Need to get to Work? Just Jump on the Bike, Mike
Four fit fellows sit down with Inside 7 this month to discuss their experiences as avid cyclists.
By the time Jim Blake gets to his job as a Transportation Surveyor in the District Office Building, he already has surveyed 22 miles of terrain from his vehicle – a Trek 100 bicycle (the same one used by Lance Armstrong, incidentally). At the end of the day, he bikes another 22 miles back to his home in Lakeview Terrace. He has been commuting to work (although not always this far and not always to Caltrans) for 38 years. “It’s part of who I am,” Blake says. But, 22 miles? “You get used to it; then you start to like it; then you have to do it.”
Landscape Associate Joseph Millman combines his South Bay bicycle commute with a bus ride. While logging in significantly fewer daily bike miles than Blake, he does have a profound relationship with his bicycle. “It saved my life,” he says. About eight years ago, he collapsed on a ride and discovered a 90 percent blockage in his heart. “That’s how I figured out I needed a bypass,” he explains.
Keith Sellers, another landscape associate, rides a mere 12 miles each way from Burbank. He has been a dedicated bicycle rider since elementary school but only started biking to work a few years ago “when co-workers said I started looking fat.” In addition to automatic fitness, another benefit: “You get free parking,” he says.
Although he does not ride to work, you would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated cyclist than Water Manager Toby MacElroy, who logs in an average of 15-35 miles week days after work and at least 50 miles a day on the weekends. He rides with various groups and says this is definitely an activity for the long haul. “A friend’s father is in his late 80s and he still rides.,” MacElroy says. “On his birthday, he tries to ride a mile for every year he’s been alive.” Clearly, riding to work is not an issue of miles; he just doesn’t want to ride in the dark, MacElroy says.
Nationwide, a growing number of motorists are forgoing their cars and jumping on their bikes either to get to work or to get around on weekends. May is National Bike Month, May 11 – 15 Bike –to- Work Week and May 15 is National Bike-to-Work Day.
Blake says when he started with Caltrans about nine years ago, he was not aware of anyone else riding to work; now, he is part of a (very loosely-connected) group at District 7. A quick look on P-1 in the building parking garage shows that bike stands and lockers are full. Although there are a number of women’s recreational bike groups (and Millman says both his daughters commute to work by bike), it is still a male-dominated endeavor, says MacElroy.
In any event, it requires not only physical stamina but also a certain amount of daring to brave urban traffic. All four guys are happy to discuss their battle scars. Millman, for example, suffered a separated shoulder and fractured his wrist and thumb when, as he says, “an accident hit me.” Blake says he’s been involved in eight accidents over the years, pointing to various scars. “They all could have been serious, but luckily they weren’t.” Sellers hit a car and threw himself over its hood, also fortunate not to have sustained serious injury.
They have developed a few safety strategies along the way. First, don’t stay close to parked cars or “you’re going to get doored,” Millman says. Also, try to see the whole road and ride in a straight line. But when Blake wants to make sure a car sees him, he will ride back and forth in front of it.
For those who may be considering commuting to work, they suggest that you find a route and make sure you are familiar with it before you set out. A good place to look is “Mapmyride.com.” Another suggestion is to at least start out by mixing a bike commute with public transportation. No matter what, “Don’t go out and ride it cold,” MacElroy says. “Nothing will turn people off to bike riding like a bad experience.”