Free food, good vibes on Bike to Work/School Day

Gary, Terry, and Tara Neier of Santa Cruz enjoy the morning at the Women's Center breakfast station on Bike to Work/School Day.
Colin Brown, center, mans the goodie table along with fellow students and UCSC bike team members Frank Proulx, left, and Ian Dick. (Photos by Gwen Mickelson)

Ron Davis was on his second mini-breakfast of the morning.

The Physical Plant project manager was hanging out at the Women's Center early Thursday enjoying free coffee and snacks, his right for pedaling up to campus as part of Bike to Work/School Day.

"It's great to see all the other bike commuters and say hi," said Davis, who was checking out a table full of bike literature while holding a half-eaten slice of cinnamon-raisin-walnut bread slathered with peanut butter.

The Women's Center, along with two other places on campus, was one of Bike to Work/School Day's free breakfast sites. Earlier, Davis and his son, a student at Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School, stopped at Jamba Juice in downtown Santa Cruz, another free breakfast spot.

"Downtown was packed," said Davis, a Live Oak resident who bikes to work a couple of days a week.

Bike to Work, a project of nonprofit environmental consultancy Ecology Action, is a 20-year-old program that provides incentives for commuters to travel by bicycle. According to the Bike to Work web site, there's been a 50 percent increase in Bike to Work/School Day participation over the past four years.

Breakfast at the Women's Center was "going well," said Colin Brown, a senior majoring in environmental studies and a member of UCSC's bike team. Brown and a few other bike team members were running things at the Women's Center breakfast station.

Despite having to get up early to man the station, Brown enjoyed seeing people pedaling up the hill and stopping for a bite. By about 8:30 a.m. or so, they'd gotten 25-30 cyclist breakfast-takers.

"It's certainly nice to see people riding to work or campus," Brown said. "You get to meet a lot of cool people."

Tunes drifted out of a Mac laptop set up on a table spread with donated breakfast goodies: bread from Beckmann's Old World Bakery, strawberries, Odwalla orange juice, Clif bars, coffee, peanut butter, cream cheese, and bagels.

For people like Brown, a self-described " lifestyle cyclist" who doesn't own a car, biking around town is a normal day-to-day thing. So he likes seeing other realize they can do that, too.

"I think of a lot of people think biking to work is harder than it is," he said. "So giving them a reason to do it once gets them in the habit of it."

Tara Neier, a Santa Cruz community member who stopped at the Women's Center with her family, agreed. Neier and her husband, Gary, bike up to campus with their 2-year-old son, Terry, a couple of days a week for swimming classes.

"I think it needs to be more than one day," said Neier. "But it's good to give general people that one day to focus on, and then they realize if they can do it one day, they can maybe do it one other day."

Toddler Terry was not convinced.

"I wanna go home," the little boy said.

But dad persuaded him to go check out the snacks.

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Bike to Work/School Day is May 14