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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  5/1/2009

A Month, A Week, A Day

May is National Bike Month. Bike to Work Week is May 11 to 15. And Bike to Work Day in California is May 14. So. . .what does all this mean to me and you?

I can tell you what it means to Jenn Rodriguez, named last year's "Bicycle Commuter of the Year" for Santa Clara County by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC).

Jenn is an inspiration to those us who come into contact with her through clubs and advocacy groups. Since 1994 she's been commuting 11.5 miles one-way from Santa Clara to her job at Roche in Palo Alto. She consistently encourages all of us to ride to work, to school or to our volunteer gigs. She even arranged with Almaden Cycle Touring Club (ACTC) for club ride credit. If you belong to ACTC and you bike commute during Bike to Work Week, send Jenn your mileage and she'll submit it to the club statistician. "I know some of our club members do work on weekends," reads her entry in the ride schedule. So she listed Bike to Work Week on the previous Saturday and Sunday as well. As for Bike to Work Day itself, she wrote, "RIDE THIS DAY IF NO OTHER!" Logo Jenn says her employer supports bike commuters, providing bicycle lockers, showers, and even emergency rides home if needed. "These are good times for bike commuters and it keeps getting better!" she told SVBC last May.

At first, Jenn told me she wasn't doing anything organized to get her colleagues pedaling to work this year. But just before deadline she emailed me that she'd formed a team for the Bike to Work Challenge. "We're the 'Roche Rollers,' and we have two novices who will probably continue to ride to work daily after the challenge. One doesn't even have a bike yet! I also roped in a Big Wheel and a Weekend Warrior, and I round out the team as a Lifestyle Rider. I'll probably spread the word and try to get some more Roche teams going."

She also has plenty of advice to offer less experienced commuters. "The advice I give out most often that others don't seem to have thought of is to leave a set (or sets) of clothes at work so you don't have to carry them with you. I keep a gym bag under my desk with neatly folded slacks and a selection of tops, and the various accessories to go with them. I know that not everyone has a dedicated office space, but those that don't may have a locker or somewhere to store something where it will be undisturbed.

"Another tip for newbies is to drive partway to work, park the car and ride from there. It may be less daunting to start with a shorter distance. In some cases it might never be feasible to ride the entire distance. In these cases, Caltrain or VTA can also help."

Jenn has a friend, Cathy Switzer, who's doing a lot for Bike to Work Week at FileMaker in Santa Clara. She's organizing a team for the Team Bike Challenge and posting bike route maps and info outside her office. Cathy's Map

The display covers routes from Palo Alto to Fremont, through Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and north San Jose. She placed the flag for FileMaker on the VTA Bikeways map (on far right) and then two concentric circles for five miles and ten miles from the office.

"The Borregas Bridge opening will require me to mark the appropriate maps," she added.

"Last year our furthest BTWD participant came from Alamo!! And it was sooo hot that day!" Cathy remembers. "We had three teams for the Challenge, all rolling up the totals for Apple (FileMaker's parent company). I did giveaways for the first 15 riders (a Bento box with patch kit, and reflective ankle bands). I think we had 16 riders last year, about 10% of our building population. Some never rode again, but still, they made the effort. We had a mini-train coming in from Willow Glen -- one regular commuter and four newbies; it was hilarious!

"This year sent out our first 'notice' about BTWD a few weeks ago, and I'm lining up 'training' routes for the newbies. I live really close to work, so for one or two of the newbies, I've offered to do a trial run or two: I'll drive or ride to their house and ride in/home with them to get them started. So far, only nervous takers! One of our tech guys used to work at Performance, so he offers quickie bike checks/tune ups before May.

"As far as [daily] bike commuting incentives, we're very low key. The president rides in at least three times a week (11 miles each way; he's my Big Kahuna on the team!). We have a Veep who rides in from Los Gatos, and a mix of 5-10 'regular' bike commuters, one occasionally from Santa Cruz. We know who has bike pumps in the building!"

Why should you ride to work?

  • There's a decent chance that you live an "ideal" distance -- five miles or less -- from your workplace. Almost 40% of Bay Area commuters do.
  • If every person living that close pedaled to work on Bike to Work Day, more than 60,000 vehicles would be off the road, reducing tailpipe emissions by more than 150,000 pounds.
  • Bicycle commuting eases the parking crunch: 12 bicycles can fit in the space needed to park a single car. I remember the old bumper stickers on cars of my friends who worked at Lockheed: "If I had ridden my bike today, you could have parked here."
  • On Bike to Work Day, you can earn prizes, re-useable bags, snacks and a healthy smile biking past one of the hundreds of energizer stations around the Bay Area.
Want to participate in local Bike Month events? Here's some of what's happening in California in May:
Fresno County has tons of stuff going on. On Thursday, May 5, there's a "Bike Hop," an evening tour of local art galleries. The Annual Cross City Ride takes place Wednesday, May 13, followed on BTWD by the FCBC Corporate Challenge. Finally, there will be a Critical Mass at Fresno High School Saturday evening, May 22.

The Sacramento Region (El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties) is promoting May is Bike Month, challenging all residents to collectively log one million miles of bicycling for the month. Last year over 5,700 participants logged 1,242,215 miles! The challenge kicks off on May 1 with a noontime ride and press conference in downtown Sacramento. Bike to Work Day will be on Thursday, May 21, featuring a BikeFest at the State Capitol.

San Francisco Bay Area's Bike to Work Day is Thursday, May 14. Pledge to bike at least once to work or play during the month of May and you could win a new Larkspur Bicycle by Marin Bikes, Novara Commuter Kit from REI or other bike-related prizes. Register for the raffle here.

Santa Clara and San Mateo counties share in the Bay Area promotions, but SVBC has a lot more planned. the Coalition runs some 80 Energizer Stations from South San Francisco down to Morgan Hill, offering free refreshments, give-aways, bicycling information, and encouragement. They also throw a huge Bike Away from Work Bash that evening, starting at 5:00 p.m. It's free to SVBC members. Not a member? Your $25 fee buys you food, beer, live music, and an SVBC membership (worth the 25 bucks alone). Bike to Work

There's also a CEO/Celebrity Cycle-To-Work Challenge, co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Not only do a host of Silicon Valley CEOs bike to work on BTWD, but their companies also encourage their employees to do likewise. And each hosts a "Celebration Station" for all who participate.

The League of American Bicyclists official site for National Bike Month lists copious suggestions and examples for observing BM, BTWW, and BTWD, including a downloadable Bike Month and commuter guide.

We don't need no steenkin' Bike Month
All right, I admit that I can't help but be a bit cynical about setting aside one month to celebrate riding my bike. I mean, this is California. We can ride to work, or school, or play or whatever, all year long. Yeah! Like my email sig says:
Work to Eat, Eat to Live, Live to Bike, Bike to Work.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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