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  1. #1
    Senior Member borderline's Avatar
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    Silicon Valley commuting

    I am considering moving to the Cupertino area for a job. One of the big issues I am debating (in addition to the cost of living!) is whether I want to live in what seems to me to be a big car culture. That is just my impression from a short visit. It seems likes the roads are packed with cars and I saw few bicycles despite the nice weather and the seemingly "liberal" culture. One of my goals is to reduce my (and my family's) use of cars to get everywhere. Do you have to drive everywhere? I saw that the trains allow bikes which is a plus... what is the general feel for bike commuters there?

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    Senior Member BigDaddyPete's Avatar
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    I ride everywhere or use a combination of public transit and my bike. The only time I drive is if I'm going more than 5 miles and have both my kids as they wont sit in the trailer that long without trying to kill each other. And the weather, for the most part, it great. I have found that there is nowhere I can't get to between San Francisco and San Jose. Good Luck.

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    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    It's a great area for bicycle commuting, but yes, some parts aren't quite as friendly as others. Once upon a time, I used to ride Cupertino to Santa Clara and Cupertino to Menlo Park (and, for one glorious day, Cupertino to Newark). It's doable, but Cupertino is maybe a little harder than Sunnyvale, Mountain View, or Santa Clara. The expressways can be used to your advantage, but be careful out there.

    We sold my truck two months ago because we didn't need it anymore, so it's definitely doable.
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    I bike/train to work everyday. All the transits allow bikes on board(train, bus, light rail). I would buy/rent near Sunnyvale/Mountain View Caltrain stations. Then you can catch a bus or train pretty much anywhere. SJ,SF, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Fremont BART Station. Is commutting by alternative methods normal here, no. But, drivers are pretty cool to cyclist. They will give you space. You are right more people rec ride then commute, though. I think it is a good thing b/c drivers are aware of cyclist.

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    eternalvoyage
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    The Palo Alto area may have better bike infrastructure than the Cupertino area.

    There are a lot of bike routes in Silicon Valley. There are maps that show them.

    Often you can work out routes that combine low-traffic streets, bike paths, and good shoulders. The bike maps usually show these. They are available at the better bike shops. There is much more than meets the eye at first; you just have to find out where the best routes are.

    The Cupertino REI bike department might be a good resource, in person or by phone. There are probably a few commuters among the crew there.

    CalTrain is very bike-friendly and useful.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 11-27-07 at 05:14 PM.

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    Senior Member borderline's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info. It is usually hard to gauge what it would be like cycling from the perspective of a car because you normally take such different routes.

    Originally I was thinking it would be better to live in the southern end (less dense) but it sounds like it is better closer to SF (probably more expensive too)...

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    My advice is not to live far from Caltrain. Using the train with a bike, you can get to most places on the peninsula no problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by borderline View Post
    Originally I was thinking it would be better to live in the southern end (less dense) but it sounds like it is better closer to SF (probably more expensive too)...
    Yeah, that's where this area is weird. Getting closer to SF doesn't necessarily mean lower housing costs. It's just all bad.

    +1 on living near CalTrain if you're trying to get away from the car culture. Check out the train schedules before you get too serious on location - some stations have better service during rush hours than others. Trains labeled "bullet" are less friendly towards bikes. (Well, they're friendly, but don't hold that many bikes and are usually full).

    Otherwise, this area is a cycling mecca. Cupertino included.

    A great "bike touring" map is made by Krebs. Not as helpful for detailed/specific destinations, but gives a good guide for good roads for the longer commute/ride.

    There's a bike-specific map of Santa Clara County available here.

    San Mateo County has something similar, but I've only seen paper versions.

    Other decent links:
    San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
    511.org
    Last edited by gazer; 11-27-07 at 03:16 PM.

  9. #9
    Fritz M richardmasoner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderline View Post
    I am considering moving to the Cupertino area for a job.
    Is your job actually in Cupertino (like along De Anza Blvd) or elsewhere? Note that Cupertino is about the most expensive city you can live in in Santa Clara County, next to Palo Alto. If you have children in school is probably an important factor in deciding where to live.

    The entire Bay Area is very bikable, especially compared to much of the rest of the nation. There's no Caltrain or light rail in C'tino, and C'tino is uphill from everything else.

    In C'tino, you'll find several cyclists on Homestead, De Anza, Stelling, and Foothills Expwy. Here are some of my photos I've taken of cyclists in Cupertino from my Flickr pool. The first is a bike to work day participant, the second is 86-year-old Charlie the barber who bikes for errands and to his barber shop on Stevens Creek Blvd, and the third is my riding partner Scot during our morning commute on Homestead.



    I'm a member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (mentioned above already) which is a good resource and a good group of people.

  10. #10
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    You might want to send a PM to a forum member named Catatonic. He's car free. He lives in Saint Pete Florida now (where I know him from), but he used to live in Silicon Valley area.

    Edit: I'll send him a PM now and see if I can get him in to this thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
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    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richardmasoner View Post
    The entire Bay Area is very bikable, especially compared to much of the rest of the nation. There's no Caltrain or light rail in C'tino, and C'tino is uphill from everything else.
    +1, my homeward commute from Santa Clara (later Menlo) was all uphill, and I lived on the uphill side of Cupertino (Stevens Ck & Orange area, near Monta Vista High). It seemed to take forever coming home from work late in the dark of winter. Thankfully, I got a new job, then married and moved to Sunnyvale.
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  12. #12
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderline View Post
    Thanks for the info. It is usually hard to gauge what it would be like cycling from the perspective of a car because you normally take such different routes.

    Originally I was thinking it would be better to live in the southern end (less dense) but it sounds like it is better closer to SF (probably more expensive too)...
    It's hard to get a feel for all the different communities and options in a short visit.

    Towns and neighborhoods vary tremendously.

    Which ones are best for a particular person depends on so many individual factors and variations that I cannot really zero in very well.

    The area around Stanford is good if you like the benefits that come with being near a world-class university.

    In general, the areas closer to the bay (like East Palo Alto) are lower-income.

    The areas up into the beginning of the hills (parts of Woodside, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and other towns) tend to be much higher income.

    The areas way up into the hills, or over on the other side of Skyline are much more rural -- horses and acreage....

    Portola Valley appeals to some people. If you have the money, it might at least be worth a look.

    Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are family-friendly, relatively quiet towns.

    Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino have their own flavors -- many neighborhoods are at neither extreme of income level.

    Sorry I can't be of more help; I suppose it's a matter of taking one's individual situation and preferences into account, and just doing more research.

    I have noticed that the housing office at Stanford has interesting descriptions of surrounding communities -- they are trying to be helpful to students, and trying to give them a sense of what these communities are like. Foothill College may have something similar. The housing offices of these and other schools might be of some help (De Anza is one in the Cupertino area). Real estate agents can sometimes give you a better sense of the different communities. The finer points are very subjective, though, and a lot depends on the immediate neighborhood and human environment, and your relations with them.

    ****
    You mention density. The areas up toward the hills will have more open space -- basically all along the peninsula (until you get up near Daly City and SF). There are some great rides in the hills above Stanford.

    ****
    (Parts of Alviso are unusual. It would take an unusual personality to prefer them, but some few people would appreciate what they have to offer.)
    Last edited by Niles H.; 11-28-07 at 01:39 PM.

  13. #13
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Most of the guys here have it down. Just feel out the areas, I've been gone for about 4 years, that can make a huge difference in how each area is.

    One important thing: LIGHTS.....exceed state requirements, the police in that area actively enforce lights in the area, tickets start around $80...they don't joke around about it. those little bungie-held lights that are basically glorified keychain fobs won't cut it...not saying you are using them, but I've seen many a roadie get pissed when their keychain light set gets them a ticket since it wasn't noticable. That's part of why my road builds look dorky, lighting is crucial. you don't need waterproof lights unless you plan on riding in driving rain (those days I usually just took the light rail almost entirely to work...I rode to the station and from the destination station to my work...1/2mi tops...kept me pretty dry)

    Also ask your employer if they offer VTA Eco-Passes, it's basically free bus and light rail for the area....a nice thing to have, especially for those days where you just feel drained or the bike is down, etc.


    I'll mostly cover san jose, from the SJSU campus to Tasman drive, since that was my primary stomping grounds.

    SJSU area: carry a badass lock, that's a very high theft area, I know....I lived there (a few blocks south of the campus, right next to the 280). there's a bike shop there that caters mostly to the campus crowd (Bicycle Express, my shop of choice when I lived there, Chuck is a great guy), and it's a zoo at night (many clubs and the stadium is over there). Traffic goes from average to "WTF~!" depending if a shark's game was going on that night or not....you'd have to be stuck in it to understand how bad it is...I read the Cask of Amontillado in the time it takes a car to drive two blocks during one of those days. Busses in this area tend to be pretty psychotic, as are some of the police cars, so it's best to assume they will try to run you into the curb and react accordingly (usually I let them start to pass, then I brake heavily to get them in front of me asap).

    Tasman area: typical corporate jungle...there is light rail connecting the SJSU area to it, but it's still just a giant road full of corporate buildings and restaurant strip-malls that cater to them. Traffic is insane at rush hours, but pretty reasonable to non-existant at other time.

    In-between, there are some high traffic roads to avoid (most anything named expressway is best avoided unless necessary), but it's pretty calm overall.
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  14. #14
    dirtbag roadie ahpook's Avatar
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    Hi, I live in Campbell and bike commute to Palo Alto. I wouldn't pick Cupertino for a car-lite lifestyle for the reasons other folks have posted. I like living along the light rail line and there's good walkable downtown areas scattered around Santa Clara valley: willow glen, campbell, santa clara, sunnyvale, los altos, california ave in palo alto, etc. However I disagree with this

    Quote Originally Posted by catatonic View Post
    In-between, there are some high traffic roads to avoid (most anything named expressway is best avoided unless necessary), but it's pretty calm overall.
    I commute on the expressways every day and find them a great way to get around the valley on the bike. Some more so than others -- San Tomas and Foothill are nice and Lawrence is ... not so nice. But my commute's 18 miles whether I go on surface roads or expressways and the expressway route gets me there 10 to 15 minutes faster, which is hard to say no to.
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    Senior Member Alphamoose's Avatar
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    It's not that bad, actually. I commute from Cupertino about three days a week. Of course, that's only to the (far side) of Sunnyvale, so only about six miles, but anyhow I find it pretty easy. I notice a larger than you'd expect number of bike commuters (usually when I drive in on Wolfe Road, and they pass me...) especially amongst the Sunnyvale industrial parks. I do agree that Sunnyvale and Mountain View may be a little better for car-lite living, but I doubt Cupertino is significantly different. It just isn't that big.

    Also - 'Note that Cupertino is about the most expensive city you can live in in Santa Clara County, next to Palo Alto.' Really now. In a county that also contains Los Gatos, Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills...
    C'mon.

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    RT
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    Plus, you'd be close to Santa Cruz. So many good rides up and down the coast, even if you only live in close proximity. Cannot comment on a commute, but the recreational rides would be stellar.

  17. #17
    `````````````` CaptainCool's Avatar
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    I had internships the last two summers in Santa Clara, and biked everywhere. My commute was only three miles round trip, but I threw in a bunch of centuries this last summer. I'm planning to move out there for a job in June.

    The drivers out there are fine. Laws are good, too - lots of exceptions to the bike lane and keep-right laws.

    There's a good number of bike shops around. Performance has real stores everywhere in the area.

    For longer weekend rides, you have two options: mountains or stoplights.

  18. #18
    Senior Member borderline's Avatar
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    Wow, there is a lot of good info in this thread!

    The job is actually in Cupertino but I would probably try to find something within a 10 mile radius. I currently commute 8 miles and think that is the perfect distance for a good workout but also keeps the total commute time under an hour.

    It sounds like the area near Campbell would be good since it is within 10 miles from Cupertino but also accessible to the train and San Jose. It also sounds affordable. Los Altos/Hills sounds nice but I bet it is more expensive.

    I guess one of the other things I am looking for is a family oriented community. It would be nice to be able to walk to a park/playground...

    Thanks for the info, everyone... I'm feeling a little better about the area (very skeptical before)...

  19. #19
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderline View Post
    ...One of my goals is to reduce my (and my family's) use of cars to get everywhere. Do you have to drive everywhere? I saw that the trains allow bikes which is a plus... what is the general feel for bike commuters there?
    Something else that might be worth mentioning -- when I first heard about Caltrain, I just assumed it was more or less like the other trains I had been familiar with. It turned out to be different. When I got to know it better, it's really more like BART or a good (bike friendly) subway system. The trains run much more often than I expected, and it's easier to use. The busiest hours are crowded, but otherwise it's been fine.

  20. #20
    eternalvoyage
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    The area down around Morgan Hill and San Martin might also be worth a look. Even though it is a bit out of the urban network, it is still served by Caltrain; and there is a lot more open space around, and parks (including Henry Coe and Anderson Lake), and a lot of great riding possibilities. It may be somewhat more affordable, especially in some of the outlying sections.

    It has a different flavor, too -- something of Central California about it (if that makes any sense -- a bit of the feel of Steinbeck Country, the Salinas Valley, Monterey and Central Coast).

    I believe Specialized has their HQ near Morgan Hill, and there are some very nice sub-areas down there, and in the canyons and hills. It is less congested.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 11-29-07 at 03:50 PM.

  21. #21
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahpook View Post
    Hi, I live in Campbell and bike commute to Palo Alto. I wouldn't pick Cupertino for a car-lite lifestyle for the reasons other folks have posted. I like living along the light rail line and there's good walkable downtown areas scattered around Santa Clara valley: willow glen, campbell, santa clara, sunnyvale, los altos, california ave in palo alto, etc. However I disagree with this



    I commute on the expressways every day and find them a great way to get around the valley on the bike. Some more so than others -- San Tomas and Foothill are nice and Lawrence is ... not so nice. But my commute's 18 miles whether I go on surface roads or expressways and the expressway route gets me there 10 to 15 minutes faster, which is hard to say no to.
    Must be my area, but I've felt more crowded in whenever I was riding them.

    Either way, San Tomas is nowhere near as bad as MLK is here in St. Pete (which is far better than Lawrence expressway over there), 4 days in a row of having some clueless driver tailgate me while I'm trying to merge left....causing those in the left to not see me, ending in a massive slowdown for everyone. I'm just ruling it down to holiday psycho driver syndrome.
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  22. #22
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catatonic View Post
    Must be my area, but I've felt more crowded in whenever I was riding them.
    I think the Expressway Experience (to coin a phrase) is dependent on which one you spend most of your time on. I like Central and Foothill and barely tolerate Lawrence, but prefer to stay off of San Tomas.
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