Monthly Archive for July, 2009

Night riders

The Davis Enterprise: July 31, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #23
Author: Maria Tebbutt

photo caption:
The author, Maria Tebbutt, poses for a photo during a night bike ride. Pedaling through Davis at night is a freeing experience that awakens the senses, she says.

Riding a bike after dark feels like flying. The human senses are awakened, houses light up like a Kincaid painting, wonderful smells of gardens and cooking tease you, owls can be seen and heard, and there’s the feeling of lightness that comes with moving smoothly through space.

Riding a bike at night is a thrill, but it seems taboo to those averse to going out into the night without a ton of metal around them. Getting over the car habit, especially at night, holds people back.

That used to be me. I only rode my bike when I was “going for a ride,” usually on a perfect afternoon. Then a few years ago I read a book about “driving-lite” and I decided to cut down on driving trips by considering anything within 5 miles bikeable. To reduce the temptation to get in the car for a short trip, I put a cover on our second car. I found the bother of having to remove the cover far out-weighed the ease of jumping on my bike.

I gradually customized my bike to fit my needs with a basket in the front (in which our dog enjoys riding!), a side bag and a couple of bungee cords. There isn’t much that can’t be carried with this set-up. Within a year we discovered that the second car was rarely used and we got rid of it.

Yet my riding at night was still to come. One summer while running errands on my bike it struck me that it made sense to wait for cooler evening temperatures. Trips on a bike in the evening became an outing instead of a chore. The stress of driving was replaced with a sense of freedom.

Instead of getting into a car whose interior had hit temperatures that could cook a chicken, I enjoyed the delta breeze and evaporative cooling effect that happens on a bicycle even on Davis’ hottest days.

None of us needs more complications, and we certainly don’t need more guilt. But bike riding even at night is easy. No club to join, nothing to schedule, just take off from your own driveway, pedal to a friend’s home, stay and visit or invite them to join you.

There is something wonderfully serendipitous about not knowing where you’re going or what’s going to happen next, what you might see or whom you may connect with. Night biking gets us outside in Davis when the heat has kept us in. The evening is the perfect time to get out and enjoy a leisurely ride.

I would suggest that biking at night is very safe. Modern LED lights last long and can be very bright. A flashing red rear light is quite visible to cars, and it’s impossible not to hear and see cars at night from one’s bike. Just watch out for the yard debris piles on dark streets. Thank you to everyone who keeps his or her piles away from the routes of nighttime bikers.

Davis has a lot to offer to the bicycle enthusiast, but something has been missing. That’s why Rainbow Vogt started up the Davis Cruisers, a group of bike and art enthusiasts who ride through Davis together about once a month in the evening, listening to music that plays from their bikes.

Their first ride took place last summer with a new moon ride using two sound systems. The ride ended at the N Street Co-op to take in the music of Nancy Cassidy.

“Our goal was to incorporate arts and culture into the ride,” Vogt observes.

Watch for Davis Cruisers rides, and join the Davis Bicycles! ride to the Aug. 11 meteor shower party at Fairfield School (see accompanying box).

There is something special about night air. It is calmer and yet more alive. Davis’ night air helps to recalibrate our sense of self in relation to others and the world around us as we lose sight of our bike and melt into the star-filled night.

— Maria Tebbutt is a community educator, enthusiastic volunteer and Davis resident for more than 40 years. She rides her bike anywhere in and around Davis to avoid having to drive.

Why drive when you can pedal to work, school and shopping?

The Davis Enterprise: July 17, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #22
Author: Darell Dickey

photo caption:
Darell Dickey got creative when his daughters friend came to stay with the family this summer, bolting a borrowed trail-a-bike onto his tandem bike. The three pedaled to tennis and swimming lessons and other activities around town.

I am a passionate electric vehicle advocate. My family’s principal automobile is a full-featured, solar-charged Toyota Rav4EV, and I ride a bicycle more miles than I drive any automobile. I have trouble justifying even our EV when my bicycle is better suited for most trips.

While my family’s cars are among the most efficient automobiles on the road, only a small fraction of the energy they consume is used to push the human cargo down the road. Most of the energy is wasted in just getting the massive car down the road.

For the transportation of people, there is nothing more efficient than a bicycle. I ride to save energy and reduce pollution. I ride for fitness, for companionship and for fun usually enjoying all of these benefits at the same time!

I’m regularly invited to show my EV at green festivals. And I ask, Should I bring my bicycles instead, since they are greener than my solar-powered EV? Laughter is the usual reaction. People don’t see bicycles as a solution to our problems of energy usage, pollution and congestion. Nor do they consider bicycling as a real transportation option.

As I commute and run my errands each day, I demonstrate that bicycling is viable transportation. And I repeatedly hear reasons why bicycling is not practical. Of course, there are reasons that some people can’t ride. But woo-boy, there are far more excuses than good reasons.

Some able-bodied people drive to the gym to spend 45 minutes riding a stationary bike. Some folks drive a few blocks to the post office to mail a one-ounce letter. Some parents pay $3 to park on campus while their children have 35-minute swim lessons!

It is easy to justify driving a car. The worthy challenge is to discover those trips where bicycling would be more practical and more convenient than driving. And using the proper bicycle for the task is an important consideration.

Families tend to tailor their automobile choice to the needs of their families, while assuming that all bikes are the same, and equally suited (or unsuited!) for every task. Just as pickups, minivans and sedans offer utility for different tasks, the proper type of bicycle can be purchased and configured to suit any need.

There are bicycles that are specifically made for commuting, for hauling heavy cargo, for carrying multiple people, for going fast and for leisurely rides through town. And there are numerous accessories that can be added to all of these bicycles to temporarily expand their utility trailers, child seats, grocery baskets, etc.

At the start of this summer I was faced with one of those compelling reasons to drive a car. My daughter’s friend came to stay with us, and their daily activities required crossing town several times. Tennis at Community Park, swimming on campus, and crafts at the Davis Art Center with lunch thrown in there somewhere. I was not comfortable with the girls riding their own bikes in the traffic that we would encounter in 18 miles of travel. And they’re too big to fit into a Burley trailer. So we need a car, right?

The photo shows how the three of us are having a blast while saving money, saving time and saving the world. I simply borrowed a trail-a-bike from a generous neighbor, and bolted it to our tandem bicycle. Now the three of us talk, sing and sample wild elderberries. We go really slowly up the hills, and way too fast down them. We pretend we’re a train and make all the proper choo-choo noises.

We work together as a team to get where we’re going. We arrive at our destinations charged up and ready for action. We are part of the environment instead of being isolated from it, and we have a great excuse to eat ice cream!

Biking is our preferred form of transportation. Getting where we are going is an activity in itself an environmentally friendly activity that is practical, free, good for us and fun.

— Darell Dickey is a full-time dad, a cyclist, an EV advocate (visit his Web site and a photovoltaic sales consultant living in South Davis. He rides his bike whenever and wherever he can.

Hate helmet hair? Here’s how to avoid it

The Davis Enterprise: July 3, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #21

Title: Hate helmet hair? Here’s how to avoid it
Author: Beth Annon-Lovering

photo caption:
The author, Beth Annon-Lovering

There are a lot of women who would love to commute or make more short trips by bike. Better bikes for women with good baskets, fenders and easy-to-use locks are making riding a bike a wonderful alternative.

Unfortunately, concerns about “helmet hair” do discourage some wannabe bike commuters. If this is you, I will help you overcome helmet hair.

Helmet hair is not just a single-gender problem. Men face it, too. The ideas here are for everyone. Typically, the male coiffure needs little more than some water and a comb to right the man’s mane, or a hat can cover the problem, or their hair is so helpless that the helmet taking matters from bad to worse is hardly an issue — at least not for the male mind.

Let’s get to this serious issue for women. Because helmet hair is caused primarily by perspiration, and since the typical commute is usually short, just take it slow and easy. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Dress appropriately for your ride; wear lightweight, breathable clothing during summer months. Don’t work up a sweat and you can just fluff out your hair once you reach work or your destination.

After several days of riding, as you get into better shape, you will notice your speed increasing without you perspiring. Now you can worry more about beating the next stoplight than beating a path to the mirror as soon as you get to work.

You can always take additional clothing in your bike basket or side bags to finish your outfit once you arrive at work.

If you have short hair, just before you leave home, style it wet with a little gel, put on your helmet and, for most commutes, it will still be a little damp when you get to work. Then just remoisten the gel, restyle and away you go.

For those of you with medium to long hair, just pull it back into a ponytail or bun at the nape of your neck. Fluff and spray it with hair spray when you get to work. Pack a can of hair spray, a spray bottle of water and a brush or comb, or have a set at the office. Even the most stylish of hair-dos can be fluffed or combed into presentable condition in just a few minutes.

Yes, your head is a precious item you want to protect, but so is our environment and your physical condition. For those under 18, the law requires a helmet, and so our young generation needs to use a bit more creativity to find their personal solution to helmet hair.

But for adults, if it is the helmet that stops you from commuting by bike, then you can seriously consider going without it. I don’t want to be part of a world that discourages people from bike riding by insisting that they wear a helmet or else they can’t take an enjoyable ride to work. Serious studies have offered that riding without a helmet is still healthier, and makes for a better world, than not riding a bike at all.

Your alternative is not just helmet hair versus not riding a bike. Take the healthier option and ride, just be careful and at least give the helmet a try.

Happy, healthy pedaling!

— Beth Annon-Lovering has lived in Davis since 1992. She is the owner of B&L Bike Shop and commutes to work on her Townie 8 speed as much as possible.