All over town and out in the suburbs, folks hop on their bikes for the simplest of reasons, leaving their cars behind.
They make it look easy — because it is.
They ride to work. They head out to dinner or cruise to the movies. They shop for their groceries or pop in somewhere for a cappuccino. They ride occasionally, always or somewhere in between.
Opting for your bike instead of your car is not a major commitment. You don’t need to slip into colorful, clingy costumes and ride a high-priced bike built for speed.
These cyclists are in suits and leather-soled shoes. They wear dresses with high heels. They’re in jeans and T-shirts, shorts and sandals, khakis and cardigans. They pedal along sitting on a cruiser, a hybrid, a rusty old clunker or one of those stylized town bikes.
You don’t even have to break a sweat to join their ranks, improve your health, reduce your carbon footprint, save money, see things differently, set a good example and, best of all, arrive wherever you’re going just a little bit happier than your tense, multitasking counterparts slogging through traffic in motorized vehicles.
Elizabeth Jolene Kim of Sacramento, Calif., rides her bike to and from work. Most Sundays, you’ll find her riding to the farmers market.
An analyst with the California Department of Insurance, Kim saves $105 per month by not paying for the nearby parking garage. That’s $1,260 annually.
“When I first moved to Sacramento, I wanted to make sure I lived, worked and went to school within a three- or four-mile radius. I don’t like traffic,” said Kim, a Bay Area transplant who attends night classes at McGeorge School of Law. “If I could walk or ride my bike to work, it would be better for the environment and my bank account.”
Her midtown apartment is about two miles from her office downtown. She soon figured that paying to park didn’t add up. Then there are the intangibles, such as encountering friends, seeing — and smelling — the city in a more intimate way and the camaraderie she feels with others on bikes. They wave, nod or say hello. When was the last time a motorist on Highway 50 did something like that?
“It’s kind of corny, but there is more of a human connection that I like,” she said.
She added, “I ride my bike in heels, business suits. I don’t think excuses work. If you’re determined to ride and save money and gas and do your part for the environment, then there really are no excuses.”
Jeff Harry makes it look easy — and cool. He pedals through the city in a suit and tie, heading to or from work as a Sacramento County deputy district attorney.
He rides the couple of miles back and forth because it’s often quicker door-to-door than it is to drive, find parking and walk from there to the office.
Well-dressed and sitting upright on an old Schwinn Suburban bike, Harry sees himself as a moving billboard for a good, simple idea.
“I do it for two reasons. One is environmental, showing people that, look, we don’t have to be dependent on cars for everything,” said Harry, who prosecutes domestic violence cases. “Also, I like to ride my bike. You see more things. You become more connected to your community. You can wear a suit and get to work. It’s not a hassle.”
Dawnie Andrak has increasingly been choosing her bike over her car for the past five years. When she met her significant other, Tim Bailey, she didn’t own a bike and hadn’t ridden in years. Now she has several, including a custom-made tandem and a town bike called an Electra Amsterdam. The latter is built to be sturdy and stylish — but not fast.
“Dollar for dollar, that’s the one I’ve gotten the most out of,” said Andrak, whose company, Capital Webworks, creates politically oriented websites and databases.
She lives in east Sacramento. Her office is two miles away. It’s a simple bike ride.
“I know the health reasons, but there are also practical reasons. You get around faster,” she said. “It’s also good for mental health. You decompress — or compress, if you’re heading to work. You have to pay attention. You have to be connected to what’s going on around you. You tend to smile at people more and people tend to smile at you more. The interaction with people is absolutely there.”
As with Harry, Andrak wants others to see her example — and realize how easy it can be. Even her cello has a case with backpack straps so she can ride her bike to her music lessons.
“I don’t know why I waited so long to get back on a bike,” she said. “If you can do one or two trips a week by bike instead of car, it’s a start. It all adds up.”
Carol Mott lives in Curtis Park, Calif., and often chooses a bike over a car when she and her “beau,” Chris Emerson, go out to dinner.
“There are a lot of wonderful restaurants within a five-mile radius. It’s just a wonderful way to incorporate exercise into something you’re going to do differently. You see things you don’t see in a car. It’s a little less hectic than going by car,” she said.
Then there’s the idea of eating and burning calories.
“It’s easier to go out to dinner when you know you have ridden your bike there and you will ride home,” she said with a laugh.
Speaking of restaurants, if you ever notice a heavy-duty, fully loaded bike parked out front of a restaurant, it’s a good bet it belongs to Vincent Sterne, founder and co-owner of Two Rivers Cider.
As with many others who opt for a bike over a car, Sterne notes the environmental and health factors of riding. But how much is it worth these days to pull right up to the front door of a restaurant, lock your bike and walk in?
“With the restricted streets for traffic calming and looking for a parking place, I’ve actually timed myself against a car, and I can make it faster by bike,” Sterne said.
His extra-strength bike is equipped with an electric motor that Sterne engages only when he is hauling hundreds of extra pounds. By bike, he can transport up to 400 pounds, the equivalent of two full-size kegs of cider or six 5-gallon kegs.
“It’s a heckuva lot cheaper for the company than a truck,” he said. “I have a blast. I think everybody should ride their bikes. It definitely enhances the community. I don’t think there’s a better way to enjoy Sacramento.”