Two-wheel commuters take to the road on Bike to Work Day

UCSC staff member Shivano Ross, who works in information technology services, enjoys a rest break and refreshments at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. 
Bill Henry, a Ph.D. candidate doing research at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, enjoys the Bike to Work festivities.
UCSC student Gabi Kirk and UCSC alumna Hannah Hodgson enjoying Bike To Work Day celebration in front of the New Leaf Community Market's Westside store. Kirk is the co-chair of the Student Environmental Center. Hodgson works for Ecology Action. 
Bike To Work participants enjoyed healthy breakfasts, including fresh produce.(photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Some rode top-of-the-line cruiser bikes. Others rode refurbished old clunkers.  Some hauled panniers full of equipment and work clothes. One hauled a burly dog in her bike trailer.

Participants in Bike to Work Day, part of the 24th annual Santa Cruz County Bike Week, formed a large and enthusiastic group on Thursday, ranging from teenagers to AARP members. They took part in a festive community day that promotes healthy living, diminishes stress, and cuts down on auto emissions.

"Our motto for this season is ‘A Well-Rounded Commute,’" said UCSC alumna Hannah Hodgson, who works for Ecology Action, the private nonprofit environmental group that is hosting the Santa Cruz County Bike Week in conjunction with UCSC’s Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS.)

"When you bike, you’re out in the community," said Hodgson, who was volunteering at the Bike to Work table in front of New Leaf Community Market’s Westside store on Fair Avenue in Santa Cruz. "You are more aware of your neighbors. You’re another familiar face. You’re removing cars from the road, and reducing emissions."

The market was mobbed. At 8:45 a.m. Thursday, more than 50 bicyclists were snacking, drinking coffee, and listening to live acoustic music. Some had free bike tune-ups courtesy of  employees from the nearby Another Bike Shop on Mission Street.

Bike To Work Day is the cornerstone of the Bike Week program, which emphasizes safety, community and fun.

With this goal in mind, organizers set up breakfast stations from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. throughout the Santa Cruz area, including several stations located on or close to the UCSC campus.

One station, at UCSC’s Seymour Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab, offered hot whole-grain apple-cinnamon swirl bread, preservative-free bagels, organic cream cheese, sage honey, Odwalla orange juice, and coffee to participants.

The Seymour Center station drew biking enthusiasts including Shivano Ross. She works in information technology services, serving as tech lead for University Relations at UC Santa Cruz, but when it comes to commuting, she prefers a low-tech method: the vintage 1970s Gitane bike she plucked from a Dumpster.

"There was a big neighborhood clean-up," Ross said. "People were taking stuff out of their basements."

After rescuing the bike, she patched it up a bit, wrapping the handlebars and changing the brakes.

Since then, she’s had many bike-commuting adventures with that hardy Gitane. Once, during a busy summer day, she rode her bike from her offices on Delaware Avenue to Pleasure Point. Her friend drove a Prius on the same route.

"I got there first," Ross said. "There was all kinds of traffic that day, but I just zipped right through. I passed so many cars."