Article written by Kathrin, one of our German contributor!
Find your way to commute in the Bay Area
After my first days in the Bay Area and around Palo Alto, I wasn’t sure how good the area was to ride my bike. At the beginning, I mainly drove my car, and I couldn’t see a lot of cyclists in comparison to Munich – except on the Stanford Campus.
But in fact there are lots of daily bike commuters! They just don’t use the big streets. Most bike ways go along the side streets within the residential areas. This makes the riding very nice and quite peaceful.
To make your way across big intersections or to find the bike paths to cross the highways might be a little tricky sometimes. To find your way along the bike routes look for green signs. Mostly they hide somewhere, behind branches of a tree or the next corner.
Plan your ride…
I find Google Maps for bikes very useful to plan my route.
For longer distances you can take your bike for free in the:
Caltrain (train that goes from San Francisco to San Jose, via San Mateao, Palo Alto, Mountain View…):
First of all, Caltrain has the most extensive bicycle access program among passenger railroads in the nation! So we can be happy to live here and to beneficiate from this.
Then, bringing your bike in the train is really easy (you’ll find special cars with bike racks) and free of charge. Nevertheless, be aware that this service is very popular and is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
Finally, make sure to attach a destination tag to your bike – this smoothes the load and deload process. Find more information on the Caltain website.
Bus: It’s really easy to take your bike on the bus, either on Muni or on SamTrans Buses. Find how to load your bike here: SamTrans website
… and ride safely!
I would always recommend to wear a helmet, have a back light and wear bright coloured cloth.
Most people do!
The DMV (Department for motorized vehicles) rules only insist on a bright front light and a reflector in the back. For all the rules and regulations on California’s streets read the handbook of the DMV: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/hdbk/driver_handbook_toc.htm
Differences with German rules:
It is allowed to make a right turn anytime at an intersection if you treat it like a stop – I mean, it is allowed even when there is a red light signal! This is a great rule I wish we could have in Europe.
To indicate a right turn bicyclists lift there left arm in a 90 degree angle so the hand points to the sky.
All in all I experienced the Bay Area as a great place to use your bike to get around. Enjoy the Ride!