Riders hit the pedal for Modesto Bike to Work Day

jfarrow@modbee.comMay 15, 2014 

About 175 people took part in the Modesto Bike to Work Day celebration at Tenth Street Place on Thursday morning, arriving as early as 6 a.m.

Not all, of course, are regular bike commuters or even occasional ones.

And that’s just fine with Megan Distaso, Rideshare coordinator for the city of Modesto and one of the organizers of Bike to Work Day.

“We always get some people who’ve decided to try it that day,” she said. The hope is that the experience – especially if they share a fun ride with a fellow cyclist – could lead to a habit of riding to work once a week, or even just once a month. “And maybe they begin riding other places. Like, ‘The store is only a mile away, maybe I’ll do that.’ 

Anytime people get on a bike rather than into a car, it’s a good thing, Distaso said. “It’s good for traffic, it’s good for air quality, it’s good for your health. There’s no downside to biking.”

Not surprisingly, at least a few of the regular commuters who gathered at Tenth Street Plaza on Thursday for healthy snacks, information booths and fellowship work at Tenth Street Place or downtown.

Among them was Josh Bridegroom, downtown project manager with the city’s Community and Economic Development Department. A longtime bike commuter, Bridegroom said living not far from work – near College and Orangeburg avenues – helped him start the habit.

“I’ve been bike commuting to work probably nine or 10 years,” he said. It’s just part of the morning routine now. He and his wife get the kids up, fed and ready for school, he gets ready for work and heads off before the rest of the family, usually getting to Tenth Street Place between 7:30 and 8.

“I used to bring a change of clothes and go pedal to the metal,” when biking to the office, Bridegroom said. There’s a shower room in the basement level of Tenth Street Place where he’d then get ready for the day. For the past five years or so, he’s slowed the pace and generally been riding in his work clothes because he’s close enough that he’s “not breaking much of a sweat.”

There’s no real trick to getting in the habit of bike commuting, he said. “I think it’s just getting yourself prepared. Have your bike in good working condition, have a helmet and allow a bit of extra time to get to work. It’s a form of exercise, so you get that done, too.”

A fellow city employee, senior planner Cindy Van Empel, also said living near work is a big incentive to commuting by bike. She finds it is quicker to ride from her home around Stoddard and McHenry avenues than to drive, by the time she walks from her parking space off Ninth Street.

Hers is no leisurely ride, though. Van Empel is big into biking and used to race when she lived in Los Angeles. In addition to the collapsible bike she’s been riding to work since December, she has a touring bike, a mountain bike and a racing bike.

“I’m not a stroller,” Van Empel said. “I’m always going (makes sounds and motions indicating all-out riding). I pass people (in cars) on I Street.”

That ride can leave her “glowing,” she said. “It’s hot today,” she said Thursday morning after arriving at Tenth Street Place, “so I’m a little steamy.” She said her usual routine is to carry her work clothes in a backpack, cool off in her biking clothes for a few minutes at her desk, then wash up and change for work. She also noted that the access to showers comes in handy.

Susan Dion, a teacher at Burbank Elementary, has a longer daily ride and loves every mile of it. From her neighborhood northeast of Oakdale Road and Briggsmore Avenue, she has nearly 61/2 miles each way.

Dion’s been riding to work about four years. She has made the commute part of her daily routine, taking her son to school at nearby Enochs High, swinging back home to hop on her bike and head to school in time for the 8:40 first bell. Her time depends on whether she sticks to streets all the way or rides the Dry Creek bike trail.

President of the Stanislaus County Bike Club, Dion wears biking clothes and safety gear and carries her school clothes in a backpack. She washes up at school – in cold water, no less, because there’s no hot.

Like Bridegroom, she’d tell people it’s surprisingly easy to make time to commute by bike. She figures she’s adding only 10 to 15 minutes to her commute anyway, because there are so many intersections and stoplights along the way.

Factor in the exercise benefits, and it’s a time saver, she said. “If I didn’t do this, I’d be walking an hour at home.”

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