A car-free weekend trip from Santa Cruz to San Francisco

Editor's note: Today's column comes from Piet Canin, vice president of Ecology Action, a Santa Cruz-based non-profit that helps businesses, communities and individuals reach economic and environmental sustainability. An experienced cyclist who's versed in 50 mile rides on his bicycle, recently used multiple modes of transportation to travel from his Happy Valley home to San Francisco, a trip he said anyone could do with a little planning – and without an automobile. His trip sounds relaxing and inexpensive. Read on:

Ready for an adventure? Piet Canin, vice president of Ecology Action, recent used his bicycle, Metro and Caltrain to reach San Francisco for a weekend getaway. The multi-modal, car-less trip was relaxing, inexpensive and something anyone could do a little planning. (CONTRIBUTED)

I had extra time over the winter holiday, so I decided to visit San Francisco. A year had gone by with too few trips to “the city.” In no hurry and with an innate distaste for being in a car for longer than 20 minutes, I chose to use pedal power and public transit. Figuring out the logistics of what professional transportation planners call a multi-modal trip is fairly easy using Google Maps. Santa Cruz METRO runs the popular Highway 17 Express bus from downtown Santa Cruz to the Diridon train station in San Jose. Caltrain operates trains on a frequent basis, even on weekends, along the peninsula to San Francisco. Both the bus and train carry bicycles at no extra charge. The entire one-way cost for the trip was very reasonable, $5 for the bus and $9 for the train, compared to a car trip of some $12 for gasoline plus wear and tear, parking, potential parking tickets and the frustration of sitting in traffic. Taking public transportation also allowed me to relax, read a book, make phone calls, scan the internet while someone else drove. I also got to exercise and be outdoors on a rare dry day in December. Being on vacation, I selected a Highway 17 express bus departure time for mid-Saturday morning, this gave me time to fill my backpack for a two day trip and bike seven miles from my home in Happy Valley. I arrived early to assure I would get one of three exterior bike rack spaces on the bus, as bus passengers with bikes are accommodated on a first come, first serve basis. The wait for the train was short and Caltrain has an entire car dedicated to bicycle storage. I took an upstairs seat and enjoyed the views of the string of cities/suburbs connecting south bay to San Francisco. The Caltrain final stop is fairly close to Market Street near downtown San Francisco. I used the San Francisco Bike Coalition’s online bike map to navigate my way on bike friendly streets to my destination near Golden Gate Park. The highlight of the city bike trip was the Wiggle that connects Market street near the Castro to the Penhandle. This route featured prominent green sharrows, bike way finder signs, a bike only left hand turn lane and a traffic separated bike way. What a great way to roll out the green carpet for visiting cyclists! I arrived at my friend’s house and parked my bike in his apartment instead of searching block by block for a hard to find parking space. It was a good way to travel to the city and close out the year.
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