I remember bikes before bikes were, well, bikes. I remember one of my bikes in particular: 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 (although the one-speed has come back).
But the happiness and cheer that comes from riding a bike remains. And as an extra added bonus — two of them, actually — biking happens to be excellent for your body and excellent for the planet.
This Thursday you can join thousands of other Bay Area riders who'll decide that for the day, they'll ride their bikes to work.
It's the 17th annual Bay Area Bike to Work Day (actually, the 18th annual East Bay ride, go East Bay!), and this year it's expected to be, once again, larger than last year. On Bike to Work Day, it's expected that more than 100,000 people will spin their pedals, many being first-time bike commuters.
According to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, bicycling has increased 250 percent in the East Bay over the last three years.
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 Surgeon General’s recommended requirement of 30+ minutes of physical activity per day.
San Leandro Councilmember Michael Gregory will be leading a City Council ride Thursday morning. Cyclists will meet at at the corner of Callan and Bancroft avenues at 7 a.m. and ride to the San Leandro BART Station.
For those who need a little encouragement, energizer stations with free snacks and beverages will be open throughout the Bay Area from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. In our area, there will be stations at the San Leandro BART station, Bayfair BART station, and at San Lorenzo High School.
Some will even re-open during the evening commute. Click here to find the energizer station in your area.
In addition, if you pledge to bike to work or a transit stop a minimum of eight times by June 30, 2011, you'll receive a $40 gift certificate. You'll find details at www.commute.org. You’ll also be entered into a drawing for prizes, including a folding bicycle.
If you want to figure out just how good biking is for you, your pocketbook and the world, the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition has a 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 lbs 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 out for you within moments.
You can download a map of San Leandro's bike routes by clicking on the image at right.
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.
Jill Replogle contributed reporting.