The Farmer’s Market-Shopping by Bicycle

For almost 15 years I have been shopping by bicycle at the Alameda Farmer’s Market almost every Tuesday, rain or shine.

Home with produce: strawberries, scones, flowers, and more, July 17, 2012.

I discovered Alameda’s weekly farmer’s market just after we moved to Alameda in 1997. It was smaller then and  at the Taylor and Webster parking lot, but it soon became our primary food source, especially for fresh produce.

Here’s how I do it. (You can, too.)

I shop the Tuesday Farmer’s Market by bicycle, using canvas shopping bags, recycling food containers (plastic berry trays, half-flat strawberry boxes), and washing and reusing plastic produce bags, too. Riding my bike is easier than driving (no parking hassles) and makes shopping simpler: my bike is centrally located inside the market.

After locking my bike with a Kryptonite New York U-lock, I often stop in at Wescafe first with my travel mug for a cup of tasty (and necessary) caffeine first–a tip for the household’s designated shopper. Then I load up on tasty fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, canvas shopping bag and Timbuk2 Messenger Bag (size L) on my shoulder.

Beckmann’s Bakery: resistance is futile, especially to their pies.

I make several rounds of the market–on foot–to see what’s good and decide on the menus. I  load heavier, denser items (oranges, celery, potatoes, scones) in the Jandd grocery bag panniers up front first, balancing the weight evenly side-to-side. I usually buy and load more delicate and/or cold items (berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, flowers, fish, frozen enchiladas) after later  passes around the market, stopping occasionally to unload my shoulder bag into the panniers. (Frequent consultation via mobile phone ensures domestic satisfaction with my results.:-)

Depending on Linda’s preferences, what we need, and how the produce-based menu develops, I make my purchases, socialize, and enjoy the live music: I always see friends, neighbors, colleagues, great bikes, and wonderful kids.

If I fill up both front and rear panniers (some call them saddle bags) on my 1970s Peugeot  UO-18 “mixte” town bike, we eat really well for a week. The 1.8-mile trip from our mid-island apartment takes about 12 minutes each way. (It’s almost easier coming home loaded with food: there’s always a tailwind.)

My “shopping rig” (front and rear racks with panniers) is decked out with brightly colored and reflective gear. I always wear my high-visibility helmet, gloves, and safety vest, of course. And I always take the lane when necessary (on Encinal, Central, Eighth) and “ride the paint” at the left-hand edge of bike lanes to avoid the 5-foot-wide door zone next to all parked cars.

Taking the left lane after a left turn, ready to turn into our driveway. Lots of hi-viz gear ensures I can be seen day, night, or fog.

The year-round Alameda Farmer’s Markets are on Tuesdays and Saturdays, rain or shine, 9 AM to 1 PM, at Webster and Haight.

REMINDERS

BART’S Bike Pilot Project begins next Friday, August 3. For the 5 Fridays in August there will be no bike blackouts: bikes will be allowed on all BART trains and on all BART station platforms. (I wrote about it here.)

Here’s more from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition on the BART pilot in August.

BART’s August Bike Pilot: Lifting Restrictions, Improving Access

This is Part II of a series on the draft BART bicycle plan.

As I wrote in Part I, there are significant problems with the April draft of BART’s new bike plan, which was presented to the BART Board of Directors June 14–the same day BART transbay service was shut down by the fire in west Oakland.

The agenda, complete meeting packet, and video of their meeting are all here.

BART is literally in the middle of dramatically improving system-wide bike access in two ways: first, by significantly revising its draft bike plan and second, by conducting a first-ever Pilot Program to Test Removal of Bikes-on-Board Restrictions.The August 2012 pilot project is a major new initiative by  BART’s impressive General Manager, Grace Crunican.

BART will end its bike blackouts entirely during a limited trial period on the five Fridays in August. It will look like this:

1.  There will be no bike blackouts at all on the five Fridays in August.

2. Cyclists can board any BART train in any directionas long as there is sufficient room.

3. Cyclists will be allowed on all station platformsincluding San Francisco’s Embarcadero station and the 12th Street and 19th Street stations in Oaklandduring the trial.

4. All other bike-related rules will apply during the pilot: there will be no escalator access or other special treatment for cyclists.

According to the June 8 memo from the General Manager to BART’s Directors:

“The goal of the pilot program is to test the impact on passengers and train operations of having bikes in the stations and on the trains during peak periods. Allowing bikes on board at all times can make BART more convenient for people and potentially increase ridership.

The pilot will be evaluated from an operational perspective, from the perspective of bike riders, and from the perspective of non-bike riding passengers…If the pilot demonstrates…potential to ease the restrictions…we will begin the process with… our bicycle and access committees and bring suggested changes to the Board for discussion.” 

(As a matter of BART policy, passengers with luggage, baby strollers, or wheelchairs are never excluded as a user group from rush hour BART trains: only bicyclists are banned during peak commute periods.)

Some BART passengers are wary of having bikes on all BART trains. Some wheelchair users  fear that hordes of cyclists could take up all the wheelchair spaces on crowded BART trains, but usurping wheelchair spaces is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and against BART rules.

(BART’s new Bombardier cars will  feature three doors and separate bike and wheelchair spaces.)

Supporters of ending the bike blackouts and the pilot program respond that this Bikes-on-BART rule is always in effect:

“Regardless of any other rule, bikes are never allowed on crowded cars. Use your good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle. Hold your bike while on the trains.” 

It may seem obvious that everyone is helped by “good judgment” and common courtesy when sharing crowded BART stairways, elevators, platforms, and trains.

Discussions of improved bike access at the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) have emphasized the need for all BART patrons to be considerate and respectful of each other—especially when we are packed in like sardines–with or without bikes, luggage, or other objects in tow.

Dramatic revisions are already underway to BART’s problematic first draft of the bike plan.

The revisions are reflected in the bike plan update offered to the BART Board last Thursday by Manager of Access Programs Steve Beroldo. (BBATF member  Mariana Parreiras, who served on the External Technical Advisory Team (ETAC) for the bike plan, was also scheduled to update BART’s Directors, but she was unable to reach the Oakland meeting from San Francisco.)

According to Beroldo, BART’s point person for bike programs, “We’ve reviewed over 200 public comments and about half of them want to see an end to the bike blackouts.”

BART has dramatically increased its consideration of bike access issues late in the bike plan process under the direction of BART’s General Manager—apparently just a few weeks ago. 

The revised bike plan will recommend thorough and fair consideration of both ending the bike blackouts and allowing bikes to use escalators. Steve Beroldo promises that the security of BART’s bike parking racks, as well as the BART Police Department‘s current efforts to combat bike theft, will receive more emphasis in the revised plan.

A companion implementation plan—as yet unfunded and without a timeframe, however—will cover the specifics of bike facilities and include more opportunities for local public participation.

BART’s dramatic bike policy changes are historic–and they are still underway. Many staffers inside the agency support these moves. They are great news for Bay Area bicyclists and for those who want BART and other transportation agencies to be more responsive to rider needs. Stay tuned…

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have represented Alameda County on the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) for about a year. As always, my comments here are solely my own and they do not represent the official or unofficial views of BART, the BBATF, or any of its members.

Look for more about Bikes on BART and the BART Bicycle Plan, coming soon.

If you have news, questions, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, contact us or leave a comment.

Is BART’s New Bike Plan Missing Links?

This is Part I of a series on the draft BART bicycle plan. The draft plan will be presented to BART’s Board of Directors at their meeting on Thursday, June 14, at 9:00 a.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) first carried public passengers on September 11, 1972. Bikes, however, were only allowed on selected BART trains—and then only with permits—on January 1, 1975, following a concerted effort led by the young East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). This breakthrough put BART and bikes on the March 1975 cover of BICYCLING! magazine.

Four decades later, the 14,000 bicyclists using BART every day—roughly 4.1 percent of all BART patrons—still face barriers. Many cyclists hope that the new draft BART Bicycle Plan: Modeling Access to Transit will improve cyclists’ access to BART.

BART has worked hard—and successfully—in recent years to attract more bicyclists by installing bike stations, bike lockers, and other improvements: from 1998 to 2008 the number of cyclists using BART jumped 69 percent while system ridership rose 28 percent overall.

The plan’s ambitious goal is “…to double BART bicycle access, to 8 percent of all trips, by 2022.” To double the number of cyclists (the bicycle mode share) on BART, the draft suggests revisiting the ban on escalator use, adding new signage, improving bike access at and around BART stations, and expanding secure bike parking. The plan also recommends installing wider fare gates at all station entrances, and better lighting in bike parking areas outside the fare gates. It also includes the first version of a Bicycle Investment Tool for planning bike facilities.

Compared to BART’s 2002 bike plan, the 2012 draft plan has intentionally “less traditional structure and contents.” Unlike its predecessor, the current draft seems light on hard data and specifics.

What do cyclists say they need from BART? Cyclists’ top needs for years have been ending the commute hour blackout periods, preventing bike theft, and allowing bikes on all station escalators and platforms. (Their responses to BART’s surveys and focus groups are in Appendices A and C.)

The current draft plan’s three biggest omissions seem to be:

1. Not considering an end to the bike blackouts. Even discussing an end to blackouts in the bike plan was considered contrary to BART policy by senior managers until about a month ago, even though cyclists have asked for an end to that ban for decades. (See Recommendation 4.2, p. 33.)
2. A serious discussion of BART’s frequent bike thefts. It also omits the BART Police Department’s significant and expanding efforts to reduce thefts. (Daily BART bike commuters who lock their bikes in a BART station rack face a roughly 50 percent chance of having it stolen over the course of a year.)
3. BART held no public hearings on the completed draft plan after it was released at the end of April and the public comment period was less than a month long. Did BART provide for sufficient public comment on the plan?

The draft’s recommended “persuasive programs” are marketing campaigns aimed at getting more people to ride their bikes to BART. But BART cyclists and advocates I talk to cite the draft bike plan’s shortcomings and wonder: will BART be willing—or able—to remove the remaining barriers to bicycle commuters who want to use BART? How can BART reach its 8 percent goal without more substantive policy changes—like increasing the security of its bike parking areas or ending the blackouts?

There may be hope for bikes on BART: revisions now underway to the current draft will reflect many of the 200-plus comments BART has already received and reviewed, and half of those support ending the bike blackouts. And a companion implementation plan—as yet unfunded and without a timeframe, however—will cover the specifics of bike facilities and include more public participation.

What do you think about BART’s new plan? Read the draft—and the appendices—and let BART know at bikes@bart.gov, or attend the June 14 board meeting and tell BART in person.

I’ll discuss the many hopeful recent developments on the BART bike plan in Part II of this series on Friday. Stay tuned…

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have represented Alameda County on the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) for about a year. As always, my comments here about BART are solely my own, however. They do not represent the official or unofficial views of BART, the BBATF, or any of its members.