I was very excited for the 2nd Niles Canyon Stroll and Roll this past weekend. My family and I were able to ride through Hwy. 84, also known as Niles Canyon, from Fremont to Sunol, California without the danger of vehicles. This beautiful drive through the East Bay hills, that hugs the Alameda Creek, is normally driven by commuters or people needing to get from Fremont to the other side of the hill but for one day this year it was closed down to cars and opened up to bicyclists and pedestrians!
Bicyclists are allowed to ride through Niles Canyon anytime throughout the year but it is a very dangerous ride unless you ride in the wee hours before commute time. Cyclists have sadly lost their lives on this road, so only the few and the brave take on the challenge to ride Niles Canyon. The Stroll & Roll will hopefully create a movement within the government to create a "Class 1 Trail" or a bike path/multi-use trail (no cars) through Niles Canyon, like Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont, CA.
For more information about this initiative please visit: 84 Stroll and Roll.
The Family Rides through Niles Canyon
On this eventful biking day, my family joined up with Bikeways for Fremont for their family ride through Niles Canyon. The Canyon is approximately 7 miles one-way (14 miles roundtrip) and I knew my kids had it in them to complete the whole canyon. I have personally never ridden Niles Canyon so I was not sure how "kid-friendly" the Canyon was but based on my husband knowledge of the canyon and the toughness of my kids I knew they could do it!
The family ride started at 10 a.m., and even my youngest, 2 year old Diego had to "Go FAST" on his balance bike like everyone else. He rode for a total of two miles on his own and only crashed once before being put in the bike trailer! As any worried mom, I was terrified of him veering of into Alameda Creek or crashing but he had pretty good control. My husband kept "herding" him away from the faster cyclists while I rode with my two older children, who ended up riding the whole canyon plus riding home for a total of 21 miles. This was my daughter's longest ride to date which made it even extra memorable.
All of my kids (and I) crashed at some point, but that just goes with the territory. My toddler crashed into my husband but wanted to keep riding. My daughter was clipped by another child rider and got their bikes tangled up and crashed. My eldest son wasn't paying attention on our way home and clipped his pedal on the curbed and crashed. Of course, I panicked when I saw my toddler getting to close to other cyclists, forgot to un-clip my shoe and toppled over.
Despite all the crashing, the Stroll and Roll will be a memorable bike ride for my family, because we got to explore a part of our community we aren't allowed to enjoy except from our cars.
What I Loved About The Stroll and Roll
Car-less Road: I loved hearing my kids say "There are no cars, this is so much fun!". As well as hearing them squeal over the interesting bikes they saw like the unicycle, the Penny Farthing bike and bikes that look like little cars!
The Informative & Community Tables: My kids loved all the goodies, food and games they got participate in at both ends of the ride. My daughter got to "bedazzle" her bike with stars, the whole family got new water bottles and night bike lights, and law enforcement was even handing out free snow cones and popcorn.
Water & Rest Stations: There were plenty of water stations all along the route.
The Scenery: I'm not just talking about the Niles Canyon natural landscape but seeing so many pedestrians and cyclists enjoy a part of their community that we can't normally enjoy other than from the seat of our car. I don't think I've ever seen so may bikes in my community before!
Families enjoying the Outdoors: I've never seen so many bike trailers before in my city! I'm usually the only crazy mom out there riding the streets of Fremont with my three kids but for this one day I saw many bike trailers, child bike carriers, and lots of kids on bikes. There were lots of families walking, pushing strollers, kids on scooters, something that is impossible in the Canyon.
What Needed a Little Help
Trail Etiquette: An event like this bring all levels of pedestrians, hikers and cyclists out to Niles Canyon. The organizers clearly stated that from 7-8 a.m. was going to open to just cyclists, so it was intended for people who wanted to ride at a faster pace without the issue of running into walkers and hikers. Unfortunately, not all the hardcore cyclists arrived at that time, some were riding during the rest of the day and were a little snippy if slower family riders "got in their way".
On the other hand, it was pretty obvious that some pedestrians and cyclists had no clue of what the meaning of "on your left", a bike bell or the common courtesy of staying to the right if you are riding slow. At some points the ride felt a little congested due to the all the bikes trying to swerve each other and the pedestrians.
Possible Solution: More education, videos of trail etiquette on the social media event pages and 84 Stroll and Roll website.
Water & Rest Stations: Like I said earlier, I loved all the stations but the location of them should have been configured slightly differently. I would have like to have stations on each side of the road so we did not have to cross the opposing traffic (sometimes wait in the middle and get yelled at trail patrol) to get to the water stations. As a family of five bikers, it was just hectic to cross to the other side and dodge walkers and cyclists.
Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...
I LOVED the Niles Canyon Stroll and Roll and I hope it happens every year. I know my kids will talk about the "race" we did through the Canyon every time we drive through it. They'll remember the snow cones, riding over the bridges and seeing their friends freely ride their bikes. Over the last few months, I have seen a many improvements in Fremont for cyclists and pedestrians with more green lanes, wider bike lanes, bike sensors and more prominent crosswalks. I hope that The Niles Canyon Stroll and Roll helped motivate the community to be more active whether it's biking or walking more. To our government officials, I hope you see the desire for acommunity to safely enjoy the beauty that is Niles Canyon.
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