Welcome to the 3rd and final installment of my trip diary or Part Two of my East Bay memoirs or Part One of Riding with my Family in Berkeley (here’s Part One and Two if you’re not getting at what I’m saying).
While this was our third day together in the Bay Area, we saved the bike riding for the last day.
The first day we spent most on and around the University of California campus, Saturday was a San Francisco trip centered around taking CV Jr. on the cable car and Sunday was just do what you like in Berkeley (which is ride bikes).
In fact, we had gone 48 hours without even using our car.
If you think John Candy and Steve Martin were multimodal, CV Jr. had taken an airplane, car, subway, streetcar, cable car and bike over the whole weekend.
It’s pretty clear that Berkeley is a far more bike centric place than Los Angeles, even if you subtract all the college influence.
For a city that filled out its grid more than a hundred years ago, Berkeley is still rooted in its older layout with narrow streets and limited parking.
There’s a network of bike lanes and boulevard, but strangely most of the major thoroughfares are without any of this infrastructure.
Still, there are many cyclists that take to the street and the prospect of sharing space with drivers is far more symbiotic than most of us have ever experienced.
That’s why I was anxious to explore Berkeley not just by bike, but by family.
While I had been cursing my 38s the whole trip, I knew they would come in handy throwing the child seat on the back of my bike.
Not wanting to bring my bike rack on the trip, I brought our multipurpose foldable Tern bike for Mrs. CiclaValley which for this terrain was perfectly suitable.
We headed out of our hotel down Milvia Street which is designated as a Bike Boulevard.
I used to live right on this street and really nothing has changed years later other than more paint and signage focused on bikes.
But that’s also to say that there were already speed bumps, stop signs and shifts in the road to make it bike friendly years ago.
CV Jr. saw a park coming up that she wanted to play in which happened to sit right across the street from the house I used to live in.
Who am I to mess with destiny?
CV Jr. swinging it across from my old house.
We played for a few minutes until we became aware of the dew on the apparatuses and lingering drug paraphernalia that was present years ago.
Let’s move on.
We took the bike lane down Hearst until we went through a little cut through in Ohlone Park that directed us to Delaware St. and the North Berkeley BART station.
Photo break down Hearst Ave.
I wanted to show Mrs. CiclaValley the massive bike racks there that makes you think you’re in Amsterdam, but that would have been for my entertainment purposes only.
We passed through the industrial area around Fourth Street that’s gone through a transformation somewhat similar to the Arts District.
I always think back of this area where a group called Earth Day or Green Month played on their way to the top of the charts.
One thing that was noticeably different riding around was the absence of people waving back to me.
I don’t think it’s a friendliness thing, but there’s so many cyclists out there that it probably gets tiresome real fast.
We were making our way to the Marina, so we made our way across the bike bridge that spans the I-80.
Berkeley Bike Bridge
It’s truly an impressive piece of infrastructure not only with two bike lanes, but a raised area reserved for people to walk.
We merged onto the San Francisco Bay Bike Trail and before I could get caught up in all this cycling bliss, this happened:
The Mrs. handled this far more politely than she has in the past.
Our destination was the Adventure Playground which was a first time experience!
Of course, the bike racks were full which was fine because mine looked out of place without a Yepp, so I improvised with a pole.
This park is just like any other except kids can take pieces of wood, saws, hammers, nails and other tools to build whatever they pleased.
Adventure Playground. Or maybe a survival camp.
Otherwise, it was just the same!
There was a little bit of the Lord of the Flies element here and I made sure to keep CV Jr. on a short leash as well.
Before you laugh at this being the People’s Republic of Berkeley, you could drop your kid off here for 3 hours at just $10!
Readily available babysitting is something everyone can agree is a good thing!
On the way back to the bridge, we passed scores of families riding making up their own adventures as they went along.
Lots of families cycling everywhere.
We continued south by the Aquatic Park navigating the path between a frisbee golf course (but of course).
Leaving the park, it was time to hit the streets again as we set a course through bike boulevards to make our way back.
I know there are some detractors saying these boulevards are no different than having sharrows, but in practice they feel like bike spaces.
Easy to use wayfinding all across Berkeley.
The most noticeable feature is the purple signage designated for biking.
Streetsigns were painted in this color other than the regular brown to differentiate bike boulevards from normal streets.
Street sign painted purple to designate a bike boulevard. I don’t know what the house is trying to say…
Wayfinding signs were great too not only providing distance markings, but also claiming the space for cyclists.
Another great feature I love seeing are those big concrete bollards that redirect car traffic from cutting through.
They are big, heavy and not to be messed with, unlike our little plastic ones that you want to have a pillow fight with.
These bollards are not to be messed with!
The bonus for cyclists (and I guess motorcycles) is that they are wide enough to seamlessly bike through while super dangerous to try driving a car.
Bottom line, they have a real calming effect in areas with cyclists.
Our only hitch riding on the Russell Ave. bike boulevard was crossing Sacramento Ave., a major thoroughfare.
While there was a crosswalk, a traffic signal would have seemed more appropriate, but drivers were pretty hip to what we were doing and let us have the right of way.
The main problem I had with CV Jr. was the number of parks she wanted me to stop at along the way.
So easy to sit back and take in turn of the century architecture.
We completed our nine mile loop back on Milvia before finishing for some delectable gastropub fare and happy hour specials at Eureka which of course, had plenty of bike racks in front.
For a family, Berkeley was pretty easy on us and there were many other parts of the city we could have covered (I can’t believe Zachary’s Pizza didn’t make our itinerary).
Riding as a family gives you a different perspective, not only because you’re more protective out there, but also moving at a slower speed (because, you know, I’m so fast normally) let’s you take everything in.
The restaurants you didn’t know, the 19th century details on the architecture and having time to see the views of the Bay.
Berkeley would be a great place to live as a family and if I’m ever in the market for a post, post graduate degree, it’ll definitely be at the top of my list.