Why I bicycle but my neighbors don’t

By Susan Handy

Davis is one of the few places in the United States where bicycling is a substantial mode of transportation. According to the latest American Community Survey, more than 15 percent of Davis workers usually commute to work by bicycle. Surveys we have conducted at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis have produced even more impressive numbers:

  • 53 percent of Davis residents bicycle at least one per week;
  • 46 percent of UCD faculty and 40 percent of staff who live in Davis commute to campus by bicycle;
  • More than one-third of Davis High School students usually bicycle to school; and
  • 18 pecent of youth soccer players bicycle to their games.

Compare this to less than 1 percent of daily trips by bicycle in the U.S. as a whole.

The fact that so many people in Davis bicycle is of great interest to other communities that hope to emulate Davis’ success. But even more interesting to me is the fact that so many more don’t: Nearly half of adults had not bicycled in the previous week, more than half of students arrived at the high school by car, more than three-quarters of soccer players were driven to their games. So what explains why some Davis residents bicycle but others don’t?

For adults, the answer has much to do with individual attitudes. In our studies, we found that comfort with bicycling was one of the most important factors explaining who bicycles regularly and who doesn’t. Another important factor was agreement with the statement “I like riding a bike”: those who strongly agreed with this statement were far more likely to bicycle regularly even than those who just agreed. Residents who bicycled regularly also were those for whom a bicycling-oriented community was an important factor in deciding where to live.

In other words, Davis has so much bicycling in part because it attracts residents who like to bicycle.

For children, attitudes matter, too, but as much the attitudes of parents as of the children themselves. Distance from home to the soccer field was an important factor in whether families bicycled to their games, as was the ability of the child to bicycle. But equally important was whether the parent regularly bicycled. In other words, some families are simply more bicycling-oriented than others.

We saw this same effect in our high school study: distance to school was important, but students with parents who were willing to chauffeur them places and whose parents did not encourage bicycling were far less likely to bicycle to school.

Having a driver’s license and access to a car — a condition over which parents have a significant influence — also reduced bicycling. The student’s attitudes mattered as well — liking to bicycle and confidence in bicycling — but much less so than parental encouragement.

In all these studies, women bicycle less than men, and differences in attitudes largely explain why. Women express greater concern for safety, both fear of being in a collision and fear of being attacked. They report feeling less comfortable bicycling and like bicycling less than men.

In our UCD survey, less than 60 percent of women said that they are “very confident” riding a bicycle, compared to more than 80 percent of men. At the high school, girls liked bicycling less and felt less confident bicycling.

A consistent message thus emerges from our studies: While good infrastructure is a necessary condition for getting many people bicycling, it is not a sufficient condition for getting most people bicycling. To get more people bicycling, the city also needs programs that will change attitudes.

For example, training programs for children and adults can help to increase confidence in bicycling ability, while community events may help to increase enjoyment of bicycling. Such activities encourage more residents to take advantage of the opportunity to bicycle that our good infrastructure provides.

Personally, I find it both frustrating and disappointing that bicycling in Davis is not more pervasive than it is. I didn’t move to Davis for the bicycling, but I naturally embraced it as my primary travel mode once I got here. Now I can’t imagine going back to a car-dependent lifestyle, and I wonder about my neighbors who choose to drive even when bicycling is so attractive an alternative.

But, of course, not everyone sees it that way, and that is exactly what we are trying to understand in our next study: Where do attitudes toward bicycling come from and why do some people enjoy bicycling so much more than others? We’ll see.

— Susan Handy is a professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis and directs the Sustainable Transportation Center. Her research focuses on strategies for reducing automobile dependence.  This column is based on an article that appeared in Access.

What is the Woodland Bike Campaign?

During the five years that I worked as a classroom presenter in Yolo County, I noticed a long lines of cars in front of schools dropping off students in the morning and picking up students in the afternoon.  The bike racks were almost empty.

The topic of suicide prevention is so important that the state of California made it a part of required curriculum for all seventh- and 10th-graders. I loved my job as a classroom presenter on this sensitive topic that many teachers shy away from.

When my job terminated, I was a little depressed. What do you do with yourself at the age of 55? I thought about all the wonderful people I had met, teachers and administrators who genuinely care and work hard for their students and parents. I thought about all the wonderful relationships that had been built in the classroom, with school counselors and nurses, and I thought, “What can I do to help?”
About eight months ago, an idea was hatched. It was small at first and just kept growing. The positive response from school principals, community leaders, service clubs and administrators has been astounding. At its heart is the desire to share the joy of cycling with all the wonderful people that I’ve met in Woodland.
Bike riding brings  joy, freedom, independence and a sense of responsibility and pride, something you don’t get when someone else is driving you around. It occurred to me, after those years in the classroom of telling teens about the grim realities of life, that I could have a more positive impact by encouraging them to do something fun.

The Woodland Bike Campaign’s No. 1 objective is to get more people on bikes. Right now, fewer than 1 percent of teens ride their bikes to school. In fact, probably fewer than 1 percent of the population of Woodland rides bikes as a form of transportation.

It won’t take long for you to realize why your drive to anywhere in the morning or at 2 p.m. is so darn frustrating. Parents are shuttling their kids everywhere, to sports, to shop, to visit friends. How much time would you have if we were not taxiing our kids everywhere? How much money and CO2 would we save? What would you do with extra time and money you’d save?

I hope you’ll consider being a part of the solution, for far more reasons than can be counted in this column. People ride bikes because they care about the environment, to save money and because it’s healthy — lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and stress.

You say your bike’s not working, or you don’t have a bike? The Woodland Bike Campaign is sponsoring its next free bike clinic in August at the County Fair Mall. Here, you will find helpful bike technicianss who are willing and able to do an overall safety review of your bike, fix some flats, show you how to pump up your tires, grease your chain and check your brakes. Come and learn how to get a bike and helmet if you can’t afford one.

With this campaign, you have the opportunity to get out there and be the change you wish to see in Woodland. Since you’ll have a little more time and money left over from not driving, please stop by Common Grounds at 729 Main St. and buy a $2 raffle ticket for the deluxe Electra Sugar Skulls Cruiser. Proceeds from the raffle support the free bike clinic and campaign.
For more information about the campaign and answers to your bike-related questions, email Maria Contreras at funmaria@sbcglobal.net


Cycling fulfilled my desire for adventure

By Enrique Fernandes

Returning to Woodland unemployed, underwater in student debt and unaccomplished in almost every sense of the word, I didn’t imagine it would be so tough transitioning to the post-graduate life of leisure. Since no job offers with great pay, great benefits and minimal amounts of work required were presented to me after finishing school, I had planned on embarking on an extended break from pretty much everything.

Now, despite having longed for a reprieve from the stress and anxiety that accompanies the life of a student, I found it quite difficult acclimating to the aimless life of languid monotony. Though it was languid monotony I sought after four years of university work, having once achieved it, it wasn’t the panacea I had hoped it to be.

With the disappearance of all deadlines, projects and assignments, which had filled my daily schedule, I assumed all stress would fade along with it. Fade the stress did, but my mind remained unsettled. This relaxation thing didn’t sit as well as I thought it would sit with me.

After spending some time reflecting, I discovered it was recreation I wanted, not relaxation. It was adventure, I concluded, not inactivity that would provide me the tranquility and peace of mind I sought.

So, I decided to completely refigure the laidback plans I had devised for how I would spend my prolonged vacation, but I didn’t have much money to turn those plans into reality. With my ambitions soaring in a direction my savings balance was not, I didn’t have much to work with to obtain recreation or adventure. I was too broke to travel anywhere exotic and too unimaginative to devise some reasonably inexpensive local excursion.

I reached the point of almost giving up on the hope of achieving the excitement and adventure I desired, but then taking up the sport of cycling crossed my mind. It seemed like the perfect activity to supply me with what I was after. The thought of pedaling along miles of country roads and examining territory unfamiliar to me seemed pretty adventurous. It would be a way to get outside the city limits — away from the daily clamor — and reconnect with the countryside I had missed so much.

Solidifying my desire to take up cycling was the relatively light financial burden required to begin. I was able to find a fairly inexpensive road bike at Foy’s Bike Shop, and staying away from any spandex gear helped me trim not only cost, but potential embarrassment.

Within a day of purchasing my road bike, I took my first journey. Heading south on County Road 102, I ended up making a nice 20-mile trip around Woodland. As I began to get more comfortable on the bike, I began myself using it more than just as a recreational toy. I found myself regularly riding my bike to the job I eventually found in Woodland. With the price of gas climbing and carbon emissions growing, it felt good commuting to work in a vehicle other than a car.

The investment I made in purchasing a road bike has paid more than the obvious financial dividends. Cycling has provided me with an avenue to not only escape the quotidian occurrences of daily life, but it has supplied me with an outlet for acquiring adventure and achieving mental clarity.

Having taken numerous rides around Woodland and the Capay Valley, I’ve come to realize that you really don’t need to travel outside of Woodland or Yolo County to experience excitement or thrills. We are surrounded by such incredible natural beauty that I am often reminded of how spoiled we are, as Woodlanders, to be entrenched in the heart of an agriculture epicenter.

By just venturing out around the landscape farmers are constantly cultivating, you’ll find so much uncultivated splendor.


For Immediate Release
May 14, 2012

: Sports, Assignment, Feature and News Briefs Editors, Cycling Press

For Further Information Contact:
Joe Herget; Executive Director, US Bicycling Hall of Fame (540) 903-3613, jherget@usbhof.org
PDF version of this announcement:   2012 Inductee Announcement


DAVIS, CA – Four legendary members of the cycling world will be inducted on November 3rd, 2012 into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

To Drive or Not To Drive

Hamlet’s famous soliloquey deals with the ultimate question: should I stay or depart from this world. This isn’t a question I ever ponder because for all its problems, I love life. Yet I am assailed with environmental questions on a daily basis, the main one being: how do I shrink my ginormous Bigfoot carbon footprint into a petite Lotus Foot?

Hamlet pondered whether or not to plunge his bare bodkin into his gut. My existential question boils down to:  To drive or not to drive. Driving is fast, convenient, and relatively cheap when compared to public transportation. You don’t have to plan your trip with schedules, transfers, and correct change. You aren’t beholden to listening to the jerk behind you singing Van Morrison in the key of loud. You don’t stew at the station waiting for a delayed train. Rather, you simply jump in the car, put your favorite beverage in its holder, and accelerate. It is a no-brainer. A no-brainer but for the fact that every mile driven is a pound of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere.

For an entire week, I went back and forth about whether I should drive my car to my friend Frank’s house in San Mateo or take public transportation. It is a relatively easy public transportation foray. Bike to Amtrak and train to Richmond, switch to BART, ride to Milpitas, and bike to Frank’s house. 3 hours, 30 minutes door to door. Roundtrip ticket, $50. Or I could drive. 1 hour, 30 minutes and $25 gas and tolls.

Extenuating circumstances included: Djina was on-call over the 24 hours I would be away, and I felt a bit guilty about leaving Solly on his own because that meant an awful lot of The Simpsons reruns. I could save both time and money if I drove, and I wouldn’t be chained to the train times. But the carbon footprint, Matt. What about that?

For five days I was on the fence, handcuffed by indecision. I started feeling the best way would be to stay home. Save money, save gas, play football with Solly. In the end, I rationalized that I’d make up the 200-mile round trip to San Mateo in eight days of bicycle commuting to work.

So I guiltily drove off.

30 miles into the trip, the engine made a new kind of sound. I pulled over and discovered a spark plug was not in its usual place. $270 and three hours later I was back on the road. Clearly, a lesson was to be learned. But what was it? It depends on whom you ask. If you ask me, the universe/God/karma/whatever was speaking slowly in simple sentences as if explaining to a small child: whenever you have a choice, don’t drive.  To Djina, the lesson was also abundantly clear: take the car in for routine maintenance, and spark plugs won’t fly out of engines. Solly’s take home was: you should have stayed home and watched The Simpsons. They had a new episode which was way better than going to San Mateo and there’s no carbon footprint.

If I am ever going to be serious about arresting global warming, I will need to learn this lesson. I suppose that goes for us all.

Davis Bicycles!: Pushing the limits

By Pam Cordano
How does a non-athletic, mother-of-two who’s immersed in a very busy life decide to ride her bike 545 miles down the coast of California?
In my case, it started with the chance meeting with an AIDS doctor who sent me a link to the AIDS Ride, an annual event in which 2,500 cyclists ride their bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days to raise millions of dollars to provide critical services to people living with HIV and AIDS.
When I registered for this daunting ride late in 2010, my sedentary life thankfully turned upside-down. The only athletic thing I had ever done had been at the age of 16, when I joined a YMCA camp and rode my bike from San Jose to Yosemite. I didn’t know a soul doing the AIDS ride, but somewhere in my bones I believed I could do it, so I got a thumbs up from my husband and kids, gathered my courage and dug my barely-used bike out of the garage.
Initially, I was most worried about the fundraising component (each cyclist must raise a minimum of $3,000), but that proved to be the easier part, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. Training was the larger challenge, and believe me, it took me physically and emotionally beyond where I thought I could go.
I started riding to Winters and around Pleasant Valley Road when I could, and I joined a Saturday training team in Orinda to start a new and exciting relationship with hills.  We started with gorgeous rides along The Three Bears, Grizzley Peak and Morgan Territory, and our grand finale was Mount Diablo. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday?  These rides left me exhausted, but exhilarated and inspired. Bit by bit, I was gaining strength and confidence.
When I started riding 60 to 70 miles at a time, I ran into a major problem. At about mile 60, I hit a wall.  I got unbearably uncomfortable and wanted nothing but to get off the bike. The fresh air and flowers meant nothing anymore … I couldn’t go on.
Realizing I needed some help with this, I went to my go-to-guy at Wheelworks, Adam Smith. He was excellent in helping me find ways to dig deeper when I hit that wall. I learned something about the satisfaction that comes from pushing through hard miles and finding unexpected energy and resilience when I thought I was at the end of my rope.
Then I started having problems with my left iliotibial band (outer thigh) and knee. Hideshi at Fitness Garage helped me with tape, massage and exercises to do at home. He also taught me to say “I will do it” instead of “I can do it” on the road. Through the help these guys gave me, I learned about the invaluable importance of a support team.
My months of training culminated on June 5, 2011, when 2,500 cyclists from 40 states and 11 countries left the Cow Palace, along with 600 roadies and 250 vehicles. We averaged 80 miles a day and camped in Santa Cruz, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Lompoc and Ventura before a triumphant arrival in L.A. From the first moment, there was a brilliant synergy of seriousness and playfulness along the way. We raised a record $13 million, made lifelong friendships and had an unforgettable time in the process.
In my heart, I wanted to do the ride again this year, but worried that my kids might be tired of my being gone on Saturdays. When I asked them about it, they said, “Mom, you’re a lot nicer when you’re riding your bike!” So I’ve committed to another ride down the coast this June.

— Matt Biers-Ariel and Mont Hubbard are co-editors of the Davis Bicycles! column, published every other week in The Davis Enterprise. To offer a Davis Bicycles! column, write to them at column@davisbicycles.org or log on to www.bikedavis.info to see instructions for authors.

Why we participate in the May is Bike Month Challenge at North Davis Elementary by Kristen Muir

By Kristen Muir

1.  For the mother who has a limited income and has left an old bike in the garage for too long and won’t use it since it is so beat-up, who comes to the Davis Bicycles! Bike Rodeo with her bike, learns how to grease her chain and works with the mechanics on site to bring new life into her bike, who then rides her bike with her children after driving her car for so many years.

2.  For the kindergarten student who has been riding with training wheels and was too scared to work on taking them off, until May is Bike Month comes along and gives her the reason to do just that. After seeing all the kids on the blacktop, riding through a variety of bike courses, she goes home with her mom and asks her to take off the training wheels, spends several hours over the next few days and is now riding her two-wheel bike!

3.  For the third-grader who announced, “I don’t know how to ride my bike.” When given the challenge by me, and her classmates, to use this month to learn, goes straight home and works with her parents on learning to ride her bike. Who talks with me and works with her parents to estimate how many “miles” she is riding when she is practicing over and over again. And who, by the end of the month proudly announces, “I can ride my bike!”

4.  For the students who get excited about the UCD Cycling Team members coming to our blacktop to participate in a Criterium-like “race.” Who stay and listen to those same cyclists as they talk about bike safety, the importance of following the street signs and wearing helmets.

5.  To hear students tell me that their parents are letting them ride to school with a group of friends for the first time, now that they see that they can ride safely. To hear parents tell me that their children are asking to ride their bikes to school instead of being driven.

6.   To see the amazement on students’ (and parents’) faces when we create a cool drink with a bike blender.

7.  When several students share their unicycling abilities and teachers and staff share their unique bikes (quad cycle, tandem, recumbent bike, etc.).

8.  So that Peter Wagner can come talk with students about his innovative bicycles, to discuss how he began creating his unique bikes as a sixth-grader. To see that glimmer in a few students’ eyes when they think to themselves, “I could do that!”

9.  To empower our students to make a difference in their daily life.

10. To meet a new family from Roseville who came to Bike Loopalooza to ride our Davis 12-mile bike loop, to see the elementary schools and homes in the area as they look at moving here.

For the children of Davis, the bicycle may be their first taste of freedom. They can go where and when they want without the help of their parents. What a great blessing to bequeath our children.

May is Bike Month, which is a great time to get more students on bicycles. But why stop at students? May is Bike Month is a great time for adults to reaquaint themselves with the beauty of biking. There are many activities to do: log your miles and help Davis reach a million bicycle miles, and go on the Tour de Cluck and the Bike Loopalooza, to name just some of the highlights.

And don’t forget, Wednesday, May 9, is Bike to School Day.

— Kristen Muir runs a PTA-funded physical fitness program at North Davis Elementary School and coordinates the school’s May is Bike Month activities.


City Council candidates respond to transportation-related questions

Davis Bicycles! and the Davis Bike Collective asked candidates for the June, 2012 Davis City Council Election five (5) transportation related questions.  Please read their responses and come to the Transportation Forum at Bike 4th on Monday evening, May 7 from 7-9 pm.

DB! March Announcements

Davis Bicycles!
Late March Announcements

Tireside Chat with Ted Buehler: History of Bicycling in Davis
Sunday, Apr. 1, 4:00 pm
U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, 3rd and B Streets

Davis bicycling researcher Ted Buehler is the featured speaker for the first of two “Tireside Chats” on the history of bicycling in Davis. Ted’s presentation is based on his master’s thesis research at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. The first public presentation of Buehler’s research famously filled the Davis Varsity Theater in February 2007 when Davis Bicycles! was founded. Ted will present the seeds of policy favoring the bicycle in the 1950s and early 60s supported by UC Davis, grassroots organizing and the election of a pro-bike slate of city council members in 1966 and the first bike lanes in 1967. He will also present highlights of support for bicycling since the 1960s, the rebirth of bicycle advocacy in Davis since 2005. He will conclude by discussing possible next steps for Davis. In addition to founding Davis Bicycles! in 2007, Ted also co-founded the Bike Church, now the Davis Bike Collective. He currently lives in Portland where he participates in the Bike Temple and the advocacy group Active Right of Way.

The City of Davis this year is observing the 45th anniversary of bike lanes. The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame will host an additional presentation on this history on Sunday, April 15, also at 4pm. This Tireside Chat will feature former Davis city council member Maynard Skinner who was elected in 1966, and former Public Works Director Dave Pelz who helped design and implement the first Davis bike lanes.

Both talks will conclude around 5pm, leaving time for participants to ask questions and meet the speakers.  Admission is free for members of the USBHOF and Davis Bike Club, or is included with the daily Hall of Fame admission fee of $3 Student/Senior and $5 General.

Continue reading ‘DB! March Announcements’

‘Being the change’ to ride our bikes more

Although I do a lot of bicycling for exercise and recreation, staying motivated to keep doing it is still a challenge for me. Many of us have aspirations to start riding, to ride our bikes more frequently and farther, or to ride up hills. Social rides and challenges offered by the Davis Bike Club and other groups are a great way to motivate oneself.

After moving from San Francisco to Davis several years ago, I missed the many hills and interesting sights. So I was less inspired to ride and missed getting as much exercise biking compared to before.

Then I joined the Davis Bike Club and signed up for its “March Madness.” To participate, you choose a challenging mileage goal for the month of March and pay a registration fee. You are on the honor system as you ride to your goal. Any miles you ride your bike count: around town, to work, to school or long excursions. Proceeds go to school bike safety efforts.

After I started participating in this challenge, I was riding more than ever. From there, I proceeded to fulfill lifelong ambitions to ride the Big Sur coast and the 200-mile Davis Double Century.

Currently, I am helping to organize and lead a series of hill climbing rides with DBC. We started with a modest amount of hill climbing, and are working our way up step by step to mountain-size ascents.

At the same time, another informal group is training for the “Cinderella Classic,” a 65-mile womens’ ride a few weeks from now. This informal group is organized by my friend Susan Ashdown, who embodies what this essay is about: inspiring and motivating less experienced bicyclists.

Like me, Susan doesn’t claim to be the expert with all the answers about training for longer rides. “I am what you call a spark,” she says. “If I don’t know the answer I will try to find it and get back to you.”

She became the organizer “… because I always wanted to provide a connection point for women to cycle together, to provide a supportive place. I had gathered a few good folks to help them begin cycling further than the grocery store.”

Susan’s training group often has multiple rides a week. Since they started training in January, their long weekend rides have increased by five miles each week, with gradually more hill climbing. Participants include a large age spread, and a few men.

A recent training ride for the Cinderella Classic enjoyed a stop at Danny's Donuts in Old Sacramento.

In addition to March Madness, the Davis Bike Club offers its members two yearlong challenges: riding a century (100-mile ride) or a metric century (100 km, or 62 miles), once a month. A hill climbing challenge is planned for April. More information on these and Susan’s group rides are at http://www.bikedavis.info/?p=689

Susan, who plans to organize more training rides throughout the year, sums things up better that I can:

“It comes down to people wanting to do these things: cycling, or raising funds for others. They just need the connection point and spark. I guess that is what I provide.

“I feel, and I know others do as well, that cycling is a way they can contribute to others in need and ‘be the change.’ Often not only being the change for others in need, but also in their own life by making the donation or by cycling in a fundraising event, creating a ‘hero’ effect.

“Because that is what people are when they step out of their own world and step up to say ‘yes, I will be the change’ for you.”

— Russell Reagan produces the online newsletter of the Davis Bicycles! advocacy group.