Drawing by Faisal Zakaria Siddiqi
Get ready to reduce your carbon footprint this spring! May has been designated National Bike Month by the League of American Bicyclists. In celebration, San Francisco Bay Area's 15th Annual Bike to Work Day springs forth on Thursday, May 14, 2009. If you're still of two minds, here's the clincher: Energizer Stations serving free beverages and snacks will be ready the morning of May 14 along popular bike routes, keeping participants' spirits high (and their stomachs full!). Participants also get complimentary reusable Timbuktu bags that can easily be saddled on the back. Check out the Energizer Station locations and plan your Bike to Work Day commute by visiting www.btwd.bayareabikes.org.
Bike to Work Day is the preeminent bicycling event taking place in all of Northern California, with all nine Bay Area counties participating. It's organized by the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition in association with local bicycle coalitions and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The event aims to free up space on the roads and provide a literally breath-taking commute to work. Andrew Casteel, Executive Director at Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, feels strongly about the need to promote bicycle use, building a convincing case around it by adding that "43% of road trips made in California measure less than two miles each." He hopes for an even bigger participation at this year's Bike to Work event, breaking last year's record of over 100,000 people.
Using a bicycle to commute offers many advantages. It's both healthier and environmentally friendly. On average, a sedan (running 100 miles/week; mpg 22.4) emits 4541 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (Source: http://www.cool-it.us/index.php?refer=sierra&task=carbon&step=1). So riding a bike instead reduces your carbon footprint. What keeps Gladwyn D'Souza, Program Director at Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, motivated and committed is that a bicycle ride translates into "improvement in air quality, health benefits and less pollution." You also get to make biker-buddies with common interests. And a bike ride gives you the opportunity to appreciate the abundant Bay Area natural beauty—so you can actually "stop to smell the roses" on the way to work!
May is also marked by a variety of biking competitions. The most popular? "Bike Commuter of the Year" award. Residents nominate friends or family members who are die-hard biking fans who strive to make every day a "Bike to Work" day. Nominations are carefully evaluated by the management, a winner selected from each of the nine counties. Jennifer Rodriguez, a chapter member, won the "2008 Bike Commuter of the Year" award from Santa Clara County. An avid biking fan, she "works out the work problems on the bike." A tip to beginners: Keep a few sets of work clothes at the office so you can travel light. It helps if your work place is bicycle friendly: bicycle parking, showers, and lockers. For Mark Leeper, San Mateo County's award winner last year, "The environmental benefits of bike commuting give the motivation of working for a larger cause than just the personal benefits." He encourages newbies, saying that "if your commute is long but still reasonable, consider shuttling to work. Drive your car in the morning, ride your bike home. Ride your bike the next morning, drive your car home."
Other competitions like the Team Bike Challenge and the Company Bike Challenge also attract county-wide participation. The icing on the cake? A raffle anyone can enter who pledges to bike-ride at least once in May. Raffle entries are accepted till May 31, 2009, with exciting prizes to be won.
So what's stopping you? Take that bicycle out and oil it up for the big day! Check out the Get Involved section on this page to see how to participate or volunteer at the 2009 Bike to Work event.
Nafeesa Ahmed is a Chapter member and serves on the editorial board of the Loma Prietan newsletter.