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Day two: On my bike!
Last night I retrieved my bicycle from the basement at work and pedaled home, having spent a full four days without it - not the best way to end Bike Month, but whatever. Back in the saddle for June.
I love riding my bike. After a decade as a bike commuter in the East Bay and Humboldt County, I'm pretty unshakeable. Both urban and rural California share an abundance of potholes, freeway onramps, and large vehicles. The East Bay has more buses, Humboldt has more logging trucks, and both can be downright foggy and cold in the morning.
Although my commute in Humboldt consisted of 7 miles along the shoulder of the 101, I rather miss it. If you can ignore the traffic buzzing on the left, you get to enjoy the peaceful scenery of Humboldt Bay stretching out to your right, complete with great blue herons, great white egrets, and the mudflats that appear at low tides. On the other hand, winter storms could bring winds of 15-20 mph with gusts twice that, making for a tailwind on my way to work but a nasty headwind on my way home - not to mention a shoulder cluttered with fallen eucalyptus branches. And did I mention the rain?
Nonetheless, the uninterrupted ride between Arcata and Eureka provided me with a solid half-hour of exercise in each direction and a chance to clear my mind on the way home from work. Now that I'm living about a mile from the office, I have the option to walk to work if I wanted to, and my partner (who works across the street from me) prefers walking because it's more relaxing. I agree that the multi-directional intersections at Harrison/20th/Lakeside and other busy crossings can add a bit of stress to the morning, but it's sure nice to be able to get to and fro in about 10 minutes. Lake Merritt is not a bad vista for the way home either.
I used to wonder why everyone didn't bike everywhere. I save money on gas and parking; I get extra exercise; and on mornings like today, I think I look pretty snappy pedaling along in a skirt and knee-high boots. What's not to love about it?
But I also recognize that biking isn't an option for many people. A knee injury knocked me off the saddle in the summer of 2006 and I actually learned how to drive stick-shift that winter to get around Humboldt (though I would be remiss to omit the kindness of my friends who gave me rides all over the place as well). Right now I'm healing a strained back, and casual biking is all I can handle - my bike touring plans are on hold for at least another year. And when my partner's car was stolen in 2007 we found ourselves marooned in town on long weekends, wishing we could get to the mountains or the river or the beach, which are hard or impossible to access by transit.
My injuries are hopefully temporary, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able-bodied and healthy. And no matter how hardy a cyclist you are, that Bay Bridge path is going to be a heck of a long commute for anyone once we win it. Cyclists and non-cyclists alike need good transit options to be able to truly leave the car behind, and we're just not there yet. Plus, the streets of Oakland and Humboldt need some patching and some re-painting to ensure that the traveling environment is friendly and safe for cyclists of all levels. That's why I'm part of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland - to ensure that our city works to complete our streets, and maintain them in a state of good repair that will help all of us who are on the road.
So I no longer raise a judgemental eyebrow at people who don't ride bikes. But I'm not quite ready to accept that everyone who doesn't ride now, can't ride ever. Instead...I DARE YOU!