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Bike to Work, Bike To Play

05/29/2013 12:57PM, Published by Enjoy Magazine, Categories: In Print, Community

The North State boasts of some of the most scenic bicycle trails for every kind of cyclist, from casual and occasional to expert and competitive. Traveling back roads, however, is a much different story than navigating around town on city streets. Increasingly, communities have been addressing the need for safer bike lanes on city streets shared with motor vehicles that make commuting easier and extend recreational riding options.

On a steep section of Westside Trail in Redding, two cyclists who had made it to the top of the grade described the joy of cycling for both fitness and pleasure. Jim Smith expressed his passion for exploring scenic routes where only his bicycle can take him. He also enjoys his bicycle commute to work several days each week.

Smith is in good company, as a growing number of environment- and health-conscious folks are choosing to ride their bicycles to work. Some have chosen bicycle commuting as a way to cut back on increasing fuel costs, others to accomplish two tasks at once by incorporating their fitness routine into their commute.

Christina Piles typically commutes 9.5 miles each way to work every day, often picking up groceries on the way home. She enjoys riding her bike to work “for the exercise, and the mornings along the river are wonderful. I especially love getting to the top of Hilltop Drive and stopping for a moment to look at the sun on the hills to the west, or to look at the mist on the river.” Piles takes short shopping trips on her old steel Bontrager mountain bike that she has modified by removing the front shocks, changing to skinnier tires, and adding storage bags, lights and fenders. She says, “Riding a bike as transportation has been a part of my life for so long that I can’t imagine things any other way. It’s a habit I started long ago and I truly love it.”

Gary Larson, owner of the Chain Gang Bike Shop in Redding, has seen a gradual increase in commuter cycling during the past decade. Most serious cyclists own several bikes, he says. Crossover styles that can be used for both recreation and commuting range in price from $500 upward.

The ranks of commuters and lifestyle cyclists is growing around the country and city planners have taken notice. Designated bike lanes provide a sense of safety for both motorists and cyclists as they share the road. Sara Sundquist, who works for Healthy Shasta and often delivers her daughter to preschool by bicycle, lauds the City of Redding and Caltrans for considering citizens’ concerns about the need to accommodate cyclists. They are working to add more bike lanes, along with bike signal detection at intersections. Still, she says, “It’s challenging for people who aren’t comfortable riding in traffic.”

Healthy Shasta developed the Redding Bike Map several years ago in response to the public’s requests to show the safest roads for cycling. The regularly updated map takes into account traffic volume, speed, shoulder width and bike lane conditions. Sundquist says, “It’s a good resource to use when biking to a destination for the first few times, as the route a person chooses to drive is often not the best way for a bicyclist.”

Kate Powlison of PeopleForBikes, a nationwide bicycle advocacy organization, says, “Bicycling is a simple solution to many of our nation’s most complex problems. From obesity to road congestion to skyrocketing health care costs, bicycling can help ease these issues. Forty percent of all the trips we make are two miles or less--a distance we hope people will consider biking.”

In this fast-paced society, slowing down to enjoy the journey from the seat of a bicycle takes some planning but pays great dividends. •

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