By Jeremy Lipps, @Digital_Lipps
Bike to Work Day 2013 turned me into a daily rider. As the new social media officer for Caltrain and SamTrans, one of my first tasks was to promote and participate in Bike to Work Day. Living within two miles of San Jose’s Diridon Station, it seemed like an easy task to pull off, at least once. So, I planned to put the ol’ beach cruiser through her paces.
On that perfect morning I rode across Downtown San Jose on my way to the train. New bike lanes had recently been put down on several major thoroughfares through Downtown so I took a longer route to make use of the lanes. I secured a cup of overpriced coffee and made my way to the station. I boarded the bike car, yellow tag freshly minted in honor of what would become my inaugural ride to work.
Nervously, I hoisted my cruiser onto my shoulder and boarded. The bike car is an etiquette-rich environment as there are systems, courtesies and valuable possessions all around. I studied and asked questions ahead of time so I felt mentally prepared, but it was still a nerve-wracking exercise. I got off at Redwood City to hit up one of the energizer stations and do some tweeting, then I finished the morning route to San Carlos with a 20-minute ride along Old County Road. On the trip home I felt energized, full of life. I searched the bike car for other ‘buzzing’ bike riders, but I seemed to be the only one. The bike ride home was uneventful, and more than anything, easy.
In my previous job I sat on Interstate 101 from Downtown San Jose to Sunnyvale every day for 45 minutes in the morning and 45 to an hour in the evening; to go 10 miles!! It ate at my soul like a cheese grater eats Tillamook. Every night frustration boiled over, faith in humanity bottomed out, stress built. My job with SamTrans/Caltrain opened up public transit as an option.
I hadn’t ridden public transit regularly since I rode AC Transit to high school in Oakland, so it was a bit foreign to me. But, come on, I was still driving to Diridon. I know, right? After Bike to Work Day I knew that there were so many reasons to ride rather than drive. The $4-a-day parking fee I was paying, the gas I was using, the needless carbon footprint I was stomping daily and the exercise I wasn’t getting, all added up to a lifestyle change. I bought a helmet, a reflector and a light to upgrade my riding kit, then I gave up my car: cold turkey. Several months ago we sold our SUV and are now a one-car household.
We save money, I get exercise, I feel better about not using gas and, most importantly, I don’t have to sit in traffic. The trip takes the same amount of time, I can feel the breeze, hear the people, smell the taquerias and occasionally, pop into a pub for a craft brew. I understand that this option doesn’t exist for all people, but I didn’t realize it existed to me until Bike to Work Day, 2013, and I’m grateful for that experience, every day.