Roll models and spokespeople
Ahead of Bike to Work Day, campus cyclists attest to the charms of their commute
| 07 May 2009
BERKELEY — When are two wheels better than four? "Any day and every day," most dedicated campus cyclists would say. Bike to Work Day, which takes place next Thursday, May 14, is meant to inspire those who typically travel to and from work by other means to put our mettle to the pedal.
This is the East Bay Bicycle Coalition's 15th annual BTWD event, observed throughout the Bay Area with events that promote, celebrate, and encourage bicycle transportation.
To entice and reward people for cycling to work on the 14th, the campus will host an "energizer station" in Sproul Plaza. From 7 to 10 a.m., cyclists may pick up refreshments and goodie bags donated by local businesses, and UCPD will provide free bicycle licensing. From 4 to 6 p.m. cyclists can stop by for free Chipotle burritos. Mike's Bikes, the bike shop on University Avenue below Oxford Street, will be at the station during those morning and afternoon hours to offer tips and tune-ups.
If you normally drive to work, be aware that cycling — even for a day — presents challenges a motorist never considers. What route should you take to arrive at work unscathed? How do you schlep all your stuff on a bike? Where do you park the thing with some assurance it will be there when you head for home? Most important, is it all worth the effort? More than two dozen campus cyclists we queried were happy to tell us why two-wheeled traveling is their preferred way to go.
Part of the reason Cyril Manning bikes to and from Adams Point (near Lake Merritt) is because he's "an environmentalist and a cheapskate." Manning, a staffer in the College of Natural Resources, rides to and from work "because I love cruising through Oakland and Berkeley, smelling the bakeries and roasting coffee, hearing kids in their schoolyards, feeling the morning fog and the warm afternoon sun on my back."
The sensory experience seems to mean something to Professor of Physics Joel Fajans as well: "I suppose I should tell you that I bicycle because it is faster (which it is), healthier, cheaper (no second car, no parking sticker), less stressful (no traffic jams), and better for the environment. But the real reason I bike to work is simply that I enjoy it … at least when it's not raining."
Carla Trujillo, who works in the Graduate Division, would likely have endorsed cycle commuting to Ponce de Leon: "When I started riding my bike," she told us, "I rode because I was young. Now I ride because it keeps me young."
Practicality is a motivator for many, meanwhile. Elissa Mondschein, head of the Inter-library Borrowing Service, cycles to and from campus from the border of West Oakland and downtown, nearly a five-mile commute each way, and has never owned a car. Biking allows her more flexibility than mass transit would, she says, and the cost savings is "huge. For the price of some chain oil and a few inner tubes, I can get to and from work for almost nothing. What most people pay just in auto insurance would buy four new commuter bikes per year."
During the spring and summer months, Roia Ferrazares, who works in the College of Letters and Science, bikes to work two miles each way from the southwest corner of Berkeley. (In the colder, wetter days of fall and winter, she uses a Bear Pass to take AC Transit.) In Ferrazares' one-car household, her husband and two teenagers also bike to work or school each day.
"This arrangement allows the car to be used as needed, and means we're not paying to have it sit in a parking lot all day," explains Ferrazares, who wants to instill in her children the importance of self-reliance, physical exercise, and a concern for the environment. "Even on days when I'm tired and would rather get a ride, I push myself to bike to set an example for them."
The benefits of going the distance
Pepper Black bikes from high in the Berkeley hills to her job in University Village in Albany. Even when she starts her ride distracted by problems, Black has observed that, because biking exposes her to the natural world, by the time she reaches her destination she feels "a little lighter of heart."
Tom Holub could no doubt relate: He found that driving "was always stressful and angering, while cycling is relaxing and focusing." Riding is the transition between home (near Piedmont Avenue in Oakland) and the office, says Holub, who works in the College of Letters and Science. "I focus on the task at hand — my physiology, the mechanics of the bike, and the situation on the road — and it helps my mind shift into a different mode."
Alan Gould's 2.5-mile ride from his home in North Berkeley to his job at the Lawrence Hall of Science entails a 900-foot elevation gain. "Not only do I arrive energized, but I have nearly always gotten some very productive thinking done on the virtually traffic-free routes I take," says Gould, who assures us that he "does not try to break any world land-speed records" on his 30-minute uphill ascent.
Not even rain can stop David Patterson of Cal Performances from riding to work every day. On clear days he bikes a 28-mile loop from Pinole; when the weather is inclement he drives to Albany, then rides his old rain bike the last few miles to campus. Biking to work and changing his diet have helped Patterson shed 50 pounds over the past two years. "I am a much less stressed, happier, and healthier person" now, he says.
Fitness also motivates Steve Grotenhuis of LHS to cycle up Spruce Street to Grizzly Peak from North Berkeley three times a week. Building his cardio workout into his commute saves time and helps him feel "more connected to the real world." And, he adds, "think of the awesome lunch you can have with the money you save on parking."
The fiscal payoff from unexpended parking, gas, and car-repair dollars is an incentive all its own, but some campus employees find ways to sweeten the deal still more. Jean Smith, who works in the Office of Public Affairs, finds commuting by bike from and to her West Berkeley home appealingly remunerative. The eagle-eyed Smith estimates that she collects about $4 a year in change people have dropped in the bike lanes. "At this rate," she says, "my bike will be paid off in 250 years."
You biked to work. Now what?
The map at right, downloadable, shows the campus's primary and secondary bikeways, as well as the locations of numerous bike racks and secure bicycle-parking facilities. The map also indicates the boundaries of the central-campus "dismount zone," extending from Bancroft Way north to Moffitt/Doe libraries, an area of concentrated pedestrian traffic where cyclists passing through must dismount and walk their bikes. Because campus bike racks are typically near capacity on most days — one reason that nearly 500 more spaces will be added during the next few weeks — the prudent bike-to-worker is advised to scope out alternatives in advance. The campus fire marshal frowns on bike parking anywhere that it may cause access and egress problems. Consult the official policy on this matter before settling on the parking strategy you'll pursue. Your building coordinator may have helpful information or ideas.