I remember bikes before bikes were, well, bikes. One of my bikes, in particular, was a blue Schwinn, a two-speed adorned with banana seat and arching handlebars. What a great bike. Big fat tires, so simple, and to change gears, you braked. Yes. You braked.
Heartbroken after the demise of a relationship in Seattle, I left the Northwest and left that bike in the thicket of West Seattle's Lincoln Park for someone else to cherish. Clearly, with the loss of my soul mate, I wasn't thinking clearly.
Bikes have come a long way since that day of darkness in 1979. In fact, I think the two-speed has gone out of style. But the happiness and cheer that comes from riding a bike remains, and this Thursday you can join thousands of other Bay Area riders who'll decide that for the day, they'll ride their bike to work.
It's the 17th annual Bike to Work Day, this year again larger than last year. The Bay Area Bicycle Coalition says that in 2007, some 43,000 Bay Area residents were using a bicycle as their primary means of getting to work every day. On Bike to Work Day, it's expected that more than 100,000 people will spin their pedals, many being first-time bike commuters.
For those who need a little encouragement, the Bike to Work Day Energizer stations are back. There, friendly people will give you trinkets and gold. Trinkets, for sure. More on that later.
According to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, nearly 40 percent of Bay Area commuters live within five miles of where they work. The coalition believes that if all the people who live close to their workplaces left their cars at home on Bike to Work Day, in one day more than 60,000 vehicles would be off the road, reducing tailpipe emissions by more than 150,000 pounds.
The coalition will maintain "energizer stations" throughout the Bay Area. There will be one in Campbell, hosted by Barracuda Networks, from 6-9 a.m. at 3175 Winchester Blvd. You can find a list of additional stations here.
All nine Bay Area counties participate in Bike to Work Day. It's a big deal. Companies sponsor teams. Facebook has contests. Advocates point out that a jaunt to work is an appropriate and healthy way to fulfill the U.S. surgeon general’s recommended requirement of 30-plus minutes of physical activity per day.
If you pledge to bike to work or to a transit stop a minimum of eight times by June 30, you'll receive a $40 gift certificate. You'll find details at commute.org. You’ll also be entered into a drawing for prizes, including a folding bicycle.
You can contact the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition for more information, or you can contact Corinne Winter, executive director of the coalition, email@example.com.
Bikes, and biking have come a long way. The Bay Area Bicycle Coalition has this really cool calculator for you to try. It estimates how much money you'll save by biking, how many calories you'll burn and how many fewer pounds of carbon you'll be sending into the atmosphere. If, for instance, my home-to-work commute was a round-trip of 10 miles, I'd save $6.66 by not driving, I'd burn 530 calories and I'd have kept 12.1 pounds of engine emissions out of the air.
Perhaps even cooler are very usable maps specific for Bay Area bicyclists created by 511.org. Using push pins on a sophisticated map to indicate your starting and ending locations, a route is planned for you within moments.
Sponsors this year are many; Kaiser Permanente and 511.org are the primary ones.
Likely, there won't be many two-speeds commuting this year. But relationships live on, and starting a good one with your bike might be the next best thing to happiness. For so many reasons.