by Betsy Herbert
published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel 7/20/2012
Not driving solo to work ... we've all heard about it, and maybe considered it, but increasing numbers of folks are actually doing it.
For a few devotees like Detlef Adam, Bike-to-Work Day is every day. For nine years, Adam, an electrician with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, has commuted on his bicycle from his home in Santa Cruz to his job in Boulder Creek.
Adam routinely makes the 30-mile round trip along Highway 9 on his bike "unless it's raining more than an inch an hour," he says. "The most discouraging part of the commute is road safety. There's been talk of a bike lane on Highway 9 for decades, but I don't think I'll see it in my lifetime."
Cycling to work on Highway 9 is a commitment on many levels. Adam says. "You have to be in good shape to handle the 1,300-foot elevation gain, and you must maintain your bike every day when you get home."
But, he says, the rewards are great. "All that heart-pumping puts you in a better frame of mind at work." Plus, "by the time I get home, I've left work behind."
Adam owns a car, but he and his family do most of their shopping on foot. He says they drive their 2008 Subaru approximately 3,500 miles per year.
John Burt, a book collector who lives in Palo Alto, also owns a car but seldom drives it. His 1972 Ford Maverick, which his grandfather bought new, today has only 19,600 miles on it. Burt gets around Palo Alto almost exclusively on his bike.
"Easy," he says. "It's flat around here."
Burt occasionally takes the Highway 17 Express bus to Santa Cruz to visit some of his favorite bookstores, bringing along his folding bike. Last year, he took the train -- the Amtrak Zephyr -- across the country to Philadelphia, where he pedaled his "folder," as he calls it, across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to New Jersey.
For Leah Meeks, taking the bus to work "evolved out of necessity," after her car broke down five years ago. Now, it's become a regular part of her life. Meeks takes the No. 66 bus from her home in Live Oak into Santa Cruz. She says the 3.2-mile trip to work takes about 20 minutes. Each Friday she walks home past the Crow's Nest and along the beach. She is constantly reminded of "how amazing my commute is," she says.
For five years, David Zweig routinely walked to work, since he lived only 12 minutes from his office at the County Governmental Center. Now that he lives on the Westside, he rides his bike to work. He describes his commute as "entertaining: -- from the traffic circles, down the bike paths, to the beach, and through the park." He says he appreciates the bike lockers the county provides for its employees who pedal to work.
The county offers other incentives to encourage green commuting, including a vanpool and free bus passes. According to Carol Johnson, county administrative services manager, 120 employees have signed out bus passes over the past year, and 133 employees ride bikes to work. The county also participates in Ecology Action's Transportation Membership Services Program, which provides low-interest bike loans and emergency-ride-home vouchers to its members.
The city of Santa Cruz is also doing its part to encourage greener commutes. The city's RideSpring program [www.ridespring.com/citysantacruz] assists city employees in arranging carpools and randomly awards prizes to anyone who commutes without solo driving. The city contracts with Ridespring, a Santa Cruz company that provides alternate commuting solutions for businesses and other organizations.