Palo Alto activity," Yeh said this week, which also happens to be Walk & Roll Week for schools.

Bike Palo Alto, based at El Carmelo Elementary School and hosted by the residential Palo Alto Neighborhoods Green Teams, celebrates all things bicycling. Participants will choose from three bike routes that lead to landmarks around town, including the Baylands. Each route will include rest stops featuring free treats, such as frozen yogurt, lemonade and fruit, according to co-organizer Lisa Altieri.

Activities at El Carmelo will include a bike-themed obstacle course, free bike maintenance, free helmet fitting, tips on safe biking, a raffle and a "concierge" who can help people map safe bike routes to city destinations. Organizers said the purpose of Bike Palo Alto is to make it easier for people to ride their bikes around the city by introducing them to routes and equipping them to ride safely.

To encourage neighborhood participation in the event, four City Council members — Yeh, Vice Mayor Greg Scharff, Nancy Shepherd and Pat Burt — will each lead a group of bicyclers from their respective neighborhoods to El Carmelo at 12:30 p.m.

"That affirms our identity of coming from our neighborhoods to engage in a pastime in Palo Alto," Yeh said.

Altieri herself became something of a bicycle convert due to Bike Palo Alto, which is now in its third year.

"I am the perfect example. I never biked," she said. Concerned for her safety, she didn't want to ride along busy El Camino Real from her home in Barron Park.

"It was great for me, the first year. I learned that you don't have to get on El Camino Real. There are routes that are safe. So for me as a novice biker, I felt comfortable," she said.

As an environmentalist, she said she's particularly enthusiastic about seeing more residents bicycle. Thirty-six percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions are produced by cars, according to the Palo Alto Climate Protection Plan. The large majority of those car trips — 83 percent — are not commuters getting to work but residents going to the grocery store or other places in town, the report noted.

"The goal is to get people to bike more often," Altieri said of Bike Palo Alto. "Driving is the largest impact we have on our carbon footprint in Palo Alto."

With Sunday's bike fest ending the Mayor's Challenge, Yeh said the year-long effort has been instructive in how to build community. The first event, in which people played pingpong in five locations around town, showed residents "it's enjoyable to be able to come together for a fun activity," he said. And yet, he added, meeting one's neighbors at the spread-out locations proved to be a bit "happenstance."

The second event, in which people did yoga, bocce ball or tennis in two city parks, consolidated the locations and brought people out to the parks. But getting people to try all three events proved challenging, Yeh said.

Bike Palo Alto will hopefully incorporate the lessons of the first two, with one sport and one location, but fostering neighborliness by having residents ride to El Carmelo together.

Moving forward from the Mayor's Challenge, Yeh and Scharff earlier this week received the City Council approval for another community-building idea, the Neighborhood Grants. Under that initiative, people who want to host a neighbor event or program — such as a speaker or a sports day at a neighborhood park — can apply for a micro-grant to fund the activity. A total of $25,000 a year will be available.

"Some of it is intended to focus on new and innovative ways" of bringing both recent and longstanding residents together, Yeh said.

"The lesson I learned in the Peace Corps was that it's best for people to act on their own ideas," Yeh said.

If you're going...

What: Bike Palo Alto!

Where: El Carmelo Elementary School, corner of Bryant Street and Loma Verde Avenue

When: Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 to 4 p.m.

Cost: Free


Editor Jocelyn Dong can be emailed at jdong@paweekly.com.


Like this comment
Posted by Keen-For-Local-Government
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Anything to keep people's mind off the fact that the City Council has frittered away another year under this fellow, who has done nothing but focus on unimportant matters. At no time this year has "Mayor Yeh" seemed to recognize that there is a crime wave going on in town, or has he any idea of what to do about the problem.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment]

Like this comment
Posted by looking forward to it
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I'm glad that the city is helping to provide transportation alternatives for our residents. We don't have enough space to keep paving more roads and parking lots. Bicycling is tremendously more efficient than driving and very practical for a wide variety of local trips. Events like this are very inexpensive for the city to produce, but still provide huge benefits to beginner bicycle commuters.

Like this comment
Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

Ever been to a City Council Meeting? I went to one recently that was supposed to be about stopping the high speed rail from coming down the Peninsula, at least according to the flyer we received in the mail. By 10:00 pm, they had discussed eight other topics, seven of them trivial, and there were four more topics scheduled to be discussed before the issue of the high speed rail which, of course, was scheduled LAST. Most people had left by 9:00. As it was a week night, we left, never hearing about the issue we wanted to discuss. Of course, the audience was never allowed to speak during the session, so it was pointless, anyway

A year ago, I went to another Council Meeting, along with my neighbors, concerning some condos that a builder wanted approved on our street. We were all sent flyers with the time, date, and location. When nobody showed up after an hour, we went to,the front desk and asked what happened to the meeting that was supposed to start there an hour before. The lady at the desk made a phone call, and reported that the time and place of the meeting had been changed to an hour earlier than we had been told, and relocated to the fourth floor!! With no notice to anyone!! Then we were told the builder's requests had been approved, for lack,of opposition!!!

How crooked can they be? We obviously do not ask or expect enough of our community leaders. How else do we get a City Council and Mayor like this?

Like this comment
Posted by Louise
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 7, 2012 at 12:50 am

What a great event this is, and it's put on by volunteers. I went last year and got a free bike safety inspection and learned about how to get places I never thought I could bike to! If you bike, or you'd like to bike more, check it out!

Some people love throwing potshots at public officials, even when there is no basis in fact to the ignorant statements and dark accusations of "crookedness" they are making. Get involved, work on solutions, be constructive!

Others, like Mayor Yeh, spend tons of hours doing their homework on the "important business" of city government, and then sit through long hours of meetings. In addition, they take on above and beyond efforts to build community, like encouraging neighbors to ride to Bike Palo Alto this Sunday (today) from 1-4 pm at El Carmelo.

Thanks to all who contribute to constructive dialogue and finding solutions in this community.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2012 at 8:55 am

I think this is a stretch to say that this was something the Mayor organized.

This is something that the bicycling groups have done before and are doing again, doing very well, and the Mayor has jumped on the bandwagon. Please do not give credit in the wrong place. He may give it his endorsement and show up, but this is not his brainchild.

Like this comment
Posted by Stanford grad
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I actually live in San Francisco but was visiting a friend in the Midtown neighborhood very near this school. Even though I was a bit out of sync with this event, having had our big family bike excursion on Saturday, I just wanted to comment on how much fun it is to bike with kids in Palo Alto. For a good long stretch of the route from this neighborhood to Stanford's campus, it's safe enough for a young child to (with some experience) ride in the street.

My only lament is that hardly any other families were out there riding when we were. Maybe everyone was waiting until Sunday, but with smooth, flat roads and beautiful weather, it seems a shame that the kids-need-to-be-shuttled-from-place-to-place-in-the-family-SUV mindset predominates in Palo Alto.